2019 was a blur.
A month back, if you had asked me what happened last year, I might have looked at you with a blank, overwhelmed stare. You know that feeling when you’ve done so much but you can’t remember any of it?
So, over the last few months, I decided to slow wayyyy down and reflect on this beautiful and challenging year. I participated in a program called “Nightingale: A Year End Review Immersion.” It’s a 3-week program in December led by experience design pioneer Ting Kelly, where you re-examine every aspect of your year. As someone who likes to be in motion, this was an excruciating process for me. Taking the time to stop… slow down… and reflect felt like I was caging a wild animal.
But now, after reading through every journal entry from 2019, looking back on every photo, reviewing every project, clearing my physical and digital spaces, and finally, undergoing a 3-day solo immersion in Sausalito over New Year’s, I am proud (and surprised) to share what I’ve uncovered.
From key lessons and favorite music, to new practices and celebrating friends who passed away, this story straddles my peaks and valleys of 2019.
You ready to go on an adventure with me?
Lessons from 2019
Don’t rush through your life. Savor it. “Celebrate slowing down.” — Julia Winston
Practice “the sacred pause.” — Karen Roeper
Invoke your inner child. Ask yourself, “How is Little Adam doing today?” — Kelsey “Lotus” Wong
Spend more time with little kids. They are connected to the true source of creativity and you can learn a lot from their lack of inhibition.
“What you have can’t be taken away from you.” — Cyndi Yee
When faced with a hard decision, ask yourself: “What would make the better story?” — Erin Johnson
Ask beautiful questions. Don’t get too caught up in your own life that you lose track of your curiosity in others.
Admire, don’t envy. “Comparisons are the thief of all happiness.” — Ashanti Branch
Be transparent about what you really want.
Concealing how you feel often leads to interpersonal problems. So you may as well be honest and vulnerable. As Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
“Things do not get better or go away by thinking about them more. Only by thinking about them less.” — Cyndi Yee
“If you keep denying your shadow, your inner monster. If you keep stuffing it down. It will eventually bite you. It may even eat you alive.” — Midori
When you are kind to yourself, you are kind to others.
Forgive yourself. Be gentle and loving. Every evening, ask, “What do I forgive myself for today?”
Discarding physical objects opens up energetic and emotional space. If it doesn’t “spark joy,” let it go. — Marie Kondo
You are not meant to be contained. Stop trying to fit into the box of a “businessman,” or “entrepreneur.” You are an artist, first. And that is enough. — Monisha Chandanani
Jump into bodies of water as often as you can.
My life purpose statement:
“With luminous joy, kindness, and a sense of wonder, I teach myself and others to slow down, drink from the well of creativity, and suck out the marrow of life, so that we can heal, connect more deeply, and tap into the magic all around and between us.” — Adam Rosendahl, June 2019
What I forgive myself for in 2019
“You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.” — Alain de Botton
- I forgive myself for sometimes feeling sad, lonely, and overwhelmed.
- I forgive myself for being so damn hard on myself.
- I forgive myself for numbing and distracting myself through addiction to screens and “keeping busy”.
- I forgive myself for sometimes concealing how I feel and not being fully honest.
- I forgive myself for constantly worrying and feeling so much stress, anxiety, and fear about the future.
“I love life. I love my path. I’m moving forward.” — My mantra for 2019
Projects and facilitation in 2019
LATE NITE ART®
“We help people break through social and creative walls”
2019 was a huge year for my business, LATE NITE ART®. Being self employed continues to be a roller coaster, moving from peak experiences, adventurous travel, and feelings of deep-rooted satisfaction, to fatigue, sleepless nights, and overwhelm. It’s been all-encompassing, but I wouldn’t choose any other path.
At its essence, LATE NITE ART is about helping people heal and connect to themselves and each other using the arts.
I am so grateful to be surrounded by a rockstar team of facilitators and team mates who I consider mentors and dear friends. I continue to evolve my practices around self care, leadership, and I think I am starting to get the hang of this entrepreneur thing.
I am proud of the work we did this year. Here are a few highlights:
- We facilitated 44 experiences across 25+ cities
- Kelsey “Lotus” Wong joined our team as a Lead Facilitator! Lucky us.
