Fabric Cutting

We hit a huge milestone late last week… long story short:  following the first 4 bags that I wrote about earlier – we had some small adjustments to make on our needs for the fabric cutting.  Adjustments done… cutting for this bag’s solid fabrics are en route.

The solid fabrics are all being cut by a professional, using a dieless cutting table.  But for the “First 100”, all of the printed fabrics were cut by hand.  While there were several people that chipped in to help get some of the printed fabric cut – the vast majority of the cutting was done by me.

This was a task that took far more time than I had ever imagined that it would.  It was not easy.  It physically hurt my hands, and my back.  Night after night – after getting the kids down for bed — I turned my kitchen table into an entrepreneur’s cutting table… and I got to work.  No matter how frustrating it was when the cutting would hit its slow points, there was one thing that would always make me smile:  it is extremely satisfying that I can say, for these First 100 bags — I’ve touched all of them.

Adam Lemmon - cutting
Adam cutting bag gussets for the First 100

Adam Lemmon - cutting

Stacking the fabric panels
Stacking the fabric panels
Piece by piece.  We got the cutting done.
Piece by piece. We got the cutting done.

Sincerity Inside: “What does that even mean?”

Hat-tip to Rusty Kocian on this post.  It was a cold spring night (2015) standing outside of Rusty’s house in Austin, and we were in the throws of important questions about our chosen theme, Sincerity Inside.  I love how Steven Pressfield refers to a state of “thrashing”.  Working through tedious details… sticking with a tough conversation.  Working.  Working hard, even when frustrated or stuck.  It was a BFD session full of thrashing.  Rusty prodded me with questions, and Eric listened intensely.

R: What does “Sincerity Inside” even mean to you, Adam?  Talk it out.

Sin-cera (without wax)

Having not done my research, I had assumed (as many do) that the word “Sincerity” meant “without wax” — (in Spanish “sin” “cera” = “without wax”) — and of course the use of this word as a sign-off at the end of a letter made perfect sense, because it was surely communicating: this letter is signed in the open, “without wax”… with Sincerity.  Apparently it is well documented that this is a myth.  Let’s ignore that for a moment, and roll with the idea that (at least to me) it does mean “without wax”.  What does a backpack called Sincerity Inside beg of its wearer then?  Without wax, this is who I am.  When you think about the adventure you really want to go on, and you’re busy filling your bag, what would you put inside?

Bring your full self

Bring your full self, the real one, not the one that we might be expecting.  At the moment when you are ready to pack your bag, and take your first steps of your day — if you could take a moment to look past all of the expectations, ALL of them — could you smile for just a moment and then

Put Yourself Inside

“Put Yourself Inside” was a slogan for Badass Backpacks that Rusty created a long time ago.  And it seems impossible for our team to talk about “Sincerity Inside” without also talking about what we mean when we ask our audience to “put themselves inside”.  It’s a bold call to action — one that has been shouted from the mountain tops by many great teachers.  This slogan was something that we latched onto long before we had settled on the theme of our first bag… which is why I said earlier on this blog that “Sincerity Inside” is the perfect place for us to start.  If I’m asking you to put yourself inside, then doesn’t it make sense to start first with giving you permission to start with your most sincere self?  The Badass Backpacks team wants to embrace you, as you truly are.  And we want you, to do the same for yourself.

Thinking about your own self, and who you are can sometimes feel uncomfortable.  It takes vulnerability.  And that can feel scary.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. … It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

I love this quote by Marianne Williamson.  It makes me smile.

The Badass Backpacks team has been thrashing with this concept, this THEME, “Sincerity Inside” — and we will thrash with it some more.

Sincerity Inside: The Art & The Artist

As soon as I started this blog, I began thinking about this post — a post about Cheryl Hicks, the artist who created “Adam’s Choice” — the artwork that is featured on our first bag.  I’ve even started typing this post several times, only to delete the words, and abandon the exercise altogether, completely convinced that I simply could not do justice: trying to put into words how thankful I am for Cheryl and for the way that she shares her work with the world.

