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OUR PROCESS- Life Lessons from watching ALONE on History Channel

OUR PROCESS- Life Lessons from ALONE on the History Channel

In it’s ninth season, the survival series ALONE aired on the History Channel has entertained millions over the years. Albeit late to the party, I myself am an avid viewer and am currently in season seven. And while the commercial success of the series is in its entertainment value, I have learned a lot about life from watching the show.

For those not familiar with ALONE, the basic premise of the show is to take 10 folks with only 10 items to a remote and wild location. Whomever lasts the longest wins a bunch of money. They must film themselves and so they are truly alone. In no particular order, here are some of the takeaways from my investment of time watching this series…

Lesson: We are a communal species

In the first several seasons, the contestants were regular folks. (Later, the competitors were increasingly “professional loners” and outliers in society who have lived a reclusive life most of their lives). In those early seasons, it was very interesting to see how much impact the isolation had on mental health. Many tapped out (quit) from loneliness. While the show may resemble a modern social experiment, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Bible. God didn’t create a single person, but He created an entire species who were meant to contain and express God as a single corporate “person”. Adam is a plural noun including all of mankind collectively. This is just how we were made. All efforts to be an individual and express the “self” are affronts to our God-created need to be in unity as a corporate organism.

Lesson: We are designed to EAT and EVERYTHING is food

The number one reason why contestants quit – more so than even loneliness - is starvation. With every progressive episode, the contestants are increasingly obsessed with food. For most of the latter episodes in each season, the footage is just them dreaming about food; talking about food; and looking for food.  After several seasons, it becomes strikingly clear that a human being is a vessel comprised of a body a soul and a spirit. You also quickly realize that essentially EVERYTHING is “food”. When not seeking food for their body, they are seeking food for their soul. On occasion a competitor has what you could call a spiritual experience. More often however, after days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months with only their cameras as company, you can see how many of the competitors are spiritually bankrupt, lacking any Divine purpose in their lives.

Lesson: Plan and Adapt

You compete to get on the show before you can compete in the show. So, it goes without saying that every single competitor selected to be in the series has been planning and preparing for what they need to know, do and be to win the game and take home the prize money. With that in mind, it is interesting to see how quickly contestants are forced to revise or abandon their plans. For example, some of the players plan on hunting rather than fishing, but they get dropped off in an area with little to no signs of animal activity. Within hours of being dropped off, months of preparation are scraped and new plans devised.

Lesson: The role of Randomness and Luck in outcome

As the success of the series grew, so did the calibre of contestant. By season 5, everyone who made the show was a professional survivalist with years – if not decades – of experience. Many were even trained by the US Armed Forces and saw combat. Yet despite all their skill and experience, several tapped out because of a fluke accident or sickness. (Let it be known that the biggest baddest dude can be brought to his knees if he starts puking. Lol) One highly qualified and promising competitor stepped into a hole and tore his knee. He tapped out. One person very long into the game had their shelter catch fire in the frigid temperature of the artic. He tapped out. One girl was getting a hook out of a fish and it imbedded into the tendons in her hand. Without any way to get it out- she tapped. You can eat ten squirrels and be fine, but then there is that one you don’t quite cook right or something and it puts you down in Gastro Intestinal agony.

Lesson: The Learning Curve

As mentioned already, with every passing season, the quality and calibre of the contestants improves. This is something that can be enjoyed and appreciated if you watch each season sequentially. I would not recommend getting hooked on the show by watching season 8 and then trying to go back and catch the earlier seasons. You’ll spend too much time yelling at the TV because it will seem like amateur hour.

The point is that human beings are very keen at learning and improving from experience. So while the format and premise of the show has not changed much over the years, it is not the same show. The winner of Season 1 made it 56 days. By season 7, they were going 100 days and in much harsher conditions.

Lesson: Getting Rich Quick is a recipe to Staying Poor Longer

It was surprising to observe how many contestants perceive this game as a “job” – some reliable way to provide for their family. I’m sorry. That is a misguided notion. It’s a game and despite all the effort everyone else puts in, only one person wins. This show is no more a job than running a survival school will help put enough money in your pockets to buy a house or put your kids through school. Hardly any of the contestants over the 8 seasons to date were willing to make the sacrifices and put in the time/effort to contribute to society in exchange for payment to provide for their families. Just a bunch of modern-day gypsies if you ask me. Many of these folks couldn’t hold down a job if their life depended on it.

OK, can you tell this area touches a nerve with me? It’s not magic. Working 50-70 hours a week for decades yields a level of financial security that being an unemployed perpetual “camper” does not. It’s not unlike when you imagine what a crook could have done with their life had they directed all of that energy and talent on something legal.

How Does This Apply to Financial Planning?

Each and every lesson I have learned from watching ALONE is applicable to life in general or financial planning in particular. Some I’m sure are obvious, but others will take some explanation. I’ll save that for another blog.