Lessons Learned From Survivor with Sierra Dawn Thomas and Joe Anglim

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From Survivor


Survivor is, without doubt, a popular reality show that not only shows varied locations but a variety of heart-racing challenges as well. Sierra Dawn Thomas and Joe Anglim of Survivor seasons 34 and 31 respectively shares to us their experiences during and after the show. They talk about the lessons that they learned from being on Survivor, and how they helped themselves and been going forward helping other people. As they narrate the best and worst things they have experienced in and out of the show, Sierra and Joe also reveal how they met, fell in love, and share and respect their passions in life.

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Lessons Learned From Survivor with Sierra Dawn Thomas and Joe Anglim

Our topic on this episode is lessons learned that count. In everything that we do, there’s always an opportunity to take a step back and look at what we did and analyze it to see if there’s something that we can look at and do better the next time. It’s not only self-reflection but it’s also taking a look at how your interactions and how your behavior affects other people. Think of it this way. Have you ever said something to someone and got a response that you weren’t expecting? They look at you with that dumbfounded look like, “Did you really say that?” What happened? They didn’t perceive what you said the way you said it and the way you meant it. They heard something totally different and we don’t always realize how we come across. We don’t always think about how other people are going to view us.

We’re going to talk to a power couple to find out what they learned about some of their experiences that they’ve had along the way. I’m talking about Sierra Dawn Thomas and Joe Anglim. These two individuals are part of my Survivor family because I met them both years ago on my adventure of a lifetime. We were all on the show Season 30: Worlds Apart in 2015 and since that time, we’ve built a friendship that will last a lifetime. Sierra and Joe not only competed on my season of Survivor. Sierra competed on Season 34: Game Changers and Joe competed on Season 31: Second Chances and he got off Season 38: The Edge of Extinction. We’re going to be talking and hearing about all of their experiences and the things that they learned from them. How they helped themselves, how they’ve been going forward helping other people and we’re going to find out more about the things that they’re doing. There are a lot of things that change and we’ll find out all about that. Welcome to the show, Sierra and Joe. I am so excited to have you both as guests.

We’re excited to be on this show and talk about all and everything.

I know that everyone knows you out there, but why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself, how you got on the show, Survivor? Were you fans or recruits? Sierra, let’s start with you.

I have always been a fan of the show. I realized I wanted to do this show once I took a look at my own life. I’m like, “I’m a cowgirl. I live in a horse trailer most of the time. I don’t have running water all the time.” Sometimes we don’t have power, I’m super competitive and I grew up playing sports. I was like, “Why not go on a show that I love and be able to use my cowgirl, western roots that I have embedded inside of me and go compete on this show and have a chance to win $1 million? Sign me up.” Everybody’s story is different how they get on the show but how I got on the show is I sent in a video with my dad. I wanted to do Blood versus Water with my dad and I got an email back saying, “Sierra, send us a solo video.” I sent in a solo video and less than a year later, I was getting the call, “We’re flying you out to LA and going through all the steps,” and it all happened so quickly for me.

Joe, what about you?

I can attest to Sierra and her story. She applied with her dad but I was a one-time applicant. I had a friend who knew someone in casting and they said, “We’re doing another casting call early in the year and I know you’re a fan of the show. Would you want me to connect you to the guys?” I said, “Absolutely. Thank you so much.” What a cool opportunity to apply, let alone thinking about getting on the show. I made a quick video, sent it over and within a couple of months, I was in the same situation, the finals of going through the process of applying on Survivor. I’m sitting in front of Jeff Probst in production and they’re asking me, “Why do you want to be on the show?” I literally have my whole life to present to them and say, “This is why I want to be on the show. Put me on the show and I promise I won’t let you down.”