  • The Artwork featured on our first bag is a piece called, “Adam’s Choice”.  Cheryl created this painting ~1999 in Athens, TX.  You can see a low-res sample here.
  • Mixed-media on canvas – paper, paint, and more paper, with some Modge Podge and only Cheryl knows what else.
  • Cheryl is currently a full time maker, a full time artist, working at Gallery 211 in Athens, TX
  • Cheryl is a MASTER teacher — she taught me photography and she changed my life in the creative writing class that I took with her in 1997.  While her career has evolved — she has never stopped teaching people around her.  We are so lucky to have you in this world Cheryl.  Thank you for all of the amazing teaching you do!!!!!!!!
  • Cheryl produces art relentlessly.  She never stops shipping.
  • You can read her blog here.
  • For this project – Badass Backpack’s first bag, “Sincerity Inside” – Cheryl has contributed one of the most amazing ingredients ever.  Not only did she agree to let us use her artwork on our first bag, and NOT ONLY did she hand sign the “First 100”, and NOT ONLY did she always welcome me for open-ended timeless conversations about this project – but in addition to all of that:  Cheryl invited us to step into the driver’s seat — she invited us to create.  She urged me not to stop creating.  Even when we hit our slow-downs.  She surrendered control in order for me to have a chance to learn.  When I asked her if I could crop things a certain way: she smiled.  When I asked if we could move things around: she smiled.  When I asked if I could try something different, she got excited with me, and she smiled.  She encouraged us to create.  To keep creating.  To add to her work.  She urged us to set limits and boundaries to guide our work.  And then she applauded us as we shattered the very rules that she had urged us to embrace. (<– this is a lesson that Cheryl teaches well)

Final thought to share about Cheryl Hicks:  She taught me the word “loquacious” when I was a student in her creative-writing class at Athens High School (~1997).  She loved it that I loved that word — and she is one of the few people in my life that told me (roughly paraphrased): [“yes, you are very loquacious – that’s you, that’s who you are, perhaps you should not stop talking.”]  <– Notable that this is very different than what most people have to say about my talkative nature.

Thank you Cheryl — thank you so much for saying yes when I asked if could dance with your artwork during our first attempt to make a Badass Backpack.  Cheryl:  you are so amazing — and I am so grateful for you.  Thank you!

Thank you Cheryl Hicks
Cheryl Hicks signing the panels that are used in the “First 100” bags. She used a Sharpie.

Another BFD Session in the books

It’s another Tuesday night.   Which means that we had our weekly BFD (Backpacks for Dinner) session tonight.  I’ve come to really love my Tuesday nights.

It was a mix of casual conversation and good solid work.  We continue to make progress.  Drip by drip.  Much of the work that causes this pause between having our first 4 bags and having the first shipment of bags ready to sell is work that sits in the hands of our bag makers.  They’re keeping me updated.  And the first short run of Sincerity Inside is well underway.

In the meantime, our focus has needed to shift away from the “big question” approach we love to take with our BFD conversations to focus instead on tactical realities — preparing to sell these bags.

I had envisioned that at the end of tonight’s session I was going to have a wellspring of energy to put together my next tidbit about Sincerity Inside… But no, I’m simply too exhausted.

Time to get some sleep.  Happy Tuesday night everyone!

Sincerity Inside

This first bag is called “Sincerity Inside” …

"Sincerity Inside" - Oct 11, 2015

The theme, “Sincerity Inside” was created by the Badass Backpacks team.  And when we finally landed on the name for our bag, we felt that it was the perfect place to start.

A bag that can make you smile as you fill it.  Big questions to ask — “What does it mean when I think about my most sincere self?  And what does it mean, when I think about packing and bringing my most sincere self into the work that I’m doing?”

More to come.  But for now, I just wanted to share the above photo.


Sharing, because it’s ready

Having these first 4 bags on hand creates a new opportunity… Something that we couldn’t do before.  We’re finally able to show our work.  For all this time that we’ve been working on Badass Backpacks, we’ve not had very many days with an actual backpack, one of OUR backpacks, in our hands — one that we can show to people when we get a chance to talk about our project.

