The Gray Man Mindset

Thinking Like The Man In the Background (Part 4/4)

How to think like the Gray Man to truly become the man in the background.


In the last episode of the Gray Man series, we reviewed the importance of cultural awareness, and how to behave in order to become the man in the background – stay quiet and relaxed, with no sudden movements, don’t separate your elbows from your sides while you move your arms and try to move with the flow of the masses. The Gray Man behavior, diverts people’s attention, which greatly reduces your chances of being attacked. Also during an active shooter scenario, this behavior will allow you to gain these few extra seconds (or even minutes), that will enable you to execute your plan.

In this episode, we’ll review the Gray Man Mindset – how to implement a system of mental thresholds that will keep you ready, mentally and physically, so you will be able to act upon noticing anything suspicious. In the case that things escalate to a full active shooter event, you will already have a plan ready for execution. Your mental state will always be calm and calculated, so you’re able to perceive all the information, assess the situation and act without losing precious time that may turn an unfortunate situation into a tragic one.

Important Note: The Gray Man concept is the name depicted for it, but it is directed to both men and women. I sometimes used the masculine form in this post for simplicity sake only.

Click the image below to watch the Gray Man Mindset video:









The Gray Man Color System

We talked about the color system in the books Prepared and Advanced Preparation – about how Colonel Cooper devised a set of guidelines for his troops to assess the severity of a situation and how to act accordingly.

Colonel Cooper

The Gray Man Color System uses an upgraded version of the original system, by adding colors for normal day-to-day situations and not only war times:

White – Unaware
This is when you are distracted by your thoughts, a map, book, or any electronic device. In this zone your senses are dull and you might miss almost everything that is happening around you. Make sure to limit the white state as much as possible, especially when you are in public.

Green – Aware
You should always strive to be at this state – you notice your surroundings, take a mental picture of every person in your vicinity, and notice any objects or things that seem out of place. When everything seems to be where it should be, that is the baseline or the Norm.

Yellow – Alert
In this state, you notice that something is out of context, something is off – you may hear a loud bang, or see people running or screaming. You may notice that someone is awkwardly staring at you, or maybe even that someone is following you around to 3 or more separate locations.

Red – Danger
In the Red Zone, you actually identified the active shooter – someone is actively threatening or harming yourself or other people around you (might be using a ranged or melee weapon or even an explosive device).


The Color System Thresholds

As the Gray Man, you must be vigilant and always notice your surroundings. Most of the time, you’ll be in the Green state – everything checks out, and the days pass uneventfully. BUT when you recognize that something is off, and is out of the baseline, you must set a threshold for acting accordingly, and shifting your mental state into the next level.

Yellow Threshold – Ready
When you are in the Green state, you must set a threshold and an IF-THEN equation:
IF you notice something or someone out of place
THEN elevate your mindset to Yellow

You may notice someone in the wrong clothes, in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing – like a person wearing a heavy winter coat during a hot summer day, or someone agitated in a public place. You must make a mental note of what you identified, and set a threshold for your next action.

During this initial alerted state, after you identify a suspicious person or anything that is out of place, you need to prepare your gear – either your flashlight, tactical pen, folding knife, or even your pistol. Have your gear ready in your hand, but keep it concealed (inside your pocket or bag). If your concealed weapon is in your backpack, take off one of the straps, and swing your backpack to the front so you’re ready to grab it. Remember that at this stage you’re only getting ready, so don’t make any suspicious moves and keep your gear concealed.

Red Threshold – Initiate
In the Yellow state – after you have your tool ready in your hand, but still concealed, start assessing the arena around you – look for the best cover location and start moving closer to it. If you are indoors, mark adjustable covers like tables you can flip, and mark your way to the nearest exit.

Set your next mental threshold and a simple IF-THEN equation to elevate your state to Red. Try to be as specific as possible for the situation at hand. For example:
IF this specific person draws a weapon.
THEN I’ll dive behind that specific cover and initiate the Red State plan.