My story was a little different but I applied for four years. It took me a little bit longer. The funny thing is that Sierra and I were in the same finals together. The four people that were with us, we’re still friends with. Just to recap the game, some people might know Survivor and some might not. Let me give our audience that doesn’t watch the show a little bit about what it is. You’re placed on this deserted island with people from all walks of life and with different experiences and backgrounds. Initially, you start on teams and you compete in these obstacle-like challenges. The losing team then goes to what’s called Tribal Council where you vote off one of the team members. As the number of contestants gets smaller and smaller, the teams merge into one team and you begin playing an individual game. The people that you voted off the game once you’ve been merged together become part of what’s called this Jury. Those jury members that you voted out ultimately decide who wins the game, the title of Sole Survivor and $1 million. There are a lot of dynamics to consider in this game. When you both think about our season together, what were the hardest things for you about that experience? Sierra, do you want to start?

First of all, it’s not knowing what you’re getting into. You’re thrown on this island. We’re fans of the show. We watch it and we know what it entails but going out there. When filming starts, you are taken out of your comfort zone from day one and there is no turning back. You don’t have your phone to call your friend or your family for advice. It is you against these other people, building relationships and having to learn how to survive without all of the things that we take for granted every single day. Every single aspect of this game from day one was incredibly hard for me personally.

The game starts and goes for 39 days. We’re so blessed that we’re in love and a power couple, let alone go way back to that moment in time when we were excited to have an opportunity to go out and play a game we both love. The hardships aren’t in the game but out of the game as well. Coming back home and sharing this with our family, our friends and our communities and it’s been an amazingly hard and beautiful experience.

It is an experience of a lifetime and you have been able to experience it in several different seasons. Thinking about Worlds Apart, what was the funniest thing that you remember about something that happened in our season?

Probably the funniest thing for me was day one to probably day five. You’re out there, you’re on an island and you have to go to the bathroom. What do you do? You walk the farthest away from everyone possible to use the restroom and then it’s three or four days in and you’re like, “I’m going to pee right here. You can either watch me or turn your head.” You get to the point where there is no turning back. We are living on an island and at first, you try to cover yourself or walk away to change and then a couple of days in you realize, “This is it. This is going to be my family and we’ve got to roll with it.”

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From Survivor
Lessons Learned From Survivor: It is you against these other people. You have to build relationships and learn how to survive without all of the things that we take for granted every single day.


Either that or you don’t want to waste energy walking down the beach to get some privacy. You’re like, “I’m going to go six feet because I’m so exhausted. I literally have no energy that I can’t walk any farther than ten feet. I’m over here in the bush.”

You think about all the ridiculous things that happened on those beginning days. All three of us were on different tribes. We’ve got White Collar, Blue Collar and No Collar. You guys had fire from day one. I was on the clueless tribe. We didn’t have that capability. Shirin said that she went to a survivalist for training before the show and she paid them. She should get her money back because none of it worked. It was a freaking disaster from the get-go but those are the things that you learn.

The survivalist probably knew how to do it but you’ve got to practice. I practiced for months before going out on the show and I still had a hard time getting it.

It’s tough. Sierra, did you practice?

I did. I practiced not only with fire but also with friction. I am proud to say that I was a big part of both seasons to getting the fire even to start. I take a lot of pride in that. I practiced a lot before going out how to start fire solely with friction.

I didn’t practice one thing because I thought somebody else would have that skill set. This is how cocky I was. On Season 21 where Jane Bright used her readers to get a fire, I thought because I watched it on TV, “How hard could this be? I’m bringing my readers, I got this.” Five hours later with nothing happening, I did not get anywhere as close. I did have smoke for a second and then nothing for three days after that.

The hardships aren't in the game but out of the game as well. Share on X

Did you put a drop of water on the readers? It will help magnify it.

I did and I thought I had the technique down.

You must have the wrong angle. You have to find a different angle.

There are many things that we go through and the other thing that people have to realize is when you’re on a show like this, you’re putting yourself out there for all of America to decide. Do they like you? Do they not like you? There are many things to consider and we’re going to talk through how that affected all of us. You guys have had additional experiences. Here’s where my experience stops because I’ve only played the game of Survivor one time. When I think about that, I’ve learned many things about myself and others in that experience. You guys have had the opportunity to do it again and make personal changes in order to succeed in the game.

