All at Once

Happy Tuesday everyone!  January has been an amazing start to 2017 for Badass Backpacks.  Blog subscribers – there’s an important update below.  If you’re skimming, read the last bullet point for a heads up.  With the end of January upon us, I feel compelled to give an update on a few things.

So much happening, all at once:

  • Rusty and I have been thrashing and dancing with the hard work and emotional labor needed on all 3 critical paths:  More bags, Website, and Proving our Model.  We are #wearingallthehats and it’s a lot of fun even when it gets bumpy.  Each and every day isn’t perfect.  But it feels amazing to be showing up every day, pushing Badass Backpacks forward.  Shipping bags still gives me chills.
  • Critical Path #1: Our newest bag production is in motion.  Sample production first, all materials have been cut and sent to the maker, and we’re looking to have our sample production complete before Valentine’s Day.  If all goes according to plan we should start selling this new bag in Spring 2017!  More updates to come.
  • Critical Path #2: Our website is getting an update next week…   Rusty has been working behind the curtain building it.  I haven’t seen it yet, and I won’t see it until it’s live to the world.  Did somebody say, experiment?  This will be fun!
  • Critical Path #3: I’ve been spending the vast majority of my work time in January hammering and chipping away to retool the big picture business plan for Badass Backpacks.  2017 planning sessions have been beautiful, and we’re hoping to make some announcements about growth plans later this year.  Start small.  Fail fast.  Ship more.  One step at a time. 🙂  Most importantly:  more bags to come.
  • Human Dignity and Alternate Facts: Is this my first post since this POTUS was inaugurated?  For public record’s sake, I raise my voice in opposition to the wall.  It’s a disgusting symbol.  And I raise my voice in opposition to the authoritarian and hateful executive order banning entry based on nationality to our country and shutting our doors to refugees.  I raise my voice on these issues, and Badass Backpacks raises our voices together on these issues, because these actions cross a personal line of human dignity and they violate our values.  We choose not to be silent.  #buildbridgesnotwalls  
  • Lastly — Along with the website changes mentioned above, we’ll also be changing this blog over from to its new home:  (happening in the next week or so).  For those of you following me via email, I’ll get you added on the new blog too (no action needed from you), and it will have an unsubscribe link as always in case you need to get us out of your inbox.  For those of you following via RSS, you’ll need to update the feed URL once it changes over (I’ll give you a heads up when).  These next changes to the website and to the blog are just a few more steps in our phased approach, creating a site that will evolve and grow with us.  To all of the followers of this blog, thank you for being a part of the ride!  We’ll continue to use this space to blog behind the scenes updates and random musings about our work with Badass Backpacks.  (And make sure to follow us on Instagram if you don’t already!)

January was jam packed, fast-paced, and full of emotion.  Happy February everyone!  Let’s keep moving.

When Bad Ideas become Good Ideas

I love Austin Kleon’s recent blog post about using a notebook as a safe space to explore bad ideas


Rusty and I have been spinning and thrashing with our to do lists these last few days.  We’re churning and swimming with a lot of new things for Badass Backpacks.  [3 Critical Paths, all at the same time – (1)Making more bags, (2)Website and storytelling, and (3)Proving our business model.]  While that work keeps brewing, I wanted to share the below raw bit of text I found while rummaging through some old notes, and through some of our loquacious lists of ideas and thoughts. 

2013 BFD Notes, Adam & Rusty:  Put Yourself Inside

“… This is an invitation to bring your full self — to think about what you put in your backpack and to ask big questions, questions that start conversations.  A backpack is a vessel, it’s a companion, it’s a part of your everyday style.  The inside story of every backpack is different.  What’s inside your bag?  What will you put inside?  What does it mean to put yourself inside?  We want this bag to be an invitation to think about that, with intention and purpose.  For each journey that we might go on, be intentional/purposeful with what we choose to bring along.  “Sincerity Inside” theme has this great visual of a silhouette “facing the FRONT”.  I like that — facing the front, choosing to be present, conscious, aware and intentional – paying attention to the life that is happening right before us.  While you can’t plan for screen magic, you can certainly be intentional about bringing your full self to the table.  Once again, this is a full-sail invitation to do just that — to put yourself inside. …”

This snippet of text leaps out at me.  It grabs my attention partly for its audacity and vulnerability … but also because of its age.  This was written in 2013 shortly after Rusty had created one of our favorite Badass Backpacks Mantras:  Put Yourself Inside. 