I spent the early part of Saturday this weekend at the 2015 Austin Walk for Apraxia… We were there as part of “Team Cole” – (Eric and his wife Haley were the top fundraising team for the event — WAY TO GO ERIC!!!)  I met a new person at the event, Robert.  He had heard that Eric was working on Badass Backpacks, but “he hadn’t had a chance to see one yet”.  🙂  Well, yes, that’s due mostly to the fact that even WE ourselves hadn’t seen one until recently.  (reference below posts about our first 4 bags)  Our first design, our first fully baked pattern, constructed using printed fabric, as part of an official production run.  It’s here.  It’s ready to be shown to the world… and as excited as I am, I continue to be very freaked out by this moment of sharing.

I posted earlier about Derek Sivers’ call to action: to be careful about “talking” up your goals as if it’s stuff that’s already complete.  A warning worth heeding.  But when you finally reach the finish line… when you have a product that you intend to start selling — well, this is different.  This is precisely the time when I feel that I SHOULD talk about what we’re doing!

So there we were, at Eric’s house, after a beautiful morning in the park — a lunch party with Team Cole, and this new follower named Robert.  Robert’s enthusiasm to ask me questions about Badass Backpacks warmed my heart.  I love talking about this project.  And with my children draped all over me, heavily interrupting our conversation, Robert stood patiently with a smile and with excitement as he rattled through questions about all of it.  And Eric’s bag (bag #3) is sitting right there.  “This is it.  This is our first bag.”  The fear I held with me in that conversation was, of course, completely misguided.  Robert smiled and talked with excitement as he held the bag, thought about the bag, and asked questions about the bag.  A quick thank you here to Robert — I don’t think he realizes that he is one of the very first people outside of my team to see the bag — and he’s certainly the first to persevere through such a long and tedious conversation about what it is that we want to create… I left Eric’s party with a grin.  And a huge weight beginning to be lifted.  It’s time to start sharing more about this bag.  And all my fears that people will not like it, or my fears that people will notice all of the features that we wanted to fit into this bag that we weren’t able to make happen, or my fears that people will think I’m crazy… are all a little bit silly.

In Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception, he begs of the reader to consider having the courage to make something, and to then have the guts to say, “here, I made this”.  I have been propelled through my journey to make this first bag by that call to action — When I read this post of Seth’s (shortly after having finished The Icarus Deception) I became even more excited…  2+ years later, now I’m in a new place, preparing to launch.  And now the words that Seth uses seem spot on:  “difficult, scary, frightening”.  Or the words that Hugh uses (referenced here):  “This is it… is terrifying” — uhm, yes, exactly.

But I have to get over that.  Time to step into it — time to leap.  Time to share:  because it’s ready.

Sincerity Inside - Oct 2015

Email Signup

I finally got an email sign up added to this blog.  For those of you reading this that want to receive new posts in your inbox — go for it!  Use the menu tab in mobile view, or find the email subscribe in the left hand side if you’re viewing it on your computer.

I’m really looking forward to sharing more!  And thank you to the encouragement from the tiny audience I have begun to share this project with up until now.

Our excitement is as fresh as ever.  More posts about our first bag coming up soon.  Stay tuned — or provide your email (please let me know if you experience any problems) and you’ll receive posts in your inbox.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

You talk too much

“You talk too much” — this is feedback that at different times in my life, I have received frequently.  I think out loud.  I love to talk.  Sitting at a coffee shop with a close friend to catch up (or in the case of Backpacks for Dinner, sitting at a coffee shop with Eric and Rusty) is probably one of my most favorite things to do.  And for someone like me — talking is more than just important, it is essential.  But sometimes I need to shut up.  Less talking.  More doing.

This TED talk by Derek Sivers: “Keep your goals to yourself” was an instant favorite when I first watched it, and it quickly influenced our work with Badass Backpacks.

And then I took this concept too far.  I STOPPED talking.  Outside of our Tuesday night Backpacks for Dinner sessions, I began to really struggle, constantly being paranoid that if I was talking, I was most likely talking too much.

