09/14/2011 10:41 EDT | Updated 11/13/2011 05:12 EST

Survivorman Les Stroud On Mentorship, Survival And Giving Back


If we're lucky, we have a mentor at some point in our lives. It can be our parents, who guide us throughout our lives; a favourite teacher who tells us to never give up, a business colleague who shows us the industry ropes, or a mentor we've never met: a favourite athlete, celebrity, leader or activist who inspires us to be our best.

'Survivorman' Les Stroud is one of those latter mentors. Stroud is participating in 'Room For Thought' an initiative from American Express Canada that aims to help contest participants bring their big ideas to life with the help of celebrity mentors, including including Metric lead singer Emily Haines and Marc and Craig Kielburger of Free The Children.

The Huffington Post Canada Living had the opportunity to speak to Stroud about his thoughts on mentoring, the value of travelling and adventure and how he survives solo.

For the contest, your focus is on travel and adventure. Why is this so important to you and what keeps you interested?

Well it’s a big world and it’s a small world. And the more you get out and discover it, the more you realize how small It is. Within the next 36 hours, if we left right now and everything worked out for us, I could have you in the middle of a jungle in the Amazon, with people who live like the Stoneage. My greatest joy is connecting with people around the world and adventure does that. When you think adventure you think white water and rapids, canoes and climbing a mountain, it is this but it’s also about the people you are with and meet along the way.

What are some tips you would give to people who currently have big ideas focused on adventure and survival?

I’ve always combined all of my adventures with my filmmaking, I actually am a mentor now to a couple of individuals who are filmmakers, and at that level I always say the same thing, what you’re doing has to come from your heart first.

If people want to simply do a variation of what already exists because they think it’d be cool, make some money and make them famous, then count me out. But if people want to fill in a void, or be part of a niche solution or literally they have an outpouring passion for a certain thing, this is different.

In a lot of your adventures you trek out on your own, do you like being alone?

No, I hate being on my own, I’m always very lonely, certainly in the Survivorman episodes. I was fortunate to be able [however] to do a film series based on being with people. I can be alone, I’m comfortable in my own skin, and I have no problem in dealing with my own inner thought, but I love people.

Did you ever have mentors?

I didn’t have mentors, but that’s the whole point: it was very difficult for me to get to where I got. I had to mentor myself -- that’s not fun and it’s not the way to do it, it takes up so much time.

For me, my mentors were pulled from just what I read, or whoever I listened to. It was all piecemeal mentorship, here and there, listening to good advice wherever I can get it.

What do you think makes a good mentor?

The idea of being a good mentor needs to be centered around the willingness to look a little deeper into the mentee, into what it is they truly want to accomplish, what they truly want to achieve or do and what they truly want to create.

In an ideal world, if you could have anyone as a mentor, who would it be?

I don’t know that I can ever settle on one mentor, but then I don’t merely settle on one thing even in my life, my life is always full of variety. I have always enjoyed the work of Bill Mason as a filmmaker. He passed away now and he did a lot of the things that I aspired to do.

I think the mentors that I would want now would be people who really make a big difference and not just high achievers or award winners.