blog of Pam Stucky, writer

Pam’s Amazing Race Theory of Life

First, a disclaimer. I haven’t watched The Amazing Race many times in the past few years, simply because I’ve mostly stopped watching TV and I forget to turn it on, even for shows I like.

That said, I still think it’s one of the greatest shows on TV. Action, adventure, travel, relationships, what more could you want? (Maybe fewer gross food challenges.)

Even though I haven’t watched for years, some things about the show still stick with me. In particular, the ways in which TAR parallels life. As with all journeys, The Amazing Race is rife with analogies for life.

If you spend any time watching the show, you’ll see how obsessed everyone gets with what everyone else is doing. Well, almost everyone. Somehow, it seems that the people who get the farthest ahead, the people who win, are the people who just aren’t concerned with ensuring that everyone else fails. They spend their time on the positive and the things they can influence – their own success – rather than the negative. Of course they’re aware that the other racers are there competing, but the ones who win are not spending their precious time complaining about the others, about what’s fair or not fair. They’re not trying to hold other people back. They are simply focused on doing what they themselves need to do to get where they want to go.

And that, to me, is the most enduring Amazing Race Life Lesson, the one I call my Amazing Race Theory of Life. Life isn’t fair. Some people get unfair advantages. Some people get what you want. Some people have all the luck. Some people get on the first try what it takes you years of struggle to get. Some people get ahead through nefarious means (though usually it comes back and bites them in the arse).

It’s not fair. But focusing on those other people and what’s fair and not fair, trying to hold them back, pointing out what they’re doing wrong in an effort to get yourself ahead, does you no good at all. It will frustrate you and make you angry and bitter. It will push positive energy away from you. It will waste your time on things you can’t change. It will eat at your soul.

The only thing that will do you any good is to focus on your own path, your own success. Stop worrying about what other people have or don’t have that you want or don’t want. Stop judging what paths others are taking. Stop worrying so much about what others are doing. Stop trying to prove that your way is right and their way is wrong. Don’t decide what you should do or how you should do it based on what everyone else is doing. Just let it go. Start focusing instead on getting where you want to go and what you need to do to get there, making your own path and doing what’s right for you. And, help other people when you can. Even in TAR, a race to the finish, this holds true. Those who help others when they can, get ahead.

And of course there are other fabulous analogies, such as:

  • When they get to the end, every team, win or lose, talks far more about the relationships built along the way and the experiences they had, than whether they got some arbitrary prize. It’s not about the prize at the end. It’s about what you gain along the way.
  • Saying thank you and maintaining a positive attitude can change the course of your experience.
  • Have fun. If you’re not having fun but you “win,” have you really won?
  • Pack light. Carry only what you need – physically and emotionally. Give up the anger and grudges. They’re too heavy.

I’m sure there are lots more TAR Life Lessons and Theories of Life. Anyone?

Phil Keoghan

Phil Keoghan is pleased to tell you that the only race you can win is your own.


  1. Julie J Julie J
    December 29, 2010    

    I love The Amazing Race – it’s the only tv reality show I watch, and you’ve listed the reasons why I enjoy TAR so much. Well written life lessons. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

  2. January 7, 2011    

    Love this post. Amazing Race is really the only reality show I like to watch. And it’s so true, you really have to focus on your own path and not worry about other people. I always cheer for the teams who can get along with each other, and who aren’t out to sabotage everyone else. A while back a did a tongue-in-cheek post about travel advice from the Amazing Race

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