JUNE READING: MUD, SWEAT AND TEARS by Bear Grylls
This man has so many lessons that he can teach the rest of us about living a life to the best that we can. His autobiography is chock full of worthy mantras to live your it by. On a random page opening, "Life is all about getting up again, dusting yourself down again, learning from the lessons, and then pushing on". Or "It was time to get out there with all of my enthusiasm and commit to fail...until I succeeded". And on his dream to one day climb Everest - "But I had a dream, and that always makes people dangerous...To a man, they thought I was mad". I think a lot of people still do! And these are just a very few of the thoughts scrambling around in this man's head. But other than his courage, his curiousity and his fearlessness, perhaps the most remarkable thing about him is his humanity and humility, his bloke-next-doorishness, how Jo-average he seems to be. And the encouragement, that anyone can take on the sort of challenges he has and succeed. Aside from the respect he engenders in people, perhaps his greatest gift is the model he provides for children and young people. He is the youngest ever head of the Scout Association, (he was a Cub Scout as a boy), and is in a most unique position to pass on his passions, his knowledge, his moral and ethical code, and his very ordinariness to the world's youth.
Any search engine will toss up all sorts of biographical detail about this extraordinary man, and you would have to have lived in a deep cave not to have heard, at the very least, about Man vs Wild, even if, like me, you have never actually seen it. But a bit like the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, he is as much part of popular culture and entertainment, and as British as One Direction or Kate and Wills. In this book Bear Grylls delves deeper than the story of his life and shares the influences and elements that have shaped him into the man he shares publicly.
He comes from a privileged background, but not outstandingly so. His family is very important to him, and he has some very interesting forbears who have made their own mark on the world. He had a passion for adventure, the outdoors and climbing - be it hills or buildings - from a young age. He went to Eton College where a culture of freedom and pursuit of individual interests further developed his adventurous streak. His decision to try out for the SAS selection almost did him in, the fracturing of three vertebrae in his back almost killed him, as did a fall during his climb of Everest. These combined with his wife and children and his strong Christian faith have all made him the man he is today.
There is no doubt that he is one of the luckiest men to be alive. He has had more lucky escapes than I imagine he cares to count. The two main ones he writes about in this book - the broken back in a parachute accident and the fall into a crevasse on Everest - are, at a guess, barely the tip of the iceberg. I can't think of anyone who has done more for the saying "Feel the fear and do it anyway" than Bear Grylls. I do wonder though how long he can continue living his life, quite literally, on the edge.
This is such an easy book to read, very short chapters, lots of action, fair amount of self-reflection but in a good and straight forward way, finishing with an epilogue that sets the scene for volume two. Yes, you will want to read more, and you can only wonder what the next forty years of this life will produce.