Try to be very specific and minimalist with your THEN – once an event starts, the amount of adrenaline rushing to your brain will be disabling, you will act on pure instinct, and that is exactly what the threshold system will allow you to do without thinking.


Executing Your Plan

Behind Cover

Once you reached the cover and can assess the situation, identify the number of assailants. If there is only one assailant and you possess the tools to neutralize the threat, proceed to leapfrog and flank the assailant, and then neutralize them as quickly and effectively as possible.

If there are more assailants than members in your team, try to escape the arena. If escape is impossible, wait for an opportunity and take out the assailants one at a time, making sure the other assailants are out of visual and audio range.

On the other hand, if you are with a non-combatant team member (like a family member or a friend) you have to prioritize their safety. Use cover locations toward an exit from the arena to get to safety. After the non-combatant is safe, you can reassess and decide what to do. If possible, it’s always best to alert the authorities and let them handle the situation. If you absolutely have to engage, make sure you have either the gear to do so and / or numbers superiority – DO NOT take any unnecessary risks!

Either way, you will be in a position to plan your moves which in most cases eliminates unnecessary risks.


No Plan Survives Contact With The Enemy

Always remember to stay flexible and change your plans according to real time events. Make sure you always keep moving – staying in one place for too long is very dangerous, even if your cover seems secured.

Make sure you always relocate to an optimal position, according to the movements of the assailant/s. Try to lower the risk factor, by looking for opportunities to engage with the assailants on a one-on-one basis.

DO NOT try to be a hero and take on more than one assailant at a time. Never underestimate your assailants – always take into consideration that they are as trained and as fast as you are or even more so. This is why you have to think outside the box and search for alternative solutions prior to attacking – like utilizing something in the environment to neutralize or distract them, NEVER attack head on!


Distractions are Key

If possible, try to somehow distract the assailant – a loud noise, a timed explosion or a large movement will do the trick. For example, you could use a cellphone’s alarm set with loud music as a great tactical distraction. But make sure to always stay away from the line of attack.

Improvisation is a Lifesaver
Try to use the environment as much as you can. Everything around you can become a tactical tool for distracting the assailant/s, luring them into an ambush, or even neutralizing them. Remember that any assailant in an active shooter scenario is either blinded by rage, or in some type of trans, otherwise they would not act in such way (unless they are psychopaths, which is usually not the case).

Center of Mass is not Always Optimal
In all the weapon training schools we aim for the center of mass, either to the chest’s center or the head. But that might not always be optimal, since many times these areas are either blocked by obstacles or protected by armor. Keep in mind that hitting an ankle, a knee or even a hand will most likely neutralize the assailant for a moment, giving you the chance to disarm or even neutralize them permanently.


To Sum Up:

To think like the man in the background you’ll need to:

  1. Stay calm and calculated.
  2. Utilize the color system, and set specific thresholds using IF-THEN equations.
  3. Make sure to stay mentally flexible as you must always adapt your plans to the real time changes.
  4. Use your surroundings and think outside the box in order to find optimal non-direct solutions.



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The Gray Man and What’s Next:

I hope these 4 episodes of the Gray Man series have been exciting and interesting for you like they have been for me. Now that we discussed all the aspects of becoming the man in the background, we can gain valuable time during an active shooter scenario, so we can dive behind cover and execute our plan to either escape or neutralize the threat. We learned how to look like the gray man by implementing the local base look and combining that with a global archetype style. We then learned how to behave like the gray man, by cultivating cultural awareness and adopting the general gray man guidelines to attract as little attention as possible. And finally we learned how to think like the gray man, and get ready for any situation, using specific thresholds with simple IF-THEN equations that we define on the fly during an event.

Our next mail will be dedicated to the 10 biggest mistakes novice preppers make and what we should do to mitigate them. From being out of shape, to relying too much on weapons or technology, stockpiling the wrong foods or trying to be more solider-like rather than being the man in the background.

I just can’t wait to share all this with you!

So, until then – Stay Safe!

Your friend always,

Roy Shepard

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