Earlier this summer I was traveling through the seemingly evergreen pacific northwest. One night I switched on the tv in the hotel and came across two outdoor adventure shows. The first was Naked and Afraid where two people, a man and a woman who don't know each other are cast off into the wilderness without food, clothes or shelter. Their challenge was to survive for 21 days. What they got at the end of it all, I don't know. It was such a weird show. I couldn't understand it and didn't make it through a full episode. I did follow the Twitter commentary, which was hilarious. The second show I came across was Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls.
I don't watch too many reality shows, especially ones involving competition. In fact, there are only two or three such shows that I like - So You Think You Can Dance, The Next Food Network Star, and years ago, Project Runway. Most competition shows are just too mean spirited for my taste. Plus, if I am going to watch people compete I want to watch people do something they love and are good at, hence the dancing and cooking shows.
Get Out Alive was a different sort of a competition show. First off, there wasn't a whole lot of actual competition. For most of the show everyone had to work together. They were in
the wilderness, hiking up mountains, crossing fast moving waters, building shelters in effort to survive cold nights, all while lugging backpacks that appeared to be the size and weight of a not so small child. In short, there was no room for
sabotage or name calling. If one person got hurt, it could endanger
everyone. So they had to work together, and along the way the
competitors, and the viewers, learned something about survival. What was key, what intrigued me was that the survival lessons weren't just about technical or physical skills. There was some of that, but the more important lessons had to do with strength of character, will, working together, and being mentally tough.
All of this is a long way of explaining of how I came across Bear Grylls. Admittedly, I am late to the game as Grylls has done other shows, including Man vs Wild and Worst Case Scenario, neither of which I have ever seen. He is also apparently the youngest British man to climb Mount Everest. I knew none of this when I saw the first episode of Get Out Alive. I didn't need to. What intrigued about the show and its host was their adventurous spirit. The show looked tough but fun, and at times disgusting. (Seriously is it ever really necessary to drink urine or eat bugs?) The criteria for getting kicked off the show or winning was vague. Grylls would say things like how he was looking for the team of people who could dig deep in hard times and keep going, who good keep in good spirits even when the going got exponentially tough. It was inspirational without being cheesy. So I picked up Grylls autobiography, Mud, Sweat, and Tears, looking for more about this adventurous spirit.
Celebrity autobiographies are often a gamble. This one delivered. Grylls has had a lot of adventures and has no shortage of stories to tell. In Mud he describes the rigorous training he went through to become a member of the SAS (something I had also never heard of but
which is apparently world famous), about breaking his back while parachuting, and about climbing Mount Everest. The stories are riveting (the short chapters help) but they are not the main reason why I liked this book. More than the physical strength, what seems to have gotten Grylls through multiple life threatening situations is his mental and spiritual strength. It takes a lot to be calm in a dangerous situation. The importance of keeping calm, of self-confidence, and of faith is what I took away from Mud, Sweat, and Tears.
Some books make you think, and this book has definitely made me think that I need to take more risks. It is time for an adventure!