In case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know who Bear Grylls is, Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls is a British adventurer, writer and television presenter and is involved in a number of wilderness survival television series in the UK and US.
Grylls was appointed the youngest-ever Chief Scout in the UK at age 35. He was voted the 30th most influential man in America, and the seventh coolest British man, as well as the most admired person by the middle classes, second only to the Queen.
When he’s not eating live worms or tarantulas, he’s throwing himself off cliffs and showing us how to survive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth. But it’s not his insect eating or rappelling skills that I found interesting.
Having been a Bear Grylls fan for a while, seen many episodes of Man Vs Wild, Running Wild With Bear Grylls, and having just read his autobiography, I thought I would distil the lessons I learned for surviving life from his book, Mud, Sweat and Tears.
1. Do what you love
At a young age, Bear realized he was not great at academics, but he loved climbing and adventure, and was really good at it.
Having spent many happy days learning to climb and sail with his father, he went on to start Eton’s first mountaineering club, learned to skydive and earned a second dan black belt in Shotokan karate.
All those kids for whom academics is not the goal can take hope from Bear’s struggle. He found something he loved, and then worked hard to excel at it.
2. Push yourself to the limit… and then some
Bear endured a grueling training for selection with the 21 SAS Regiment (Artists Reserve). Often, during the training, when they were pushed to the limits of their endurance, he found himself having to push just that much more to complete the course.
Although he failed the selection the first time, he was called back and completed it successfully the second time. He joined as a reservist with the 21 SAS until 1997.
Having been told he was “too dumb” to quit, Bear realized that the reason he succeeded where stronger and smarter candidates failed, was because he refused to give up. He held in just that little bit longer, and it made all the difference between success and failure.
When you think a goal is too hard to achieve, don’t give up just yet. Sometimes it’s darkest before dawn. Hanging in there a just little while longer might be just what it takes to make it.
3. Know when to give up
In 1996, Bear suffered a freefall parachuting accident in Zambia, crushing three vertebrae and requiring 12 months of recovery.
After that, he knew that the back-breaking training with the SAS was beyond his abilities and quit the SAS, which he had worked so hard to join. He took it as a sign that he was meant to do other things instead.
When you know, in your heart, that something just isn’t working out for you, whether it’s a life goal, or a relationship, have the courage to quit and try something new.
4. Have a dream that inspires you
If it was Bear’s heart, hope and doggedness that got him into the SAS, it was the same qualities that helped him through his recovery.
Going from an active life, with few limits to what he could endure physically, to having to rebuild his body, goals and confidence shattered him.
It was the support of his beloved family, and his dream of climbing Everest, that kept him going through his darkest days, when his confidence and faith in himself were at their lowest.
Having a dream that inspires us, and holding on to it even when it seems impossible, can get us through many dark nights of the soul.
5. Faith, Friends and Fun
If there were three things that kept Bear going when he was training to climb Everest, it was his faith, the amazing friendships forged in adversity, and his love of climbing.
By his account, it wasn’t much fun training on Everest, but when you love mountains and climbing, it makes up for the suffering you have to endure at high altitudes.
When life puts you through the wringer, having faith in a Higher Power, friends you can trust with your life, and a sense of enjoyment in the journey can go a long way to helping you cope.
6. On the other side of pain is growth
High-altitude mountaineering is not much fun, especially on a mountain like Everest, that claims 1 out of 6 lives. The lack of oxygen, the constant threat of death, the cold and the suffering can take the mickey out of even the most experienced mountaineers.
Through it all, Bear endured. From falling sick to falling into a crevasse, the mountain put him through the toughest endurance course he had ever experienced. And when it was done and he had climbed the summit, he couldn’t wait to go home.
When you’re facing an experience in your life that is painful, it’s hard, if not impossible, to think of it as a stepping stone to personal growth. But that’s exactly what it is.
It’s only when you’re past it, that you can look back and know that some of the most painful experiences you endured are the ones that shaped you into the person you are now.
7. Stay grounded
When Bear was young, his Dad told him that the three traps that would get him in trouble were, “Gold, Glory and Girls.” It’s a lesson that he took to heart.
Remaining grounded in faith and family, not letting fame go to his head despite a successful TV career, and remaining loyal to his one true love, Shara, are the values that make Bear Grylls the man he is.
Fame and fortune are ephemeral. Family, faith and friendship are what last. They are what keep us grounded when everything else is fading.
There are many more lessons that I learned from reading Mud, Sweat and Tears, including the lesson that Nature is not something to be “conquered” but respected.
Reading the book has given me a greater appreciation for the phenomenon that Bear Grylls has become, and an insight into what makes him tick.
Bear Grylls: Mud, Sweat And Tears is a bestseller and is available at all major bookstores.
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