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Book Review: Bear Grylls – Mud, Sweat and Tears


I’ve always enjoyed Bear Grylls’ Man vs Wild TV show, but I wouldn’t have called myself a big fan of either.

Until recently.

Bear Grylls was a guest on the Graham Norton Show and I had the great fortune to catch it. Not only did he present as a down-to-earth and people-oriented guy but he seemed not to buy into the celebrity gushing that so often seems to go on there. The episode is available to watch at the end of this post.

The best part of the whole show was actress Cameron Diaz commenting that she’d eaten snake and “it tasted just like chicken”. Quietly and with a cocked eyebrow, Bear replies “no it doesn’t”. Classic stuff and well worth watching.

Bear was on the show promoting his autobiography Mud, Sweat and Tears. I was so impressed by him, and the little I had discovered about his history, that I commented to my wife that I’d love to read the book. Being the wonderfully attentive geo-widow she is, this tidbit was tucked away for my recent birthday. 🙂

Bear Grylls in his Chief Scout role

For those that don’t know Bear Grylls’ background, here is a short rundown. He has a family history of dedicated military service, was educated at Eton, passed the insane selection course to gain entry into the SAS, broke his back in a parachuting accident in Africa and then managed to recover and climb Mt Everest. Now he presents a show that has more than three times the viewers of Top Gear.

Did I also mention he is the Chief Scout in Britain and flew over Mt Everest in motorised parachutes? Impressive is an understatement with this guy.

At about this stage you’re likely wondering what Bear Grylls has to do with geocaching? On the surface of things not a lot. What I realised whilst reading this book is that how Bear describes adventure seems to directly relate to the best parts of geocaching.

It was a feeling that I could be a little different from everyone else of my age, and that, if pushed, I could battle against the forces of nature, and prevail. Adventure felt the most natural thing in the world, and it was where I came alive. It made me feel, for the first time, really myself.

It might not be to quite the same extreme but many of my own geocaching adventures have the same feeling to them, as I’m sure they do for others.

I was also taken with his description of what it took to make it in the SAS and felt this was a good approach to life.

I would say that what matters is the following: to be self-motivated and resilient; to be calm, yet have the ability to smile when it is grim. To be unflappable, able to react fast, and to have an ‘improvise-adapt-and-overcome’ mentality … It’s not rocket science; it’s just about showing heart in the big moments.

But perhaps the most powerful part of Bear’s story is that for a man who has undertaken so many daring adventures, he is not afraid to admit he is sometimes afraid.

The man in the mirror, though, is the husband to Shara, father to our boys, and just a regular guy with all the usual struggles, self-doubts and flaws that tend to go with life.

And those are plenty. Trust me.

Then there are heights. Sometimes when I am climbing, or hanging from a helicopter, I get struck by this all-consuming fear. But no-one ever sees. I hold it inside. One minute I am fine, the next I am shaking like a leaf.

Bear eating a frog on Man vs Wild

And his success is really down to the fact that he simply puts his head down and keeps going. It’s a great lesson. One of the greatest living adventurers only survives what he does because he just keeps going. It’s a philosphy we can all apply to those parts of life that scare us.

His book is a wonderfully easy read that is written in the same simple presenting style you see in his TV shows. It is honest, intimate and wonderfully lacking in pretention.

It is also a fantastic read for those who might not be a fan of Bear or what he does. I certainly found understanding more about him and what motivates him led me to have far greater respect.

And coming back to geocaching, can’t you see the following being a great geocaching challenge?

The routine when arriving at a checkpoint was rigorously enforced. You approached the checkpoint, crouched down on one knee, map folded tightly in one hand, compass in the other, and weapon cradled in your arms.

Then you announce yourself. Name. Number.

The DS would then give you your next six-figure grid reference, which you had to locate rapidly on the map, and then point out to him with the corner of the compass or a blade of grass …

As soon as the grid reference was confirmed, it was time to ‘pack up and f*** off’, as we were so often told.

For those interested, there is a cache in Thailand called Learn from Bear Grylls (GC2RZ49) as well as a travel bug in his honour.

Our friend Joshua Johnson has a great video (below) of his Bear Grylls-type geocaching experience and don’t forget to check out the three best parts of the Graham Norton Show with Bear Grylls at the end of this post.

*Have you had your own Bear Grylls’ geocaching experience? Or perhaps you’ve read his book? Tell us about it in the comments below.


3 comments

  1. Kylie Walker on Facebook

    You forgot to mention that Grylls is cute too, Peter.

  2. Peter Raymond Walker on Facebook

    Oh dear, how could I have overlooked that!

  3. Ankit

    Bear you are role model to me

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