I love watching the persistence of this project.  Slowly, our good ideas are surfacing through the mud… bouncing their way past the muck of our bad ideas, so that they can be a part of who we become.

“…don’t ask where they get their good ideas from, ask where they get their bad ideas from … ”
paraphrasing Seth Godin from the altMBA

Bad Ideas, Good Ideas

When Polar Bears Smile

Huge snow day earlier this week in Portland – here’s a video from the Portland zoo.  Watching polar bears roll around in that snow makes me smile.  Have you ever had one of those moments, when something that seemed to be missing all along, just magically appears out of nowhere?  “Oh man!  This is amazing!  This is it!  This thing that I didn’t even know was missing, but it was, and now it’s here!”  Polar bears smiling.  Such Joy.

For project Oil Spill, there are a few paintings by Eli Halpin that I haven’t yet shared.  Feels like the perfect time to share one more.  Working with Eli’s artwork, I’ve had a chance to pour over these pieces looking closely at every detail.  So for me, watching that video feels inseparable from reflecting on this painting of a polar bear that Eli created for project Oil Spill.  Joy and Sorrow are inseparably linked.  Sometimes polar bears smile.  And sometimes, they don’t.

Original artwork - Polar Bear Oil Spill - by Eli Halpin

Painting – Polar Bear Oil Spill, by Eli Halpin.  Oil on canvas.  This is one of Eli’s pieces that will be featured on an upcoming bag by Badass Backpacks.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
–Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, On Joy and Sorrow

Secret Weapons and Lucid Dreams

Happy New Year everyone!  2016 wrapped up with a bang, and 2017 is well underway for Badass Backpacks.  Rusty and I are enjoying the work to get into motion, and start building our 2017 work habits.  Here was our workspace today.  (That’s a plate of bacon, front and center.)  

During my blogging quiet spell at the end of the year, I had a magical few days all strung together.  Secret weapons at my fingertips just when I needed them, and amazing synchronicity to get the year started.  In December I presented at Rotary in Athens TX, and it was very satisfying that they enjoyed hearing about Badass Backpacks.  One of the members there pointed out that the Rotary gear on their banner is a close match to the gear on the outside flap of Sincerity Inside.  We hadn’t planned for that serendipity – which is why it made us all smile.  Thank you again Rotary Athens for hosting me, for showing up even during the holidays, and for all of the uplifting encouragement to keep moving forward.  With 2017 in motion — that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Earlier this week I was on a brief road trip to Dallas (see Instagram pics) that was inspiring.  I spent some time at the AIESEC US national conference (WNC) on an alumni panel.  During that panel I was sitting alongside AIESEC US Board Member, and Executive VP for Fossil, Eric Anderson.  Am I dreaming?  Thank you Eric for your generosity and your time. 

And then I made my way over to Cut Form, where we experimented with their cutting system on our printed fabric.  It was the perfect way to get the year started:  getting things done, taking more steps on the path to Shipping (with a little help from some secret weapons).

On my drive home, I stopped over in Athens to grab a few quick things that needed to come back with me to Austin.  Like this amazing gift from my Mother – a painting by Cheryl Hicks — it’s a self portrait she did, titled “Lucid Dreaming”.  Cheryl used the pages and words from this book to layer, craft, and create the piece.  Big smile to have this as my companion on the journey back to Austin, and as a piece to muse over during this beautiful starting point to 2017.

Love and Fear
Adam during his Dec 22, 2016 Rotary presentation – Badass Backpacks logo play.

Put Yourself Inside

December has been a magical month.  I’ve been embracing a short window of time to dive right in on some final work this year; and, I’m now officially shifting gears to fully embrace the winter time holidays.  It’s a neat view — looking back at 2016, and looking forward to 2017.  Winter Solstice is tomorrow.  Happy Summertime to our Southern Hemisphere friends ;).

