Bear Grylls on chasing your personal purpose

Written by
Paul Gurney, Co-founder and CEO, BecomingX

06 Mar 2020

06 Mar 2020 • by Paul Gurney, Co-founder and CEO, BecomingX

With business leaders clamouring to develop purpose-led organisations, adventurer Bear Grylls talks to his BecomingX co-founder Paul Gurney about the power of individual purpose. 

Why is it so important for people to have a sense of purpose in what they do?

Purpose drives people to tackle the impossible and to keep going when times get tough. For me, it’s about helping people to find their own adventures — and supporting them to succeed. 

It’s why we set up BecomingX, which enables people to learn lessons from the world’s top performers and so realise their own potential. Successful people often want to be able to share truths that have helped them shine, and these stars believe in the impact we are trying to have on people worldwide. A lot of their successes are down to their own sense of purpose. We are determined to help level the field and demystify what it takes to succeed. 

What has driven you in your life and career?

As a young boy, I always had a clear dream to one day be able to stand on the roof of the world, at the summit of Mount Everest. My late father, a climber and a commando, initially taught me to climb. He gave me an amazing picture of Everest that I kept on my wall. It became a huge dream for me. As a kid, I always felt that climbing was one of the only things I was good at. I was never the strongest or the best or the biggest or the cleverest, but I could climb well, and I had a goal. 

Many things in life tried to pull me off course, including breaking my back in a free-fall accident when I was serving with 21 SAS, but ultimately I succeeded because I was dogged and never gave up. If you strip it back, that’s really why I made it to the top. It’s why Everest is such a good metaphor for life — it shows us that life rewards the tenacious, not necessarily the talented. Schools and universities tend to teach the opposite, but so often it’s those people who have had to fight for everything that succeed the most in life. 

What would be your advice to people chasing their dreams?

I’ve found that the first thing you encounter, as soon as you articulate a big goal or vision, is opposition. Life is never going to make it easy! And in a way, the world is just testing you. It’s asking, “are these just words out of your mouth, or do you really mean it?” 

Second, be prepared to fail. The only way you can get somewhere meaningful, the only way you’re going to get your dream, to your goal, is through the door of failure. There are no back doors here. But if it’s a goal worth achieving, hang on in there and never give up. 

Why do you think failure is so important?

We learn so much more from our failure than our victories; it’s how we grow. We have to be able to show people it’s ok to fail — that the failure is only failure when we give up. 

I remember failing SAS selection the first time around. I learned so much from that experience — most of all to get back on my feet, to learn from what went wrong, to get better and to retry. As leaders, we need to show this in practice and reward those who keep on trying and improving, regardless of the outcome. The key to success is always resilience. 

Why is your new venture, BecomingX, so important to you?

BecomingX is about helping people to understand what it takes to succeed in life and giving them the confidence and skills to follow their dreams. It’s about helping people to realise their potential. 

We’ve made some incredible films with some of the most inspirational and iconic people alive and they all speak to the importance of tenacity, courage, kindness, humility and building winning teams. None of these attributes are consistently taught in schools and rarely even in businesses. If we can help millions of people to understand what it really takes to succeed and get out there and achieve their goals effectively, the world is going to be a better place for everyone.