“The truth is this: the man in front of you here is often full of nerves,” said Bear Grylls, speaking during one of the final sessions of the Global Leadership Summit 2019.
Grylls is a best-selling author probably best-known for the show, Man vs. Wild. To call him “adventurous” is an understatement. He is a former member of the British special forces and once summited Mount Everest not long after breaking his back in a skydiving accident. Those are just some of his many accomplishments.
Bear Grylls on Surviving the Storms of Life
Yet Bear Grylls said that many people are not aware of how often he has failed in his life or that he regularly deals with fear and self-doubt. Throughout his adventures, there are four main truths that have shaped him and which have carried him through “so many storms.”
Bear Grylls said that his life failures “far outweigh the successes many times over.” The first time he tried out for the British special forces, he failed after six months. On the first day of his first attempt, Grylls said, “I had that dreadful feeling that I’d volunteered for something way beyond my capabilities. And actually, I was right.” He wasn’t fast, smart or good enough, and “that truth hurt.”
But he tried again, this time in winter when the selection process was reportedly more difficult. The second time, he made it to the end and was one of only four people who did so out of 90 who had tried. What’s more, said Grylls, out those four, three of them had failed the first time.
Failures, said Grylls, are essential markers on the way to reaching our dreams. We cannot avoid them. “There’s no shortcut to your goals that avoids failures. It doesn’t exist,” he said. Instead, we must embrace our failures head on. And Bear Grylls’ failures still haunt him. But, he said, “Those failures have also made me and built resilience, quietly over time.”
“Life is scary sometimes,” said Grylls, “and all of us face battles,” but “how we react to that testing determines everything.” While many of us feel disqualified from life because we’re not smart, talented, or beautiful enough, Bear Grylls said that life doesn’t care about those things. Life rewards the determined, those who walk toward their fears.
Three years into the military, Grylls broke his back skydiving. He survived, but then he had to deal with the aftermath of that experience, which included rehabilitation and night terrors. However, he said, “It’s because of the fear that I still choose to jump today.” Every time he skydives now, he dreads it. But the answer to fear is facing it, so he continues to jump.
“Use the fear,” he said. “Become friends with it.” Life experience has taught him that as we move toward our fears, they often melt away. And the scars we receive as we go through life become the most meaningful parts of our stories.
By “fire,” Grylls means the determination to persevere when we feel we are at the end of our strength. Nobody is brilliant, brave, or extraordinary all the time. What sets people apart is following the motto of the British special forces: “Always a little further.”
When most people are giving up and when we feel like giving up ourselves, we need to use that as a trigger to give more and press on. Bear Grylls said, “Persistence requires digging deep and finding that fire that burns inside us all.” He described the hours before he summited Everest. He felt mentally and physically exhausted, and there was a voice in his head telling him he shouldn’t be there, that he didn’t belong, and that he should give up. But he didn’t.
”Know the power of resilience,” said Grylls, “because it really is the storms of life that make us strong.”
“We all face our Everests,” Grylls said, “whether it’s an actual mountain, a hospital, or simply holding down a job and raising a family.” Everest is just a state of mind, and faith is essential to persevering through whatever those challenges are for us.
Grylls said his faith is like a backbone for him and is something that he relies on every day. While it’s hard for him to articulate his Christian faith, he does know that he’s known, loved and forgiven, no matter how often he falls down and fails. He also acknowledged there have been many times he has tried to live his life without God. But even though he has survived doing that, Bear Grylls said he’s realized that he needs Christ’s presence to be complete and fully alive.
For Grylls, faith is “the starting place of many adventures.” It is a journey and “to walk in it every day of our lives takes real courage.”
Finally, Be Thankful
Bear Grylls closed his talk emphasizing how important gratitude is. He knows men who have lost their limbs who never stop smiling. He said, “Treasure those around you, your family, your friends. Don’t take any of them for granted. Our real wealth is always going to be found in our relationships.”
For more content on the 2019 Global Leadership Summit, please see:
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Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss on the Skills Every Leader Needs
Danielle Strickland: This Is What Influential Leaders Know About Transformational Change
Separating Myth From Truth in the Generations
Craig Groeschel: How to Let Your Constraints Drive Innovation
If You Lead Creatives, This Is What You Need to Know