With so much going on, here’s a quick recap for Badass Backpacks as we look to close out the year.  I’ll likely post a few more things here before Jan 1, but starting now, I’m shifting focus to time with my family in Athens TX.  As the New Year rolls around, I’ll try to provide some heads up expectations about changes on the blog.  Rusty and I are as eager as ever to share more about what we’re up to, and we’re very excited about all that’s ahead of us.

  • New bags coming in 2017!  I had intended to share more about our project, code named Oil Spill, before the end of the year.  Time flies.  I’ll smile and simply look forward to sharing more in early 2017.
  • I have the coolest opportunity to present to a local Rotary chapter in Athens TX later this week!  My brother (Aaron Lemmon) is the president of Athens Rotary and I’m so excited to be crafting a special presentation about Badass Backpacks.  If I can grab a photo or two of the presentation I’ll make sure to share … It’s a great opportunity to stretch my legs a bit as 2017 Rusty and I start sharing and presenting more about where Badass Backpacks is, and where we want to go.
  • In early January I’ll be participating in an AIESEC Alumni luncheon and panel in Dallas TX.  Stoked.
  • Year-end wrap up with my most amazing life partner:  Nancy Lemmon.  Nancy and I are planning a beautiful ceremony to close out 2016.  I can’t wait.  I talked a lot at the beginning of 2016 about “possibility”.  It was a beautiful theme for the year.  It inspired and encouraged me.  For 2017, a new theme is emerging.  I’ll have to refine the details — but it’s looking like it will revolve around making bold assertions.  Like this:


We believe that your backpack can be a companion on your journey – we believe that it can remind you to ask big questions.  That it can remind: you can choose to put yourself inside each step of the way.

Bag 24 and Marina in Bolivia Salt Flats

I hope everyone is having a beautiful holiday season and wonderful close to the year.  Huge hugs to everyone here from Badass Backpacks!  Big smile.

More Oil Spill Updates

Our materials bin is growing — we’re close to having all of the materials gathered for building our initial sample bags for project Oil Spill.  One difference for this project is that instead of making 100 bags all using the same artwork (like we did on the First 100 – Sincerity Inside), we’re working with a series of paintings that Eli created during the summer of 2016.  She created 5 paintings in total — each one of them enormous in size.  And each one of them conveys something a little bit different.  We’re working with those 5 paintings to create 4 new bags – arriving in 2017.

  • Blue Herons – see them here
  • Sea Turtles – more coming soon – sneak peek below
  • Polar Bear – sharing soon
  • Walruses – look for some sharing in early 2017

[Don’t forget that you can find Eli and her work online, and if you follow her on Facebook and Instagram you can see where her artwork will be popping up (like this) so that, if you’re in the Austin area, you can check it out in person.  One of the most amazing ways you can support Badass Backpacks is to help us support the artists like Eli who are helping us make such beautiful bags.]  The below snippet I’m sharing is a tiny slice that comes from one of the paintings created for this Oil Spill project – stay tuned on the blog and I’ll zoom out a touch and share more of the painting soon.  For right now, enjoy this close up of some of the oil swirls and amazing colors:

Snippet of Sea Turtles in Oil by Eli Halpin

… they’re going to look badass on a backpack.  🙂

Sample Fabric for Oil Spill project - Badass Backpacks

One Notch Louder Now

Rusty created quite a few online ads recently and we launched our first ever online advertising this week!  There’s a million things we haven’t done… These ads will evolve and we’ll get better as we go.  For now, it had me smiling all week that we simply got them up and running.  

These are fun.  Way to go Rusty!

Holiday Promotion - decorateyourself

Off the Wall Art

Wear it on your sleeve

Happy Friday everyone!

Our HUG, our HUT, and our HUH

I’m hitting the ground running today.  No time to lose.  🙂  Several of you curious kittens have been asking what I’ll be focused on during these first days as I shift to focus more of my time on Badass Backpacks.  🙂  When there’s so much to get done — how will I make sure to focus my time on the right things?  There’s a lot to balance these days … and it starts by focusing on some new habits.