I wanted to talk about the second experience that you both had because you’ve had the opportunity to learn from the first time and what things were you able to put into play as you went and did it all over again. I imagine it’s a very different game because all of the contestants, they’ve all played for a second time. They’ve all had this same experience and they all know what to expect. We’ll start with Joe because you were on Second Chances. That means every single person in that season only played the game one time. Can you tell me what you learned from your first experience and how that helped you in playing for the second time?

The biggest thing that I learned from my first experience was the game itself, the timing and how it all operates. There’s no nuance of not knowing what’s going to happen. You can focus on the survival aspect and the social strategy, which is building the relationships because if you don’t have that trust with the people in the game, then they won’t vote with you. It’s a very simple yet complex game of trust or chicken. The biggest thing that I learned was you’ve got to totally invest in your relationships with people in order to be successful in the game of Survivor and in the game of life. If you can begin to understand people and where they’re coming from or what they need or what they want both in the game or out of the game, you can maybe align and come into alignment and accomplish goals. It’s endless in terms of the life experience and the takeaways and other things but specifically for playing, I was only home for about six months from the first time I played to the second time going back out. It was difficult because it was so fast and it happened so fast. It was a lot but it’s also I had to go right back out and play again. Cambodia was much harder than Nicaragua. It challenged me in a whole new way as well.

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From Survivor
Lessons Learned From Survivor: Learn how the game works and what you need to do.


Life is all about relationships. It’s no different in the game of Survivor. It becomes part of the staple that you need to be successful.

It’s a faster microcosm with way more stress. It’s compounded stress in the filming and the environmental factors and then not eating. It compounds with every season that I played and with every next day.

Sierra, you had a little bit different experience because in your season there were people who are on not only for a second chance but who had played several times. You had people on that have been on the show four times and three times. Even though it was your second time, I imagine that it may feel a little bit different because of maybe those threats or whatever. Can you tell us what you learned from your first experience and how that helped you than in playing a second time?

I learned a lot from my first experience on Survivor. I realized how strong I am and that I don’t need the little things in life that I think I need. I realized how to communicate and the strategy of the game. Going into my second season, realizing who the cast is when you get out there and I see all of these people that I have been fans of my entire life watching the show, it makes you be like, “I get to have relationships with these people. I get to play this game that we all love so much together.” That in and of itself was a lot for me to take in but I learned so much my first season. I learned how the game works and what I need to do.

My first season I was a little quieter. Going into my second, I was like, “I need to be more aggressive.” If I’m going to sit at the end of this game with all of these amazing people, I need to have reasons why I deserve to win this game. I wanted my second time more or less guns blazing because I was like, “If I’m playing with Sandra and Ozzy, all of these amazing players, I have to have reasons why I deserve to win.” I had a totally different approach my second time versus my first because my first time you’re learning how everything works. My second time I’m like, “If I got to beat these people, I’ve got to do a lot more than normal.”

Initially, when you looked at how you did play Worlds Apart, it was a lot lower key and quieter. I don’t know what you drank in the water before you got to that island because you were taking it by storm. You are in charge of who’s going home, who’s not going home and wasn’t your name on the chopping block from the beginning of the season?

Survivor is a very simple yet complex game of trust or chicken. Share on X

I was dodging bullets from the beginning and in hindsight looking at it, I went in a little too hot from the get-go but yet there was a moment I was telling people, “You vote for this person, you vote for that person,” which is a terrible thing to do in Survivor but I wanted reasons to win this game. I was looking around me and I’m like, “I have to have a reason, in the end, to sit there and tell these people why they should vote for me.”

