“Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.” – 5 Lessons on Success I Learned from Survivor

My wife and I are in an interesting season at the moment. We just welcomed our first baby boy, Jonah, into the world and took a lot of time to slow down and just be present with each other.

I’m not sure what started us off down this road, but at some point we started watching Survivor in our downtime since we couldn’t leave the house or do much late in the pregnancy and then early after our baby came.

And for some reason . . . we really enjoy watching it!

The show is on its 39th season and while we haven’t watched all 39 seasons (yet), I’ve seen enough to understand the theme of it.

The whole premise is a social experiment, dropping a group of people from the USA and Canada into a (seemingly extreme) survival situation with little to no support in terms of food, shelter, protection etc. It is then up to the “castaways” to work together to survive while also giving them the ultimate choice in deciding the fate of their “tribemates.” The goal is to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other until one is crowned the sole survivor at the end and wins one million dollars.

And as I watched the tactics of various castaways in their quest to survive, I observed 5 lessons for success to be learned from among the jungles and beaches of Survivor seasons that you can apply today to see change and hopefully help you earn the ultimate prize at the end of your season.

1. Learn to Make Fire

Fire is the key to a good start in Survivor. The tribe that gets a fire going sooner rather than later is warmer, able to boil water, cook their food, and is, overall, a happier tribe. Those who make fire are often rewarded and the ability to start a fire and keep it going in difficult conditions, with minimal access to tools, is always celebrated.

So ask yourself: What spark do you need to ignite? Successful people form the habit of making things happen, even in adverse conditions. They find a way to achieve their goals (start a fire) and they don’t make excuses as to why they can’t (no flint, wet wood. etc.). They take action on the things that they know are the most important to their success and they don’t give up until they succeed in accomplishing it.

2. Your Tribe is Watching

As with anything in life, honesty is the best policy. Well . . . except for on Survivor. On Survivor there are actually plenty of people who regularly lie and cheat their way to the finals and break alliances with their tribemates left and right.

And yet, very rarely do those people actually win. They get really close but often the jury asks these questions at the end, “Is this who you are in real life? Are you someone who breaks promises and lies to make things happen?”

Successful people are rooted in integrity. They stand for what is right always and not behind those who “might” be right only at the time. Successful people know that their words carry weight and that when they say they will do something they are committing to see it through.

You probably don’t lie like some of the contestants do daily on the show. But are you someone who is conscious of the little promises you make? Do what you say you will do and follow through, Every. Single. Time.

3. Form an Alliance

You can’t win anything alone! Early on in each game you’ll start to see alliances form between tribe members and half the fun is watching those change and shift through the game or watching other players stand by their word from day one until the final tribal council. Key alliances help people go on rewards, win immunities, and make it through to the next round.

We were created for community. You might be the only person who does your job in your area but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other people out there who are doing something similar! Successful people surround themselves with people who believe in them, who challenge them, and who ultimately want to support each other to grow and develop.

Lean into your team, your tribe, your people and let them support you. Successful people recognize the need to let other people in—they don’t have to do everything themselves.

4. Immunity is Temporary

Every few days the castaways compete for either individual or tribal immunity, keeping themselves or their tribe safe and in the game for a few more days while the losing tribe sends someone home. Anything that keeps you in the game is exciting and so often the winning tribe is shouting and screaming with joy at the prospect of staying just a bit longer.

But, “this too shall pass.” Immunity in the game of Survivor only lasts a few days or even a few hours until the castaways are back to a place of vulnerability. So there are two sides to this coin. Eventually you’ll either be voted out or win the game.

Successful people recognize that there will be wins and losses on the road forward towards their goals and they don’t let either one slow them down. They celebrate the wins but get back to work. They don’t let the failure, loss, or setback stop them. Instead they get back to work.

No matter if it’s a high or a low, successful people are great about getting back to a place of normalcy. Things are never as bad as they seem or as good as they seem.

5. Be Present & Enjoy the Rain!

Survivor is a game that lasts at maximum 40 days. Yes, they are forced to deal with the elements and they might not have tons of food, shelter, basic necessities, but at the end of the day they are there at max for 40 days.

My favorite contestants are the ones who even on the rainiest, coldest, hungriest, most tiring of days are still saying how cool of an experience it is to be out there competing. People have done way harder things in life and the human body is capable of so much more. They are grateful for the experience and while it might not be fun to be in the cold rain, shivering while huddled under a palm frond roof on a remote beach somewhere in the South Pacific . . . they can still recognize that it’s a unique moment in time and be grateful for the opportunity to play.

Successful people form the habit of being present where they are at and they work to form the habit of enjoying the journey. They don’t let the worry about tomorrow rob them of the joy of today. They don’t let the shame of yesterday’s mistakes rob them of their commitment to making today the best day it can be.

They enjoy where they are at in life, where they are at in relation to their goals, and they choose to be positive about the path forward.

Their mantra is: “Day by day in every way I’m getting better.”

And the winner is . . .

So, in this season of your own game, evaluate your strategy for success. Where do you need to slow down and be yourself? Where do you need to form an alliance and ask for help? Where can you own up to your mistakes from the past and get after making fire happen now? And can you enjoy the journey while you are working towards the goal?

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