Our HUG, our HUT, and our HUH

We have 3 channels on slack (team collab tool) that I’m going to form a habit using.  Our HUG, our HUT, and our HUH.

“Habits eat good intentions for breakfast”
-Hugh MacLeod (see it here)

Each Monday morning and each Friday afternoon, my plan is to check in on our HUG, our HUT, and our HUH.  The HUG is our “Heads Up Goals”.  These aren’t the big lofty goals that we set at the beginning of the year.  Yes, the big goals are important — but the HUG habit that I want to develop is about a different set of goals.  The goals right in front of us — these are the things that we need to be done with, so that we can keep moving on our Critical Path(s).  Feeling lost in the noise of too much on your plate?  Grab a HUG, and check in on where to focus — getting the right things done, so we can keep moving forward.  With our goals in mind, the HUT is our “Heads Up Task” list.  [altMBA:  embrace the emotional labor, and do the hard part first.]  Our tasks are mostly kept fresh on a daily basis in my sketch book, but I share them with Rusty often, and we’ll use the slack channel to check in frequently to make sure the tasks are clear.  That leaves us with the HUH.  The HUH is our “Heads Up Help” board.  I got this brilliant provocation shared with me from Matthew Carey the other day.   

“Think of the big thing you’re working on right now.
Who’s on the outside that you need to invite in?” – Great Work Provocation

As I had posted recently:  asking for help is a big theme of mine lately, and we’ll experiment a bit with the HUH board.  A place to post thoughts and challenges where we could use some extra help.  We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we will inevitably need to ask a lot of people for their help.

Happy Monday everyone, and cheers to forming new habits.

Badass Backpacks' Slack Board w/Channels

Inspiration Begets Inspiration

Portrait of Adam Lemmon - by Kaiyao Duan - Inspired by Hugh MacLeod

This portrait of me was created by Kaiyao Duan, a colleague of mine at Blackbaud.  Thank you for creating this Kaiyao.  Wow.  Just wow.

Those of you that follow this blog know that I am constantly finding inspiration in the work created by Hugh MacLeod and the team at GapingVoid.  I shared a bit of my love for Hugh’s artwork with my Blackbaud team today during my final team meeting, my last day there.  Kaiyao mentioned to me that he felt that inspiration — and as he got back to his desk, he created the above.   To create this, he pieced together snippets of Hugh’s amazing artwork, added some Adamisms, and then shaped it into my face (eyebrows and nose ring to boot).  I will cherish this portrait as a remembrance of my time at Blackbaud.   Thank you so much Kaiyao.  Just … WOW!

It’s a beautiful way to end a beautiful day.  One last time:  thank you to everyone at Blackbaud – and thank you to everyone here for all of your amazing encouragement.  Inspiration begets inspiration.

[Rule No. 6 is a lesson that stuck with me from the altMBA.  It makes me smile big to see it show up in a portrait of me … because it’s one of the most important lessons that I still need to learn.  You can read more about it in The Art of Possibility, but the long story short is:  “Rule No. 6 is to stop taking yourself so goddamn seriously.”]

Wait For It

1 day.  1 day left.  Holding my breath now.  Patiently.  Not holding my breath for resolution.  Resolution and “knowing” don’t just magically arrive on some arbitrary day on the calendar.

“…I’m not standing still,
I’m lying in wait.
…”  –from the Hamilton song, Wait For It

With great intention, I am lying in wait.  I can wait for one more day.  And then I won’t have to wait a day longer.  I’m not expecting Dec 1 to bring immediate resolution or relief.  What sits around this corner is still a giant unknown.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to leap.  But first.  We smile, in waiting.

Tonight’s BFD (Backpacks for Dinner) session will be a special one.  Rusty is hosting a small ceremony for me — we will burn some ships, and I will raise my fists in honor of you — Thank you so much to all of you for your support, your smiles, your hugs, your encouragement, and your nudges during these last few months.  The Flood of Gratitude remains incessant — I am so grateful that I have had this chance to patiently wait.  And I can’t fucking wait to leap.  Nov 30 is tomorrow.  Badass Backpacks: here I come.

Wait For It