If, in your life, you wait for everything to be perfect, you'll never do anything. When I was 20, people came to me, "Oh, you'll never climb Everest. You have to be in your 30s for your endurance and climatization abilities," and all this. If I'd listened, I'd have missed my opportunity.
Failure can be scary – especially when failure can mean death. It's not that I'm never scared. I'm nervous every time I start filming a 'Man vs. Wild,' sitting in that chopper, going to a proper hellhole. But the fear is not there to say, Don't do it; it's there just to sharpen you and make your instincts really good about whether you should do it, how you do it, what you do, and make all your senses really fire at the same time to work so you can do it.
How to Survive…losing your dad
My father died when I was 26. He was such a rock in my life and such a best friend. He's the guy who taught me to climb when I was very young, and that was a very intimate thing for me – my way of being close to him.
Life, to him, he used to say, was about following your dreams and looking after your friends. It was a great thing for me to grow up knowing – that life is about more than getting good school reports or looking smart. It's about that heart.
I'm always surrounded by places where him and me were, and that's a great sort of continuity. But there's always going to be a hole, and I think you can't run from that. I wish I had the magic cure, but it's a rocky, awful road. You can't be scared of the grief. It might be six months or a year later that you really fall apart, and the thing this has taught me is, don't be scared to lean on people. We're so used to standing on our own, but I turned to my close friends, with whom it's okay to be very weak, very un-butch. When you're vulnerable, it only strengthens the bonds.
I look now, and I think, What do I love about all these expeditions and the 'Man vs. Wild' stuff? It's not about what we do; it's actually about the bonds you create with people in difficult moments, and that's what I'm always drawn to. I strip that back, and that all comes from my dad.
The day after he died, I got my first real break – a Sure deodorant commercial that played off my Everest fame. It felt like a gift, really, from him, as if he were saying, "I've done my job, given you as much as I can of what I value in life. Here's a break. What will you do with it?"
How to Survive…lean times
When you focus on the money, the castle breaks down. But when you focus on just doing your job well and don't think about what you're getting paid, money will always follow. I try to give 10 percent of what I earn to friends struggling with their mortgages or somebody who needs a really good holiday. That's a rule I've always followed, and it's been really good in our lives. Money is like water: If you don't let it flow, it's just going to get stagnant.