Man vs maggots

Maggots don't top many people's culinary hit lists, but when Bear Grylls called for audience volunteers for a taste test during his Australian stage show, he had thousands putting up their hands.

And contrary to popular belief, maggots and most other 'foodstuffs' found in the wild don't taste like chicken.

Grylls has recently graced stages in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney with his Man vs Wild stage show. It's his second round of performances, many of the others selling out, such is the appeal of this SAS soldier turned TV adventurer and head Scout.

He talks to Executive Style about leadership, parenting three boys, and what it takes to make it in the bush.

What is the most important skill when you are leading a team of people in an inhospitable environment?

A lack of ego. Good team work, I always think, is about being a friend to people when it matters. In the wild you have so many of those moments where somebody is struggling or you are struggling. I think a lack of ego and being able to be honest with each other and look after each other in those difficult moments is what makes a strong team. When you're vulnerable with people you create a bond and where there's a bond there's strength.

Can any of these traits be used in the corporate world?

I do so many corporate talks for businesses. I just talk about how I manage risk and how I approach big tasks and the principles are the same. The wild rewards total commitment, and so does life, and so does business. I talk a lot about giving that little bit extra in the big moments, and when it's tough it's time to shine. This isn't rocket science, these are such simple things that have helped me in my life.

Is there a defining characteristic that marks survivors apart from those that don't come through?


I think calm in the storm is an important one, being able to be cool in those big moments. I think cheerfulness in adversity, which is one of the founding principles of Scouts, but is such an important one. But ultimately it's about never giving up. That's the golden one, but it's a golden one that people forget.

What's been your most memorable experience to date?

Being dad to three cool kids and still married to the girl I love. Those are the lasting things, the rest is my work and it's the fluff again. I love it though, I love my work and I feel super privileged to do a job that I love. But the family stuff is the lasting stuff.

[in terms of work] I think Everest was a big life changing time for us, we lost four climbers there and it was definitely a life defining moment I think. Passing all the Special Forces selection was a big moment in my life and gave me a confidence at a young age [21] that I didn't necessarily have. I think six seasons of Man vs Wild has been defining in that it has changed my life in a way that I never aspired to.

Was it the experience at Everest that helped form your philosophy on life?

I broke my back in a freefall accident when I was in the military before Everest. I so nearly was paralysed and was in military rehabilitation for 18 months unable to move. Sometimes in life it takes a real knock to make you realise what you really value. I think what that taught me is you get one life, if you're lucky enough to get a second chance you've got to not squander it, and you've got to live life boldly, be grateful and give it that total commitment.

Given you put yourself in some high risk situations for your job, are you an extra cautious parent?

We operate a pretty loose health and safety policy at our house with three boys. At the same time, of course, I want them to be safe. I try and let them think for themselves a bit and learn about risk and learn about responsibly. Rather than do everything for them when we're climbing I'll get them to beley me up some rock face so they're the person on the end of the rope with my life in their hands. We watch them and manage them and teach them and help them. You give kids responsibility and they thrive.

Do you really ask audience members to eat maggots during your stage show? What do they taste like?

We've done that. I always say grab us some grubs or maggots. I tell you what, I could do it with a thousand people on stage each night. We do it with one and it's fun.

Nothing in the wild taste likes like chicken. I don't know why survival experts always go on about things tasting like chicken. They taste terrible.

What is the most dreadful tasting thing you have ever eaten? How does vegemite compare?

Probably raw goats testicles. That was with the Berber tribesman in the Sahara. It was a particularly large set of testicles. They melt into your mouth into everything you hope it won't melt into.

I quite like vegemite actually. I think Brits get the vegemite thing.

You end your stage show with a musical number. What role does music play in your life?

I have to get bullied into it [performing at the end of the show]. I preface it with "I do this with my family". But it is fun. I play the guitar and piano quite a lot when I'm at home and on expeditions, it's always been part of that. I love it, it is one of the things I do to relax. I do a lot of yoga to relax and I play music to relax. But as I said, it's not brilliant, it's just fun. For us it rounds off the evening where people have got to know the person rather than the hero.

What is your next big challenge?

We start filming in a couple of weeks so we're back into it all. Back into one of the great desert wildernesses of America.

A word on … cybercrime

I was a victim of cybercrime and there are over a million people every day who of victims of cybercrime. I always pride myself on going into the wild well prepared but actually got caught out here. We had our website hacked, the whole thing went down, a guy just put his picture up there and said 'I'm your number one fan so sort your security out'. Luckily it was not a malicious one. Like the wild does sometimes, comes along and nips you in the backside and gives you a reminder you've got to be prepared.

Bear Grylls is a spokesperson for Norton in the US.

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