The theme for the sixth Escape Adulthood Summit was “Shine On.” It’s always good to be reminded that even on the darkest days, the sun isn’t gone, it’s just hidden. This Summit was a call to look for the light during our seasons of darkness, and to bring light to others, by sharing our talents and kindness.
For the third consecutive year, it was held at The Barn at Harvest Moon Pond, which is a beautiful spot in the middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin, miles away from the Adultitis-ridden pace of everyday life.
As always, the line of people waiting to enter buzzed with anticipation, Golden Tickets in hand.
Attendees were treated to some of the most delicious gourmet cotton candy, compliments of Jo and her son from Sugarsmith.
Once the door opens, the wild rumpus begins, and guests are treated to a goodie bag filled with fun stuff for fighting Adultitis.
Two of Madison’s best food carts were on hand to serve lunch.
And it just doesn’t feel like summer without some brightly colored freeze pops!
Speaking of ice, we love breaking it by giving each table some sort of group project.
This year they were tasked by building a cardboard “sand” castle that had to incorporate each person’s favorite fictional character, which had been added to their name tags to serve as a conversation starter.
As always, each group blew us away with their teamwork and creativity.
After the cardboard shenanigans, it was fun to share the stage with Kim as we told the personal story that served as the catalyst for this year’s theme.
It was our first time telling the story in public. We did a little bit of practicing beforehand, but it was mostly 20-plus years of chemistry and history that carried the day, delivering lots of laughs and a few tears.
Each day we broke off into themed mastermind groups to discuss various Adultitis-related challenges.
It gives people a chance to go deeper into topics that are relevant to them, while gleaning insight and camaraderie with fellow attendees.
One of the best things about any Summit is the high likelihood that your greatest takeaway can come from a new friend you just happened to sit next to. The relaxed environment makes it easy for the conversation to flow.
At ever Summit, each guest is invited to bring something meaningful to them to share at Show & Tell.
This is easily one of my favorite parts, and something I think should be incorporated into every staff meeting in organizations around the world. It’s such a great way to build bonds and increase morale.
One guest even brought a salamander!
We served roast pork and fried chicken for dinner, with an “I Mustache You a Question” twist. Everyone got mustaches to wear, and the tables had paper mustaches with discussion start questions written on them.
In a Summit first, we created a multi-dimensional evening of storytelling that combined art and music.
To kick things off, we were treated to an intimate and soulful concert featuring singer songwriter Michael Shynes.
Everyone instantly connected with Michael and his music, loving his laid-back presence and the insightful stories he told between songs.
The themes fit perfectly into the messaging of the Summit and it was an inspiring and uplifting start to the evening.
Intermission featured cheesecake…
Then I had the honor of unveiling ten of my newest paintings for the first time. Feedback from our first Wondernite revealed that people loved hearing the stories behind my art, so we incorporated that into the Summit.
One by one, I removed the black cloth that covered each painting, and spoke a bit about my inspiration and creative process.
I enjoy going beyond just the nuts and bolts, however, and like tailoring the messages for the people in attendance by giving them food for thought and insights they can hopefully apply to their own lives.
Afterward, everyone got to take a closer look at the work. Just like at an art museum, the experience of viewing a painting just isn’t complete until you can stick your nose a few inches from the canvas and see the actual brushstrokes.
Here’s a rad video that does a great job summing up the vibe of the evening:
Thanks to Carrie and Tim Highman of Dream Lens Media who did such a great job putting this together in such a masterful way!
Most of the art was up for sale (except the one I made for Kim’s 40th birthday, seen above.) I was thrilled to have nine of my original pieces find homes.
It was sad to see some of my favorites leave, but it’s worth it because I know they will be appreciated by some special people for many years to come.
The next morning, Kim captivated everyone with her talk called Sunshine, Smiles & Shenanigans: How to Shine On Amidst the Darkness. Our son Ben informed her that she needed to include a photo of him smiling, because “my smile lights up the room.”
This year we invited six attendees to share some random acts of kindness they’ve experienced or instigated. They were poignant, funny, and inspiring real-life examples of a quote by cartoonist Scott Adams, who said, “There’s no such things as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
Then everyone had fun letting out their inner kindergartner when we painted “kindness rocks” featuring positive vibes, colorful characters, and various reminders of the Summit.
Lunch was a delicious pasta bar, and a chance to chill out with new friends.
Recess is always a big hit. How often do us adults get unstructured time to play with bubbles, fly paper airplanes, goof around, or just take a walk in nature? Not often enough, if you ask us! If you look closely at the following pictures, you can spot a whole bunch of five-year-olds shining through some people cleverly disguised as grown-ups.
After lunch, I pulled out a classic box of 64 crayons and talked about how each of us has at least 64 things we can share with the world, from a simple smile to a lifelong talent that we’ve taken for granted.
I shared some tips for turning our lives from gray to great, and at the end, we gave every guest their own box to take home as reminder of all the things we can do to shine our light in the world – our true colors.
Everyone also got a set of brand new “Shine On” cards to brighten other people’s day with kind words of encouragement.
An Escape Adulthood Summit is hard to categorize. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that is part retreat, part conference, part mastermind group. It’s filled with laughter and fun, but also offers plenty of inspiration and insights to reflect on. A lot of planning goes into each one, but it’s the attendees that bring the real magic and make each one truly unique.
Putting on an event like this is no small feat. Kim and I get an oversized amount of credit, but we truly couldn’t do it alone. Lynn and Sara stepped up in a big way this year, and the reason everything went so smoothly was due to their work behind the scenes.
Sara’s towel looks a little like a cape in this photo, which is fitting.
Sue and Jenna have been our partners in crime for about two decades now, helping out in a million big and small ways over the years. It’s been quite an adventure, and they’ve been there for every twist and turn.
As Kim and I pulled out in the big yellow rental truck after packing everything up, Kim looked at me and said, “Even if we never get to do another one, no regrets.” It inspired this post, and served as a reminder that when we make the decision to share our gifts and talents with others, we shine light into the lives of others in ways we may never be able to comprehend.
If you’d like to attend a future Escape Adulthood Summit, sign up to become an Insider to be the first to know when Golden Tickets go on sale!
* Bonus Material *
Need more photos? You can check out nearly 900 photos from this year’s Summit here, taken by our favorite photographer, Quinn Paskus. As he’s always behind the camera, this may be the only picture ever taken of him:
Plus, for another flavor of the Summit experience, check out this awesome vlog put together by the supremely talented Neil Mathweg, who has attended the past two and is the creator of the I Love Madison Show.