What Being a Reality Show Loser Taught Me About Winning at Life


It’s hard to say which subjects one to more derision — being a contestant on a reality TV show, or failing miserably as a contestant on a reality TV show.

As far as losing on national television in front of millions of people goes, I have special expertise.

I was a contestant on the CBS reality television show Survivor, twice.

The first time, I appeared on Survivor: Redemption Island, where a fiasco of a tribal council earned me the distinction of being the first person voted out that season.

Because I had lots to say and didn’t go down without a fight, I made more of an impression than your typical “first boot” (as we are called). As a result, I was the first “first boot,” after 22 seasons of the show, to be invited back again for a second season.

Being a glutton for punishment and also overly competitive, I agreed to play again. Besides, in my mind it was a virtual guarantee that at the very least, I would top my previous season’s showing. After all, the second time around I was on an “all-star” tribe, and some of my tribe mates were my actual, real-life friends!

If you’ve never seen the show, I totally won the second time! You can stop reading now!

If you have seen the show, you know what happened — I got voted out first, again. (womp womp)

It’s been a couple of years now since my second season, Survivor: Caramoan, aired. To this day I still have strangers come up to me in the street with complete and utter pity in their eyes as they say some version of “I felt sooooo bad for you!” I’ve gotten tons of sympathetic Facebook messages, tweets and the like.

I am “famous” (on a very E-list level) for being either the worst or the unluckiest contestant in Survivor history.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Well, I will leave the Survivor-viewing public to decide my legacy as a contestant. On a personal level, my public humiliation was not in vain. This is what being a reality show loser taught me about winning at life:

1. You Must Define Success For Yourself

I’m not going give you the whole “winning isn’t everything” cliché, because let’s face it — it totally is!

The question is, what are you trying to win, and why? I went on Survivor with the intention of winning — the prize is a million dollars, after all — but I quickly discovered that the prize wasn’t the most important thing to me.

In Survivor, as in life, one popular strategy is to keep your head down, do what’s expected of you, and don’t piss anyone off. It’s called “flying under the radar” and it’s how a lot of us approach many circumstances in life. Which is NO way to win in life!

In my “real” life, this has never been my strategy. I’ve walked away from lucrative, secure jobs because they didn’t speak to my heart. I’ve never stayed in a relationship with someone I wasn’t crazy about (and who wasn’t crazy about me) and I’m not one to keep my mouth shut when someone pisses me off.

For me, above all, success is being true to yourself. And…

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