If you’re an avid fan of the television show Survivor, Sandra Diaz-Twine is no stranger to you. Sandra is the Sole Survivor of Survivor: Pearl Islands and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. She’s the only two-time winner in Survivor history. A lot of what the participants went through on the island is directly transferable to real life, and Sandra joins us to highlight her experiences from her point of view. She talks about building relationships and connecting with people in the context of what that means on a deserted island.
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How Do You Build Relationships? with Sandra Diaz-Twine
My show is all about you, the audience, so I always start off with a few of my shenanigans. My niece was visiting from Jersey with her son. We are a family that loves to play games. My son, Jay Jay, and my daughter, Gabi, and her fiancé, Tyler, came over. My daughter, Dani, was out of town at a best friend’s wedding so she couldn’t be there. Gabi and Tyler introduced me to this fabulous game. The game is called Catan. I heard that this is a game that is now the choice that people are playing all over the world. It’s a great game because it’s not just about luck. You must have a strategy to win. I love this game and so does everyone in my family. We’re all a bit competitive so it can get a little bit crazy, but we have a great time in between the yelling and the screaming at times. The bad thing is we all want to win. We are highly competitive and we want to win. Playing one game is never enough.
I didn’t win the first game so I was trying to get everyone to play again and again. My daughter has started to keep track of her winning percentage. We’re all cut from the same mold. I don’t know where she gets this craziness from. It’s probably from my husband or maybe not. On Friday night we played until 4:00 AM and on Saturday night we played until 5:30 AM. We are slightly insane. Everyone won at least one or two games. If you haven’t heard of this game and you love strategy, you need to go get it. They are not paying me to do this commercial for them. It’s just a great game.
Who we had on my show was Missy Payne and Baylor Wilson, this dynamic mother and daughter team from Survivor Season 29. That was just one season before I was on the show. I tried out for that season with my daughter, Gabi, and they beat us out. I’m a little bitter still about that. What I didn’t know about them was that they were recruits, not even fans of the show. It’s simply crazy that I have watched every season of every show and then they were able to get on. That’s the way it is. That’s what life is all about. You have to be in the right place at the right time. For me, I look at it this way. It wasn’t meant to be. That wasn’t supposed to be my season. We talked about social media.
As we know, the landscape for communication these days has completely changed. The way we communicate with people, we have that capability now all over the world. It’s a very powerful platform if it’s used properly. Social media has changed the way we do business. It’s given us access to people all over the world. It’s brought us back together with people that we grew up with. You have the ability to learn from the information that’s available right there at your fingertips. The opportunities are endless and social media can be a fabulous tool. We also talked about the fact that some people abuse the power of social media and forget that words matter.
It’s not okay to bully people on social media or anywhere for that matter. As Baylor and Missy explained, they received hurtful tweets just as I did after being on the show. You’re not prepared for that when it happens to you. You don’t know how to react to it. What I would like to say is think before you press that send button. It’s much more difficult to take something back than to spend a minute or two thinking it through before you make it happen. That’s my soapbox for you on social media. It’s a great place. Don’t worry about your followers. Don’t get sucked in like, “I don’t have so many followers. I’m not that important.” The number of followers that you have does not make you who you are. It’s all about your self-worth and your confidence and your mindset. That’s my spiel on social media.
We have another great show for you. The topic is focused on Survivor and connecting with people in the context of what that means on a deserted island. I don’t know how this happened because we have some back-to-back people on Survivor. Our guest is a very special guest and she’s going to highlight her experiences from the island from her point of view. Sometimes the dates work out this way that they are back to back shows with very special Survivor guests. I love bringing my Survivor family on the show because a lot of what we went through on the island is directly transferable to real life. It just gives us a way to highlight points in a fun environment. This very special especially for all of you, Survivor fans out there, because I have with me a queen. I have a two-time winner of Survivor and we are currently in Season 37. In those seasons, there have been 35 winners because Sandra Diaz-Twine is the only two-time winner. Sandra has played the game three times and won two out of three. As we all know, the queen stays queen. I will be welcoming Sandra to the show. I have the queen of Survivor two-time winner, Sandra Diaz-Twine. Welcome, Sandra. How are you?Somebody always knows somebody else. Click To Tweet
I’m doing wonderfully. Thanks for inviting me to your show.
