Positive Thinker: Bear Grylls, Host of 'Running Wild,' Author of 'Never Give Up'

The famed adventurer and television host on facing his fears, his remote vacation hideaway and his deep respect for teachers.

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Posted in , May 20, 2022

Bear Grylls; photo by Ben Simms/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Favorite inspirational saying “Storms make us stronger.” I hold on to that if I’m going through a hard time. A) I know it’s not going to last forever. And B) how I act in the storm defines me. Don’t run away from these difficult moments; they are opportunities.

One detail about you that surprises people I’m terrified of skydiving and heights, yet I do both all the time. I’ve learned that if I do the things I’m scared of and I do them often enough, I become good at managing fear. It’s like a muscle, and it gives me an edge. If we are used to doing the difficult and the scary, it can all be positive for us.

Go-to place to pray I try to start the day on my knees. I just get down on the floor next to the bed. My grandpa used to do that, and I always loved it. It’s a way to remind me to be grateful, to say sorry and to ask for help. It’s my way to survive the day really.

Favorite comfort food I love liver and bacon; it’s quite British. And I am definitely a chocoholic. But I’m not a chocolate snob. You have to work quite hard to find chocolate I don’t like. My go-tos are Dairy Milk and Green & Black’s dark chocolate.

I once was on an expedition crossing the Arctic in a little inflatable boat, and I was put in charge of sourcing all the chocolate. I just went to the supermarket and bought like 500 Dairy Milk bars.

The hardest thing you’ve ever done Being selected for the British Special Forces was life-defining. It was probably the hardest 11 months of my life. I was 19. I failed the first time.

It was a reminder to me that the worthwhile things never come easy. You’ve got to go through the door of failure many times to get to the good stuff. I wasn’t the strongest or the fittest or the biggest or the smartest, but sometimes you’ve just got to hang on and be dogged and determined. In the end, only four of us out of 120 passed.

And then losing my dad at a young age. I was 26; my wife and I were in our first year of marriage. I felt pretty vulnerable. But I look back now and I think sometimes having the rug pulled away from you gives you the fire to go out there and do something worthwhile. You’ve got to go out and grab life and make something of it.

What you do daily for your spiritual well-being Every day I try to do three minutes of something really hard. It’s been a ritual for a long time. I have a massive industrial chest freezer that I fill with water. And I keep it just above the freezing point. I jump into that for three minutes every day; it hurts like hell, but it fires you up for the day. I try and drag my family in occasionally. They’re not as into it as I am.

Real-life hero Alex Honnold. He’s one of the greatest climbers who has ever lived. He climbed the 3,000-foot vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite with no ropes, nothing. It was termed the greatest climb in the history of mankind. He was very meticulous with it, very calm. He is a really humble, quiet, intelligent family guy who loves mountains. Taking him on a Running Wild episode was a privilege.

The occupation you’d pursue if not your current one I’d quite like to teach; it’s a truly amazing profession. It’s a service position where you’re getting to inspire and influence young kids. I really struggled at school, and the few inspirational teachers I had were lifelong inspirations for me. I think teaching is truly one of the highest callings.

We have an education initiative called BecomingX, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of, trying to empower young people with skills that can really help their lives. Real-life skills rather than just academic skills. How to be a great team player, how to be a leader, how to have a winning attitude, how to deal with failure, how to be resilient, how to deal with debt, how to start a business, how to negotiate, how to have strong relationships, how to be a good friend.

We interview people who are the most iconic and inspirational in their field—whether it’s sports, science, acting, business, firefighting, exploration, humanitarian work—and ask them, “What’s helped you? How have you dealt with failures? Where have been your struggles? What’s made the difference?”

We’ve made them into incredible films, lessons, exercises you do as a class together. Amazon has come on board and that’s allowed us to put BecomingX into schools in some of the most underprivileged communities around the world.

Why you wrote your new book, Never Give Up There are so many stories that I get asked about every day by people—and by my kids. My children always see the good stuff. But the truth is, my life has had so many struggles and battles and doubts and failures behind the successes. And never giving up has been at the heart of all the good stuff. I think young people now need that spirit of resilience more than ever.

How the pandemic affected you Everyone in the world was affected, but I think it’s been incredibly unifying. I think it made us all reevaluate what the important things are in our lives. It’s humbling when you have to homeschool. But it reminded me that our relationships and our friendships and our family is first. And to walk humbly and be grateful.

What’s on your playlist About three times a year, I ask friends to make me a playlist and I listen to that. I quite like country music. I love Ed Helms and his band, The Lonesome Trio.

How you spend family time We’re pretty good about eating together. We’ll cook up something good and get the kids off their phones. We talk and argue and laugh and all that good stuff. I also cuddle with the dogs every day; it’s so good for your mental and physical health.

Where you like to vacation I like to go to our place in north Wales. It’s on a little private island two miles off the coast. It’s wild and beautiful, battered by the wind and the rain. We’re off the grid there, it’s our little hideaway. We spend so much time traveling for work—I don’t want to go on holiday to all the normal places. I love it there.

Must-visit destination A lifetime of adventure has taught me the value of home. We’re so lucky for all the shows we do. We’re getting to travel to the great extremes, the biggest deserts, jungles, mountains in the world. But ultimately, it’s about getting back in one piece. Home is number one. I think as we look at everything that’s happening around the world, we are reminded of the power of our homes.

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