All skills are perishable — here’s what to do about it

Over the weekend, I was out at the ranch with the in-laws and some family friends who came over to shoot.

We ended up running some timed drills and I really impressed everyone because they have no idea what “good” actually is.

But secretly I was embarrassed. I didn’t realize how rusty I’d gotten.

It’s a great reminder that all skills are perishable. We spend a lot of time, money, and effort at getting good at something, and we neglect the maintenance of those skills at our own peril.

Intelligence is no different. We’re especially lucky, though, because we can practice intelligence skills every day.

Every time we think through a scenario or discover something new about our area, we can identify intelligence gaps.

Once we train ourselves to be observant and to find intelligence value in new information, we’re thinking like an intelligence analyst.

And we can practice our Human Intelligence skills like building rapport, asking good questions, eliciting information, and carrying on an engaging conversation with just about anyone.

Smile. Be friendly. Most people will talk to you.

In fact, I highly encourage that you speak to as many people as reasonably possible throughout the day and develop your ability to have people tell you things that you wouldn’t have otherwise learned.

One of the most powerful ways to do that is to simply ask for an opinion. Most people love to share their opinions and we usually don’t have to prod them to learn the basis for those opinions.

One of the best ways we can do that, though, is a simple follow-up question: “What makes you think that?” or “What happened for you to come to that opinion?”

If you have a sincere interest, people will usually be extremely willing to tell you exactly what they think.

This weekend, I learned a lot about real estate and how the local economy would fare during the next recession because I expressed genuine interest and asked a realtor some good questions.

Of all the skills required to navigate a future SHTF scenario, don’t overlook the soft skill of simply carrying on a meaningful conversation. Oftentimes, that’s intelligence collection.

The bad news is that practicing a skill is a lot like filling up a bucket that has a hole in it. If we’re not routinely filling it, our bucket will empty over time.

But the good news is that there are so many ways we can practice intelligence skills every day, that we should have no trouble at all keeping our intelligence bucket filled.

What are some ways you can practice intelligence gathering or intelligence analysis today?


Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper



Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


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