Book Reviews

A Survival Guide for Life – Book Review

A Survival Guide for Life – Book Review

As I prepare for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run in six days my training has tilted from physical training to mental preparation. Like most of us I don’t have a sports psychologist or mental coach on my staff, in fact I don’t even have a staff. So my mental preparation normally turns to a book I can lose myself in for a few days and one that shares a story of overcoming adversity or reminds me of how important the right mental attitude will be for my success. After reading Bear’s previous book Mud, Sweat and Tears I wrote in my review, “If you haven’t already or if you’re a fan of Bear Grylls or not, I highly recommend reading this book. Especially during that last week when you’re tapering for your first or next 100 mile trail ultra and need that extra mental boost to see you through to the end.”. With that in mind the timing was perfect to start reading Bear’s most recent offering, A Survival Guide for Life – How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character.

About the Book

A Survival Guide for Life consists of 75 short, independent chapters of 2-3 pages on average. When I say “independent” I refer to the fact this book is not written like a novel where the story flows from beginning to end, instead each chapter is a completely separate thought or idea so it’s easy to sit the book down and come back to it at a later time or skip around the chapters to read topics that sound most interesting to you. I personally kept the book within reach during the day and would read 1-2 chapters whenever I could steal a few minutes away from the rest of my life.

While I’ll say right up front I think the title A Survival Guide for Life – How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character is stretch. I found the contents nothing like I would expect from “A Survival Guide to Life” and to cover “How to Achieve Your Goals, Thrive in Adversity, and Grow in Character” in 75 short ideas of 2-3 pages each doesn’t give the reader enough detail on any one of these three topics to provide a monumental turn around of your current situation.

The main theme throughout the book is about attitudes of the mind being the key to success. Bear skillfully explains each thought or idea with real life examples based on his own adventures. What I found interesting and refreshing that I haven’t found in other self-help motivation books is Bear also has a realistic grasp on the physical side of reaching your goals by including a few short chapters like “Fuel well, train regularly” and “The will to win means nothing without the will to train”.

Examples of What You’ll Read

I’m sure it’s just my current frame of mind and the fact I’m totally consumed with thoughts of my upcoming 100 mile run but I interpreted every chapter as though it was written specifically with ultra trail runners in mind. Here are a few examples:

  • Chapter 11. There is no education like adversity. Bear uses a quote by Churchill to highlight this and expands it by saying “He knew that it’s when times are tough, when conditions are at their worst, that we learn what we are truly capable of.” and “if you find a road without obstacles, I can promise you it doesn’t lead anywhere worthwhile”. I hope I remember this about mile 70 of my run.
  • Chapter 23. Honour the journey, not the destination. This is one of my favorite things to tell aspiring ultra trail runners and I truly believe it. Bear states it perfectly at the end of this chapter by saying “You see, it is the journey that makes the man. And life is all about our growth, not our trophies.” I couldn’t agree more!
  • Chapter 30. Storms make you stronger. After several examples of how struggles reveal what we’re really made of Bear concludes with “…don’t shy away from the hard times, they are your chance to shine”.
  • Chapter 44. Let the mountain give you strength. Just the title of the chapter makes it sound like it was written for ultra trail runners and it’s one of my favorite passages in the book. I can’t do it justice without copying the entire two pages but the summary goes like this, “Inside every challenge, high on every mountain, is the opportunity to find a strength within us to survive and thrive. It just takes us to be willing to dig deep and push on hard enough and long enough to find that strength.”



You get the idea.

I think no matter why you’re seeking motivational help you’ll apply each of the chapters in A Survival Guide for Life to fit your own individual needs.

My Final Thoughts

I found the content in A Survival Guide for Life to be motivational and just what I was looking for when I started reading it. There was nothing new or cutting edge about Bear’s words but that’s not the point, the point is at one time or another we can all use a reminder for things we already know but so easily forget or overlook, A Survival Guide for Life is doing just that for me. I’m keeping my copy of A Survival Guide for Life on the bookshelf with my running books, because of the short chapter format of A Survival Guide for Life it’s a book to keep and reread or skim from chapter to chapter as needed.







Win a Free Copy

Simply leave a reply below before midnight on July 28, 2013 and we’ll select a random winner to receive a free copy of Bear Grylls latest book A Survival Guide for Life. Be sure to provide an accurate email address so we can contact you if you win. (Emails will be deleted at the end of the giveaway and not used for any other purposes.)


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This post was written by:

- who has written 22 posts on Trail Running Club.


John is a former VP of Operations for Go Daddy Group, Inc. The largest domain name seller and hosting provider in the world. John currently consults with clients on their internet marketing strategies and manages client website projects from conception to completion.

Born and raised in a small eastern Iowa town John received his BBA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa before escaping the cold winters for Arizona over 17 years ago.

John has completed several trail races and runs including:
• Black Canyon Trail 100K Endurance Run
• Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run
• Adrenaline 65K Night Run
• Rim to Rim to Rim - Grand Canyon 48 mile
• Javelina Jundred 100K
• Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run
• Javelina Jundred 100 mile
• Man Against Horse 50 mile
• Flagstaff Trail Marathon
• Mesquite Canyon 50K
• Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run
• Just Another Mad Dog 50K



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10 Responses

  1. linda lewis says:

    good review! I’ll add this to my list of books to pick up. Thanks!

  2. Gladys Rionda says:

    Great review! Haven’t heard of this book before, and was just starting to look for something to read next. This may be just what I need to help my mind while I recover from my injury!! :)

  3. trish says:

    I can see why Chapter 44 was your favorite! Also, it’s really nice to have books that you can pick up and put down easily. I’m more inclined to read it that way if I feel like I can catch quick snatches here and there.

    Thanks for being on the tour! Have a great time on your 100 mile trail run!

  4. Jorge says:

    Many times before a race starts I like you read adventure stories or something related to Endurance, it gives my brain a jump start

  5. I think it is a real strength of this book that each person can find inspiration for continuing toward their own specific goals in Bear’s words. I’m glad that it helped you in your mental preparation. Hopefully it gives you that push you need to complete your run!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  6. Great review- I am looking forward to reading this!

  7. Julie says:

    Great review John, it definitely makes me want to check out his books! I just love this: “…don’t shy away from the hard times, they are your chance to shine”. It made me think of the last 6 miles of my 50K in the pouring cold rain with a very bad cold. We ran so hard and just flew and I managed to keep ahead of the 3rd place woman. I learned that lesson that day!

  8. Eric says:

    As an expat living overseas (without satellite TV), I only barely (bearly?) know who this guy is. But I appreciate the review and hope to glean from this book as I prepare for and participate in my first 50km race in September!

  9. Marc T says:

    Nice review, John. Bear Grylls is certainly one person who has experienced some intense adversity. I am eager to add this book to my reading list and hopefully get through it before MOG100.

  10. Ryan Bastman says:

    Great review! I love the theme here and plan to pick this book up. Thanks John!

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