Survival tips from Netflix

SELF | Brian Tome | 7 mins

Hollywood has been shut down, and without a steady stream of new content, many of us are watching things we normally wouldn’t.

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In my case, this has brought some tasty surprises. Multiple people told me I should watch Alone, which is now on Netflix. In it, 10 people are dropped off in the arctic, to live alone as long as they can, with just 10 items they’ve self-selected. I thought I had my fill of reality adventure type of shows. I guess not, because this one was fresh and has given me some things to meditate on.

What I see happening in Alone is something we all need to wrestle with. In America, every negative statistic is on the rise, up and to the right. Suicide. Substance abuse. Divorce. Loneliness. Debt. Mental and physical health.

Gurus want to talk about how to thrive. But when you’re fighting to survive, thriving is a pipe dream. I think most of us are here, looking for motivation to keep going, to keep fighting another day. The things I’ve noticed in Alone, a show all about survival, can be key for us in surviving through what has been one of the toughest years in recent memory. Things like…

We are more resourceful than we realize None of the contestants on Alone were CrossFit athletes or impressive physical specimens. Some were downright doughy. Yet each one dealt with multiple problems every day, problems much bigger than any single thing I’ll face today. I don’t have to problem solve water, food, warmth, dysentery, muscle cramps, or wolverines. They all did, and without the tools I would have thought they needed. Very impressive and very inspirational. We all have more gas in the tank than we give ourselves credit for. Most of us have no clue what our true outer limits are, but are somehow convinced we’re already there and can’t take another curve ball or another straw on our back. Yes we can. Yes you can. You are more resourceful and resilient than you realize.

We are more fragile than we realize Early in the show, one burly man breaks a leg. Others are forced to leave for surprise, quirky reasons which had game ending consequences. Just as the participants were stronger than they realized, so too were they weaker than they realized. I just learned this morning that a pastor I know committed suicide. Neither I, or anyone in his orbit, saw it coming. He was bright, witty, a powerlifter. And he is dead. It is good to remember that we must take care of ourselves. It is good to remember that the strong people we envy (or are tormented by) are not all that strong and need some grace. It is good to remember that today is a gift to be enjoyed because life is fragile and tomorrow may not come.

We are weaker when alone Despite being well stocked with adequate provisions and shelter, one contestant taps out purely because he misses his family. I’m not critical of that decision at all. I don’t see it as weak. I see it as mimicking a healthy need that few of us recognize. We need other people. Not just emotionally, but physically.

The book Abundance, which I read years ago, details how civilization advances because people advance as we work together as a community. On Alone, all the contestants have to do everything for themselves. In a communal civilization, each of us individually doesn’t have to get water, hunt, harvest food, build/repair our shelter, or make clothing every single day. We can specialize and get very proficient at one thing, while buying, selling, and bartering with other people in civilization.

We are financially weak when alone and we become spiritually weak when alone. Our loneliness epidemic is wreaking consequences that toys, meds, and politics will never fully solve.

Money as a core driver can be helpful or hurtful The last person standing in Alone gets a half-million dollar prize. The money was the key motivator for just about every contestant. It kept them going in the hardest of situations, because winning could get them financially out of a tough situation back home. I’ve met many people who say they aren’t driven by money and often they aren’t driven at all.

I have only the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who would sign up for roughing it in the Arctic, let alone surviving, for any period of time. It takes a massive amount of drive and resourcefulness to last weeks and months in such a harsh environment. There is no reason that the same drive and resourcefulness couldn’t be applied in the civilized world to bring you more money, if that is what you want or need. Those people educated themselves to master all the necessary skills to survive in the Arctic. They made massive sacrifices in eating rabbit and sleeping in the cold. They endured pain because they were working toward a vision.

I don’t know much about each contestant’s personal situation and pain, so I found myself wondering what their drive was during normal life. Had they sought out adequate education? If they were able to live on pennies a day in the Arctic, could they live on far less than the average American does and gain some financial traction for the future? They mastered surviving when alone, but had they learned how to thrive when in community and how to play well with others while building relationships?

A good percentage of every organization’s employees need external motivation, managing, and even cajoling to get them to perform at a high level. Show me a person who doesn’t need this and I’ll show you a person who likely doesn’t have financial stress. This is very out of vogue with the capitalism haters, but for most of us it is still possible to get ahead with the resources we currently possess. If any of the final Alone contestants are reading this, and you are committed to the cause of Christ, please reach out to me. There is a job waiting for you in the organization I lead. We need more can-do, hyper-resilient people who won’t easily give up.

These contestants went without running water and we can’t go without bottled water. They went without toilets and we can’t go without a Toto bidet toilet seat (though I have one and they are awesome… Ok, I have two, but one was a gift!). They went with the same few practical clothing items and we can too in order to avoid credit card debt. They prepared every meal and we have to go out to eat multiple times a week. They had zero entertainment and we are lost without multiple platform subscriptions. They lived in a single room lean-to and most of us can pay lower rent or have a smaller mortgage payment than we currently have. They stored away rabbit meat and fish heads and we live hand to mouth with no cash reserves.

I’m not saying anything from above is wrong and that you shouldn’t have all of it. What I am saying is that most of us who complain about our finances aren’t up for the sacrifice to get to another place. For most of us, our expenditures are “discretionary.” There is room in our budget, or lack thereof, to make a future that is more palatable.

Reality TV is only inspiring if it affects your reality. Survival is a choice. A choice to keep going, to keep swinging, and to make hard choices in the present to get a better future. If we’re going to make it, we have to stop waiting for someone or something else to change our lives. Our decisions, under the guidance of God, hold the keys to you surviving and thriving. Just don’t do it alone.


Written by

Brian Tome

Guiding you to the adventurous life you were made for. Adventurer, Author, Senior Pastor of Crossroads Church. More about Brian Tome.

Published on Jul 10, 2020