Sigh… Yes, Adam, you talk too much.  Yes Adam, you need more doing, and less talking.  Derek’s advice resonated with me because it was advice I needed to hear.  But as these things go — a balanced approach is almost always best.

Listen Speak

4 bags

This is it… is terrifying”  – Hugh MacLeod (from his daily cartoon series)

2 posts, and a reference in each to Hugh MacLeod’s art.  🙂  Keep up the amazing work Hugh.  Yes — I couldn’t agree more.

This is it.  Time to start sharing more about Badass Backpacks.  And it is a bit scary.  My mother recently shared beautiful wisdom about her own experiences with the need to finally give birth to a project you’ve been working to create.  When it’s time to launch, when it’s time to ship:  it’s time.

Our maker (collaboration of Tucker&Bloom and Rock Solid Sewing & Design) recently shipped us our very first 4 bags.  No longer a prototype to hide behind -real and vulnerable… Our first official production bag:

Sincerity Inside - First 100
First Production Run – “Sincerity Inside” Oct 2015

… it’s not perfect.  (of course it’s not perfect).  But we’re awfully proud of it.  We think it’s really badass.  🙂  I’ll be posting some highlights of the bag here over the next few days.  It’s eating me up inside that we’re still not ready with the following bags from this short production run*.  We’ll get there as quick as we can.  Nonetheless, it’s time to “ship”.  And in this case, shipping means: it’s time to start sharing more about this amazing bag.

Pictured above is bag 1 of 100.  It has me smiling ear to ear.  I can’t wait to share more about what it is you’re seeing in this above photo.  This is it… “it might work, it might not work” … and yes, that’s terrifying… in the most exhilarating way possible.  🙂

* These first 4 bags are the first 4 of 100.  These are being used as our QA run, and there are some ever so slight changes which have us a touch delayed on getting the remaining 96 built.  For those of you who have been asking — THANK YOU!!!  We’ll have to sit tight for a touch more time as we work out some kinks to get production underway.  Drip by drip… we’re almost there.

Thank you Rusty! Thank you Eric!

Thank you Rusty Kocian!  Thank you Eric Oyler!  Oct 6th, 2015… tonight I was able to finally give Eric and Rusty their bags.  The first bags produced on our short run for “Sincerity Inside”.  We are still working with our maker (collaboration between Tucker & Bloom and Rock Solid Sewing & Design) to finish out the first lot of 100 bags.  They’ll be on sale soon enough.  To my small audience:  thank you for your patience.  I know so many people who are just busting at the seams to see these bags that I have been talking about so much.  While I pride myself on my own patience… this waiting and waiting and waiting is proving quite challenging.  And the wait is almost over.  While we get ourselves ready to finally ship — this is the perfect moment to get this blog launched.  As the post below says:  “hello world”.  This is my new blog – where I intend to start sharing more about what’s happening with Badass Backpacks.

And I want to start with a big, huge, gigantic, enormous:  THANK YOU!  I loved this daily cartoon from Hugh MacLeod:


The art work: http://www.gapingvoidart.com/gallery/last-words/

… In this case – starting this new blog – My first words should be THANK YOU.  Gratitude is a beautiful place to start.  Eric and Rusty:  just as I told you tonight when giving you your bags:   Badass Backpacks is a new way for us to speak to the world.  To speak our voice.  To raise our hand.  To face the front.  To ask big questions.  To stumble and discover.  To have fun doing it.  To slog through the mud.  To persist through the stuckness.  To create something beautiful, and to ship it.  Thank you for looking me in the eye and saying “I’m here, and I want to do this.”  Thank you for nudging me to keep going.  Thank you for helping me make this bag.  Thank you for putting yourself inside.

There are many people that I intend to reach out to with some special thank you messages.  Perhaps I’ll share some of those on this blog… but wait… first we need to finish what we’ve started.  To my small list of followers:  thanks for following along.  Badass Backpacks will be launching soon.  I’ll be looking forward to sharing a bit more as we go …

Onward… with gratitude,