Interview

An Interview with America’s Adventure Coach

What is your favorite adventure?

If you were asking about traditional adventures, I would say my favorite was flying a motorless sailplane for an entire day along the Appalachian ridge. I flew about 250 miles, from the center of Pennsylvania towards the northern border with New York and South to the border with Maryland, then back to the center of the state, to land where I started. I was towed aloft by a powered tow plane in about six minutes and then soared around the state for about 6 hours on naturally rising air.

As far as everyday adventures, which is the sole focus of my new book, one favorite happened recently at a local nature preserve. A friend and I were looking through a cage at barn owls being rehabilitated at the center. As we watched these gorgeous birds, we heard a strange and faint scraping sound and low and behold right in front of our eyes was a paper wasp, munching away at the wood dowels that made up the birdcage. The bars had a number of little grooves dug in them, all dug by the wasps. They use the wood pulp to make their papery hives. It was magical to discover something literally right in front of our noses, that we would have missed if we remained focused solely on our destination. That’s the whole point of “A New Adventure Every Day,” there are so many adventures right under our noses that we miss because we are focused on something that we think is the target.

What is your least favorite adventure?

As far as traditional adventures, I was bicycling in Laos and got really sick with a high fever. I got into bed to sleep it off and thought for a minute that either I had a basic virus or maybe malaria or something that might actually prevent me from waking up the next morning.

From the everyday perspective, my least favorite adventures are the ones where I don’t get what I want or when I experience failure. It takes discipline to generate an adventurous spirit when the chips are down. It can be a great challenge to find new possibilities when things don’t go the way I planned. And although these are not my favorite adventures, they are often really great. When you’ve lost the game and can still create adventure, that’s when you have really created magic. It’s more than just optimism…it’s the ability to seek adventure regardless of the circumstances. I hope that people will find this much easier to do after reading “A New Adventure Every Day.”

Were you always adventurous?

I would say that I started to be most adventurous in 1993, when I walked away from my family business. My grandfather co-founded Archie comics. I spent nine years working for my dad who now owns the company, learning everything about Betty and Veronica and the business that would one day be mine. But in 1993 I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life so I resigned as future Principal of Riverdale High. I walked away from my inheritance and a certain financial future. And I had no ownership or trust fund or even a severance package. I just left.

To walk away from a secure financial future in favor of quality of life was perhaps the most frightening thing I have ever done, and it was really the beginning of the period of my life that lead to the publication of “A New Adventure Every Day.”

What makes an everyday activity an adventure?

It’s purely a matter of perspective and the way that we relate to our lives. For example, a lot of my adventures happen while walking through parking lots to and from my car, something we all do countless times each week. You can either keep your head down and remain invisible on the trip or you can open yourself up to life all around you. It’s entirely up to you to take responsibility for your own adventurous life.

Just recently I returned to my car with my groceries outside the supermarket and noticed a couple sitting in the back of a Honda Civic, seemingly eating dinner.

“Do you eat at this restaurant often,” I asked?

The man smiled and rolled down his window to say it was one of their favorites.

“Do you change the scenery outside your restaurant by parking at different places before you climb into the back?”

“Mostly, we just park here and enjoy the mini vacation,” he replied.

I wished him a wonderful meal as I left, certain that these are the kind of little relationship adventures that most people miss. Anyone might have walked through that same parking lot and had a totally different and perhaps completely non-adventurous experience.

How did you come to write this book, “A New Adventure Every Day?”

In the summer of 2000, I launched one of my most ambitious adventures. I sold my home and most of what I owned to head to Europe and travel by bicycle. I had a cell phone and laptop so I could coach clients from the road and I was prepared to stay out there indefinitely.

After five months, I found myself asking people where to find the best scenery their country had to offer. I suddenly realized that I had been asking this same question throughout the trip, in four different countries, and that the answers seldom made any difference. I was having just as much adventurous fun stuck in a drab youth hostel on a rainy day as I was while riding down the coast of France. It occurred to me that I was chasing an illusion that there was a best place to be, when in reality I was creating adventure everywhere I went. So I ended the trip and came back to Connecticut to write a book that would show other people how to find adventure without selling everything and leaving town.

