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Falling in and out of alliances

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In 2000, I tried out for the second season of reality TV show “Survivor.” The process required a written application plus a short video. The most interesting aspect of the first season was the formation of alliances. It no longer mattered about individual skill or strength but the ability to form—and keep—an alliance. For my application, I was sure I had an alliance-centric winning entry.

My entire video was about how I don't have a sense of smell and therefore people would want to align with me because I would do any and all smelly tasks. Who would you rather be with in a rancid jungle or on a stinky island than an anosmic?

It was clear from the first season that people were typecast: the jerk, the sweet All-American girl, the schemer, the peacemaker, the tough guy, the executive, etc. Because, you know, reality can be boring but scripts—even the loose ones used for reality TV—can be exciting. I figured I had an absolute in…I mean, how many anosmics would be among the deluge of hopeful applicants back when the show was a blockbuster?

I didn't get picked (but the fun and frivolity of filming the tryout video with college pals made up for it). I was reminded of all of this recently because of the conversations that Managing Editor Joe St. Arney and I have been having with sources for our 25th anniversary edition. We are working on people lists for the issue, a bit like our Power lists.

These conversations often uncover "falling outs": people who were once close but no longer are, or people who are publicly close but really hate each other. (It's good stuff—way better than "Survivor" ever was, or at least the only two seasons I ever watched.) In one conversation, I blurted, "I don't get it. I'm 44 and I've never had a 'falling out' with anyone, not at work nor among friends. I've had friendships fade away but never a 'falling out.'" The person shot back: "Have you ever been involved in politics?" I have not.

Paint me naïve, but it still surprises me that politics and the business world can be so cut-throat. We're not talking about obvious enemies; we're talking about people on the same team—same company or same political party or whatever.

It got me thinking. I had never thought about it but had just subconsciously assumed I never had had a falling out with anyone because I'm basically a decent person. But maybe something else is at work. Maybe people stick with me because they reek and I just don't know it.

If so, then based on my track record in reality, I could have won it all on "Survivor."

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