4 Life Lessons from the Last Sole Survivor

This weekend I went on a Survivor bender.

So I watch Survivor. What of it?

Because there is no program on television that more accurately depicts the human condition in such an authentic, thought-provoking way. A dozen or so individuals from all walks of life–athletes, investors, models, students, businessmen–exposed to the elements for over 30 days, subsisting on a typical diet of only beans and rice, engaging in some of the most physically demanding challenges the human body could undergo, or being tasked with painstaking mental challenges such as solving life-size puzzles or balancing marbles on a narrow board while dripping with sweat–all compete fiercely for a one-million-dollar prize. Those circumstances set the stage for some of the most savagely cruel, backstabbing, and two-faced contenders to potentially wreak havoc within a tribe. However, it’s also a perfect environment for bonds to be made, kindness to be offered, and redemption to be had.

Kinda like life, methinks. In the years I’ve watched the show, and especially lately, I’ve definitely taken away a few important lessons.


Lesson 1: Be wise when forming your alliances.

On Survivor, friendships and alliances are made–and broken. Trust is gained, trust is lost. So-called “friendships” dissolve with the whisper of a potential blindside. Every episode is proof that people lie, cheat, and steal–all just to further their game. And typically it’s the secretive jungle conversations that mark the most cowardly players.

Lesson 2: Do the world a favor and perform an “Am-I-A-Double-Standard-Demanding-Ass-Hole?” self-check before opening your nasty mouth in condemnation.

Last season, a prominent (and, rather vocal) contestant who was dubbed “the most annoying survivor in history” somehow managed to bully/finagle/sneak her way to the final five. She verbally attacked other tribe members for their missteps, while being perhaps the most dishonest, conniving, and hostile of them all. What made the situation worse was that she truly seemed to believe that she could do no wrong. And, while she progressed quite far in the game, she didn’t win. And she lost respect–and friends–along the way.

Lesson 3: Play your own game–and keep your mouth shut.

Bold moves that seem foolproof to one person may be shortsighted and hasty to another. It’s all relative. Either way, attempting to justify a strategy is pointless; there will always be a self-appointed critic with an opposing opinion. Note: The idealist in me believes that, whether players play the game deceitfully or with honor, they’re all doing their best, with the goal of self-preservation in mind.

Lesson 4: Karma is, indeed, a bitch.

Oftentimes, as a few angry, vitrol-spitting, ousted competitors sit on the sidelines, harshly questioning the actions of the final three, it becomes all too apparent that their strategies were flawed from the very beginning. Their bitterness is due to their embarrassment at their own shitty gameplay. And, when the cream of the crop make it to the final three, it also becomes clear that the good guys (and girls) do indeed finish last.

Sometimes they even win a million dollars.

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