When you think about Survivor, you are playing with people that other people consider Survivor Legends. Sandra’s won the game twice. She played twice and she won twice up until you took her out. It was a different dynamic and that’s what you learn in life. You have to understand who you’re up against, who you’re talking to and what changes you need to make within yourself to build a relationship and to gain respect. It’s interesting to hear how you’ve taken life lessons and put them into practice. We’re using Survivor as this learning point because the game puts you in this very uncomfortable situation and any time you’re out of your comfort zone, you get to try new things and learn new things.

Joe, you’ve had the opportunity to do it for the third time. Even though the game itself is the same with the same premise, every season is different because of the people. There’s never a season that has the exact same players, you’ll never get the same experience twice. You played three times in three years. Your third season, the dynamics were a bit different and that’s because you are only one of four returning players. You played against fourteen first timers. That’s a very different dynamic than the experiences that you had before that. When you think of it that way, what were some of the things that you learned from your two previous experiences that brought you to this third experience? What can you tell us?

The biggest thing is understanding that I have all this experience from the last couple of times of playing. It depends on how I want to share my past experiences with these new, essentially, fans of the show and players. I know going back to that first time that it was a shock and awe moment for me personally so that I knew going in there will probably be going to have a lot of questions. I’m probably going to be somewhat of a navigator or leader for my tribe. Everyone will be looking to me for those answers to the questions, which did in fact happen. You do your best to understand each individual person and build those individual relationships to the best of your ability. Knowing that they know way more information about you and your past experience than you know about them. It’s somewhat of a disadvantage except I have the advantage in knowing I played almost a hundred days of Survivor. It’s a double-edged sword. Something that helps me also hurts me. The experience was completely different than my first to my second and then ultimately to my third.

When you think about all of those experiences, what would be some of the lessons learned about yourself that you took away from those experiences?

The biggest thing coming home was to not take anything for granted, especially relationships and those important people in your life because you only realize it when they’re gone. It’s so simple and yet true. Once you are removed from the people that you care about, you miss them and you miss those relationships. You’ve missed that camaraderie and the company of having people that you love and trust to talk to and communicate with. I’m very close with my family. My fiancée’s very close to hers. It was very difficult for us in that sense of being gone and not being able to check in or call in and ask how grandma’s doing or ask about my little cousin who was diagnosed with leukemia right when I was going out on my first season. You’re leaving home and you’re separated from the people you care about. Coming home and moving forward with my life like that is something that I’ve put as one of the top priorities and how I treat people and even my day-to-day relationships of what I value.

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From Survivor
Lessons Learned From Survivor: Once you are removed from the people that you care about, you miss them and you miss those relationships.


You don’t realize how much you miss people and how important they are as part of your lives every single day. It’s so funny because people always make fun of me when I cry during the loved one visit. Even when I watch it, not only we got to see our loved ones and we’re all bawling there but every season that I watch, I cried during that.

We still cry every time. It’s like, “Why am I crying?” It is real and it’s hard to explain.

You said something that I’m going to highlight and I know the fans out there are dying to hear all about you guys and how you became this Survivor couple. You said the word fiancée. You met on Season 30: Worlds Apart and you did become this power couple. Sierra, can you share how did he propose to you?

It was the perfect way he ever could have done it. We talked about it later and he’s like, “I didn’t know how to do it if we should go on a trip.” He picked the perfect way. We were on the way home from his sister’s wedding and we drove about nine hours. We had my horse trailer, which has living quarters in it and we stopped to camp. We found this beautiful campsite. The sun was setting as we pulled in and deer crossed the road. It was like they were queued to greet us as we pulled into our campsite. We parked the trailer and he said, “Grab a bottle of Rosé and let’s go find a bench to watch the sunset.” Looking back at it, it was funny because he was digging in the truck and I’m like, “We’ve got to go. The sun is setting. Hurry,” and he was like, “I need a second.”

We watched and found this perfect bench and faced the sunset, poured some wine and he’s like, “Let’s cheers.” He had this perfect speech telling me how he loves me and can’t wait to have a family with me. I knew I was going to marry this man one day but I had no idea that at this moment he was proposing to me. It was beautiful. He got down on one knee, I was crying and he was crying. I didn’t even look at the ring. I was thinking about my life with him and that I get to spend forever with him. I finally looked at the ring and I was like, “I do.”