- We hosted events in 3 new countries: Vietnam, Mexico, and Australia
- We launched our Industry Leader Event Series: an invite-only, experiential networking event that brings together the top leaders in the Bay Area to explore a specific theme or industry. For our first event, LNA: Culture Edition, we partnered with LinkedIn L&D. Our second event, LNA: People-Development Edition, we partnered with Google SF. We are currently working on our third event, LNA: Belonging Edition, focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- We had the opportunity to work alongside amazing clients this year — many of whom, have become friends. Our 2019 clients: Airbnb, Apple, LinkedIn, Verizon Media, Stanford University, Robinhood, Google AI Quantum, Alpine Investors, Sephora, Kaiser Permanente, Google Cloud Iberia, RealChange, Summit, Intellum, Blueboard, TheSkimm, Hive Global Leaders, Adda Clevenger School, EdTec, EO Oceania, Gainsight, Ignixion, EGADE Business School, Tec de Monterrey, REACH Vietnam, The Battery, CreativeMornings Oakland and Splash
“Practice, practice, practice.” — Forest Stearns
In 2019, Forest Stearns and I officially launched Illuminated Notes as a new business offering. Illuminated Notes capture the spirit of keynote speakers through beautiful illustrations.
Forest and I brought Illuminated Notes to some amazing conferences this year. We had the opportunity to illustrate a few of our heroes: Sir Ken Robinson, Paul Stamets, and Esther Perel. I loved watching people’s mouths drop as we created these pieces live. Some speakers even started to cry when they saw themselves depicted in our drawings. Conference highlight include: Culture First, Summit LA19, Unify by Singular, the Google Quantum Spring Symposium, and Sparked at the Battery.
For me, this is a huge deal. I went to undergrad to study visual art, and although my work revolves around encouraging other people’s creativity — I haven’t been creating as much of my own artwork. Forest Stearns has become my visual art mentor, and I’ve learned so much about drawing. We are seriously on a roll with this project and I’m excited to see how it evolves… You can see all our drawings here.
We’ve also begun teaching the Illuminated Notes methodology as a workshop to help people bring their note-taking skills to the next level. This year we hosted our “Bring Your Notes to Life” class at CreativeMornings, AdobeLive, and Today At Apple.
“If you try to knock me you’ll get mocked / I’ll stir fry you in my wok / Your knees will start shaking and your fingers pop / Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock” — MCA of the Beastie Boys (One of my mixtape mentors!)
I’ve always been a music addict. It started in 6th grade staying up all night making mixtapes. Then I turned to burning c.d.’s. And now… it’s Spotify Playlists. This year I made literally hundreds of playlists on Spotify. And I just started doing it for clients.
I’m calling it Illuminated Sounds. I create custom soundtracks for corporate trainings and conferences around the world — using music as a tool for leadership development. My clients include Google School for Leaders, Verizon Media, VMWare, and Palo Alto Community Child Care.
I’ve also begun curating Seasonal Creativity Playlists: compiling all my favorite music from each season into one bangin’ list.
Here are my favorite playlists. Click each link to listen:
➡ 🌼 Spring 〰️ Bloom 🌼
Peaks and Valleys of 2019
My first solo international trip: Vietnam 🇻🇳
“Find time for rejuvenating play.” — Christian Forthomme
Vietnam melted my heart.
But traveling alone was hard. I would go from being lonely and feeling sorry for myself, to having a full-blown peak experience in the course of one hour. I was struck by the power of being alone. Suddenly, every task or outing became an adventure. I was fascinated by this idea of “manifesting” what I wanted at any moment.
2019 began on a motorbike in the pouring rain, riding between the cities of Hue and Hoi An. On December 31st of 2018, I found myself completely lost, singing at the top of my lungs, dodging goats and cows in the road, and climbing up the jungle-filled mountains of Central Vietnam. I thought to myself, “this is what freedom feels like.” Fresh out of a 2-year relationship, I felt like I had shed a skin, and was just discovering the new man I had become. This trip was about adventure, freedom, finding myself, and opening up my heart again.
Eva is wise, magical, and intuitive — I’d call her a “good witch.” We shared many beautiful adventures this year and I am grateful for our relationship (February to October of 2019). We loved listening to music — the louder the better. She was a model for me around self-care and she taught me how to truly relax.
Power of Hope Canada
“One trusted adult can change the trajectory of a young person’s life.” — Mike Sagun
This year marks my 19th anniversary with the Power of Hope: a youth-empowerment program that brings 50 teenagers and 25 adults together for 8-days and uses different art forms to help them explore their connection to themselves, each other, and the world. When I first attended this camp at age 13 — it shifted the trajectory of my life.
This year, I trekked back up to beautiful Cortes Island, British Colombia to be one of the lead facilitators for the POH Canada Camp.
Working with teenagers is profound. They feel on such deep level. But I am shocked by the amount of self harm young people inflict on themselves. I was heartbroken hearing the shame, unworthiness, and depression many these teenagers were struggling with. At the same time, their resilience took my breath away. And I was reminded of the true healing quality of the arts.