We’re so glad to have you. I know this may sound crazy that there may be some people out there that don’t watch Survivor. That is an insane thought but because of that, I would love for you to tell us a little bit about who you are because some people may not know the show.
I’m a married mother of two. I’ve been married for 24 years. I have two daughters, 23 and 21 years old. I also work Monday through Fridays. I started Survivor back on in 2003 so it’s been a long time. I’ve been lucky enough to play three times. I’ve won two. I’m not going to say it was all luck, but it had a lot to do with it. I’m usually a private person and I’ve always loved Survivor and I was glad that I was able to go on the show. That’s pretty much my life. My husband has been in the army for 26 years. We’re here in Tampa station at MacDill Air Force Base. That’s pretty much it.
Did you start watching the show from Season one?
From the very beginning.
Did you right away said to yourself, “I have to be on that show?”
No, I would say, “I could do that.” It wasn’t until the finale of Season five Survivor Thailand when Jeff said, “If you think you have what it takes, go to CBS.com and fill out the application.” Before then, I don’t know what I was thinking about how people would get on shows. When he said that, I told my husband, “We had just gotten a printer for the very first time.” I said, “As my New Year’s resolution, instead of always saying I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to fill out the application.” My New Year’s resolution is to complete this application and turn it in.
You, me and seventeen million other people have the New Year’s resolution to lose weight and it never happens anyway. You followed this New Year’s resolution. You filled out the application. If I’m not mistaken, you filled it out one time and got on the show. Is that right?
I filled it out. The crazy thing is that they moved me from the home I was living in, Fort Lewis, Washington and moved us into new a house. When my phone was connected, I was told I was going to get a different phone number. I wasn’t thinking about Survivor. We attach the phone and the first ring that that phone ever made was CBS. I thought it was my husband playing a trick on me and I didn’t think it was funny. I didn’t believe the person on the other line. It got to the point where they were like, “Write this number down, call us back and then ask for this person.” I called back and they’re like, “This is CBS, how can I help you?” They patched me through and then I believed it. I thought it was a joke being played by my husband and I didn’t think it was funny.
You’re giving the guy a hard time on the other line while they’re trying to cast you for the show.
They wanted to meet me because they were going to come to Seattle that following week and they have people lined up. They’re like, “We want to meet you. We loved your audition tape.” Back then, it was the VHS and you had to make a three-minute video. All my neighbors used to love Survivor and we sat down and I was like, “I’m going to make a video, but I need your help. I’m going to be in my military uniform and my BDUs and I’m going to be barking orders.” Everyone was down for it but when push comes to shove, nobody could help me with my video. Everyone has something to do. When I made my three-minute video in my kitchen, I was mad. It came across in my video because everyone promised they would help me make my video, but they didn’t. I did it all by myself and they called me.
Who do you bark the orders at?There are so many different things that can change your game and it's not always in your hand. Click To Tweet
Nobody, because I couldn’t do the skit that I had planned in my head. I was going to tell them what to do. I was going under a palm tree and take a nap. I wake up, they’re not doing what I told them to do so I’m going to be a drill sergeant and yell at them. I had it to the tee but it’s not what happened. That was okay because in my video, I said some foul words. I was like, “Nobody gets nothing when I win my $1 million.” I got my $1 million.
You got your $2 million. Then you do that and do it again.
They called me and asked me if I’d be interested in coming back and playing back to back, but I couldn’t. That was Season eight. In Season twenty, they called me and I said, “Yes.” It’s perfect. Every time I’ve played, it’s been eight or nine years later. The pain is not so fresh and you just want to go out there and do it all over again. You forget how bad it was.
