An interview with Adam Kuhn, Partner + Creative Director

From Black to Grey to Black Again

Adam has been the creative director long enough for his beard to turn prematurely grey. He was determined to take a sabbatical long enough or relaxing enough to return his beard to its original black. There is photographic proof that he did just that.

Interview by Brad Flowers

BF What is the one-sentence explanation of your trip?

AK I drove 15,547 miles up to the Arctic Circle and back in a junkyard school bus I fixed myself.

BF What was the original spark for such a trip?

AK I was reading an article by Mark Jenkins about a road trip in Outside magazine. This quote jumped out: “Over time, it's easy to put yourself inside of an invisible prison. The bars are made of money, obligations, expectations, and habits.” (Source) I became obsessed with the things I allow to imprison me.

BF How does Bullhorn figure into that?

AK I’ve worked at Bullhorn for over a decade and was in need of the space and the time to consider my future. For better, or more likely for the worse, much of my self worth is tethered to my career, specifically the work that I do. I put a large burden on myself to make great work and see Bullhorn succeed. It had been a long time since I was alone and free from deadlines to focus on myself. I needed time to reset and time to create new, better habits.

BF Back to the junkyard. What was the prep like?

AK If the clock started the day I bought the bus, I worked on it for two years. I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was kidding when I said I was going to drive to Alaska. From a practical standpoint, I needed to make the bus mechanically sound. Make the interior livable. Delegate my Bullhorn responsibilities. And then head North.

BF That makes it sound straightforward. What exactly did you do to this vehicle?

AK I had to tear out the whole interior. That includes the seats, the floor, and ceiling. I replaced the floor and ceiling with wood which gave me the chance to insulate some. I built a deck for the bed with space for storage underneath. I installed a little sink, stove, and fridge. I also installed solar panels. And, the driver’s seat was worn out. I bought a newer one from a junkyard and installed that too.

And, I had to make it run. And stop better.

BF Okay, we don’t have to get into the details there. What do you wish you had done differently?

AK I wish I had forced myself to slow down. I’m always more interested in what’s over the horizon. Hard for me to ever savor the journey. I enjoyed fixing the bus, but I felt like I had to push to get through the trip. Strange.

And, I wish I had insulated the windows better. The arctic circle is cold.

BF What is something you learned about yourself on this trip?

AK It didn’t occur to me that I would get lonely.

BF How do you think this will affect your work as you reintegrate?

AK Being gone has given me a chance to form better questions. For myself and for the business. Not necessarily any answers.

BF Would you do something similar again? Would you recommend it?

AK I recommend always learning new things. I wouldn’t suggest doing it the way I did it.

BF You seem to have picked up quite a few quotes. What is a good closer?

AK Yvon Chouinard had a good quote about travel. I thought about it a lot while I was gone. “The whole purpose of planning something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain and if you compromise the process, you're an asshole when you start out and you're an asshole when you get back." - (Source)