What Burning Man Teaches Me About Business

Sep 12, 2022

I just dropped off my RV marking the official end of this year’s journey into the dust, but my transformation has only just begun.

This was my fifth trip to the playa since 2015 and, like every time before, I’m returning a different man than I was before I left.

Burning Man is a Lot of Work

Going to Burning Man is no small feat. The pilgrimage begins months before when hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people begin vying for tickets.

Even if you do get a ticket, that’s just the beginning. When you arrive, there will be no food, no water, and nothing for sale. You’ll be there a week, but the Org won’t provide you with a place to sleep, a place to shower, or an air conditioned space to escape the scorching desert sun.

Nope. Survival is completely up to you.

So why do it?

Burning Man is Magical

Part festival, part carnival, this experiment in voluntary society gives birth to a temporary city in the middle of nowhere. A place where self expression is honored in all of its forms. A place where humans come together to create outlandish, magnificent, and mind boggling works of interactive art.

Mutant vehicles, theme camps, human car washes. If you can think of it - it’s there. If you can’t think of it - it’s also there.

But the most magical thing about Burning Man is just that - the magic. You will find yourself lost in the deepest, most vulnerable conversations that will forever change the way you look at the world. You will desire something, and within moments it manifests.

In this safe(ish) place, you can bring your troubles and your traumas with you. Create a shrine to your pain and join 70,000 souls watching it burn inside a magnificent temple that no one will ever walk inside again.

Burning Man is Unpredictable

One thing to know about Burning Man… nothing ever goes according to plan. This was a big lesson for my 8 year old daughter as multiple times our agenda was disrupted by a dust storm, power outage, or just being on “playa time.”

Yes. I bring my kids to Burning Man and that’s a topic for a whole other post.

This post is about how Black Rock City has changed my approach to business (and my approach to life.)

When I first attended Burning Man in 2015, I was a 30 year old boy. Sure, I had a wife and 2 kids, a successful career, and hair on my chest. But I was new to the world.

Raised a Conservative, Christian I had spent my life avoiding “the party scene,” with my nose to the grindstone, I only knew how to hustle. 

After the death of my father, I began to see the world differently. I came to describe myself as an atheist and self-development became my new church. But I was still striving, trying to prove myself. A trauma response on top of a trauma response.

Until I found myself under a large canopy with a group of 20 Burners, staring deeply into the eyes of strangers. In their eyes I saw the human story - my story. I saw pain, and grief. I saw longing and fear. I also saw love, joy, kindness, empathy, excitement, and awe.

My hands stretched out to the shoulders of a beautiful young woman who had her on mine. I looked deeply into her eyes and apologized on behalf of masculinity for not making the world a safer place for her. In return she lamented how the feminine hasn’t allowed me to be vulnerable. 

While this triggered me at first (my dad raised me to honor and protect the feminine), I quickly understood it wasn’t about me, it was about her. I imagine we both did the same. What I don’t need to imagine was the healing we both received from that interaction.

I never got her name. I didn’t need to.

Burning Man is a Place for Discovery

It was at Burning Man I learned about Wealth Dynamics. At Burning Man I overcame sexual shame. At Burning Man I found belonging, my self expression, and constantly received acknowledgement for who I am (not what I do, or my money, or my status).

It was at Burning Man, I re-discovered spirituality. 

At Burning Man, I learned how to heal.

And that is what transformed my business… Healing.

The Formula is: Hustle & Heal

Like in business, you have to hustle to make Burning Man work. Decomodified, you’re dependent only on yourself and your collaborators to stay alive, get around, and handle problems as they arise. (things break in the heat and the dust)

We all understand this element of business - the hustle. But what too many entrepreneurs are missing is the healing.

If you are hustling, as I was, in a trauma response to prove something, to feel safe, to be wanted or lovable… then your business will reflect that and you’ll prove nothing, feel afraid, and always feel like you’re on the outside. Regardless of your success, you’ll feel unfulfilled.

If, however, you are hustling from a place of fullness. If you’re working your ass off because you love being able to CHOOSE your life, then you’ll end up with more choices and more fulfillment. Just like we do on the Playa each year for 7 days

Hustle and Heal - that’s the formula.

Burning Man Transformed My Life

On and off the Playa, for the last 7 years, this has been my trajectory.

It took me from a lonely, atheistic real estate investor/speaker always away from home with my marriage on the rocks… conditioned to look, walk, and talk the way I thought others needed me to in order to succeed…

To a self-expressed change-maker living at choice with my career, my partnership, my peer groups, my travel…

Transforming my marriage into an epic relationship with a goddess of a woman where we hold each other in our darkest moments and stand for non-stop transmutation into our greatest expression of love and light, over and again.

An engaged father with the time and resources to give my kids a childhood of adventure, travel, and unparalleled levels of self awareness and, I dare say, self actualization

To co-founding the Academy for Conscious Entrepreneurs with Grace, where we get to help people hustle & heal their own way to success - mastering money, team leadership, self regulation, & flow.

Finding a community in Utah full of entrepreneurs on the healing path who, like me, endured religious trauma that led to having a family young. And while they’ve overcome the dogma and human constructs, all of them (including 6 that came to Burning Man for the first time this year) have maintained or rediscovered their connection to God.

Did Burning Man Really Get Canceled for Two Years?

Being away from Burning Man for 3 years was hard. I missed my “Family in the Dust.” I missed the marking of my new year when the Man Burns. I missed epic experiences and deep belonging.

But I didn’t actually miss Burning Man. Because Burning Man isn’t a place. Burning Man is a way of being. And while Covid kept us home, we had already brought Burning Man with us. We doubled down on our hustling… we doubled down on our healing.

And the results continue to astonish me.

Maybe you’re a Burner and you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ll join us someday when we light the man on fire celebrating another trip around the sun. 

But even if you don't, know this: Burning Man as a way of life is available to us all. We need only let our guard down and do the work to heal. 

Because when we hustle from a place of wholeness, when we trade in competition for collaboration there’s no end to what we can co-create.