We talked about a lot of things. Experiences that we have in life or at least all the things we should be looking for and opportunities to learn something new. We talked about building relationships, communication and understanding how you’re being perceived and those are all the things that you guys should be looking at within yourselves every single day. That’s the only way that you can continue to learn and grow and to understand how other people think. It was great to hear about your experiences and what you’ve learned. What exactly are you guys up to? What are some of the things that you guys are doing over the next few months to put these things into practice?

If you got to beat other people, you got to do a lot more than normal. Share on X

We have a lot going on. We both have different passions, which is amazing. We support each other. I’m super focused on my horses. I’m raising some horses and the Rodeo, training and I’ve been doing some modeling. I have a lot on my plate and as well as planning a wedding, which is exciting but Joe has a lot going on too.

I’ve been an artist my whole life and I’ve been putting out some of my prints and pieces and doing some custom commissions for different clients. I’ve been getting into both art and art therapy. It’s called artfulness but essentially it’s a lot of the things that Sierra and I have found to help us in our healing process of daily mindfulness, mindset meditation and combining our passions with our affiliate program and online things. All these different communities that we are a part of, how do we help them? How do we share our experience with them? We give kids the world and our rescue and Dignity Health Foundation. There are many different organizations and 501(c)(3)s that we support to try and give back and help out as best we can. Using art and using every platform we possibly can to continue to do well and promote good things, good people and good business. We love every second of our lives with one another most importantly.

The show gives you a platform, which is exciting. It gives you a platform because people get to know who you are and what you’re all about. It’s all the things that you were talking about, both of you, on what you’ve learned about yourselves and what you’ve learned about how you can help other people make those same learnings within themselves and it helps him going forward. The charities that we get to participate in are fabulous. The three of us have been to many different charity events together and it’s exciting to be able to give back like that. I know you are also super excited about an event that is coming up. There’s this festival in Lake Tahoe that I know the two of you have been asked to participate in but not only participate in, but you’re also going to be doing some training there. Are you allowed to talk about that event?

We are literally bursting at the seams. We’re excited about this event and we are going to be at Wanderlust. This is our first year and this is all things Joe and what I’m learning to love too. The yoga, the breathing, the meditation and all of these things. They’ve asked Joe and me to do a workshop there and be able to be a part of it. I’m excited about our workshop and Joe touched on it. It’s going to be artfulness and it starts with a particular breathing technique followed with some painting that you do on a canvass. For someone like me who’s not an artist, this is amazing because I have realized that everyone has an artist inside of them and you have to tap into it. I’m excited to share it with all of these other people who might be in the same boat that I am that doesn’t feel like an artist because Joe’s amazing. I can barely draw a smiley face. I’m excited for other people to feel how I feel and to be able to breathe and do this art workshop.

It’s been such a blessing in my life and I know how important art has been to me in healing and in my growth and understanding a different part of my life. I want to be able to facilitate and help other people. I know how important it is into the future of things that we wanted to build. We’re looking forward to it and we’re honored to be a part of it.

That is super exciting because I’m like Sierra. I can’t even draw a circle on a page. When you were creating this flag of a lifetime on the island, I’m looking at him like, “How did he put that together?” He grabs a paintbrush and starts painting. It simply is not something that I’m comfortable with. There are probably many people out there that feel that way but you’re going to show them how stepping out of their comfort zone, trying something new and embarking on a new experience opens their mind, their heart and their soul to many different things. We are talking about learning from our experiences. Taking that inward look at ourselves to see how we can continue to learn and grow in everything that we do. Using those experiences that we’ve had and made some adjustments, make some changes and do something different the next time to get a different outcome. We all know the definition of insanity. If you continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, it’s not going to work. There are opportunities for us to learn every single day. We have to find them and we have to open our minds and be ready for those life lessons.

