“It’s a dream come true.” Now what?
Every kid has a pipe dream. Some kids want to win a Super Bowl, or become the President of the US, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I wanted to starve for 39 days and poop in the ocean on national television. Well… first, I wanted to be a postal service worker. When I was in the 1st grade I thought everyone got candy in the mail so I figured I could make people happy and eat lots of candy. Turned out the mail is just bills and spam, so like every straight-A student should, I set my sights on bigger goals: reality television.
Kids, I am here today to tell you that if you work hard, do your homework, and listen to your parents, you too can find z-level fame on reality TV.
In all seriousness, when Survivor first aired in 2000, I was 9 years old, and I was instantly hooked. I thought at the time that I could never do it myself, but I always had the dream of being on the show and getting to play the world’s greatest game buzzing in the back of my brain. I was obsessed to the point where I would get into chat rooms on the internet after coming home from my middle school, make alliances with strangers on AIM, and vote them out. When I went on a backpacking trip in the 7th grade, I made my friends play Survivor. Two of them cried when they got voted out, the winner bribed a jury member with the prize (a Cliff bar) to win by one vote, and I LOVED it.
Fast forward a dozen years later, and my ultimate dream came true. Not only did I get to compete on Survivor, I won. Unanimously. I remember driving home from work one day before I got on the show, and I legitimately cried envisioning myself winning Survivor and how amazing and life-changing it would be.
The truth is, it was amazing. And it was life-changing.
But I was 25 years old. Life does not, cannot, end at 25. I don’t get to rest on my laurels and just celebrate my one-time miraculous success endlessly. When your ultimate dream comes true, are you just automatically happy for the rest of your life? When you win the lottery, do all the other non-monetary difficulties of life and love and fulfillment and relationships just go away? Of course not.
Survivor has opened incredible doors for me that may not otherwise have existed. The opportunity to become a keynote speaker, to host a travel special, to have the financial freedom to take chances and pursue passions. To spend more time with family and friends. Would I have applied for and been chosen for the Thirst Lounge if I didn’t win Survivor? Probably not.
And yet, sometimes I worry. What’s next? No one is ever fully satisfied. We always want more success, more accomplishments, more wins, more money. You may think that “if I just get this one promotion, I’ll be happy,” but I believe that no matter how many of your dreams come true, you will always want more. Think about the most successful people you know of. Do they win a Superbowl and then immediately retire, or stop making movies after they win an Oscar, or sell their companies after they are worth a billion dollars?
What winning Survivor has taught me is that those momentary wins feel amazing, but we have to keep dreaming. The pursuit of the dream is the only reason it feels so great when we get there. It’s waking up every day and knowing that you are working towards something meaningful, that adds value to your life and the lives of others, and feeling like you are consistently making progress towards your goals.
My dream came true. Onto the next.