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Phil Kolarczyk ’03 enters battle of mind, body, and will on America’s Toughest Jobs

As Phil Kolarczyk ’03, a self-professed reality television aficionado, sees it, he has the mind to excel on The Apprentice and the body to withstand the pounding of American Gladiators. Kolarczyk decided to see if he could put both mind and body to the test on America’s Toughest Jobs.

On the NBC reality show, 13 contestants compete in jobs such as logging, bullfighting, oil drilling, and more. At the end of each assignment, the boss and crew determine which contestant to eliminate and at the show’s conclusion, the winner receives the total annual salaries of all of the jobs combined.

“Too many people go through their lives sitting behind a desk and never take a risk,” says Kolarczyk, an Orlando, Fla., resident and marketing consultant. “To me, becoming a contestant on this show was totally off the wall and like taking a risk [to the extreme].”

On the show, Kolarczyk participated in three activities—crab fishing, ice road trucking, and digging for gold—before being eliminated when he didn’t accumulate as much gold as the other competitors.

“Panning for gold is like playing the slots in Las Vegas,” he says. “Most people who do this believe they’re five feet from a million dollars when, in actuality, they’re a million feet from five dollars. It all depends on your location.”

Kolarczyk, a former guard on the Lafayette football team’s offensive line, says his experience with crab fishing trumped football practice in terms of difficulty because it’s taxing for a longer period of time.

“Crab fishing is intense,” he says. “Throwing the pots out and retrieving them was the fun part of the show. Everything behind the scenes, like prepping the pots and moving them around the deck, is constant work and exhausting. Plus, you’re doing it on three hours’ rest. It was the most grueling thing I’ve ever done.”

In the end, Kolarczyk achieved at least some of his goals by appearing on America’s Toughest Jobs.

“Obviously, there is a monetary prize for the winner of the show, and I went there to win,” he says. “But I also wanted to do the jobs so well that the bosses would say they wanted to hire me.”

Kolarczyk received a job offer from the ice road truckers, having been declared the best in that task, but he declined.

“I moved to the South for a reason,” he laughs.

For Kolarczyk, tackling challenges in a hands-on way is appealing. It’s something he sought out during his collegiate career.

“I got to do things at Lafayette that most people don’t get to do, such as the research I did with Dr. [Robert] Allan [on behavioral modification and learning with pigeons],” he says. “You learn so much more from getting firsthand experience than you do from reading it in a book.”

And, as Kolarczyk found out, you also can learn a great deal by taking a risk and getting out from “behind the desk.”

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