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Bear Grylls survives new book

By Mike Ayers, Special to CNN
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Wed May 9, 2012
Bear Grylls has a new book out and a series of commercials.
Bear Grylls has a new book out and a series of commercials.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Survivalist Bear Grylls has released his autobiography
  • He is best known for hosting the series "Man vs. Wild"
  • Grylls said he's working on some new upcoming shows

(CNN) -- Best known for hosting Discovery Channel's enormously popular series "Man vs. Wild," British extreme adventurist Bear Grylls recently released his autobiography, "Mud, Sweat & Tears."

The book is essentially the story of how Grylls became the grub eating, naturalist risk taker that has captivated a global audience. The chapters are short and punchy; rarely do they go over three pages and Grylls opens up about his formative years growing up on the Isle of Wight, his time spent at boarding schools and in the SAS (the British Special Air Service), his inabilities to woo girls and his recovery from a parachuting accident that left his back broken.

Earlier this year, Grylls and Discovery failed to come to contract agreements, so at the moment he's currently searching for a new television project. Meanwhile he's enjoying a bit of success for his appearances in a series of Degree deodorant commercials.

CNN recently spoke with Grylls in New York as he was preparing for a book signing.

CNN: Everyone knows about the extreme conditions you put yourself through. Do you write in extreme conditions?

Grylls: No, I didn't want to be away filming, then get home and be a dad and be writing. So I made a rule: I would only write on flights. And I had a load of those. Maybe 18 months on a plane. So I didn't write at home; I need every sense and focus when I'm there.

CNN: But it was at a high altitude, just a little more contained.

Grylls: (Laughs) Yeah. When you're out there, you need every sense of your body working for you. That's why I'm always exhausted at the end of those days. You don't have time for anything like that.

CNN: At this point for you, which is harder for you: surviving a publisher deadline or surviving deadly conditions?

Grylls: Well, the deadlines aren't going to kill you. I don't adhere strictly to deadlines -- writing ones. It's always going to be delayed because stuff takes longer ... I always figure no rush. I take the deadly deadlines more serious than the publisher's deadlines.

CNN: The first third of the book, you discuss your formative years. You seem like a pretty well-adjusted guy. No rebellious drug phase or dark Goth phase.

Grylls: I think there was more stumbling than that, but I was focused. I found at a young age that I could do well at what I loved.

CNN: In the early chapters, it becomes evident that you're not self-conscious about your body. In fact, you seem to generally okay with getting naked.

Grylls: Yeah, I grew up on an island so for me, I was always running around naked. Still am when I'm around good friends. I loved it in my workouts in the morning, at dawn, without any clothes on, doing pull ups on the bar. I loved that. Obviously on the show, you're always getting naked diving in the water, but the truth is, however many days of filming, I'm going to get my skivvs off and have a wash.

But they always film that and that's out of my control. I'm usually naked for about 3 minutes over four days, but that happens to be 3 minutes of the show. It's a little bit harsh, but when I'm relaxed and with friends and stuff, I'm always skinny dipping in the sea. I love all of that.

CNN: You also detail your time spent in the SAS and British Army -- did you identify more with the idea behind the SAS or more of the physical aspects of it?

Grylls: I always loved the ethos there. The regiment of character of the individual. There was something I loved about that. You could be a scruff, but everybody was encouraged to have peers and you've got be able to laugh at yourself and work under pressure with each other and not have an ego. Those sort of things mattered. The unofficial motto is the "the regiment, the misfits working together."

CNN: You discuss the parachuting accident that you had where you broke your back. Were you classified as depressed during that time?

Grylls: People said you must've been positive to go through a broken back but the truth was it wasn't like that. It was a very dark time with struggle and doubt. I think the hard thing for me was not knowing. None of the doctors could tell me if I would walk properly again or climb properly again. I realized I could determine what was best for me and that's why I chose (to climb) Mount Everest as the goal. People looked at me like I was crazy, but the staff at the rehab center knew the power of a dream and having a focus like that.

CNN: Watching your shows and reading your book, there's the idea that you don't need a lot of modern technology to live. What are your thoughts on that? Are we too reliant on technology these days?

Grylls: Technology is great; it allows me to communicate with my family when I'm in remote areas. But the downside is that it disempowers people to display skills that without technology they could depend on for their life. So I think the key is to still having those skills, but using technology to help you.

You always got to plan for the worst and hope for the best. If the GPS isn't going to work, if the lifeboat isn't going to work, you still got to know how to navigate across the mountains, across the bridges. Skills like that are very natural and basic to learn. It'll surprise you. I've taken people out who have more money than the world and they start smiling when they make their own fire. It's deep inside thousands and thousands of years in our psyche. It's the best free entertainment you can get. It's the natural world. Technology is great but it's never going to be as much fun as creating something out of nothing.

CNN: Are you working on any shows for this year or next?

Grylls: Yeah, well we're kind of offers and ideas coming in at the moment. We're just trying to be smart and wise. Definitely making programs that are about adventure and empowering people. That's been the driving force for me in the TV side of my life.

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