Book Review: Prosper! By Chris Martenson & Adam Taggart

Years ago, I caught myself watching a children’s cartoon where the main character came face-to-face with an older, future version of himself. His future self was living in miserable conditions and had traveled back in time to help his younger version prevent the awful circumstances that had led up to his horrible life.

At one point the character’s future self tells him: “I want to make sure that you have a future that’s worth getting to.”

What is the future that we are currently facing? Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart explain the predicaments we are facing in their newest book “Prosper!”:

“…[I]n today’s world where there are no more undiscovered continents and the concentration of remaining resources is becoming increasingly dilute, we are the first living generation to encounter limits to growth on a planetary scale. We no longer live in a world where our narrative of endless growth is possible…And as the global resources pie no longer expands as it once did, competition for the slices that remain intensifies – especially with world population still growing. If history is any guide (and we think it is), increased competition for resources will lead to friction between nations, social classes, and demographic groups alike – discord that is becoming ever more apparent, as those adhering to the old narrative find themselves increasingly unfulfilled and frustrated.”

The Need to Develop Resilience in the Face of Changing Circumstances

The authors point out, however, that while global society is already in the early stages of collapse, they believe it will be gradual and we won’t wake up the following morning to find ourselves living in a nightmare straight out of The Hunger Games. The key to future success in our lives, they point out, has to do with understanding and managing our fears while developing resilience in the potential adversities that may come our way.

How do we develop resilience? By starting at what the authors term as step zero – doing something small and minor – that will make us more prepared when unfortunate circumstances strike.

It need not take much from us in either time or money. It could be doing something like buying extra canned food or water when we go to the grocery store. Or having solar-powered lights and radio available when the electric power goes out for an extended period of time. It might be buying an ounce of precious metal, such as gold or silver, as a hedge against declining purchasing power.

Book Review:Prosper! By Chris Martenson & Adam Taggart
Book Review:Prosper! By Chris Martenson & Adam Taggart

In spite of the constraints we face, Martenson and Taggart explain that there are eight types of assets or capital we need if we are going to prosper in the future, and it’s important to accumulate all eight. They are:

1. Financial Capital

What is it? Our money, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, income we receive from our jobs, debts and expenses,

How do I get more of it? Many suggestions here, including: dividing our financial assets, into a Resilience-Building Fund and a Financial Future Portfolio. There are more specific strategies, such as:

Martenson and Taggart remind us that while having financial capital is extremely important, it is not enough all by itself. There are other forms of capital that we will need as well.

2. Living Capital

What is it? Land, trees and other plants, water, soil, animal life, even our bodies – including our health and fitness levels.

How to get more of it? Invest in yourself. Eat healthier. Stay physically active. Get enough sleep. Look for ways to reduce stress in your life. Also, practice good stewardship of the land and natural resources.

3. Material Capital

What is it? Houses, cars and other vehicles, building materials, roads and bridges (infrastructure), tools, computers, stored food.

How do I get more of it? Invest in things such as solar water heaters, water filtration devices, food storage, insulation, power generators, back-up heating and water systems, energy-efficient lighting systems, and hand tools. Oftentimes simple, low-tech solutions offer better value than complex, high-tech ones.

4. Knowledge Capital

What is it? Everything that we know, including methods of how to apply what we have learned.

How do I get more of it? Martenson and Taggart point out that higher education isn’t always the answer, especially since the cost of higher-ed has gone up over 1100% in real dollars since 1978. The authors explain that it’s important for us to understand the concept of mastery – “the combination of what you know and what you know how to do. It’s the knowledge you apply to create value.”

As they explain further in the book, there are many different ways one can create value. Also important: using the knowledge that others have gathered, having a curious mind, and the willingness to gather information from a wide variety of sources, not just the ones we like or are biased toward.

5. Emotional & Spiritual Capital

What is it? Our ability to handle adversity, being able to stay calm, centered, and focused in the midst of problems, not giving up in spite of difficulties in life.

How do I get more of it? By remembering that your “day job” is not your identity or the sum total of who you are. By having a positive attitude amidst the difficulties of life – searching for opportunities amidst the struggles. Learning how to handles stress. Understanding that while there is very little in the world that we can control, we are in control of ourselves and how we react to events.

Martenson and Taggart give a wonderful example of this:

“Suppose two people are walking down the street and happen to pass by someone walking in the other direction, who happens to laugh at the exact moment their paths cross.

The first of the two people is insecure. He assumes that he’s the one being laughed at. His brain starts stewing on the insult and he becomes flushed with anger, possibly shame, and maybe sadness. He walks on, consumed with fate’s cruelty in making him the target of a complete stranger’s mockery.

He might ruminate on this for days, and possibly internalize the experience as reinforcement of a life belief that ‘People just don’t like me.’ All from a passing chuckle.

The other person in this story, however, has a different inner narrative running, one with a lot more positivity. When she hears the laugh, she’s thrilled and grateful to have been witness to someone sharing their joy. What luck! To be near that person right as they laughed! Her spirits are lifted, she feels like she’s received a gift. ‘Life is good,’ she thinks, as she continues on with a newfound spring in her step.

