• Survivor: Lessons for Life

    by  • February 24, 2011 • Philosophy, Survivor • 0 Comments

    One of the things I love about the show Survivor is that it teaches some useful lessons about life and people.  If you’re willing to learn from others mistakes, there’s some real treasure to be found.  Wednesday’s episode, the second of the season, was a great example.  And the lesson was simple:  Never assume anything.  Philip assumed he was going to get kicked out of the tribe, he wasn’t.  Kristina assumed she’d be a target, so she played and lost her immunity idol.  Matt assumed the people on his tribe were telling him the truth, and he was rewarded with the blindside and a trip to Redemption Island.

    Trust is obviously a variable quality on Survivor.  There have been very few players over the course of 22 seasons who were trustworthy to the end.  And while there’s no question you have to make alliances to survive, time and again, players have been blindsided.  When you assume someone you’ve only know for a few days or weeks won’t stab you in the back for a million dollars, you’re bound to lose.  To be the final survivor, you’ve got to be able to do two things.

    First off, you must be honest with yourself, and carefully consider, every day, how you could be viewed by the other players.  You have to be able to gauge your position with the rest of the tribe.

    Which leads to the second key to winning. You have to be able to read the other players.  And the key to that is basic social skills.  You’ve got to be able to talk to the other survivors, show them you’re not a threat to them, and get them to relax around you, let their guard down.  You have to hear what they say to you and what they don’t say.  Some people are easy to read, and others are experts at deception.

    A little paranoia is not a bad thing, but if you get too rattled, you’ll put everyone off.  Make yourself a pariah or a loner, and you won’t last.  But, if you don’t constantly check in with everyone around you, you won’t last either.

    Watching Boston Rob Mariano play, you can see how easily he connects with people.  He’s likable, and he reaches out to folks.  Russel Hantz, on the other hand, quickly separates himself from most of his tribe.  And the contestants know his game and know he’s playing it again.  Honestly, I don’t like Russel very much.  I think he plays a strong game, and I thought he’d win his first season.  Until he opened his mouth during the final tribal council and made an ass out of himself.  I’m pretty sure he cost himself a million dollars because he wasn’t aware of how he was already perceived by the folks on the jury.  I don’t think Russel will make it to the merge, but I think Rob will.  We’ll see.

    The lesson again is to never assume.  Always know your position, maintain contact those around you that you trust and rely on, and above all, be honest about your own liabilities.  You can’t fix anything that you don’t know is broken. And that holds for yourself, and your relationships.


    Michael has been writing professionally for print, television and the internet for thirty years. As a Senior Producer at CNN International, he examined the future of technology with dozens of brilliant scientists, philosophers and entrepreneurs on the acclaimed series Future Summit. Before that, in the CNN International newsroom, he helped lead the production of award winning coverage of news like the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the devastating 2004 tsunami in Asia. As a director, he has created a dozen short films in the last seven years. He lives with his wife, dog, four cats and two horses in the suburbs of Atlanta.


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