Use Man vs. Wild star Bear Grylls’ workplace survival guide to tackle the snakes in the office and the rats in the ranks – and get the “monkey of failure” off your backBy: Ben Jhoty
Photos by: Jeremy Park
BREAKING NEWS: Bear Grylls fired by Discovery Channel
Ben Grylls feels like a man living on borrowed time. He knows he’s only one dodgy carabineer, one less-than-solid foothold, or one bite of the wrong goat’s testicles away from injury or worse. Pity the fool? Don’t. It’s this heightened sense of headspace that’s the secret of Grylls’ legendary survival instinct and, by extension, his success.
“When I get in those big moments, when it all really matters, I find a space in my head where there’s rare clarity,” says Grylls, fresh from abseiling down an escarpment near Peats Ridge in NSW, where he’s shooting a 4WD commercial. “I call it an awareness and I depend on that awareness, that inner voice. It’s taken a while to develop, but I’ve done it since I was a kid and it’s strong now, and I listen for that and I trust it.”
You don’t need to be dropped into the middle of the Amazon or the Kimberleys to summon that inner voice Grylls is talking about. Everyday life poses enough challenges to get your A-game going. Grylls’ lesson is that the resources you need to survive in the wild – grit, determination, hard yakka – are the same ones that can help you climb the career ladder. Here, TV’s craziest adventurer reveals his manual for real-world survival.VISUALISE FAILURE
Before you can begin to ponder success, you need to acknowledge the possibility of messing up, reckons Grylls. “The reason most people don’t reach their potential is because they’re scared of failing,” he says.
Visualise falling flat on your face, he recommends, because only then will that inner voice kick in. “When I’m sitting in a helicopter about to jump into these places, I’m scared, but I try and use that emotion to give me an edge.”TALLY THE REJECTIONS
“Someone told me really early on that if you want to succeed at something, you have to go out and fail 27 times,” says Grylls. He took that advice literally when raising sponsorship for his show, banging on doors and making calls with the expectation of getting knocked back.
“You don’t go out trying to succeed, you just try to get the failures in, and then accidentally, along the way, you’re going to get a yes,” he says. “The rewards go to the persistent.”
It’s a mindset worth adopting the next time you’re faced with a spreadsheet of cold calls. Count all the polite “no thank yous” and the hang-ups. “Getting them in” is an integral part of getting a project off the ground. It also helps take the sting out of rejection.
FIND AN INSPIRATION
When Grylls messes up on his show, misjudging a leap onto a boulder and ending up in the drink, he invariably jumps to his feet, pats himself down and looks for the next promising vine to swing from. It wasn’t always the case.
In 1996, he came close to being permanently paralysed after crushing three vertebrae in a parachuting accident. There was some doubt that he would ever walk again and, faced with the prospect of being unable to live the robust, physical lifestyle he’d always enjoyed, his confidence plummeted.
“I went through a really dark stage of doubting myself massively because I couldn’t do all the stuff I’d taken for granted,” he says. So how did he get out of his crisis of confidence? Along with leaning heavily on the support of family and friends, he literally climbed his way out of the depths of despair, becoming, in 1998, the youngest Briton to scale Everest.
“What climbing does is it gives you a very clear goal, which is the summit, and you need to keep focused on that goal,” he says. “It gives you an awareness that you’ve got to get every move right, because you only fall once.”
If you find yourself on the end of one of life’s unsteadier vines, a hobby that encourages progress and achievement, such as distance running or martial arts, could help rebuild the confidence that’s been missing in other areas of your life.SAVOUR SECOND CHANCES
Surviving a 5000-metre free fall gives you a keen awareness of the transience of life. For Grylls, it instilled a sense of gratitude and, once he’d got his confidence back, an even greater appetite for adventure. “It gave me an awareness that we only get one shot at life and you’ve got to live it boldly,” he says.
Haven’t had a near-death experience? You don’t need one. “Just be on the look out for complacency,” says Grylls. Think back to the last time you didn’t step up to the plate or you let an opportunity go begging, he advises. Remember the humiliation or the stomach-churning regret. It’ll give you the hunger and resolve you need to “eat up” your next big challenge or grasp your next opportunity.ABSORB AND ATTACK
Nature is one tough mother. Take her on with anything less than laser-eyed focus and she has a way of biting you on the arse – snake or scorpion, you can take your pick. For Grylls, that means that rather than retreat from the bites and the bee stings, he goes on the attack – literally sinking his teeth into live pythons. “Life’s simple: you get what you give,” he says. “It’s like rugby tackles. When you’re tentative and you hold back, that’s when things go wrong. For me, it’s become a good reason to really go for things.”
What does that mean for you? Ask for that promotion, volunteer for that project, run that meeting and give it all you’ve got. Chances are you’ll find your odds of success have already shortened.SMILE FOR THE CAMERAS
What happens when it’s pouring with rain, you haven’t slept for days and the only food option is alligator tail? If you’re Grylls, you smile. “It’s okay to have struggles,” he says. “What matters in survival is to smile and never, ever give up.” Grin and bear it, in other words.CLIMB LIKE A BEAR
You might be taking on the Andes or just tackling an overhang at your local climbing gym; either way, keep your hands at shoulder level or below, advises Grylls. “Once you do a lot of reaching, blood drains really fast,” he says. “Use your leg strength, use your balance, use your poise and keep your arms low as much as possible.”Bear Grylls' book: Mud, Sweat and Tears is on sale now