“The deeper journey is to dive into the abyss and find the light.” — Monisha Chandanani
To date — being a lead facilitator at the Power of Hope is some of the most impactful work I’ve done in my entire life.
Experience is Everything: A 6-month mastermind on experience design and facilitation
“Now is your time Adam.”— Jenny Sauer-Klein
One of my absolute highlights this year was participating in the Experience is Everything Mastermind hosted by my dear friend, mentor, and collaborator, Jenny Sauer-Klein.
We laughed our hearts out. I cried a lot. I was raw. I shed a skin. I discovered a new side of myself as a leader, teacher, facilitator, and experience designer. Friends turned into clients. Clients turned into friends, collaborators and mentors. And we all created life-long friendships.
I think my friend Jen Conti-Davies described us well: “A community builder, two surfers, a professor, four executive coaches, an adventure architect, a DJ and 3 tech entrepreneurs. All led by a woman on a mission to revolutionize the way we gather and learn and proven at creating world-class and cutting edge experiences filled with energy, engagement, profound insight, and meaningful connection. All coming together for an intensive 6-month mastermind.”
“What is experience design? It’s about creating transformational human-to-human experiences built on meaningful connections and collaborative learning.”
— Jenny Sauer-Klein
Working in Mexico for the first time 🇲🇽
Alex de Santiago, founder of Ignixion, brought me down to Mexico to lead two events: one was at EGADE Business School in Monterrey, the best MBA program in Latin America. The other was at TEC de Monterrey high school in Guadalajara.
Alex treated me like family. We ate delicious food, soaked in hot springs, went to a tequila factory, blasted music on late-night drives through the city — and just had the best time. We spent 8 days straight together, and at the end of it all, he felt like my big brother. His Mom told me “you are now our American son. You will always have a home in Guadalajara.”
I can’t wait to go back.
Traveling to Melbourne, Australia 🇦🇺
Jeff and I took a whirlwind, 5-day trip to Australia to host LATE NITE ART at a cool conference called Ignite Melbourne, run by Entrepreneur’s Organization Oceania. Unfortunately, Qantas Airlines lost our luggage containing our supplies, and we went through a gauntlet of hell trying to get it back. Let’s just say it was a bonding experience. We both loved Melbourne: the food, the people, the vibe. We were genuinely stunned by how friendly everyone was — from the people at the airport and strangers in the street, to our new friend Andy Lee who generously toured us around the city and hosted us in his beautiful home.
One memorable moment: after our grueling 16+ hour flight from San Francisco, Jeff and I found a rooftop spa and spent the afternoon in huge fluffy white robes, hitting the steam room, sauna, and cold plunge. Looking out over the Melbourne skyline in the jacuzzi we felt like kings.
The best Thanksgiving ever in Montana
It doesn’t get much better than soaking in Boiling River Hot Springs inside Yellowstone National Park, surrounded by snow and wild elk, doing Wim Hof breathing practices and covering the faces of your family with wet mud. My family knows how to get down!
I went out on a limb this year, and tried some fun social experiments:
- I had each person draw a visual representation of the Thanksgiving dish they had cooked, and give it a creative name. Together we created a beautiful visual menu (below).
- I led a “Free Your Freestyle” workshop in the living room. Seeing my Mom, Aunt Sue, and cousins take creative risks and freestyle together was priceless.
- After dinner, I facilitated an activity called Story Swap — where we shared personal stories, and then retold them in the first person. By the end, we were all laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks.
2019 was my first year living alone. As a serious extrovert (and a 7 on the Enneagram), this has been challenging— but I know it’s the medicine I need. Because I spend so much time in motion and facilitating large groups of people — learning how to rejuvenate, relax, and fill my energetic cup has become essential. I’m still learning how to truly enjoy my time alone and shift my mindset from “being lonely” to one of “embracing solitude.”
At the end of this year I started drawing out my vision for how I want my 1-bedroom apartment in Oakland to “feel.” Here’s what I came up with:
Friends and Teachers
“It is the quality of our relationships that determine the quality of our life.” — Esther Perel
Friends who inspired me this year
Every evening, when writing down the things I am grateful for, I thank my friends. The people who “see” me, call me on my bullshit, push me to grow and love me as I am. Here are some of the amazing people who shaped, influenced, and inspired me through 2019.