One would think that if you knew you were going to go on Survivor, you would focus on figuring out how to make a fire or survival skills and things like that. I didn’t prepare at all because I was working up until the day before we left. Unlike you, I tried out for four years to try and get on the show. When I finally did, I was working and I had to take off work. I didn’t have any survival skills anyway. What about you? Were you skilled in that area?
I just use my military training because I had been in the army for five years. I just applied everything that I had learned in the military on this show. I didn’t do anything extra either because I was also working and I had two little girls at the time.
We started to find out a little bit about how we both got on survivor and we talked about our preparation and what we needed to prepare ourselves for the elements. Sometimes people ask me, “Is it real?” It’s real. If you’re watching this season in particular, the first four days of this season were horrible. It was totally bad weather. It rains nonstop for four days straight. When I was out there and it started raining, it was the worst possible thing. What about you? You’ve played for so many more days than I have. What would you say is the toughest thing? Was it the weather? Was it lack of food? What do you think from your standpoint?
It’s the hunger, the sleepless nights, the cold. I have a thing with roaches too. If I see roaches, forget it. I’m a mess. Sometimes those challenges are rough. It’s just a little bit of everything and then missing your family and missing everything and being with people and trying to get along with everyone. It’s a little bit of everything for me.
The interesting part of Survivor is that they pull people from all walks of life. People that have way different backgrounds, way different experiences. We are all placed in one spot with the elements to contend with. It’s a competition. It’s all of those things together. The other thing that people say to me is, “How come there’s drama?” Drama happens when people are hungry. Drama happens when people are tired and when they’re dealing with the elements and those competitions. We’re all vying for the $1 million. When you think about how you played the game, did you go in there with a specific strategy in mind? You played on so early in the game so there weren’t that many things to look at. I played on Season 30 and there’s plenty to watch. What was your strategy going in?
My loyalty was to my family. I wanted to win the $1 million for them. As long as it wasn’t me, I didn’t care who got voted off and I would help in voting people off. The second time I played it was different because it was more of a fast-paced game. It started instantly and by then, it was all returning players. People had already made relationships with other players that they had played with before or had met through the Survivor world. Somebody always knows somebody else. It was a more difficult game, not to mention there were only four winners among the twenty players. There were sixteen people that were getting a second chance at trying to get this $1 million against who had already won. That was a totally different game. Then in Game Changers, you have people playing a third and a fourth time who have still never won and have played all these times and they were hoping to finally get it right. That game in itself was different. Plus, it was tricky because now we have immunity idols. Now we have advantages. Now we have tribe swaps. Back on Season seven, we didn’t have immunity idols, we didn’t have tribe swaps. You did everything and you had to make sure that you build relationships and keep them throughout the game. The game has evolved so much that there are so many different things that can change your game and it’s not always in your hand.
For those people who don’t know what immunity idol is, if you’ve ever played the game monopoly and you have a get out of jail free card, that’s what the immunity idol is. If you go to Tribal Council where one person gets voted off and you’re wearing that necklace, you can’t get voted off. Immunity is pretty important. In life, things change. In the game of Survivor, it’s no different. It’s all about change. It’s all about how comfortable can you make yourself in being uncomfortable because you never know what’s going to happen. In the early years of Survivor, once you are on your tribe, you build your team and you stayed with your team. In the later years of Survivor, you’re on a team for a couple of days and then the producers decide, “It’s time for a little bit of a change.” Drop your buffs means you’re getting a new team and now you have to start from scratch. I know that certainly in Game Changers, that happened to you. How did you fare in that scenario?
It was the worst thing that could possibly happen. I had never participated in the tribe swap. Not in my previous two seasons. They didn’t exist. In Season 34, they did a tribe swap. They did two tribe swaps. The first tribe swap works out for me because we outnumbered the other person. We ended up going from two tribes to three. We got divided up into smaller numbers to where I had five of my original tribe mates and my actual friends versus one person. It was five versus one. It was perfect because I was in the numbers. That was perfect for me. In the second tribe swaps, me and my friend ended up together one more time versus five. The first thing that Sarah told me was, “I can’t believe you’ve survived this long.” Here I am, I’m the only two-time winner ever. Here I am playing.
