Feeling Lost? Think "What Would Bear Grylls Do?"

Don’t Panic!

Experts will tell you that the number one reason people die when lost in the woods, jungle or desert is that they PANIC. This is just as true of people capsized from a boat, stuck in the path of a tornado or caught in the perfect storm of a mortgage crisis. Pick your example. If you are anything like me, as a real estate professional, there have been many times over the last year that I have felt alone, stranded and sometimes clueless. As the economy imploded around us, it often became difficult to figure out not how to thrive in these times, but just survive. The regular rules no longer apply when you’re not able to even figure out what game you’re playing.

When the regular rules don’t apply, we are all well-served to consult with people who have come through life threatening, fear-inducing and emotionally paralyzing circumstances. So, this article is about survival – how to stay in the game long enough to figure out your path back to thriving – how to make sure the wild doesn’t win. And who’s better to consult when it comes to survival strategy than the world’s most famous survivor, Bear Grylls?

Who is Bear Grylls?

C’mon! Really? If you have been living under a rock and have no idea of whom I’m writing, Bear Grylls is quite an interesting figure who is best known for his television series Man vs. Wild, shown on the Discovery Channel, and for being one the craziest sons-of-a-gun walking the planet. This man will drink or eat almost anything. After all, you’ve got to get your vitamins! (Pronounced with a short “I” sound and said very, very quickly.)

I came across his show a couple of years ago, purely by accident, and became mesmerized by this guy who seemed to be a real-life MacGyver. He could make a shelter out of leaves and toothpicks, make a raft out of trash and bones and make a meal out of some of the strangest and least appetizing plants and animals that God ever created. I developed a man-crush before the first episode was over and I was absolutely hooked. Bear could and would do anything it took to survive! Bear was, simply put, the Man.

Sure, his program is sensationalized, but it’s still impressive (and repulsive) to see a man gut a sheep, eat its eyeballs, make a water bottle out of its stomach and sleep in its skin. Therefore, not only as a fan of his work, but as deeply invested and committed real estate professional, it occurred to me that my life looks a lot like some of the episodes of Man vs. Wild that I had seen over the last couple of years.

It all got me pondering what Bear would do if he were in my position and how might his rules of survival apply to my life? So, I did some research…meaning that I watched some more television…to catalogue the most persistent rules of survival that Bear preaches. Then, I started looking at my experiences as an entrepreneur to find parallels and determine how much of his training and strategy I could apply to my own life. Here is what I believe he would tell you and me to do:

The Bear “Essentials”

1. Stop and get your bearings.

The first thing to do when you find yourself lost and feeling overwhelmed is to stop and figure out where you are – to the best of your ability. For a mortgage broker, this could mean spending a little extra time in the newspapers and online on the industry inside information sites trying to understand market trends a bit better. For me, it means taking a little extra time talking to my active lenders to hear where they feel like things are in the market.

2. Plan a route back to civilization.

The second thing to do is survey the landscape and chart your best path back to where you want to be. When talking with banks and lenders, ask them where they see the opportunities. Then look at your own practices to determine whether there are some adjustments that you can make to your business model or your marketing plan. Maybe there is a new approach that you can use in your targeted marketing?

3. As soon as you’ve determined your direction, get moving.

Once you have figured out which way you want to go, don’t waste any time – get moving! Standing still doesn’t do you any good and it can waste precious resources such as sunlight, supplies and emotional energy. Using the example of targeted marketing, an imperfect plan executed is going to be better for your bottom line than a perfect plan unexecuted. If you’ve decided to go after the multi-family market, start making some calls and writing some letters – today!

4. Find water and food from any source necessary. Maybe even eat some eyeballs.

You can’t afford to be picky when your alternative may be starvation. Perhaps it’s time to work with Clients that you would normally screen out? Maybe you can find work in another industry as you build your practice back up? Maybe it’s time to partner up with others seeking new opportunities, as well? In any regard, one of the most important rules in the wilderness is to get some nutrition. You’ve got to keep your strength up. You’re not out of the woods yet.

5. Make shelter and fire.

It might take you longer than you hoped to get back to a safe and prosperous place. When you see signs pointing that way, you may have to stop and make yourself shelter and fire so that you can stay warm and plan the next day’s movements. For mortgage professionals, this could mean reconnecting with old friends and joining some networking groups again. Gaining some encouragement, trading some war stories and – more important – some good tips for turning things better could mean the difference between being warmed or freezing out in the cold.

6. Avoid danger as you progress.

The woods are full of predators. It’s possible that there are more dangers lurking than ever before. It’s truly a wild landscape in real estate these days. Watch your step. Study more than you’ve ever studied. Do your best to read the signs further out ahead of your steps. It can be helpful to adopt again the mindset that you may have had when you first started: be curious, be cautious, but be excited again about relearning the pluses and pitfalls of your industry.

7. Master your emotions and try to enjoy a few thrills along your way.

It’s not going to be easy, but you can’t let yourself get down and stay down emotionally. Part of the art of survival is to try to make it a game. If you keep pressing on, each day can have its own small victories and joys. Everyone suffers losses in this business. You’re not unique. But you’ve got to celebrate the small victories to keep yourself in the game for the big wins to come.

For a number of business owners, these are very trying times. However, if you still love your work, you may be looking for ways to stay in as opposed to getting out. If I can be of any encouragement to you, it would be to continue to look for ways to serve customers and solve problems. There is no shortage of problems out there to solve, so the world is still in need of smart, talented and driven people to solve them. In doing so, I am confident that you will find your way out of the woods. When Bear makes it out of the woods, he usually ends the show with a huge shout for joy…a kind of rebel yell. I am looking forward to hearing yours!

Now, I want to hear from you. What are some survival tactics that you’ve used or seen that have worked well? Please email me. I am working on putting together a new guidebook for people like you and I who are always looking for better ways to get more customers. Also, if you ask, I will send you some bonus ideas that might work for you.

Mark Anthony McCray is the Founder of "Live BIG! Die Empty." a movement designed to help people live life more abundantly and walk in the purposes for which they were created. Write or call 832-566-2001 for more information and follow Mark on Twitter at


This is a very informative post. Haven't thought that Bear would be made as a good example of survival skills in the open world. He would surely be proud of this.
Brad Fallon

Thank you, Brad! I'm a big fan of his show and overall approach. He's also built a great brand for himself!

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