On Tuesday, November 18, in celebration of the launch of Everup, we found ourselves in a seminar room at the WeWork in NoMad. We stared across the rectangular table at strangers, sunny yellow exercise books neatly organized in front of us.
At the head sat Adam J Kurtz (better known as ADAMJK), a graphic designer and illustrator. He is also the author of 1 Page at a Time, a journal, sketchbook, calendar, friend—whatever it becomes to you—filled with creative exercises.
The booklet before each of us contained a select sampling of the 365 prompts that make up his book, which he designed to be completed one page at a time. “One win lends itself to more wins,” Kurtz explained. “It’s a snowball affect.”
“This paper and pencil were nothing this morning,” he continued, referring to the three-page exercise booklet. “At 8:30 a.m. this pamphlet didn’t exist, and by 10 a.m. it did … you can make something from nothing.”
And make something he did. Highly simplistic prompts sparked surprisingly thoughtful discussions. The discussers included a man who works in fashion at Saks, a data scientist who is in between jobs, a mobile designer who creates wellness apps, and 15 other people of various ages, races, and professions, all there to ask and hope to find the answer to the question: Who the f*** am I?
And Kurtz’s method doesn’t live in a vacuum. He’s acutely aware that the internet and social media play a pivotal role in relaying and even defining our personal brand; expectedly, he spent a bulk of the time exploring that concept.
“Creating a username online is sort of a backwards idea of telling people who you are and what you do before you do that thing,” Kurtz said. Growing up in the heyday of LiveJournal and Xanga, he knows that he narrowly escaped this anxiety-ridden aspect of our persona—once Myspace hit, carving out a space on the internet became a whole new beast. “Social media output becomes so controlled and focused, and sometimes that’s great, but sometimes that’s crap. You see a friend’s posts, and your like ‘dude, you didn’t say any of that last night’.”
He urges people to not pigeonhole themselves into the constructs of a self-imposed brand.
“There are simple things, like food,” he expounded, “that are personal and make us human, and that’s the most important and refreshing thing to share. It reminds people that you are human and that they’re human too.”
“How do you know you’ve made it? Who decides when you’ve made it? Can I decide if I’ve made it? No one really knows and you don’t have to have the answer, you can grow into it and that’s liberating.”
Here are a few prompts from his book to get you started on your journey.
This exercise helps you identify your strengths and interests, easing you into the larger question at hand (reminder: Who are you?), without being so high-level that it becomes overwhelming. “Many people tend to mask things in humor,” said Kurtz. So while some items on your list may be serious (“I am a good mentor”; “I am organized”), others may be lighthearted or even funny (“I am good at relaxing; “I am good at trying every, and any, food”).
2. Take a Deep Breath
If you observe Kurtz during a conference call, you may see him taking breaths and counting them with tally marks or filling an entire notebook page with asterisks. It may seem like he’s zoning out, but he’s actually doing the opposite. He employs these tactics to keep himself present, and keep his mind on track, which he admits is something he struggles with when he doesn’t have face to face contact. At the root of the exercise is the idea of mindfulness; bringing your focus to your present circumstances. Give the exercise a try to reset when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or having a hard time staying focused.
3. How Do I…?
“Sometimes seeing your problem on paper helps you to see the solution,” said Kurtz. Start with “How do I”, then let your mind wander to other question formats. When you’re done, “try rearranging the questions into answer format; that can help you work through things and see them from a different angle.”
As the session came to a close, Kurtz left us with one final thought: “It’s encouraging to realize that everyone’s sort of fucked up, but everyone’s okay.”