One of my favorite shows on TV is CBS’s Survivor. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about 16 strangers that are sent to a deserted location (usually an exotic island) to fend for themselves for 39 days and see who can outwit, outplay, and outlast their competitors. With limited supplies and no comforts from home, they are required to build their own shelter, gather food, and survive the elements of nature. Every three days they compete in physically and mentally strategic challenges to determine who will have immunity from getting voted off the island by their fellow tribe members. Then they meet for a tribal council where the host asks pertinent questions that stir up a bit of drama and controversy among the players, but also helps the audience get a glimpse of the emotions, alliances, and feuds that are brewing in the game. And yes, I realize it is ultimately a game where players are trying to win a million dollars, but I also find a lot of life lessons come through the TV each week as I watch.
One of the aspects of the show that intrigues me the most is the development of relationships among the players of the game. It appears that to be successful in the game you first need to be savvy in public relations in order to get along with your teammates. There is also a strong component of building alliances of trust and loyalty with others to elicit a strong sense of your value to others, so that they will keep you in the game. To some degree this appears to be similar to our experiences with friends, coworkers, and family. As we show our kindness towards others and nurture trust and loyalty, we too build alliances where we can regularly turn for support and comfort in our times of need. In doing so, it seems rather important to conduct ourselves appropriately so that we are showing others respect. This will often require some personal filtering of emotions internally before we interact with others. In essence, taste your words before you spit them out.
Through a series of physical and problem solving challenges in the beginning of the show, contestants must learn to work together in teams. The most successful contestants seem to be the ones that are honest with their own strengths and weaknesses and know how to best manage those for the team’s best interest. In life I find that I am most successful when I too am honest with and aware of my own strengths and weaknesses and utilize them effectively. In these challenges there is also a certain sense of knowing when to lead and when to follow that brings about success in these challenges. I liken this to the different roles of communication and knowing when to lead with our thoughts and insights or when to follow the other person in trying to understand their perspective.
I was reading an article by the show’s executive producer and host, Jeff Probst, about his take home message from the 11 years he spent hosting the show. He says:
“I’ve learned a few things:
(1) It’s in our nature to trust.
(2) It’s also in our nature to lie.
(3) The liar typically wins the battle but rarely wins the war.
(4) You are not the center of the universe.
(5) A smile will get you a long way in life.”
I find his insights to be quite accurate not only to finding success in the game of Survivor, but in achieving success in the realm of personal relationships. He talks about the liar typically winning the immediate battle but rarely winning the long term war. Lying may get you what you want in the short run but usually creates a detriment in the long term outcome.