“Our deepest human need is really to be seen and known by other people” — Brené Brown
Saying goodbye to friends who passed in 2019
“Death is but the next great adventure.” — J.K. Rowling
Teachers I studied with in 2019
- Jenny Sauer-Klein: Experience Design and Facilitation
- Denise Blanc (my Mom): Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Life
- Dave Worm: Beatboxing, Vocal Percussion and Circle Singing
- Wim Hof “The Iceman”: Breath Work, Mindset, and Cold Water Immersion
- Mike Sagun, Dan Doty, Owen Marcus: Mens Work, Somatic Awareness, Expressing Feelings
- Diane Musho Hamilton: Conflict
- Cyndi Yee: Inner Work, Mindset, Inside Out Revolution
- Bardia Hariri: Financial Planning and Life
- Kamaljit Bains: Bookkeeping and Play
- Julia Winston: Passion, Purpose, and Slowing Down
- Adam Smiley Poswolsky: Public Speaking
- Ting Kelly: Ritual and Reflection
- Forest Stearns: Illustration and Being an Amazing Dad
- Kelsey “Lotus” Wong: Forgiveness Work and Culture Consulting
- Polly Cherner: Enneagram (I was so sad to hear about Polly’s passing on February 7th, 2020. She was a teacher and guide for the journey “inward” and helped so many of us to see ourselves more fully. She held a monthly Enneagram Panel at her warm home in San Anselmo where you were sure to find great people, delicious food, and fascinating discussions about our personality types.)
My spiritual board of advisors
Here are my chosen teachers and spirit guides who I call in to help me navigate my life. I recently started this drawing to capture my Board of Advisors visually — it’s a work in progress!
Growth and Learning
“Knowing is the enemy of learning.” — Tom Chi
My favorite songs of 2019 — Spotify playlist here
- Soweto — Michael Brun, Shirazee
- Crazy Dream — Tom Misch, Loyle Carner
- Deep in the Three — Adriatique, Thyladomid
- My Life — ZHU, Tame Impala
- On the Low — Burna Boy
- Ghana Bounce — Ajebutter22
- Leg Over — Mr. Eazi
- Ella Quiere Beber (Remix) — Anuel AA, Romeo Santos
- Ça sert — Nemir
- Follow the Leader — George the Poet, Maverick Sabre, Jorja
- The Moon — Sol Rising
Books that changed my life this year
- The Art of Gathering — Priya Parker
- The Magic Art of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo
- Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism - Fumio Sasaki
- The Inside-Out Revolution - Michael Neill
- Scaling Intimacy - Jenny Sauer-Klein
- How to Change Your Mind - Michael Pollan
- Beastie Boys Book - Michael Diamond & Adam Horowitz
- Run Studio Run: How to operate and grow a small creative studio - Eli Altman
- The Break Through Speaker - Adam Smiley Poswolsky
- The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership - Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, Kaley Warner Klemp
- Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad - Austin Kleon
New practices I implemented in 2019
- EVRYMAN: Checking in with my emotions. Where does that live in my body?
- Wim Hof: Deep breathing exercise. 3 rounds every morning. Followed by a cold shower. “A cold shower a day keeps the doctor away” — Wim Hof
- 9Round Kickboxing: I love this place. No class times.
- Productivity Planner: This little task-planner is a game-changer. Now that I have a place to put all my “to-do’s,” I don’t have dozens of post-it notes scattered around my bed stand and desk.
- “The Sacred Pause:” Every time I get into my car, right before I turn the key in the ignition, I take one deep breath. Every time I turn off the ignition, before I get out of your car, I take another deep breath. Try it!
- Radical Self Care (RSC): Monthly foot massage dates with my brother Ashanti Branch.
- End-of-day journaling practice: What am I grateful for today? What do I forgive myself for today? What did I learn today? What were the big questions on my mind today?
- Marie Kondo Tidying Festival: I got rid of 2 cars full of stuff! “The things you own end up owning you.” — Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism
The last day of 2019
“Follow the next lighted step.” — My Aunt Robin Mascari
I watched the last sunset of 2019 alone, standing atop a grassy mountain in the Marin Headlands. The Golden Gate Bridge glittered below me, thick fog hugged the sides of Mount Tam, and the sky was lit up with vibrant shades of red, orange, and purple. Headphones on, I was dancing my ass off. Crying, laughing, singing, freestyling. I was “feeling” myself and reliving my year through music.
I now call this year of 2019 and all of its events COMPLETE. I call it good enough. I am good enough. Everything I did was good enough. I declare this year complete across all space, all levels, and all dimensions. — From the “Conscious Completion Habit” by Jennavieve “JJ” Joshua
And with that. On to 2020!
Big appreciation to Ting Kelly for being my magical guide through the Nightingale: 2019 Year End Review Immersion, and for my friends Kelsey “Lotus” Wong and Jen Conti-Davies for helping me put on the brakes, push through my self-doubt and procrastination, and bring this artifact to life.