They were coming after me and I knew it. I knew it was a risk that I was taking when I was going out there. A lot of my fans were like, “If you go, you’re going to mess up your record.” I was like, “Either they’ll take me out early or I might make it to the end, whatever happens, happens. I wanted to go back out there and play and see what happens.” I lasted sixteen days, which is sixteen more days than anybody expected. People were betting that I’d be the first person voted out or that I’d be the first person voted out of my tribe. I went to six tribal councils. None of that ever happened. I had all my ducks in a row. I had everything lined up. I had all my people with me and then the tribe swap came and just messed up my entire game. It was out of my hands.Women are different. We have more of a nurturing way. Click To Tweet
Sometimes that’s what happens and you have to deal with it. People told you not to go out there and mess up your record, but you’re a competitor. That’s something that you can’t give up when you get the opportunity.
Anytime somebody says, “You can’t do this,” I’m going to prove you wrong.
There were three winners on Season 34 and you lasted the longest out of all of them. That’s why we call you queen. We talk a lot about empowering women. The one thing that I love about this statistic here is that the only two-time winner of survivor is a woman. When you think about the other statistics, there were fifteen women winners and 21 male winners. They are six ahead of us but the only double winner is you, Sandra. Do you think that being a woman on Survivor is an advantage or a disadvantage?
I don’t see it as an advantage or disadvantage. The only thing different about us is that we’re able to communicate better, I think. There’s going to be men that will definitely disagree. That takes me back to what you were saying that I played with the two other winners and I was the one that lasted the longest. That’s because I talked to both J.T. and Tony who were the other winners on Game Changers. They led me to believe that they wanted a play with me, but behind my back, they were plotting against me. I ended up finding out both times because I have people that were loyal to me because I was loyal to them. They reveal to me that this was going on so I made sure that I took them both out because they wanted to target me. In reality, I wanted to play with them and I was trusting and believing them. Us women, we’re different. We have more of a nurturing way. I guess it’s the $1 million that makes them go pooh-pooh out there. I don’t say that it’s an advantage or a disadvantage. I don’t think it’s either of them.
I think it comes down to who you are and how you play. It’s all linked to, “Can you communicate with people? Do you connect with people? Are you loyal to people?” I also like to talk about all women’s alliance. I don’t think you were in an all-girls alliance in any one of those seasons. If you look at the history of Survivor, there haven’t been many all-girls alliances.
There are always people that I gravitate to and it’s not always the women. Every time I play, I have men and women that I care for out there in the game. I’ve never been in a tribe where I’ve liked all the women. I tried to get to know them. I tried to find things in common with them. I always like them to know that I have an open-door policy and you can come and talk to me anytime about anything. You don’t have to say anything behind my back. If you want to know where my head is at, just come and ask me straight up. I’m pretty much a straight up as anyone could possibly be. You will know where my head is at if you just come and talk to me.
Me playing the second time where I was coming off from being a winner, already there was static just from that alone. Even in Game Changers, we had people that will play a third and a fourth time and had never won and automatically they didn’t want to have anything to do with me because I was supposedly going to be among the first to go home, which it didn’t happen. It’s different and all women are different. They’ve had where the tribes were split between men and women and they start off together. A lot of times wherever you start off with is who you stay within the game technically. Now, it’s changing. That’s why if they did have an all-woman alliance, they were together from the start and then they just stayed together. Whoever you’re with out there the longest is who you had most loyalty too.
Because you get to know them better. You get to connect with them more. When I talked to other survivors and even from my season, the first impressions are so important. In life, first impressions are important. They can make or break things based on how you come across. If you go back to your very first season, can you think about the first impressions of your castmates made you? Did anyone stand out? Did you say, “I want to link up with that person based on something?” How did that work for you?
