Doc Klein is a great example of a lifelong learner. In fact, he’s starting a new adventure well in his 50s. Based on his Outward Bound experiences, he’s just published a new book, 12 Life-Giving Habits for Life After Outward Bound, and is launching a new venture, 12 Life-Giving Habits. Plus he continues to document life lessons in his visual poetry, which is regularly featured on I Start Wondering. Therefore, we wanted to learn a bit more about Doc and his journey. He graciously took time out to answer our questions.
I got started in the outdoor world at an early age, working at summer camps and eventually Outward Bound. These experiences were deeply transforming to me as I was a quirky kid looking for places to belong that honored who I was. This is my 35th year at Outward Bound (OB), a school that is dedicated to helping people thrive and flourish and serve their communities through wilderness adventures.
I left Outward Bound full time in 1997 and started a consulting company designed to help address social inequities such as health disparities, the education gap, income disparities, and environmental issues. In 2008 I read a book by Stephen Levine entitled A Year to Live and chose to practice living as if I only had a year to live. In that year I climbed 50 technical mountains with 50 friends for my 50 birthday, taking two weeks off every month for twelve months. Had an amazing year for sure. At the end of the year I got a rare heart virus and almost died. Spent two years recovering and eventually started a new business focused on helping people have an amazing year.
How have your Outward Bound experiences informed your life?
I showed up at Outward Bound as a 21-year-young man with much to learn, but full of vim and vigor. It didn’t take long for me to discover humility, but also an amazing support system that really helped me grow into a compassionate caring man. The expectation in this working community is that we would all be willing to test assumptions about ourselves and our beliefs and each course was a mirror held up to reflect back to us our strengths and vulnerabilities. It continues to be a powerful learning lab for me as I circle back to work with alumni.
How did you start creating compositions that marry poetry and graphics?
About 25 years ago, I attended a poetry slam in Asheville, NC. It really rocked my world how powerful the spoken word could be. While I participated in a few slams, I experimented with poetry in my working environments, with the inspiration of David Whyte to guide me. Eventually I would offer photo-poetry as gifts to clients at the end of workshops. They were often deeply moved that I could capture the essence of what was important to our experiences through image and prose. Nowadays I write a photo-poem every day to capture the essence of each day of my own amazing year practice.
You seem to be embarking on another adventure in life. What is it going to be?
Through my new book 12 Life-Giving Habits for Life After Outward Bound, I hope to work with the 20,000 annual graduates to help them experience an Amazing Year using their OB course as a springboard for this experience. The aim is to help guide the graduates through a process of Awareness, Intention, Action and Reflection over the course of the year. I am truly excited about this work because it marries my love of outdoor adventure and the natural world with personal growth work that can potentially have a huge impact in our communities.
What prompted this adventure?
I had an injury while climbing in the desert last spring, where I crawled out three miles after my quad tendon popped. Later I experienced heart failure again and was out the entire summer. Suddenly I had some time on my hands and I had always known I wanted to write so I produced this little book, which suddenly gained momentum due to Outward Bound celebrating their 50th year.
Many people get “stuck” in middle age. What easy steps can help them begin to move forward?
Getting stuck is usually the result of taking on actions that do not align your mind, body, heart, and spirit. We get into routines that help us survive, but not necessarily help us thrive. Surviving only gets us so far in our quest for living a vibrant life.
The trick for me has been two-fold. The first is to interrupt patterns or routines. The second is to develop habits of heart and mind that are truly life-giving. This takes some courage, because it usually it involves saying “no” to somethings in order to say “yes” to others.
What about those people who haven’t done Outward Bound. How can the lessons you share help them learn?
Outward Bound acts as an immersion experience that interrupts patterns and routines. You can create other experiences that do this as well. Some form of immersion experience is necessary, though, because otherwise we tend to intellectualize our Amazing Year Initiative.
Please share anything else you want us go know.
Courage is not something you are born with; it can be developed over time with many small courageous acts or experiments. The courage to say “no” every day to non-life-giving actions is vital in order to make your life amazing. The key filter is whether or not this action you are about to take is truly “life-giving.” This little mantra will guide you through your day with incredible results.