Naked and afraid, but still successful

Have you ever seen the show “Naked and Afraid?” The first time I heard of it I laughed about how ridiculous it sounded. They will create a show about anything. Then I saw it once. And then several more times. It’s an interesting show. I have no desire to be on the show (the thought of hanging out naked with a complete stranger in some obscure location where parasites can make their way into your bare feet while you risk getting bit by a poisonous snake just doesn’t appeal to me), but now that I have watched several of the episodes, I have noticed common characteristics about the people who succeed on the show and other characteristics shared by people who don’t succeed.

The purpose is for two strangers to come together with no food, no shelter, no tools — except one item they each get to bring — no clothes, and survive in the wilderness, usually a jungle, for 21 days. They must create fire, find water and make it suitable to drink, build shelter and find food. After 21 days they find their way to an extraction point. I have no idea how real the show is, but with a little research it seems that it is a legitimate challenge for the most part. Some people tap out and choose to leave before the 21 days is up. Some people are removed because the situation becomes too dangerous (flooding for example). Others are removed because of injury. Some make it the full 21 days.

Since I don’t have very many television channels, and since episodes of this show play for hours and hours on the weekends on a channel I do get, I’ve used it as background noise many times and have therefore seen at least parts of dozens of episodes. Although I haven’t conducted an actual study of the show, I believe there are certain characteristics in some of the challengers that make it more likely they will prevail.

The people who make it to the end of the 21 days celebrate all successes, small and large. They celebrate together, no matter what. If one partner catches even a small snake, or a single crab, they both celebrate their tiny meal as a team. It’s important to the morale and it’s important that they don’t battle over who gets to take credit. Instead, they celebrate as a unit.

The successful challengers also work together as a team. They communicate well, and they support each other. They listen to each other’s ideas regarding how things should be done and collaborate to decide what is going to be most effective. There are dozens of methods to build a shelter, for example. Sometimes the partners have different ideas of how it should happen. The duos who are successful come together to discuss different methods and together figure out what is best. They work together to achieve starting a fire and finding food. They also teach each other if they have a stronger skill in one area than their partner, and more importantly, they are willing to learn from each other.

They also work through any differences. They don’t harbor jealousy and they take care of each other. If one has a difficult day (weak from hunger, dehydrated, a sickness sets in) and they can’t assist in the partnership temporarily, the other partner steps up and takes care of them both to get them through it. They don’t leave their teammate behind.

The successful participants also have a positive attitude and mental fortitude about the situation that is different than the ones who don’t make it. Physical ability is important in the challenge but mental strength and ability to motivate yourself are also extremely crucial factors in success. It takes a lot to get through 21 days of survival. They sometimes go days without eating and end up losing a significant amount of weight. I don’t know about you, but I can imagine what that feels like and it isn’t comfortable. It takes a lot of inner strength to overcome those kinds of challenges.

These observations remind me of something else. It seems that those who succeed in the show have the same characteristics that I see in the happiest, most successful, and kindest people. These are also the characteristics I see in the people I tend to respect most, look up to and admire. For me, it’s a valuable observation worth sharing for others to ponder and internalize.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.