On the first time in the Pearl Islands, when we were out there and we end up figuring out who’s on what tribe, you tend to look around and say, “I got all these physically fit athletic guys on my tribe. We’ll be good because as long as we’re winning the challenges, then no one’s going to tribal council and I’m safe.” I was lucky that I had Burton and we had Shawn. They are strong guys and then we had Rupert, which was a big guy too but he wasn’t physically fit. He didn’t fit that shape and he ended up being the strongest one of all. Rupert provided for the tribe. He was a provider and he loved to do that. Everything revolved around Rupert. I saw these strong guys and I was like, “We’re definitely going to win. I’m solid, I’m good.” We did it.
For those of you who don’t know those people, you can look them up on the Pearl Islands. I don’t remember every single survivor either. You take a look at their physicality and see if they’re going to be able to keep you out of Tribal Council. That’s something that we all look at right away. We all have heard the phrase perception is the reality. That is so critical, not only when you’re stranded on a deserted island with eighteen to twenty people who you don’t know, but in life in general. Survivor is a social experiment because they pick people from all walks of life. They dropped them off on an island to fend for themselves and compete against their teammates for $1 million and there’s just one winner. This is a huge challenge when you’re trying to build alliances and when you’re trying to figure out who to connect with. What was your strategy in connecting with people? How did you choose who you are going to align with?
For the first part, I always talk to everyone. I always try to get to know everyone and find out where they’re from. I try to find something in common with every single person. After talking to them for a couple of minutes, I can at least tell who I would want to play with long-term, who do I like, who are not rubbing me the wrong way depending on their tone or how they’re talking to me or what they’re saying. I can pretty much pick up on who I’m going to like long-term and it always worked for me. My alliances, we were loyal to no fault. If the ship went down, we were all going to sink. Nowadays, they run into the bushes after getting there one minute into the game and they’re like, “Do you want to align with me?” Next thing you know, this person is a psycho. They’re throwing your game down the tubes because they’re thrown their games down the tubes. Back in the day, we sat there, we talked about it and then we figured it out. You want to be with someone that is pleasant. That’s 39 days. You’re already miserable. You don’t want to be miserable with someone that’s making you even more miserable. I always ended up on the right side with the right people.
You see it happening all the time. You’re ten minutes on the beach and all of a sudden, you’re in an alliance and you don’t even know who the person is. You’ve barely said hello to them. You don’t even know how to spell their name. Now you’ve committed to them like, “Final two, you and me bro.”Be with someone that's pleasant. You're already miserable, you don't want to be miserable with someone who's making you even more miserable. Click To Tweet
That’s how the game is now. It’s changed so much. Back then, people would take who they like and they stick by you. They would put out a lot of information about who you were and your life story. Now everything is just either strategy or advantages. It’s changed, but it’s still good. I still love Survivor. I like tribe swaps when I’m in my living room watching them on TV. I didn’t like tribe swaps when it happened to me and I was a victim of the tribe swap. I can’t have it both ways.
On my season, we started out with three tribes, then we went to two tribes, then we went to one tribe. I was in my first alliance and then at the tribe swap, I ended up with people that I wasn’t totally aligned with because things were happening, this one is going a little psycho crazy, that one is driving me crazy. I ended up on a tribe where they weren’t the people that I wanted to be with from my original tribe. For me, it ended up pretty good because numbers-wise, we were three-three in one. All we needed to do was pull over one person to stay in the game. It’s crazy when you think about all the things that we have to go through. You’ve played three times. What was the craziest thing that you remember from being on the show or your favorite moment from being on the show, not by winning? We know that winning is a moment of a lifetime.