Have you tried all the adventures listed in “A New Adventure Every Day?”

I haven’t done #7 and # 57. Seven invites the reader to make their bathroom mirror into a window of adventure, by drawing the cockpit of an old airplane with a grease pencil so they can see their face peering down the runway before takeoff. And fifty-seven suggests that people buy thrift store stuffed animals, make parachutes out of rags, and hang them in trees on the front lawn so it looks like a squadron of furry paratroopers have landed. Unfortunately, my landlord didn’t want me to field-test this one.

But I have done all the other 539, including # 280 and # 289. You’ll have to read the book to find out what they are. All I can tell you is that both are body adventures and one involves your underwear.

Can you have adventures by yourself, or must you be with other people?

About half of the book features adventures that can be done alone, from admiring the architecture of clouds through your office window to a trip to the supermarket to purchase a new spice that makes your tongue feel like it has finally arrived. The other half of the book involves adventures with other people. Some are with family; others with strangers and the rest are with the same old boring people who have been in your life all along. But the book shows you how to relate to them in a new and adventurous way.

What characteristics make the best adventures?

When you take a repetitive, boring and mundane task with a completely predictable outcome and find something novel that has actually been in the background all along, that discovery is the best kind of adventure. Anyone can go on vacation or perhaps even save up enough money for a safari. But when you can go on safari on your drive to the office, particularly after traveling the same route a hundred times, then you are really adventurous. And once you can find adventure on that drive to work, you start to find adventures in all kinds of unexpected places. It takes a shift in attitude and a new focus on the journey, not the destination.

How can you make each part of everyday life more exciting?

Wake up with a willingness to discover something new today, with no expectation of where that discovery will occur. It starts by trying a new breakfast cereal and ends with an experiment to see if you better recall your dreams by switching the bedding 180 degrees. Spend a good night’s sleep discovering the perspective formerly held by your feet and you never know what might occur.

Everyday discoveries are endless, once you begin to seek them in everything you do.

What is Adventure Coaching?

There is a childlike adventurer in all of us and in too many cases, that adventurer died a long time ago. My job is to help people get back in touch with that spirit. Many people are cruising through their lives full of cynicism and resignation. As kids, they lived as if life was full of pure possibility. My primary role as adventure coach is to remind people that they have a choice in terms of how they react to the circumstances of their lives.

What kind of people hire you as their coach?

In general, I work with three types of people:

  • People in career transition, who want their next job to be a glorious adventure.
  • People who are unhappy and who want to re-design their lives to be fun and adventurous.
  • People who want more freedom and to be more courageous in all areas of their lives.

Can you give some specific examples?

A lot of clients come to me with a very specific vision of a destination…a perfect leadership role in a company, a idyllic setting at home, the ideal salary, a perfect family dynamic. We work to refocus on the quality of the journey and not the destination. I am thinking of one client who was determined to sell his downtown apartment to buy the perfect two family house, with a tenant who would pay the mortgage, and ample property for a woodshop, a place to keep bees and a garden. He was so driven to create this home life that it was causing stress.

We worked together to find all the ingredients of that paradise right now, in his existing life. I encouraged him to sign up for a woodworking course, join a community gardening project, visit a neighbor to help them tend their bees and to drive out of town to enjoy his breakfast in a pastoral setting. He’s still moving toward his original vision, but with a different attitude. After a recent session he said, “this is about finding adventure in the life I already have, instead of hoping there’s an answer out there that will solve all my problems.”

What credentials do you need to be an adventure coach?

The International Coach Federation governs the coaching profession and they have awarded me Master Certified Coach status, their highest designation. In 1998, I was one of the first coaches in the world to be certified at this level. The certification was based on the varied training programs I had completed, the amount of coaching hours given since I started coaching (in 1995) and the many testimonials I provided from clients that describe the difference coaching made in their lives. Today there are about 5000 coaches throughout the world. As far as I know, I am the only adventure coach.

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