This is not the Joel Anderson I spoke with the other day, though. A lot has happened in his heart since his Survivor experience. God used his time on Survivor to humble him and show him how he was coming across to others in life. As I spoke with him, I couldn't help but think of Proverbs 15:33, "Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor." His humility in sharing his heart really made an impact on me. It was so inspiring to hear him tell me his story that I asked him to write a guest blog for me. Below is what he wrote. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did - and I hope you will check out his website and show him some support (www.thekickashlife.com). You can follow him on Twitter, as well (@SurvivorJoelWho) God is using him and his message to help encourage others to live a life of authenticity and character. -Leslie
“What was it like? Did Survivor change your life?” This was the number one question that was asked of me after my adventure on Survivor: Micronesia in 2008. For years after Micronesia aired in 2008, I would angrily and curtly answer, “Nope, nothing changed.” Part of my answer was because I did not want anyone to think I changed. I was pretty proud of who I was. Another major reason was because I was angry and bitter.
Now what in the world would anyone who was given an opportunity to play Survivor, win $1million dollars, visit another country, go scuba diving in Palau, spend a month in Phuket Thailand, have everything paid for, do almost anything I wanted and live like a celebrity for a month, not to mention be on the most popular reality TV show of all time, have to be angry and bitter about?
The short answer is I felt misrepresented. I know; I even sound like a child to me when I say it now, but I genuinely felt misrepresented and misunderstood because of it. I felt the producers made me look like a bully, a crazed lunatic and like a jerk.
I looked at my opportunity to be on Survivor as an opportunity to share with the entire world my “awesomeness”. Yes, I know exactly how that sounds. I absolutely wanted to win the $1million and believed that would actually be the easy part.
When season sixteen aired in February of 2008, I was received as anything but great or awesome. I never considered looking at the way I acted as a contributing factor for the reception. After all, I was just being myself and being myself meant being “awesome”.
I felt the edit played down my greatness and played up my weaknesses while also placing me in the shadow of returning players and so called “favorites”. I was furious. How could no one catch the great fumble by production and editing that the entire season was about me? So what if I was only there fourteen days? So what if I was voted out fifth? So what if I was only on five episodes of the entire season? I was the greatest thing that Survivor or any of its fans had ever seen and the edit completely stole that reality from the audience!
Like I said, I never considered that everyone was reacting to the fact that I was just being me. I never considered that I was, in fact, accurately portrayed by the edit. I never considered the fact that maybe my strengths were less than I thought they were and my weakness were greater. I never considered that maybe I was harsh, abrasive or insensitive with the way I treated others. I never considered that my social interaction was slightly inept. The only possible explanation in my mind was that I was so great the editors had to tone me down so I didn’t overshadow everyone else on the season, without ever even consulting me about it!
That had to be the problem. I had to be made to look weak so that everyone else on season sixteen, and every other season, would not realize how weak they were in comparison to my greatness. That was the only possible solution and it infuriated me that such a travesty would be allowed.
Fast forward through the next four years and through raising my two boys and my daughter. My goal as a father is to raise my sons into men of honor and my daughter into a God-fearing woman of honor, too. For me, it all starts with teaching them to love God, know the Jesus of the Bible and honor God with the choices they make. This process actually starts with me modeling the same behavior which I desire to see in them. Sure there are a lot of other details and factors but this is the big one.
Each of my children is a little mirror of me and my wife. My oldest boy is literally an exact clone of me. From his attitude to his facial expressions, mannerism, competitiveness and even his need to be in control of everything; my oldest son is a mirror image of his father. Naturally, when he was acting in ways that I considered unacceptable, inappropriate and not honoring to God I would ask him, “Where in the heck did you learn that?” He learned it by watching me. In the same way people who watched Survivor saw something in me that I did not see in myself at that time.
Four years after my season aired, a light bulb finally went on. The light bulb shed light on the way I had been living my life for the last thirty-six years. The realization was a large and tough pill to swallow. The truth often stings but it is way better than wandering around aimlessly in the dark.
I didn’t do anything different on Survivor than I had been doing in my personal life up to that point. I treated people in my personal life the same way I treated my fellow castaways on Survivor. I was no less aggressive, abrasive or a control freak in real life than I was on Survivor.
Four years later, for the first time, I realized I had been pretty accurately portrayed. Four years later I realized people’s interpretations and perceptions of me were pretty fair and true. Four years later I realized something needed to change and that something was me. If I wanted to have the life I thought I had been working towards, if I wanted to be the man I thought I had been portraying, if I wanted to be the dad I thought I had been, if I wanted to raise the sons I thought I had been raising, I needed to change.
My theme song in life used to be "My Way". My way was powerful. My way was aggressive, independent, driven, determined, in control, resilient and relentless. None of those things are necessarily bad, except for the fact that my way of using those traits was to glorify me. My way was to share with the world my greatness, my awesomeness, my excellence and my glory. My way had nothing to do with honoring God and living my way would never teach my children to honor God. My way would never teach my children the person of Christ. My way would never do anything except create two more men and one more woman in this world who believed the entire world revolved around them. I think we have enough people in this world like that already. I needed to stop living my way and realize I was actually lost in my ways.
I have a lot of blessings in my life and I see them now. I have my wonderful wife of twelve years. I have my awesome children, two boys and a little girl. I have had some really incredible and unique experiences over the years, too.
So if you ask me now, “How did Survivor change your life?” I will tell you it allowed me to see me for me. I have another blessing, a sort of blessing in disguise, called my “Survivor Experience”. I had the ability to look at my life on a big screen and see me for who I really was. Not many people get this experience. Not many people get the understanding to see what others see when they see them. I got to take a look from the outside and look at my actions objectively instead of subjectively.
So often, so many of us think we are projecting a specific image of ourselves out onto the world while we are actually completely missing our mark. I’m not talking about pleasing others here. I’m talking about doing what we intend to do. I’m talking about living intentionally instead of by accident. I’m talking about living in the Light instead of wandering around in the darkness. I’m talking about living on purpose and with purpose instead of just letting the chips fall where they may.
If you want to tumble through life, then be tumbleweed. If you want to drift through life then be driftwood. If you want to be successful, no matter how you define it, you have got to live intentionally, on purpose and with purpose. We cannot do this if the self we think we are projecting to the world is not the self we are actually projecting.
Now, four years later, I can honestly say that this is how Survivor changed my life.