Skinny dip whenever you can and 15 other life lessons from Bear Grylls

February 06, 2015                 5m read time
April Kilcrease

When Bear Grylls walks into a bar, he’s often welcomed with this refrain: “Pint of urine, mate?” The man has an insatiable appetite for adventure, and this hunger sometimes leads him to consume frozen yak eyeballs, giant live spiders, and, well, pee. But the ZOZI Elite Guru is more than what he eats. The famous survivalist has pocketed a few pearls of wisdom on his treks too. For expert advice on how to squeeze the most out of life and still keep all your parts intact, read on.

On waking up our better selves: “Inside us all, just waiting to be tested, is a better, bolder, braver version of who we think we are.” (“A Survival Guide for Life: How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character”)

Try something new: “ ... when you decide to try something new or attempt something bold and ambitious, the rewards are yours for the reaping. You start to feel alive. You start to notice the possibilities all around. And you get that thrill of discovery as you remind yourself you are capable of doing so much more.” (“A Survival Guide for Life: How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character”)

Shed the fluff: “I often say that our lives can all too easily become ‘fluffy’—and what I mean is that so often the trivial gets revered. But the wild is much more raw, and the fluff that we all carry matters less—it is as if the fluff gets blown away.” (“A Survival Guide for Life: How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character”)

Shed those clothes too: "If there's a substantial body of water around and nobody's looking, I'm often quite tempted to strip off and dive in." (“Piers Morgan's Life Stories”)

If you know that there’s a testicle-eating fish in a Michigan lake, maybe don’t go swimming in that particular lake.
— ZOZI Elite Guru Bear Grylls, Men's Health

Naked and unafraid: “The wild is very revealing. You get to know people in a way that you never do otherwise, because they’re uncovered and vulnerable. You get to know their struggles, their doubts, their triumphs, their highs, and their lows. And if stuff happens in the wild, it’s unpredictable. Things can go wrong very quickly … But I love that challenge.” (Green Global Travel)

Primal instinct: “I think all of us, inherently, don't want to lose touch with that primal side of us. I think sitting round in an office all day we have a little voice in the back of your head going ‘You're more than this.’ We want to test ourselves. We want to know if we could cut it if push came to shove. I totally get the appeal of adventure racing. It's a way to go off and have a mini adventure in an afternoon.” (British GQ)

When nature calls: “In general, it's never a good idea to pee in open water. Pee will attract all sorts of fish. The salts and the crystals in urine, it's all fascinating to them. Don't pee.” (Men’s Health)

Risk management for kids: “We live in such a health-and-safety culture. If you want to empower kids, you show them how to manage risk. I do this with my kids and those of my friends. I say: 'OK, what we are going to do today is going to be incredibly dangerous.’ You just see 30 massive grins. Show me an eight-year-old kid who doesn’t want that.” (The Telegraph)

‘OK, what we are going to do today is going to be incredibly dangerous.’ Show me an eight-year-old kid who doesn’t want to hear that.
— ZOZI Elite Guru Bear Grylls, The Telegraph

Back that plan up: “Always have a backup plan. The other day, I saw my eldest halfway up this tree, really high up this thing, hanging off by one hand. This branch is dead. I said, ‘Stop. What’s your backup plan?’ He says, ‘Papa, you never have a backup plan.’ I said, ‘I always have a backup plan.’ That’s why I’m still doing this show so many years later.” (Backpacker)

What makes a hero: "What I love is there is no blueprint for a hero. There is in the movies—muscles and super good looking. In life, there isn't. I've seen this from so many expeditions—you can never call it because actually it's how you act in the big moments. It's who's prepared to work the hardest when you feel like shit ... The only pattern is that there isn't a pattern and that unlikely heroes often emerge …” (DigitalSpy)

I always have a backup plan. That’s why I’m still doing this show so many years later.
— ZOZI Elite Guru Bear Grylls, Backpacker

Nice guys finish first: “I’m interested in team guys, expedition guys who, when it’s all going to rat **** can be nice, can be kind, can be calm. Nobody talks about nice and kind, but if you’re stuck in a tent with someone for three months, you don’t want the ego and the selfish person. You want the person who’s going to make you a cup of tea first. (Backpacker)

It’s a big world after all: “I think what I've learnt is that there's so much of the world left to see. We always read that the world is such a small place and there's nowhere left to explore, but my experience is the opposite. I'd need ten lifetimes to scratch the surface of all the incredible wildernesses there are …”  (British GQ)

Adventure is the only thing I’ve ever been good at, and I am super lucky to have made a career out of getting muddy falling out of trees.
— ZOZI Elite Guru Bear Grylls, British GQ

Telling tales: “... what I think is timeless is stories. That’s what people really want … you’ve got to paint the picture for people and be able to share your emotions and the struggles and the doubts and the good and the bad.” (Discovery U.K.)

Not so lovely bones: “You come back with a few scrapes and a few cuts, but you know what? Life is meant to be full of those. If you don’t have a few bruises and knocks, it is not an adventure … I for one do not want to reach the end of my life in a perfectly preserved body. I want to come flying in sideways, covered in scars, beaten up and screaming: ‘Yahoo! What a ride!’” (The Telegraph)

April Kilcrease


April is the editor at ZOZI. Born in Germany, she grew up on three continents with a road-trip loving family. In her twenties, she was thrilled to discover that she could continue this semi-nomadic lifestyle as a journalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and AFAR.

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