Stage Methodology – Being A Gray Man

“Remember that body, Egwene. Remember that he tried to kill you. Kill us. Remember the Black Ajah. Remember them all the time. Because if you forget, just once, the next time, it may be you lying dead.”
— Nynaeve al’Meara, The Wheel of Time

Invisible, yet in plain sight. The idea of a person being a gray man is an attractive one. The words conjure up the image of a rugged, well-trained individual who is equipped to deal with any challenge life can bring before fading into the crowds. But how is it done? And what should you avoid?

Derived from both theory and practice, the process that I will cover in this – and in subsequent blog posts – should give you an idea of what to expect and what to prepare for. Yet this is just the first step of your journey. Feel free to add to what you read here with your own experiences and learnings. After all, we’re all students in this wide, wide world.

Let’s get started.

I call this the Stage Methodology. Inspired by my prior experience in project management, it breaks down the entire approach of the gray man mindset into four distinct stages (hence the name). Each stage has its aspects and elements that must be managed appropriately for optimal success. These are:

1) Goal Setting

2) Intelligence Gathering

3) Action & Execution

4) Wrapup & Postmortem

Goal Setting puts your objectives into actionable items that you can (theoretically) accomplish. The devil, after all, is in the details, and Murphy’s Law lurks around every corner. Sample goals can be:

  • Are you covertly gathering information for yourself or a third party?
  • Are you trying to find a way out of a conflict zone such as Marawi – or in?
  • Or link up with friendly (or somewhat friendly) forces to achieve a bigger objective in your weekend airsoft game?
  • Perhaps you’re just enjoying an event but want to bring something that may be frowned upon to keep you safe – how do you do that without attracting attention?

Intelligence Gathering helps iron out the details towards achieving your goals. Contrary to what books and popular media may tell you, every drop of information counts. But that’s just the beginning: you need to consider your appetite for risk, and the potential consequences of your actions. It’s easy to make decisions when you’re by yourself, but what about times when you’re with someone important? Or something?

Action & Execution covers what happens on the big day itself. Remember: no plan survives first contact, and only those who are willing to adapt accordingly will succeed. How do you minimize exposure and economize on your resources? What do you do when Murphy’s Law knocks on your door?

No matter what happens, everything ends. Wrapup & Postmortem takes a look at tools that can help you assess what went wrong and what went right. It also takes a look at what this mentality requires to properly function. This is not an out-of-the-box solution that you can unwrap and repackage yourself in. It’s a mindset that needs to be learned, experienced, and lived in our day-to-day lives.

Throughout this entire series, we’ll also take a look at a sample situation to better illustrate these points and give you an idea of what to look at with this methodology. This should not be taken as gospel truth, but rather as references towards your own use of the Stage methodology.

All set? Then let’s get started.

Legal reminder: The Stage Methodology and its components as outlined in this series of blogposts and in future material is covered by a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 International license (Attribution, Noncommerical, ShareAlike) as of July 2017 by its original author, John Yang. You may share and/or remix/transform/build upon the material in any format. You may not use the material for commercial purposes, and you must provide appropriate credit (as well as a link to the license and indications on what changes were made, if any). Also, should you remix/transform/build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. For more information, check out the creative commons license for this work at

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