Interview With Bear Grylls, World-Renowned Survivalist:

You call the wild "your office" -- what would you consider your most amazing accomplishment at the office?
Bear: I've been on lots of big expeditions from Everest to the Arctic to the Antarctic and the Northwest Passage, but I'm pretty proud of the fact that we did seven seasons of 'Man vs. Wild' and thank the lord we all kind stayed safe as a team in some of the most hostile places. I remember after season one the director saying, "you'll never do more than one of these seasons because somebody will die".
What's the most you've ever gotten done in one day?
Bear: I think summit day on Everest is a big day. You're on that mountain two-and-a-half-months total; the summit day is a good 23 hours of climbing. The height is about 26,000 feet, minus 30 degrees, carrying a large amount of weight. That's definitely a pretty full-on day with a lot of emotions. Four people lost their lives up there. Two died of the cold and two fell. It's a pretty heavy day.
What do you consider the craziest thing you've ever done to survive?
Bear: There have been so many moments on the shows over the years. God, they all kind of blend into each other. Self-inflicted enemas on rafts, the humiliation of jumping on top of 15-foot tiger sharks, being caught in the water with crocodiles, a lot of dodgy waterfall vines, bitten by nasty snakes and stuff like that.
On your new show 'Get Out Alive', what's the most surprising thing you've learned about people?
Bear: Their mold for a hero. You're used to movies where the hero is always this muscled, square-jawed dude. The reality is not like that. We start off with 20 people and they all talk a good story, but I said you have to impress me with your actions not your words. And you know, you take them on some big journeys, toiling away hungry, and thirsty, and tired 24 hours a day, all day. You learn what people are like. Some people crumble and some thrived ... If you think the American hero is dead, watch this [show], some incredible people emerge who've dug deeper than you could've ever imagined.
What's the worst thing that people are going to have to do to win $500K on this show?
Bear: Well, the whole thing is about heart. Determination and character are the big measurements and how they continue in the face of big mountains, raging rivers and rapids, the super-dense rainforests [and] some incredibly bad weather. And all the time, living off the land and moving and carrying a lot of weight. And having to look after the weaker people. I think it's a mix of the actual sort of terrain and the weather ... that makes it really tough.
Your resourcefulness in the wild is impressive to say the least. What's the most you've ever accomplished ... with the least?
Bear: Well, I think for me the really fun part of survival is always the resourceful part of it. You rarely have all the right things at the right time. You have to improvise. And you have to use everyday things like shoelaces and water bottles, straps of backpacks and belts and all these other things in inventive ways ... I love that side of it. Learning how to light a fire using just your cell phone. How to climb a tree using just your shoelaces. How to make a raft out of a backpack.
Would you consider cavemen the ultimate doers? I mean, seriously ... fire right?
Bear: For thousands of years, it was an everyday skill just like kids tying their shoes ... you could start a fire with nothing. I think it's a shame that so few people know how to do it now. I think there's always a pride in men and women about being able to do simple, basic things like that when suddenly few people can nowadays. These cavemen were good because they had to be. It's like do or die. If you're not resourceful, deft and fast, you die. It's a good motivator.
What do you think is harsher on the human spirit: the concrete jungle or the actual jungle?
Bear: Life is all about attitude. The terrain in some ways is irrelevant. It's how we tackle it -- whether it's a desert or a commute. And we choose our attitude everyday -- whether we're going to do it with a smile, positivity and enthusiasm. The guys from 'Get Out Alive' began to learn fast that it was the most important thing in the world.
What do you hope people's one major takeaway is from your new book, 'A Survival Guide For Life'?
Bear: Don't be afraid to fail. Don't listen to dream stealers. You get one life -- you've got to live it boldly. You've got to be prepared to take a few risks and not listen to the people who tell you're crazy.
What would you consider the #1 factor preventing people from getting things accomplished in their day or lives?
Bear: Fear. And bravery is in the absence of fear so it's the ability to deal with fear. And we all feel it. On 'Get Out Alive', these guys are dealing with it every day -- whether it's heights, or solitude, or high altitude or new environments or weather or hunger or whatever. I was never asking them not to be afraid, but to embrace the fear, feel it and quietly walk through those fears. I think it's the one thing that holds us all back from fulfilling what we could be.
What would be your best advice for adventurers that love the wild ... but aren't Bear Grylls?
Bear: Adventure generally is always on your doorstep. Even if you're in a city, you're never far from amazing places. Especially if you're in America. Whatever city you're in, an hour's drive and you're in an incredible wilderness. So don't be afraid of planning some mini-adventures with your good friends; you don't have to go three-quarters way around the world. Just be smart, and make sure you're prepared and tell people where you're going and when you're due back. But go for it, you know?
What's the most unforgiving terrain you've encountered in North America?
Bear: The high altitude stuff just because of how debilitating it is and more extreme the weather is -- people underestimate how unforgiving altitude is. But then also some of the really hot deserts. Texas, Death Valley and some of these places where you can be dead in a matter of hours if you're caught with no shade and no water, unprepared.
What would you consider the most awful things you've ever put in your mouth?
Bear: Raw goat's testicles were bad. Yak eyeballs, frozen. Live snakes and scorpions. And elephant dung, you name it. Survival is rarely pretty. I think that was one of things I kept trying to instill in these 'Get Out Alive' guides over and over again -- leave your prejudices behind. It's not going to taste nice. You need the energy. Just do it.
Those things are not on the food pyramid last time I checked.
Bear: Yeah...
You live on a barge on the Thames River part of the year with your wife and three kids -- how does that work exactly?
Bear: It's an old Dutch barge in this great community on the Thames in London ... and then we're on a little island off the Welsh coast for part of the year as well. It's got one little house on it. We collect rain water off the roof. We have a wind turbine. It's an amazing place about six miles offshore in the middle of the ocean.
Is that one big room or like a three-bedroom barge?
Bear: It's got little cabins. It's like the Batcave. It's looks pretty rusted and decrepit from the outside, but it's amazing inside.
When you're on your show with these regular people, watching them do things they've never done before in their life, do you ever think to yourself, 'my god, such wimps'?
Bear: Actually it's the opposite, I really grew an incredible respect for the people who stuck around and lasted. There's some people who went early and hadn't been through much and there's a lot of whining and wincing, but those who were there for the second half of the season, I have total respect for because they dug incredibly deep ... And there are new depths of experiences they'd never gone through or dreamt they would experience before. Faced some real fears. Put up with some proper hardship ... And the truth about survival is that it's very unromantic, there's nothing fun about it ... They won my admiration the hard way.
Can you please tell me what Bear Grylls' five key tips to survival are?
Bear: First of all, prepare well. Make sure you get the right equipment for your terrain. Make sure you have the right company; go with the right people. There's nothing worse than being stuck in a wild place with someone you dislike. Tell people where you're going and when you're due back. If something goes wrong, as it has a habit of doing, you have a backup plan. Take a sense of humor. And leave your ego at home.
Bear Grylls on 'Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls' on NBC
Test your own threshold for pain and survival by watching 'Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls' (Mondays 9/8c) on NBC. To pick up Grylls' new book, 'A Survival Guide for Life', find a bookstore near you.

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