Five Steps to Fulfillment, Duck Dynasty Style

John Bailey
6 min readDec 1, 2020

Five Steps to Fulfillment are hiding in plain sight — inside our Fascination with the Fringes.

We keep hearing about the Kardashians — and about Phil Roberts, of “Duck Dynasty”.

In both cases, the people involved activate tribal identity and financial aspirations, as well as envy and contempt. That seems to be a good formula, from a media monetization perspective.

Whenever things get quiet, someone on one of the shows will make a controversial statement — that pushes those tribal affiliation or contempt buttons — preferably both. Each time, the media monetizes our society’s fascination with the fringes.

Facebook lights up with photos and memes that either celebrate and support — or ridicule and condemn these “colorful” families. Everyone is cheering — or jeering — the “real life”, times, opinions, beliefs, and biases of people they’ve never met — and are unlikely ever to meet — as the fans do the heavy-lifting of publicity for the networks.

Then, like fans of the Mets or Dolphins, they’ll run out and buy baseball hats, or shirts, or purses, or shoes — whatever product placement or merchandising gimmick is being floated that week as part of the “celebrity lottery” these people seem to have won.

In the meantime, most people are working jobs they don’t love, with people they don’t particularly like, producing products or services they don’t particularly believe in — as the show seasons (and years) drift by.

These shows offer relieving distraction from the painful drudge of ordinary life for us “regular people”. We get vicarious adventures and drama — fantasies we can get into. Adventures at the fringes of society are far enough away to let us suspend disbelief, but close enough for us to relate to.

Lost on both fans haters, these modern parables hide the keys to fulfillment behind the alternately gauche and tacky trappings of “reality” television and the stars that make them.

Let’s pull back the curtain and find a little Motivational Literacy™ gold:

“Reality” shows aren’t “real”. They don’t show every burp, upset stomach, and stubbed toe. They’re structured to emphasize the bits of life that make for a good adventure:

  • the challenge,
  • the drama (frustration, fear, and anger),
  • the actions taken,
  • the achievement (climax), and
  • the sharing the achievement with someone.

People in the shows are just people, too. And, the levels of fulfillment they achieve aren’t beyond any of us. The big cars, and fancy houses and fat bank accounts aren’t fulfillment: They are not measures of success, but BYPRODUCTS of personal adventures that involve achievements.

If we look deeper than the money and colorful characters, and realize that “people are people”, these shows can offer a blueprint for a fulfilling life — instead of a mind-numbing escape from ones we imagine are boring.

The hint is in the scripting or editing I outlined above: the parts of a Well Formed Adventure™ in those five simple steps:

The challenge: There’s always some sort of task or test or problem or goal to be addressed. At some point “things get real”, and people have to stretch and grow and maybe pull together to get the job done.

The drama (frustration, fear, and anger): We usually know “things got real” because we’ve reached frustration and/or anger. Someone is embarrassed for dropping the ball. Someone’s feelings get hurt. Drama happens.

The actions taken: Someone picks up the ball and starts running with it. If there’s personal conflict, that plays-out by fixing the hurt feelings (apologies) — or growing past them (getting over it). Either way, there’s growth and connection.

The achievement (climax): There’s a deadline (television shows are short), and the problem gets solved — with some sort of useful outcome. A project is finished, a loss is prevented — something.

Sharing the achievement: In the end, there’s a sharing of relief — or achievement — and some recognition of what was done. There may be some acknowledgement of lessons learned or growth realized. And, maybe some anticipation of the next adventure.

What most people don’t realize is these points are actually scripted in every “reality” show — or at least on a check-list for production and editing. The reason is THEY ARE THE PARTS OF AN ADVENTURE, and if you watch someone doing them it feels (a little) like you’ve done them yourself.

These “reality shows” — and others like OC Choppers, Deadliest Catch, etc — offer modern parables if we will see them in that light. Instead of mind-numbing distractions from our own lives, they could be BLUEPRINTS to the lives of adventure we all deserve.

You don’t have to live out on the “fringe” to be in an adventure. The only reason adventure STORIES are set that way is to make it easier to disconnect from your own life.

You star in your own reality show every day. It even has a custom soundtrack: What music do you listen to? If you don’t have some, open a Pandora tab — or get an MP3 player and make one!

The five parts of a Well Formed Adventure™ are in our lives now. We are doing them all the time — we just don’t notice that frustration and anger and crisis and social blow-ups are those parts of OUR adventures.

And, when we apologize or “get over” hurt feelings — when we stretch and learn and change — that personal transformation is the same as the people we watch. Your adventures are just as interesting and distracting as any others — to someone who isn’t you.

The only thing missing for you is you appreciating that YOU are the star of your reality. You are “those people”. You are in real adventures. And, we are “on the fringe” — compared to anyone who isn’t you.

Think about that: From someone’s perspective, you and your life are totally “fringe” — totally unusual, outrageous, and fascinating. If only you were to notice — and to enjoy it.

For the people who aren’t finding those five major parts of a Well Formed Adventure™ in their lives, there’s a HIDDEN DIFFERENCE.

There’s something not the same for them and the people they’re watching in shows — instead of living real adventures for themselves. And, it’s not money or fame.

The one hidden difference is that people in reality shows aren’t avoiding their challenges, fears, frustrations, and social crises the way most of us do. By NOT avoiding those things, they enter adventures head-on; get into the process; and wind up with achievement and sharing the outcome with others.
The difference between being a spectator to adventure and actually living it is in just two things:

STOP AVOIDING challenge, fears, frustrations, and social situations. GO INTO those things. They will be scary; they will be difficult; and they will require you to change, learn, adapt, and “get over it” — whatever “it” is.

RECOGNIZE and enjoy those experiences for the REAL LIFE ADVENTURES they are — even if it is “just you”. Notice “this is the frustration part” — and how you deal with that. Notice “this is the fixing hurt feelings part” — and how you can do that. Notice “this is the achievement part” — and feel good about that. And, always make sure you notice and enjoy the “sharing the outcome” part with people who helped or cheered.

What challenge, fear, frustration or social situation have you been avoiding? And, what’s the first step you could take to JUST DOING IT?

Which of those those parts of real life adventure have you been taking for granted? And, how quickly are you going to notice and appreciate it next time?

Which victory have you recently given short shrift? And, who can you go celebrate that with? Who will you celebrate the next one with?

If you’re not sure about this, experiment with it for a week, and see what happens…