Ah, Monday. And not just the usual Monday, but a Monday after a perfect 5-day trip with my wife to Sonoma. A Monday where, right after we get back, the hot water heater in our old house (that we now rent) dies. Sigh. I really don’t like this whole “real world” thing.

On the plus side we set two records on our wine tour: fewest wineries visited, and most time spent at a single winery. On our second stop at a small, 300 case a year winery we ended up polishing off a few bottles with the owner (and sole operator) over nearly 5 hours, making our guide late for his dinner. It was a total blast, not pretentious at all (I’m still pretty blue collar), and the wine was excellent. It did blow our stomachs for the entire next day, but that was a cost worth paying.

One of the lasts posts before I left was about the philosophy of REACT FASTER and BETTER I partially stole from Mike Rothman. In a response, Cutaway brought up a second, no less important issue, as almost a side note. He refers back to his Marine days and the importance of keeping your head up, even when you’re down in the trenches responding to something else or stuck in the routine daily grind. When teaching martial arts I refer to this as situational awareness, which is what I think the military and law enforcement also call it. Know what’s going on around you, even if you’re bored off your rocker with tedium.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Early in the post, Cutaway says,

All of this got me thinking about how we react to situations as a whole. I started thinking about how through training and effort we can begin to overcome hardships. I started thinking about how diligent practice can instill good habits and create muscle memory in any individual. … “Yes, yes,” you are thinking to yourself right now. We have heard this all before. Practice makes perfect. Practice your incident response. Practice your backup procedures. Practice your disaster recovery. Practice makes perfect. Practice, Practice, Practice. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, I am tell you that. But what I want to emphasize is that you can train yourselves all day long and still make mistakes.

Yep, we’re absolutely going to make mistakes, and how we respond to those mistakes is just as important, maybe more important, than minimizing them. The only way we can do this is if you “train like you fight”. In training, you need to run practical scenarios that emulate, as closely as possible, the chaos of the real world.

How many of you can honestly say your incident response, disaster recovery, or business continuity tests come close to emulating the real world? It’s why I despise over-reliance on tabletop tests that prove nothing. It’s why I really like programs like the DefCon Capture the Flag that test real attack and defense response skills.

If you are in incident response or disaster recovery/BCP, make sure you make heavy use of scenarios and practical tests as part of your training. Make them as real as possible, and throw in the unexpected to train people on how to respond to the chaotic. Tedious, rote training builds the “muscle memory” for tasks, while scenarios build the “muscle memory” for the unknown.