Defence in Depth: How I Stay Sane in an Increasingly Insane World

Published on May 1, 2020
Jason Gutierrez

Have you ever heard of the term “defence in depth”? It’s a risk management system, originally developed by military strategists, that focuses on delaying, rather than preventing, a certain outcome.

I first learned about the concept from my days building nuclear plants, which the industry adopted because no one wanted another Chernobyl.

More recently (the early 2000s), during the explosive growth of the internet, defence in depth became a standard practice to deter cyberattackers and minimize the risk of a data breach.

The idea is to layer your system’s defences so that in the event your first layer fails, you have multiple other layers standing guard.

One of the most common examples of defence in depth is how banks protect themselves from robberies.

First, you’ve got security cameras, then security guards (with multiple guards providing even more protection), then bulletproof glass and locked doors. And then the vault itself.

It’s almost expected that at some point, your first layer of defences will fail. But as you make your way through the layers, the chances of each subsequent defence mechanism failing greatly increases. And the chance of them all failing in sequence is extremely low.

Obviously, it’s not a 100% guarantee that your defences will never fail. However, from a risk perspective, the sum total of your defence in depth system is far greater than having only one countermeasure in place.

How I’ve Adapted Defence in Depth to My Life

I used to feel like I was always one bad beat away from everything crashing and burning around me. As if I was constantly playing the game of trying to hold my life together.

“Okay Jason, let’s not mess this up, eh?”

But today, I feel much more comfortable about everything. That’s because I developed my own defence in the depth-style system to keep it from falling apart.

Basically, I’ve got 4 total layers of defences. The further into the layers you go, the stronger my defence mechanisms get.

Even on the rare occasions that a catastrophic event plunges my life into shambles, I still have the foundation (my inner-most defence mechanism) to keep me from totally and irreversibly falling apart.

Here they are.

The Maintenance Layer

At the outermost layer of my defences are the fun and quirky things that I do daily to stay mostly sane.

  • I sing in the shower
  • I dance in the kitchen
  • I dance while night walking my pup around the neighbourhood
  • I crack lots of inappropriate jokes
  • I treat my sleep like religion
  • I make little games out of things (like how many times I can high-five someone during the same conversation until they say something)
  • I started a “coffee shop” at work to give the more bougie and European colleagues an opportunity to drink quality espresso (instead of the nasty drip). I’m the CMO of the business. Most weeks, that’s Chief Muffin Officer.
  • I write about my life experiences and lessons as therapy
  • I engage in spontaneous drinking nights, such as taking a community shot every time somebody rolls a Yahtzee! during board game night
  • I indulge in a full-blown “let myself go” night, where I’ll order half the menu at McDonald’s and slug down a few whiskey gingers
  • I lose myself in various hobbies (lately: archery, brewing kombucha, homemade bone broth)
  • Or I get lost in an awesome fiction book (The Kingkiller Chronicle series was my latest jam)
  • I definitely don’t play League of Legends because that shit boils my blood
  • I play tennis with the pops

The “I’m on the Edge” Layer

“I’m on the edgeee…of glory…” Ahem.

Most days, my maintenance defences are enough to keep my head above water. However, some days I get overwhelmed and can feel myself starting to come unhinged. This could be the result of a work fiasco, a personal issue, or a combination of the two.

Whatever the case, bad things are starting to happen and I have to invoke a few special activities to improve my mood, take my mind off things, and/or solve part of the issue.

  • I hit the gym hard. This burns off my frustration and physically tires me out.
  • I ramp up my mindfulness practice. Usually, I just do some sort of walking meditation or “casual” mindfulness with some focused breathing throughout the day (I no longer have a set period each day where I meditate). But when things start getting hectic, I take mindfulness more seriously and will sit in a quiet place and meditate for 10–20 minutes.
  • I get in the sauna and sweat it out. I just bought one recently and put it in my garage. Not sure but I might have a romantic relationship with her. I mean “it”.
  • I look for little wins like doing the dishes. The little wins help me focus and perk me up. Afterwards, I’m usually ready to tackle whatever is actually bothering me (if there’s something I need to do).

The “Oh Sh*t” Layer

This is when things start getting real. My maintenance and on-the-edge defences can’t quite do the trick and I’m starting to feel overly anxious, depressed, and burdened.

My most recent example of this was during my divorce when I spoke with a therapist to keep grounded and to help me navigate the road ahead.

These are the main things I’ll do in “oh shit” mode:

  • Talk to a therapist (see above)
  • Cut out the booze completely. Alcohol tends to spike my anxiety and that’s the last thing I need in a time like this.
  • Eat super healthy. This makes me physically feel good and keeps the mental fog not-so-bad. If I feel shitty in my head, I at least eat healthy to improve what I can.

The Foundation

If absolutely everything goes to shit, as in I lose my job, get diagnosed with cancer, and lose my dad in the same week, my foundational defences take over.

These are the ones that I’ve been working on building my entire life.

Basically, I rely on my dashing good looks to get everything I want. Just kidding. Maybe that would be true if I was Ryan Reynolds, but since I’m not, my actual defences look like this:

  • I lean on a family member or friend. I’ve intentionally surrounded myself with some of the greatest people on the planet. The relationships I’ve fostered are built on genuineness and trust. When my life completely falls apart, I know I can count on them to prop me up. And I’d do the same for them in a heartbeat.
  • I trust my skills. Not my sweet bow skills or anything like that. I trust the skills that I’ve developed throughout my life — through traditional education and self-learning — to weather the storm. Even if I instantly lose my job, I know I can count on myself to manage my finances and either quickly get another job or start making more money through entrepreneurial ventures.

At the end of the day, I have the utmost faith in myself and my network of friends and family to hold it all together so that I never completely crash into oblivion.


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