Zavion Kotze set off for Survivor SA thinking, “How bad could this really be?” He fobbed off the talk about limited food, believing that when the cameras stopped rolling there would be an apple or two waiting for him on the side.
He was wrong.
How long can 27 days really be?
For 27 days Zavion was subjected to eating no more than a handful of rice each day. To catch a fish was a rare event and even when you caught something it had to be divided amongst ten hungry people. On the last five days of his stay, food resources swiftly dwindled. There were no more coconuts on the island and the rice was all but gone.
As a physically dominant player in the game, Zavion’s body began to fail him. “When I was voted off I was actually relieved because it felt like I was starving. I’d lost 15kgs and I was wasting away in front of myself, and then I was blind-sided.”
Paranoid, half-starved and mentally fatigued, Zavion returned home to reconsider both his personal and professional goals.
A change of perspective, a maximised day
“Survivor changes the way you think about everything. You realise just how much you take for granted,” he says. After idling away long and empty days on the island with very little to do besides talk to a handful of strangers and scavenge for scraps of food, Zavion has learnt to appreciate the hours in a day.
“As an athlete training for the 2016 Olympic Games, I train from 4:30am until late afternoon. Between my training periods I’d usually rest but that’s now changed; now I use my downtime to focus more on my business as a wedding and events planner. My response time to emails is faster and I’m finding that there
are far more hours in the day to get things done.”
Zavion’s top tips for survival
Zavion is a shining example of true grit and determination. His advice to anyone going through a low moment in business and life is this:
- Don’t ever underestimate your abilities. Being gay has motivated me and pushed me to be as good as, if not better than, the person standing next to me.
- Stop taking things for granted.Survivor made me appreciate the small things, like a fridge-full of food! I’ve learnt to appreciate the things I took for granted
- Unplug often from your busy life.Working for four businesses, I can’t always focus on everything 24/7. It’s important to switch off from business and be with family and friends.
- Maintain your integrity.Survivor is a game of deceit and my goal was to play the game and still stay true to myself. In business it’s just the same; you have to keep your integrity no matter what.
- Argue with your internal critic.When I hear that voice saying I can’t do it, I point out to myself all the times before where I thought I couldn’t succeed and I did. Prove to your inner critic that you can.
Surviving extreme food deprivation wasn’t the only challenge that Zavion had to overcome: He entered the game knowing he’d be bearing the label of ‘gay wedding planner.’ His refusal to be judged based solely on his sexual orientation resulted in his domination of the physical challenges — to the point that Zavion had to throw some of the games just to avoid being voted off.
“Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re incapable. Being gay doesn’t make me different to the guy standing next to me.”
Digging deep to overcome tough times
There were bad days on the island. Hungry, physically weak and missing family members, Zavion had to dig deep just to get through. And his business approach is all the better for those dark moments.
“You realise nothing is as bad as it once was. When things get to me, I laugh it off and tell myself to shake it off — you’ve got stuff to get through today.”
When I hear that voice saying I can’t do it, I point out to myself all the times before where I thought I couldn’t succeed and I did.