Meet Joel Graves: Expert Survival Instructor
Former EOD Naval Special Warfare and Co-founder of American Survival Co.
1. What was your background before American Survival Co.?
I’m a 10-year combat veteran. I served in the Navy’s elite bomb squad known as E.O.D. It was an honor to serve alongside the bravest warriors our country has to offer and a privilege to be part of such an important mission. Today, I’m retired from the Navy and have a loving wife, a young daughter and son. I’m glad to be alive and living the American dream.
2. What are you passionate about?
Nature’s bounty has always been fascinating to me. I have an isatiable appetite for learning and enjoy studying history. I am constantly trying to learn from those who have gone before us. Many of the skills I learn and teach connect both of those passions, which is gratifying. Learning these things gives you a great sense of respect for our forefathers and even those who were here long before them. It’s also impossible to not be in awe of the natural world and respect it.
3. What are some of the lessons you have learned from your experience and adventures?
When I was young, I didn’t listen to my instincts. As I’ve matured and become more aware that I am not bulletproof, I realize there is a lot of value in instincts. There is also this yin and yang that should come with doing the sort of things that myself and my teammates had to do. I used to not appreciate the importance of being bold and humble, and didn’t think they could even exist together. But the older I get, that humbleness actually makes the boldness or bravery that much more brave. Being humble is respecting the danger and being bold or brave is accepting it anyway. You respect what could happen, not approach risk with an “it won’t happen to me” attitude. Just about any close call I have had, I survived with faith, willpower, the right mindset, a never-quit attitude, and the blood, sweat and tears of my brothers in arms.
4. From Naval Special Warfare to Survival Instructor, Why the Change?
I observed the Afghan people quite a bit during my tours there. They had nothing, but they also survived with very little. I often thought about how far we in America have strayed from that rebel spirit of self reliance. The locals I observed in Afghanistan, generally worked ten times harder than most Americans would dream of and didn’t need any outside entities to meet their basic needs. I saw first hand the freedom and value in that. We may never have to live like that, but could you if you had to? Many Americans not only lack the skills, but the grit to live life that way and would probably give up if they had to. That is sad. We’ve become too soft and
Most would look down on third-world conditions, but the truth is there is beauty in a simplified life as well. We are lucky to still have wilderness areas to enjoy. A lot of people don’t get out their enough, because they’re not confident in their skills. I love helping people build that confidence as they discover new hobbies. My passion for teaching really comes from those experiences and just an overall understanding that it can be dangerous for a society to completely lose these skills.
5. What’s the best advice you have received?
I have been given a lot of great advice in my time. It just took me some time to realize it was good advice.
“Keep your head on a swivel” (thanks Dad!)
“Never stop dreaming” (Grandpa, you never have and it’s inspiring)
“Mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter” (another great one from my dad. It was my mantra making it through training and some of the more grueling missions )
“You can do anything you set your mind too” (that one is from my Mom)
6. If you could go back and give yourself any advice what would it be?
I would say keep working just as hard, but play a little less harder and save some more of that money your earning.Treat your buddies like the heroes they are and are going to be. I also would tell myself to go back even further and tell high school Joel to hang out with grandpa and grandma a lot more and actually learn some of the stuff they’re trying to teach you.
7. What’s the latest book you’ve read that you would recommend?
I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. As per the survival genre, there a so many great ones.
Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills by John and Geri McPherson.
One of my favorite’s just on the illusive skill of bowdrill friction fire, “Secrets of Bowdrill Success” by Julie Martin
I have seen lots of literature on the subject, but i think that book is a masterpiece on it!
“Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why” by Lawrence Gonzalez.