If life was truly the survival of the fittest, Bear Grylls would be among the last people standing.
His ability to overcome adversity in the wild and persevere where so many others would fail has led him to be an inspiration. In between episodes of Bear Grylls: Face the Wild, which airs on Facebook Watch, we caught up with him to learn from his wisdom.
Here’s our chat about mindset, how to handle pressure situations and overcoming fears.
Goalcast: In general, just to understand your mindset a little bit, why do you do what you do?
Bear Grylls: Adventure has been the driving force of my life ever since I can remember. From growing up climbing with my late dad, to being a Scout and then through my job with the British Special Forces as a combat survival specialist, climber and skydiver.
Adventure has been the one constant through so much and it is always rooted in endeavour, friendships, risk and resilience. My goal is always to do my best to inspire those values in young people in any way I can. That’s the mission.
GC: You seem fearless but probably – like any other human – have plenty of fears and a good way of overcoming them. What advice do you have for overcoming fear?
BG: Time, experience and a whole bunch of narrow escapes, have taught me that the best way over our fears is not to run from them, but to face them and to go right through the middle of them. This way, they often shrink. When we refuse to face stuff, though, the fears tend to escalate. That’s the irony. Courage is all about finding the resolve to move towards the fears.
Also, I like to see fear as a natural response to danger and in its best form it should keep us sharp and alert. But the key is to make it serve you rather than control you. Fear is there to keep us honest and keep us sharp!
GC: Does it get easier facing the same fears or is always difficult?
BG: Fear is always present before big adventures. Otherwise it isn’t an adventure! But I have grown a little more used to it over time. Nowadays I use it as a reminder to do what I am doing 100% right, every time. You only get it wrong once in the wild.
GC: It seems like we develop fears at some point. For example, young kids are fearless but then as we get older, we somehow develop the yellow stoplight that teaches us to be more cautious. Do you encourage teaching/learning fearlessness at a young age?
BG: As U.K. Chief Scout, I know that if we seek to remove risk from kids’ lives, we do them a total disservice.
Life is full of risk at every turn whether in business, sport and in relationships. We only empower young people when we expose them to risk in a controlled manner and then teach them to handle the risks, understand the risks, and how to overcome them. That’s fundamental to teaching life and adventure skills.
GC: You once hurt your back very seriously during a skydive but eventually returned to skydiving. Can you talk about the experience?
BG: It’s only when we get kicked down that we see what we are made of. It’s easy to be positive when everything is going well, but the heart of all great endeavours is the ability to stagger back to our feet and keep moving forward, however grim it gets.
After my accident was such a dark time and my confidence plummeted, but those long painful months also gave me a clear goal and that was to climb again. Everest had been a huge dream of mine ever since I was a kid and my late dad had given me this poster of Everest that I had always kept by my bed.
But I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t had the accident whether I would have actually ever had the courage to make that dream a reality. Sometimes it takes a knock to really realize what we value I guess.
That dream drove me on so much in those dark days and weeks in hospital after my accident. It lit a fire within me that eventually took me to the summit of Everest and back.
I stumbled a lot on that journey of recovery for sure and had many dark days but I never gave up and that has been the key to so much since.
GC: You’re often in a lot of pressure situations – some where your safety and wellbeing are on the line. How do you maintain your calm in those key moments?
BG: Think smart and try and keep cool in the moment — it is the key to good survival. An ability to see calm in the storm.
As the SEALS say: calm is contagious. It grows with experience and practice, and I guess skills and knowledge give you an ability to react with purpose. But I am still a work in progress here and every day is a school day, really!
GC: Many people stay inside their comfort zone because it’s the known. It may not be everything they want, but they know what to expect. What is your advice for them?
BG: Just begin, and get outdoors! Overcoming adversity in the wild can build a man or woman’s physical and mental strength in a totally unique way. It gives a confidence and a pride that money can’t buy.
So many people seek adventure and challenge through computer games, when in truth we can all develop our own wilderness warrior spirit and physicality, for real. It just takes a willingness to try and to keep trying. It will come!
Because it is true: life only truly begins outside of our comfort zone. As the Marines used to say to us over and over, become comfortable with uncertainty. I like that. It’s a muscle we can train like any other.
GC: You’ve taken the road less traveled in terms of your career. What advice do you have for someone who maybe has a passion or idea for a career but is worried about taking risks and failure?
BG: Failure is the only route to progress and to success. But so many are terrified of it because it makes us vulnerable. But those who can embrace it and treat it as a stepping stone onwards are those who triumph. Always.
The rewards don’t generally go to the best, the cleverest, the bravest, or the strongest, but to the tenacious, the dogged and the determined. So keep going! And always chose the path less trodden, it is always more interesting; and never listen to the dream stealers out there, hold on tight to dreams, they are God given!