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Say Yes

Bear Grylls remembers what he was doing ten years ago, 3650 days since Mission Everest.

Ten years ago I led an expedition to return to Mount Everest, the mountain I had climbed aged 23, a mountain where I had risked everything and survived — just. I had always held a secret dream to return and attempt to fly over the mountain in a small one-man paramotor – like a paraglider, only with a backpack engine strapped to your body.

At the time, the highest altitude that one had been flown was around 17,000 feet (5,180 metres). But being an enthusiast (and an optimist!), I reckoned we shouldn’t just aim to break the record by a few feet, I thought we should go as high as it was possible to go, and in my mind that meant flying over the height of Mount Everest. This, in turn, meant we needed to build a machine capable of flying to over 29,000 feet (8,840 metres).

Most of the people we spoke to about this thought a) we were crazy, and b) it was technically impossible. What those naysayers hadn’t factored in was the power of yes, and specifically the ability to build a team capable of such a mission. This meant harnessing the brilliance of my good friend Gilo Cardozo, a paramotor engineer, a born enthusiast, and a man who loves to break the rules – and to say yes.

Gilo was – and is – an absolute genius aviation engineer who spends all his time in his factory, designing and testing crazy bits of machinery.

When people told us that our oxygen would freeze up in minus 70°, or that at extreme altitudes we would need such a heavy engine to power the machine that it would be impossible to take off, or that even if we managed to do it, we would break our legs landing at such speed, Gilo’s response was – “Oh, it’ll be great. Leave it with me”.

No matter what the obstacle, no matter what the ‘problem’, Gilo always said, ”We can do this”. And after months in his workshop, he did eventually build the machine that took us above the height of Everest. He beat the naysayers, he built the impossible and by the Grace of God we pulled it off — oh, and in the process, we raised over $2.5 million for children’s charities around the world.

You see, dreams can come true if you stick to them and think big.

So say yes — you never know where it will lead. And there are few limits to how high you just might soar.

An excerpt from Bear Grylls, A survival guide for life.