'Survivor' star spreading the good word
By MARK KLAAS
Auburn Reporter Regional Editor
October 17, 2012 · Updated 5:24 PM
He is the ultimate warrior, the genuine "Survivor," the guy always up to the challenge.
Michael Skupin of reality TV show fame insists he has more mountains to climb, more terrain to tame.
"I'd like to try the Grand Canyon ... hiking it, running it, swimming it," said Skupin, still an adventurous, thrill-seeking risk taker at age 50. "I just want to discover the entire Grand Canyon, one of my bucket list items."
Skupin continues to cover plenty of ground these days. He is visiting the Kent-Auburn area this week, part of a whirlwind promotional tour for his book, "Discovering Your Inner Strength", and the latest alternative energy-saving products his software company is pitching.
While "Survivor" brought him instant celebrity, his heart and soul have convinced him to help make life better for others as an inspirational speaker, author, coach and software engineer from Michigan.
His message to others? Pursue and live your dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem, no matter your age.
"It's about living your dreams, taking dreams people always have had inside themselves and teaching how to make them happen in their lives," said Skupin, who makes some 200 promotional appearances throughout the country each year. He made 412 stops 11 years ago after he competed in the second season of "Survivor."
Skupin became a star, the focus of one of the grisliest scenes in reality TV history when he fell into his tribe's campfire on "Survivor: The Australian Outback" in 2001, and was severely burned. Unable to continue, Skupin became the first person to be medically evacuated from a "Survivor" competition.
Eleven years later, Skupin was invited back onto the show this fall.
"For 22 seasons, I've thought about playing this game again," Skupin told EW.com while on location in the Caramoan Islands the day before filming started. "I'm not here because I fell in the fire or to prove to the world anything. I'm here to play the game again, from start to finish. This will be a whole new adventure for me."
While Skupin stopped short of describing how the latest episode finished, he persevered. He has since returned stateside to continue his business at hand.
Today Skupin enjoys talking to kids at schools, the older set at churches, the working professionals at chamber and service club functions. He enjoys spreading his positive "glass is always full" gospel to others.
From some of his observations, society seems to wallow in negativity.
When he confronts an audience, as he often does, and asks how many people have given up on their dreams, the number of hands that shoot up into the air surprises him.
"I don't know if they don't have the confidence, or they don't have the wherewithal to support people with the dreams, or they criticize them," Skupin said. "But there's a lot of that going on.
"For many, those dreams get taken away from them. They might think, 'I'm not fast enough. I'm not strong enough. I'm not smart enough. I'm not rich enough.'"
Skupin tells them that all things are possible with good ideas, hard work and plenty of persistence. His mantra: It takes leaders with vision to help people with dreams.
"If I could help people win for their families ... financially, spiritually ... getting them on the right track, then that's what it's all about."
Skupin remains just as adventurous, spontaneous and competitive today. He draws motivation from his family, which includes wife Peni and their seven children.
"My dad, a true warrior who lost a battle to cancer when he was 28, and my mom who battled emphysema for 17 years and never complained. She taught me what tough was," Skupin said.
"(My) burning desire? I just look into the eyes of my children."
Despite a heavy schedule, Skupin finds time to hunt, barefoot water ski and play ice hockey.
No matter what the game is, Skupin refuses to give up. He hates to lose.
"It's a competitive drive," he said. "I don't know if you're born with it or if it's developed, but I certainly do have it."
Mike Skupin, reality TV show star, author and inspirational speaker, appears at the Golden Steer Steak and Rib House at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. It is free to the public.
The restaurant is at 23826 104th Ave. SE, Kent.Contact Auburn Reporter Regional Editor Mark Klaas at email@example.com or 1-253-833-0218 (ext 5050).