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Under the Covers: Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls

Welcome to Under the Covers, an on-going series of book reviews to enrich the way we think, move, eat and connect.

In my Under the Covers book series, I will rate each book based on its “Life Wisdom” value (from 1 to 5 wise owls). I will review books that inspire, motivate and teach life lessons. Some of our greatest wisdom comes from those whose journeys may be quite different from our own.


When we escape into their world, we can learn from their trials, tactics, and courage. Through their wisdom, we add to our own.

Discovery Channel knew they had a live one when they put Man vs. Wild on the air.  When I say “live one” I’m not talking about Bear Grylls, the rugged, chiseled hero of the show who could climb mountains with dental floss if he put his mind to it. I’m referring to live snakes, wildebeests, scorpions, alligators, and crawly creatures!

Who doesn’t love a guy who can eat a grub worm as a snack like we would eat a cheeto?!  Ulchkkk!  I can’t bear to watch Bear eat a bear but I can’t turn my back either.  Must be my addictive tendency to say to myself, “Could I do that if I HAD to?” Always kept this curious spectator coming back for more!

Tales of the survivor, the conqueror, and the determined have always been by favorite genre. So I couldn’t wait to download Bear Grylls new autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears.

If you are looking for a “behind the scenes” look into the production of the hugely popular, Man vs. Wild, television show, you’ll be disappointed.  This book captures Bear Grylls early days and what molded him into this ultimate Boy Scout, adventurer, and maggot-eating Hercules.

Bear Grylls was influenced greatly by his adventurer father. An active child by anyone’s standards, fear never held him back.  He thrived on challenge from a young age. A trained special ops soldier in the Royal Navy, Bear takes you deep into his psyche as he endures relentless, grueling training to become a member of this elite unit. I found myself gasping for air while I was reading because he pulled me into the jungle along side him.

You don’t have to aspire to be Evil Knievel, Shaun White, or Bear Grylls to learn valuable lessons from these fearless human beings.  Much is to be gained in our own lives by hearing their stories and tapping their brains— even if most of us choose to dial it back a bit.

Here are my favorite wisdoms from the book and some personal reflections:

“Don’t be egged on by others when your instincts tell you something is a bad idea. Listen to the quiet voice inside. Intuition is the voice of the mind.”

Sometimes we rush ourselves when we feel courageous.

If our gut tells us something doesn’t feel right, we should listen to our instincts and realize postponement doesn’t mean never.

“You can only cry so much before you run out of tears and learn to get tough.”

Love that! I look back on my life and realize that when I thought I was broken were the very times I broke through. Get up and carry on no matter what your circumstances and that’s how you get tough.

“Fear forces you to look tough on the outside but makes you weak on the inside.”

I’m still mulling this one over. Hmmm. Bear was referring to how tough he was before boarding school but once there, he was fearful yet forced to appear tough. To conquer my fears, sometimes I have to “fake it” until my insides catch up with my outside.  How about you?

“We all have two arms, two legs, one head, and one pumping set of lungs. Heart is what makes the big difference.”

Bear proved that human will and the heart to want something bad enough outperformed purely physical assets.

Proves that success isn’t reserved for the brightest or strongest but for those who want it the most.

“I was slowly learning to get used to the pain.”

No doubt humans adapt to circumstances over time. This is good and bad. It explains how athletes can keep training at higher levels or how Nelson Mandela survived years in prison. It also explains how cycles of violence continue in families. Or why a woman continues attracting abusive men.

Take a look at your adaptations. Are they healthy for your survival? Are they helping you push yourself to be the best you can be?  Or are they destructive patterns of pain that lead you to make poor choices?

“Self doubt can be crushing, and sometimes it is hard to see outside the black bubble.”

Bear stresses that just an ember of hope to grab on to can make all the difference. After his own failures, deep down he still believed he could reach his goals.

Do you grab the ember of hope when you feel despair or do you wait for a full blown fire?

Next time see the fire in the spark and put some wind behind it.

“Our achievements are generally limited only by the beliefs we impose on ourselves.”

Replace doubt with hope, fear with courage, and self-pity with pride. We make assumptions that the “Bear Grylls” of the world live without doubt. That they are always sure-footed. Their stories directly contrast those assumptions.

When everyone else gives up, they give more.  Those willing to keep failing will nab successes along the journey.

Bear’s response when asked the qualities he has relied on during his expeditions: 

“Self-motivated, resilient, calm, unflappable, react fast, improvise-adapt-overcome, tunnel vision, doggedness.”

Do you show these qualities when under duress or faced with challenges? I think I could use some work being more “calm” and “unflappable.”

“You get focused, start pumping out certain vibes into the universe, and things begin to collude in your favor.”

Some well known philosophers call this phenomenon “helping hands.” I like to call it being “on a roll.”

Your life doesn’t get the chance to fall into place if you aren’t moving things around giving the universe something to work with.

“Our dreams are just wishes if we never follow them through with action.”

Bear Grylls was certainly about action. He never waited for good fortune to be bestowed upon him.

Continuous action keeps your fire burning.

“It is about understanding that the moment to shine brightest is when all about (around) you is dark.”

Bear learned this life lesson climbing Mount Everest. What do you do when others around you are complaining, miserable, pessimistic? Do you join in because you feel the same way, because misery loves company?

Dare to be the bright light in the room.

“Why is it that the finish line always tends to appear just after the point at which you most want to give up? Is it the universe’s way of reserving the best for those who can give the most?”

Bear Grylls defined his life within that space. How does that space define you?

I highly recommend this book! It’s a fast read and a great ride.

Purchase hardcover or Kindle version of Mud, Sweat and Tears, by Bear Grylls.

"There is no education like adversity. " Benjamin Disraeli (from the book)

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  1. Nancy #

    I like this…..will try to pass on to my youngest cub.


    May 20, 2012
    • fitskitz

      Great thought! I love this gritty story that teaches life lessons in an unusual way. Hard to turn the last page without having learned a few things.

      May 21, 2012
  2. Chloe Ortbals #

    I loved all the quotes you put up. I agreed with every one. I will have to read this book over the summer.

    May 26, 2012

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