I always say it’s winning. There is no other favorite moment for me but to win. Other than that, I enjoyed when my husband came to the family challenge. I didn’t like that they threw him in the ocean first, but that’s to show you that they were coming after me right then and there. He came out, he hugged me and kissed me. He couldn’t believe I was so skinny. He’s like, “You stink. The sun is burning you up. You’re dark.” We start the challenge and everyone targets my husband because they had just gotten rid of one of my alliance members the night before and it was just me and Christa left. They were like, “You are next.” When they threw my husband in the ocean, I said, “I’m next. They’re coming after me.” They throw him in the ocean and he goes home.
Back then we didn’t have cell phones as we do now. After Survivor ended, it’s finished filming, they send you back home. They told my husband, “Go pick her up at the airport.” I jumped in the car and my husband is like, “They got rid of you that same night.” I was like, “No, I made it to the end.” Every night until close to the finale, he didn’t believe me. He thought I was lying when I told him that I had managed to save myself and to stay in the game and that we could potentially come home with $1 million or at least $100,000. That was locked in. That was crazy. A lot of things that have been part of Sugargate on Season 34, I didn’t even remember that I did eat the sugar and then Mikayla got blamed for it. I didn’t remember that I did that. That’s because my brain is moving so fast and you only have 39 days. You’re trying to think two steps ahead of everyone else. A lot of the things that I did or said, I didn’t even remember.
For those of you who have not seen Season 34, Sugargate is amazing. They caught a moment with your face when Sugargate was happening. That is a classic and it’s one of my favorites. We are talking about the game of Survivor. The game is built because it shows how people react in certain situations. The producers don’t have to make anything up. It’s everyday skills that are needed to win the game. Sandra shared with us the power of her mind. She knew that she could win the game. She adjusted her expectations to be strong enough to make it through 39 days to win the game not once, not twice. She played three times. She spent so many days out there and succeeded as the sole survivor two out of three times. The only two-time winner in the game and the game has been on the air for eighteen years.
She played in Season seven in 2003 girlfriend. At your first season, you were underestimated. People didn’t see you as a threat and you were able to build alliances that stayed loyal throughout the time. Your second game was harder because it was all returning players and everyone understood the game. You along with three other winners were targeted from the beginning and your last season was similar. I can talk Survivor all night long and I know that you can too, Sandra. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. Many people have asked about Survivor and just love you and the fact that you are the queen of Survivor. The queen stays queen.
Those are my favorite line. The queen stays queen, adios. They made t-shirts out of it and stickers. I can’t believe it. I’m in shock. Never in my life that I would think that people would know who I was sometimes when I’m walking down the street.
If you go to any Survivor event, it’s like royalty when you walk through the door. You’re a fabulous player. You’re a fabulous person. Thank you for giving back to our country with your service and your husband’s service. It’s great to talk to you. It’s great to see things from your point of view. The listeners always ask those questions of the game. Thanks again for joining us.
Thank you for inviting me. It was a pleasure.
The topics that we will be planning focus more on building relationships. We’ll talk about what it takes to build a relationship. This is a very special thing that I’m doing for my audience. If you want to purchase my book, you can go to my website at www.CarolynJRivera.com. The book is called Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning. In fact, you’ll see a quote from Sandra Diaz-Twine and there is a coupon code that is BBM1118. The Carolyn Rivera show is all about you, the audience. Follow me on Instagram, @TheCarolynRiveraShow. I’ll be posting some information about the show and some additional guests that I have lined up. You make this show possible. Thank you again. Challenge the status quo. Don’t get sucked into the day-to-day. If you’re ready to ignite your will to win, to enhance your leadership effectiveness, build a mindset of winning, then go to my website and send me a message. My passion is to watch people succeed and helping you achieve more than you ever thought possible.
- Sandra Diaz-Twine
- Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning
- @TheCarolynRiveraShow – Instagram
About Sandra Diaz – Twine
Sandra Diaz-Twine is an American television personality who became known for her appearances on the reality game show Survivor. She won the first two seasons she appeared on, Survivor: Pearl Islands and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, making her the show’s only two-time winner.