A Conversation with ‘Survivor: Winners at War’s’ Adam Klein

Adam Klein returns to Survivor for the highly anticipated Survivor: Winners at War season. (Photo property & courtesy of Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment 2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com 

It is a pleasure to welcome one of my favorite Survivor winners, Adam Klein, to Jake’s Take. 

In 2016, Adam Klein became a household name when he competed alongside 19 individuals on the iconic CBS Reality TV show’s thirty-third season: Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.  The long-time super-duper fan was literally in heaven competing on the Emmy-winning show. However, Adam kept a secret from his fellow castaways. He was playing for his mother, Susie, who was battling stage four lung cancer.

Adam Klein faced a roller coaster of a ride during Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. He found a Reward Steal advantage, two hidden immunity idols, won two individual immunity challenges, and helped his tribes win five different challenges. He also made a massive impression on his cast as he became the fifth person in show history to win Survivor unanimously

After Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X’s reunion, Adam became an outspoken advocate for lung cancer research. He also spoke at various events for the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Bank of America, Stand Up to Cancer, and Stanford University, in hopes of teaching his audience to “Live Like Susie.” He also was one of the co-hosts of The Thirst Lounge as he traveled around the world and creating different challenges. 

On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, Adam Klein will live the Survivor superfan’s dream. He will face off against 19 of the show’s legendary winners, such as Ethan Zohn, Danni Boatwright, Parvati Shallow, two-time champion Sandra Diaz-Twine, and the show’s first super-couple: Rob and Amber Marino. Whoever wins Survivor: Winners at War will win the show’s biggest prize: $2 Million.

In this edition of A Conversation, Adam shared about his favorite Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X memory, being selected to compete on Survivor: Winners at War, and talked about his time as a co-host of The Thirst Lounge. 

Jacob Elyachar: Adam, it has been nearly four years since you won Survivor. How did your experience on Survivor change your life? 

Adam Klein: Winning Survivor was my childhood dream, but at 25-years-old, I was too young to rest on that one accomplishment. I am now able to work as a keynote speaker and host, something that I always would have wanted to do but wouldn’t have had the platform to launch from. Survivor, though, has not changed who I am at my core. I believe that in nearly every way, I am the same person with the same values that I was when I went on Survivor. Besides the money I donated when I won, I haven’t even touched my winnings, and have invested it for my future family. I had a great life before Survivor, but winning has allowed me additional opportunities and the financial freedom to pursue my passions without fear.

Jacob Elyachar: What were some of your highlights from Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X that stand out?

Adam Klein: My brother visiting me on the island, and Jay (Starrett) choosing us to join him on the reward, is one of the most incredible things that has ever happened in my life. Since that moment, Jay has been my brother as well, and we ended up living together in Los Angeles for a while. My brother being able to visit meant that he was able to tell my mom everything that was happening on the island, which gives me the comfort that she got to live the experience of Survivor along with us. That love from home energized me for the last eight days of the game and from that moment on, including winning immunity and turning the tides for my alliance from minority to majority at that next pivotal tribal council.

How far will Adam Klein (pictured with Parvati Shallow) go in a Survivor season full of winners? (Photo property and courtesy of CBS Entertainment’s Timothy Kuratek 2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Jacob Elyachar: You will be competing on Survivor: Winners at War. What did it mean to you to be selected to participate in this epic season? 

Adam Klein: I am playing against my childhood heroes! I dreamt of this for so many years, so it’s hard to put into words how surreal this is. I have to keep reminding myself that I am one of them. As cool as playing against them will be, winning against them would be even more momentous, and that is what I intend to do.

Jacob Elyachar: What were some of the challenges that you faced breaking out of the Reality TV community? How did you overcome those obstacles? 

Adam Klein: Being on Reality TV in the social media age means that it is straightforward to find out what people are saying about you – good and bad. Some people will even write directly to you their judgments of you. My motto is intensely ‘live and let live,’ meaning that I support people living life however they so choose, so long as it doesn’t negatively impact someone else’s ability to do the same. But the dark side of reality tv is that some fans choose to pass judgment on others to feel better about their own lives. The way to help prevent these kinds of judgments from weighing too heavily is always to remember that no one watching you on TV knows the real you. They see a condensed, contextless version, so focus on the people that matter in your life.

Jacob Elyachar: You have been an outspoken advocate for lung cancer research and spoke at several high profile companies and organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Stanford University, and Stand Up to Cancer. How do you prepare for these engagements? What messages do you hope that your audience learns from your talks?

Adam Klein: When preparing for a speaking engagement, the first thing I do is find out from the event organizer what the key themes or takeaways are for the event. I have individual stories that I will tell at most engagements, but a story can be assured a thousand different ways depending on what the ultimate message is. To youth groups, I might talk about the importance of finding your tribe, those people that will lift you when you fall and make you secure when you feel weak. At a sales conference, I might talk about how in Survivor, as in life and business, your reputation and relationships matter more than your pitch. And when I speak about lung cancer and my mom, I speak from a place of vulnerability, allow them to see how much of my mom is in me, and how we can fight the disease with the same passion and energy that my mom lived life. I can speak to any audience, and if anyone is interested, they can find more info on my website (www.adamklein.com). 

Jacob Elyachar: You were also an active participant and co-host of the streaming and YouTube channel: The Thirst LoungeCould you please describe this project to my audience? 

Adam Klein: The Thirst Lounge is a lifestyle and poker streaming and YouTube channel that I became a host of back in February for a one year contract. My final project is called the Coin Flip Trip, and it is a travel show based around the idea that a coin flip decides my budget in every new city that I go to. It was one of the coolest (non-Survivor!) things I have ever done, and the episodes are airing now on the Thirst Lounge Travels YouTube channel until the premiere of Survivor: Winners at War.

Jacob Elyachar: Several Survivor players have gone on to compete on The Amazing Race, Big Brotherand The ChallengeIf you had the opportunity to compete on any other shows, what would they be and why? 

Adam Klein: I am super competitive and love the immersive political, social, mental, physical, and psychological challenge that competitive reality TV provides. The show that would be the most fun to be on besides Survivor would be The Mole, which has not been on the air since 2008, so that seems unlikely. Maybe it needs a reboot and a new host?! 

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with aspiring Survivor fans who want to compete on the CBS show, what advice would you share with them? 

Adam Klein: When making your audition video, how you tell your story is much more important than the words you say. It can be tough, but you need to be simultaneously unscripted, speak in complete sentences, and full of your unique personality. What you say is far less critical than how you say it. Ultimately, Survivor is looking for storytellers, so if you can’t imagine moments from your audition video being used in a confessional on the show, you are making it hard for casting to put you there. Once you get on, focus on your relationships – no one has ever won the game without making friends along the way!

 You can connect with Adam on social media. Visit his Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter channels.


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