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From Survivor
Lessons Learned From Survivor: Everyone has an artist inside of them; you just have to tap into it.


Sierra and Joe talked with us about their experiences and although it was in a game, which is a little different than real life, there are so many things that you take away from those experiences and use them in the real world. Those are the things that you have to make adjustments on, building relationships, figuring out how to communicate effectively, being clear and finding out ways in which you can help other people. Those are the things to take away. Sierra and Joe have many exciting things ahead from their wedding coming up and the businesses that they’re working on. They’re working with many people and their Wanderlust experience. I am super excited that you are able to join us on the show. I’m sure that there are going to be an audience out there that might not be following you. Where can they find you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram, @Sierra_Dawn_ and Joe, @JAnglim21. In our bios, you can find some links for everything that we are possibly working on. If you go to either of our Instagram, you can look up different websites for his art, my horses and everything in between.

Thank you so much. I know you guys are super busy. Being able to come to this show and share with us all your experiences is fabulous.

Thank you for having us.

It’s such a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Thank you. The world is changing every day. Sometimes it feels like it’s getting smaller and it feels overwhelming. This show is all about taking one thing and using it to help you do something different every day and I say this all the time. I’m looking for topics, things that are on your mind that you’re interested in and want to hear more about. Go to my website at www.CarolynJRivera.com and send me a message. Let me know what you think. Let me know what you want to hear about. Feedback is a gift. You can’t get better until you understand what people think and help you achieve more than you ever thought possible. That’s my specialty. Remember, believe, commit, achieve. That is the secret sauce that you are looking for.

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About Sierra Dawn Thomas

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From SurvivorSierra Dawn Thomas is a contestant from Survivor: Worlds Apart and Survivor: Game Changers.

On her debut in Worlds Apart, Sierra played a generally safe game, preferring to stick with her Escameca Alliance rather than flip to take out larger threats. Eventually, her pleasantness made her too much of a threat to take to the end, and she was blindsided and eliminated in 5th place.

In Game Changers, Sierra played a more strategically dominant role in the early game, and after the merge, she helped dictate the elimination of Hali Ford and the pivotal blindside of Ozzy Lusth. However, Sarah Lacina‘s defection to the opposing Tavua Alliance put her in the minority. Despite this, she remained close with Sarah, eventually revealing to Sarah her possession of the Legacy Advantage, as well as her intention to will the advantage to Sarah in the event of her own elimination. This revelation induced Sarah to target her at the next vote, resulting in her elimination and Sarah’s capture of the Legacy Advantage, which would prove decisive in Sarah’s eventual victory in the season.

About Joe Anglim

CRS 48 | Lessons Learned From SurvivorJoseph “Joe” Anglim is a contestant from Survivor: Worlds ApartSurvivor: Cambodia, and Survivor: Edge of Extinction.

Joe found himself in a good position during the early stages of Worlds Apart due to his alliance with Hali Ford and Jenn Brown. Despite being targeted after the Tribe Switch, he was spared at the last vote before the merge. Following the merge, however, he became the main target to the majority Escameca Alliance. Despite managing to stave of elimination for a few rounds by going on a short immunity run, his immunity run came to an end at the final ten, resulting in his elimination.

In Cambodia, he managed to breeze though the pre-merge phase as his tribe won every tribal Immunity Challenge. Following the merge, he dominated in challenges, thus making him a big target. After losing immunity at the final eight when he passed out during the Immunity Challenge, he was voted out for being the biggest challenge threat.

On his third go around in Edge of Extinction, he found himself on the bottom from the start for being a returning player, but managed to breeze through the pre-merge due to his tribe winning all the challenges. However, after failing to win the first Immunity Challenge after the merge, he was voted out for being the biggest threat. Despite having an opportunity to re-enter the game by winning a duel, he ultimately narrowly lost to the eventual Sole Survivor Chris Underwood.