7 ways Burning Man impacts my career
As Burning Man comes upon us, I wanted to reflect over the last year as it was such a turning point in my life and career.
Last year, I was a first-timer at Burning Man, and felt skeptical about going the entire van ride from San Francisco to Black Rock City, 40 miles outside of Reno, NV. What no one told me about was why — and how — Burning Man would make me a better person and a better entrepreneur. I walked away from Burning Man with a stronger sense of purpose because of the people I had met, the art that I had seen, the heartfelt conversations I had with others, and the time I had to explore my inner self.
Here are some of the most important lessons I learned at Burning Man, and heard echoed in fellow attendees in conversations there and in the year since.
- Focus: People at Burning Man display an incredible amount of focus, whether it is spending time building a 6 story metal sculpture of a person that is powered by solar energy and breathes every minute or creating a mutant vehicle (art car) that is three stories high is a replica of a boat, people use the last year to focus on building something exclusive for this week long adventure. These amazing vehicles and art creation cost time and money, and demonstrate how valuable focus is when building something. Especially in building businesses, we have so much going around us that it is easy for us to get distracted and get out of our flow. When you see the art that was built at BM, you can see that nearly anything can be accomplished.
2. Recognition of Impermanence: At the end of Burning Man, most of the art that people spent the last year building is burned to the ground. This is a recognition that nothing in life is permanent and that a rebirth is a time for celebration. Take this approach when building a team, a business, a product: honor the product cycle, sales cycle, the ups and the downs.
3. Self-Reliance: Burning Man may be overzealous when it comes to hedonism, but it provides a place for people to take care of themselves, check in, and be responsible for the inner you. If you don’t have a sense of self-reliance in your work, the first hurdles will trip you up before you even have a chance to run.
4. Self Awareness: At BM, I saw people demonstrate respect and appreciation for one another — and themselves and their skills. Self awareness is something to look for in every leader or employee you work with, or you risk the unpleasantness of repeated encounters with an oblivious individual. I have spent the last 10 years of my life working on being more aware of my surroundings, being conscious of others needs and emotions, and this has helped me build incredible relationships and a powerful network of great individuals.
5. Vision: People at Burning Man are encouraged to radically express themselves, their vision of art, who they are, and what they want to be. Having a similar vision in business does not necessarily mean that you have to figure out the cosmos — it means that you need to balance the short term goals and how they will get you to the long term goals. I often lost track of my vision because I was inundated with the details — this brought on anxiety, stress, and poor decision making. I am still working on maintain a vision for my life and work.
6. Frugality: It is no secret that there are scarce resources at Burning Man. When you live in the desert for a week, you realize that you can do pretty awesome with very little. The same goes true in every business, especially Silicon Valley startups. This doesn’t mean be cheap (read Seth Godin on being cheap). It means, don’t fall prey to the idea that extravagance can buy employee happiness. Smart companies offer the right benefits, and encourage employees to bring what they need to allow the company to encourage their success.
7. Creativity: If there is ever an experience where you can tap into your creative self, Burning Man is it. While starting businesses is certainly creative, it doesn’t necessarily allow you to explore your creative depths. Burning Man affords you the opportunity to surround yourself with creative and successful people that will remind you how important that creativity is to their (and your) success.
Billionaires, artists, circus folk, techies, aging hippies, swingers, Millennials, Gen Y, my neighbor Bob, and even Susan Sarandon attend Burning Man to spark creativity and get out of the usual routine. It provides a new challenge to the individual: embrace impermanence, celebrate rebirth, appreciate intention, expand your mind to new people, places, cultures, and ways of life. Exploring the inner depths of the self has helped me be a stronger leader, become more passionate about the projects I get involved in, and helped me align myself with people that want to think bigger, stronger, and more ambitious. That is the world I want to live in.
For more insights, thoughts, and and overview of some of the companies I am involved with — check out www.audibleventures.co