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Risk Versus Reward: How Bear Grylls Weighs His Adventures

If Bear Grylls is starting an adventure or trying to reach a goal, he always factors in the risk/reward ratio. Bear, who has climbed many of the world’s peaks and became one of the youngest ever climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, says that in mountaineering, the risk/reward ratio is very familiar – where you weigh up the risks of something against the possible rewards.

“There are always crunch times on a mountain when you have to weigh up the odds for success against the risks of cold, bad weather or avalanche,” says Bear Grylls in A Survival Guide for Life. “But in essence the choice is simple – you cannot reach the big summits if you do not accept the big risks. If you risk nothing, you gain nothing.”

Effort is rewarded

Bear, who has undertaken many risks and challenges throughout his career as an adventurer and survivalist, says that as with mountain climbing, in life and in business, real effort is rewarded. Everything that is worthwhile requires effort, and it requires risk. “Great summits don’t come easy, they require huge, concerted, continuous effort,” he says.

While it is easy to have a goal, Bear says that what makes the difference is how willing you are to go through the ‘pain’ that it takes to reach that goal. How able you are to hold on and keep going when it is tough.

Bear, who spent three years as a soldier in the British Special Forces, as part of 21 SAS Regiment, tells the story of doing simulated basic training with the French Foreign Legion in the deserts of North Africa. He says he was told that to earn the coveted cap, the képi blanc cap, it takes ‘a thousand barrels of sweat’. 

“That is a lot of sweat! Trust me,” he says, “but ask any Legionnaire if it was worth it and I can tell you their answer: Every time.” 

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Embracing hard work

Bear has been caught in many risky situations, and he has survived everything from parachute failures to avalanches, falls into crevasses, snakebites, and being caught in river rapids. He reminds us that pain, discomfort, blisters, and aching muscles don’t last forever. But the pride when you achieve something great or attain a dream, will be with you for the rest of your life.

In his book Mud, Sweat and Tears, he writes about how he went through the grueling selection course for the SAS. He suffered through months of extreme conditions and training – hiking mountains in the middle of the night carrying huge weights, hours of press-ups, assault courses, and a lack of sleep. For him, the ultimate goal – to pass selection – was worth the pain.

“The greater the effort, the better the reward. So learn to embrace hard work and great effort and risk. Without them, there can be no meaningful achievement,” he says. “All great adventures have risk and a chance of failure. That’s the whole point – otherwise it isn’t an adventure!”

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