What happened here was that two people had an identical experience, but entirely different reactions to it. It was their inner narratives that determined how each perceived the event. This little story is effective in illustrating that when it comes to the narratives we tell ourselves, perception is indeed reality.”

6. Social Capital

What is it? Intimate relationships, deep friendships, and casual acquaintances with whom we exchange favors – and all those we “do business with” in order to acquire goods and services.

How do I get more of it? Resist the urge to isolate yourself. Look for ways to build community with others. Practice “reciprocity” – the art of giving and receiving with other people.

7. Cultural Capital

What is it? Customs, habits, songs, stories, and histories of the “tribes” we belong to.

How do I get more of it? If we are a part of a local culture that we believe is not serving us well, we have two choices: either find a way to make the most of it, or move to a new locale. For some, it might mean a different town or city. For others, it might be leaving their nation of origin entirely.

8. Time Capital

What is it? According to the authors: “….the precious, ever-depleting commodity that we need to allocate wisely if we wish to inhabit a future filled with prosperity.” (p. 14)

How do I get more of it? Hint: you have to make more of it yourself, and it may be the one that is hardest to come by for many people.

Summary

At the end of the book, there’s a collection of inspiring stories from readers who have taken Martenson’s and Taggart’s advice to heart. They describe in detail how they made changes in their lives, and how today they are living more meaningful lives because of it.

For those of you who are in search of a guidebook to offer you practical pointers and help you along in these confusing and disruptive times, Prosper! is an invaluable resource.

Editor’s Note: As a regular reader of Peak Prosperity, I can strongly endorse this book, even though I haven’t read it. Based on Steve’s review, the book follows the advice of the blog. I generally agree with the assessments by Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart, in regard to both the direction of the nation and the economy, and the solutions and strategies that they advance.

If you have any thoughts or concerns about any of the strategies Steve has described in this article, feel free to weigh in. These are some of the most important – and under-estimated developments of our time. – Kevin

( Photo by zakzak7 )

7 Responses to Book Review: Prosper! By Chris Martenson & Adam Taggart

  1. Nice to know that preppies are not far off in their thinking. We don’t need to get that radical but the era of instant graitification with no backup plans has to phase out. We see that rampant attitude everytime a major storm/disaster hits–people run out to make last minute purchases because they have no backup supplies at home.
    One should always have enough supplies of needed items on hand to survive a week without leaving the house.

  2. Maria —

    Excellent point! In the area where I live, we have repeated problems with blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) infiltrating the drinking water. Whenever a cautionary advisory is issued, the stores almost immediately run out of bottled water! And when the advisory is lifted, the store shelves are full again. The key, as you pointed out, is to prepare in good times so you don’t find yourself flat-footed when more challenging circumstances arise!

  3. Hi Maria – I suspect we’ll soon see a time where the big picture economic situation and the prepper’s worst nightmares intersect. It’ll be somewhere in the middle most likely. Not as bad as the worst the preppers imagine, but a lot less comfortable than most of us want to believe.

    From what I know about both Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart, neither actually fall under the category of preppers. But both believe it’s time for people to begin shifting to a less system-dependent lifestyle. That’s an idea I can get behind, and a soft direction I take on this blog. Martenson left a cushy financial job a few years back when he saw disconnects between the financial markets and the real economy. I think that should be apparent to us all.

  4. Thank you Kevin. We do have water cleaning systems in place, as the great majority of our U.S. water is already poisonous. We’ll enhance it next year by installing rain barrels. We’re definitely preparing to grow some of our own food next year. And we’re also taking many more health issues into our own hands.

  5. Actually, we should be thanking Steve for doing this review. But I think every little bit of preparation helps. It isn’t possible to be prepared for everything that happens, but a reasonable amount of preparation will have you ready just in case. One of the concerns I do have is prolonged systemic disruption, like the power grid or the internet being shut down for weeks. Either would be impossible to completely plan around.

    We had a gasoline shortage in the Atlanta area back in 2008 that lasted for two months. After a few weeks, it got really bad. Like having to have cops at gas stations due to violence. These things can get as ugly as you can imagine.

  6. Hi Kevin. We’re not preppers by nature, but we do believe in self-sufficiency, but mostly because of storms taking out power, etc. Things that are not nationwide, not even statewide per se. I do believe it’s prudent to be prepared, as the boy scouts would say, but I don’t think there’s much any of us can do to prepare for large nationwide issues. We tend to make sure we’re provisioned so to speak and check in on our neighbors, etc. We recently had very bad storms with many large trees downed statewide. Much of our area in Vermont lost power, and we were out for three days. But we have a stand-by generator, which saved us more than once. It’s one part of being prepared for where we live. But I think I will put this book on my Amazon wish list. It looks like an interesting read.

  7. I fully agree Bev, there’s not much any of us can do about nationwide problems, other than to do our best to position ourselves to weather whatever problems might hit (save money, stay out of debt, have hands-on skills/be self-employed, keep expenses low, etc.). We were hit by the same storm here in NH, and more than 100,000 homes lost power. Schools were even closed. Fortunately, we were unaffected, other than our nerves being rattled by heavy winds shaking the house Sunday night.

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