For viewers, the TV series SAS Australia delivers on our morbid fascination for celebrity and watching famous people suffer.
For participants, there’s a lot more to be gained than a pay cheque and fleeting fame.
When faced with brutal challenges, mental and physical exhaustion and instructors hell-bent on breaking them down, fame counts for nought.
And while it’s easy to focus on their public profile, these people are just that: people.
Like us, their viewers, participants carry the baggage of self-doubt, regret and fear.
Being plunged into an unfamiliar environment doing unfamiliar things, their resolve is repeatedly tested.
The most valuable thing they gain from their time of hardship is a reference point.
When life gets tough, a reference point is an experience to look back on and learn from. It’s the thing from which you can say ‘I did that so I can get through this.’
Reference points are often moulded around bad experiences; the loss of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, lost employment.
But they can also be shaped by challenging, yet positive experiences.
Running a marathon, for example, is tough. But committing to the process, training hard and even making it to the start line is a positive reference point.
Roxy Jacenko was the first participant to voluntarily withdraw from the SAS Australia course. She lasted six hours into day one before calling it quits.
A shallow assessment of her experience might be that she showed no resilience, no heart.
But let’s take a more empathetic, compassionate approach.
Her fear and doubt would have been nagging at her long before she was presented with her camouflaged kit.
Add a national audience, the scrutiny and judgement she knew would follow and her apprehension would be gut-wrenching. It would have been easy to quit before the cameras started rolling.
Yet, she signed up and showed up.
How many of her critics would do the same?
Whether she sees her experience as a failure is up to her.
Regardless, it’s our failures, not our successes, that teach us the most if we’re prepared to reflect on them.
Resilience Builders’ outdoor resilience programs, such as Resilience For Families Cradle Mountain, are specifically designed to create a reference point for participants. Far from a boot camp, these resilience programs are held in a positive, nurturing, yet rugged environment.
The lesson that binds us, the viewers, to the SAS Australia participants is that to get the good stuff we must go through the hard stuff.
We have to invest time and effort, face uncertainty, take a risk, place ourselves in an unfamiliar environment and focus.
Self-belief, persistence, empathy, leadership. These and many other admirable qualities come from simply trying our best under trying circumstances.
We’re yet to find out who will see the SAS Australia course through to its conclusion.
But it won’t only be those that do who have earned a reference point.
Mathew Churchill is a Resilience Builders director.