Life Advice from Bear Grylls

Mj 618_348_the last word bear grylls
Matt Holyoak / Camera Press

What adventure most changed your life?
The parachuting accident I had when I was 22 while a member of the British special forces. The canopy ripped at about 14,000 feet. I smashed into the desert, broke my back in three places, and spent the next year in rehabilitation, strapped up in braces and all that bad stuff. I’d missed severing my spinal cord by like a millimeter, so I was aware that life had given me a precious second chance. That’s when climbing Everest, a dream of mine since I was seven, became the whole focus of my recovery. Eighteen months after the accident, I was on top of Everest. You’ve got to grab life and live it boldly.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was a kid and received another bad school report, my father would say, “Hey, listen, that’s the details. The important stuff is to follow your dreams and look after your friends.” That, to him, was life in a nutshell.

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How do you make your favorite drink? 

Rum, coconut, pineapple juice, and a very garish umbrella. Yes, embarrassingly, it’s a piña colada. It’s become a crew ritual at the end of a ‘Man vs. Wild’ shoot: Wherever we are, we mix up a big piña colada, which quite often involves having to bring a bottle of the preblended mix with us, stuffed among the piles of camera boxes, because we’re so remote we’re never going to find one.

What book should every man read?
For me, it was ‘Rhinoceros Success,’ which I first read when I was about 12 and have read every year since. It basically says that life is split into rhinoceroses and cows, and cows are content to sit in the field and fart while rhinoceroses are busy snorting, charging through the jungle, and making adventures out of life. My mum gave me the book, and she regrets the day she did.

What’s the best cure for a hangover?
A run followed by a swim in a cold river.

What should every man know about women?
They don’t care about how much you know. All they want to know is how much you care.

What hidden skill do you have?
When I turned 35, I thought, This is outrageous that I’m 35 and haven’t nailed how to do a backflip properly. So I dragged a big double mattress off our bed and took it out to the garden and had a sore neck for a few days, but slowly I nailed it.

How should a man best face his fears?
Understand that fear is an emotion that’s there to give you an edge for what you need to do. It’s your instinct talking. If I’m honest, I get scared most days, but I try to use that.

What article of clothing should a man never wear?
For me, it’s a distinct lack of underwear. I hate underwear. It feels stifling. My dad and I never wore underpants, and it drove my mum mad. Luckily, my wife is very forgiving.

Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I’ve got so many scars it’s ridiculous. I always depend on the Evel Knievel quote that says bones heal and chicks love scars. I’ve got a spectacular new one across my chest. I’m tempted to say that I got it from wrestling a crocodile, but the truth, sadly, is that I was pulling a pizza out of the oven while naked and burned myself.

What one thing should every man experience?
Get up early and watch the sun come up at least once a year. It gives you a great perspective on life. And, sorry, sunsets are too easy.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Pull that damned reserve cord earlier, idiot.

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