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The tribe has spoken: The enduring lessons of Survivor

Outwit, outplay, outlast

Maybe it's crazy, but I've seen every season of Survivor except for one. It's not that I'm a diehard.

I don't go on the message boards.

I don't own any merch.

Ok, I have attended a live taping of the reunion in NYC (many years ago!) but other than watching, that's where my devotion ends. 

So what is it about Survivor that has me so hooked and keeps me coming back? After all, they've used the same setting for about 12 seasons now (Fiji, yawn) and mostly the format is the same, save for a few twists and turns.

But at its core, the show is about relationships.

It's about connecting to other people and getting them to trust you, even when you might be lying to their face (mostly while lying to their face).

I'm FASCINATED by human behavior, which is probably why I'm a marketer. After all, marketing is all about convincing someone they need what you have.

It's emotion. It's sales. It's manipulation (at times). 

And with Survivor, the stakes are so high. $1M is on the line for the winner. That's a lot of money for about 3-4 weeks of work. 


Forging alliances

One core aspect of the show has always been the forging of alliances. Before they even hit the beach, people are seeing who they can team up with in order to ostensibly agree not to vote each other out, and have each others backs. 

Now, many people forge more than one alliance which may or may not come back to bite them. It all depends on how well they play the game, how much they earn the trust of their alliances and usually whether or not they're overly annoying or seen as a threat to win. 

But because tribes change and merge, who you partner with can at any time change as well. Your alliance member might lose a challenge and get voted out. Or lose their vote and get voted out. NOTHING is guaranteed. 

Occasionally someone wins Survivor because they simply excel at challenges and can't get voted out. But the majority of past winners have made moves, built friendships and taken charge of the game and the players.

Like chess, they're always one or four steps ahead, seeing how things might play out.

Recognizing threats and taking out people when they least expect it.

But all the while creating a devoted support system around them. 

Not every season is a winner.

Not every season is compelling TV.

But what's always a component of the show is how people interact and behave.

How they bond.

How they connect.

How they build trust (or not).

And all of this is about how they show up authentically. It's fascinating to see when a certain person isn't trusted. People know they aren't being true to themselves.


Read the room

And then there are others who might be too authentic.

Too themselves for their own detriment. Or too unaware of how they're perceived. (The lack of EQ is often astounding.)

The island is their temporary workplace and the people who get the most comfortable and are the most confident are the ones who know who they are and how they want and need to show up. 

And typically the ones who win.

They get people to know, like and trust them — deserved or not. 

They outlast, outplay and outwit (the show's mantra). When someone is voted off, Jeff Probst utters his famous catchphrase, "the tribe has spoken." Meaning, we don't want you here anymore.

In other words, you didn't convince us why you should stay.

You didn't forge the right alliance or you simply were a pawn. 

Or you're too good and this is our chance to take you out. 

With all of these, you didn't read the room.

You didn't know your audience and they aren't buying what you're selling. 

Almost every reality show, and why we love them, is about relationships.

How people get along or don't. How our differences bring us together or separate us.

And like anything, it's about finding the space and place where you're welcome and supported. 

All I want is for you to find that.

To  feel welcome and valued in your place of work.

With your clients. With your colleagues. With your organization. And with yourself. 


Speaking of support...

I'm partnering with CollabWORK to bring you some of the hottest jobs around. If you or someone you know is looking, feel free to share this newsletter with them.  

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