I’m currently binge-watching season five of Alone. This History Channel program follows 10 survival experts as they each survive alone (that’s where the name comes from) in the wilderness. Separated from each other by several miles and with no contact with the outside world, they are left to carve out an existence using limited resources, their experience, and whatever internal fortitude they can muster. The participant who lasts the longest wins.
This season features a collection of prior contestants. Each failed to win their respective season and are now looking for redemption. It’s been very interesting to see what lessons were learned the first time around and how their approach changes given a second chance.
Take Randy Champagne from Boulder, Utah. In Season two the wilderness instructor lasted 21 days before tapping out. He handled every aspect of the challenge well, but ultimately grew lonely without human contact for three weeks. Obtaining food and creating shelter, what most would consider the core obstacles of the challenge, were handled masterfully. He simply starved from lack of community.
Coming into season five, Champagne recognized this would be the hurdle he’d need to overcome in order to win. His plan was to keep his mind busy with hunting and bush craft projects in order to ward off the loneliness. This time around he lasted 35 days.
Humans are inherently social animals. We’re geared to operate as part of a unit, not as individuals. In order to function properly, we require the give-and-take that comes with interaction. Each of us needs what others have to offer – and we need to provide them with what we bring to the table. Removing us from the social construct is like removing pieces from a machine. The parts simply don’t function on their own.
Science has proven this out through thousands of studies over decades of research. But you don’t need a PHD to understand the importance of community. The pull to be a part of something bigger is hard-wired into each of us from birth.
That’s why the social aspect of work is so crucial. The connections we make with coworkers and customers is necessary for the organization to function well. The more siloed we become – the more we retreat behind email and rely on policies to communicate for us – the more our work suffers. Work, just like any other endeavor, is improved by socialization. Despite all our technological advances, work works best within the context of community.
Even the hardiest among us fall victim to the hunger for companionship. The longer we attempt to operate in isolation, the stronger the pull becomes; and the harder it is to go on. Surrounded by other people, we can still find ourselves struggling to find real connection. Without it, we feel lost. Work continues, but the passion is gone. The desire to continue slowly evaporates. Or, as Randy Champagne explained after calling for rescue “It’s not being out here and surviving. It’s being out here and surviving alone.”