What We Can Learn About Life and Business From Burning Man
From its inception in 1986 with 20 participants, the now-called Burning Man Project has expanded every year, to this year selling around 70,000 tickets. This event draws visitors from all walks of life, from all around the globe and it has a reputation of being an exciting, creative, loud, dusty, explorative, exhilarating and wild ride. From articles I have read written by people who have attended, it is all of these things and more; there are ten guiding principles for participation in the event. This is the first part of a two-part article on how we can relate to these principles in both our business and personal lives.
1. Radical inclusion – anyone may be part of Burning Man.
Embrace (either physically or metaphorically) the differences in others. Every single person on this planet is unique, but that does not make them (or you) better or worse than any other. Learn about people – discover who they are as a person, rather than judging them simply by what you can see. Find out why they do the job they do, what their core values are, what brings them joy and what legacy they want to leave the world.
How do you, or can you celebrate the unique differences in others both in life and in your business? Do you look to collaborate with other entrepreneurs with different gifts? How do you celebrate them in yourself? Are you aware of your own gifts?
2. Gifting – Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving.
A gift will mean different things to different people – it might be your time, your skills, your ears to listen, your shoulder to cry upon or a simple hug when needed. What is most important, however, is not only that a true gift is given without any expectation of return, but that a receiver is able to accept the gift in the spirit that it was given.
How do you perceive gift giving? Do you make a habit of sending clients/suppliers gifts? Do you only relate gift giving to physical items that you have purchased, or do you view your time/knowledge/skills as something you can gift to others? Are you open to receiving gifts from others, and if so, do you accept them wholeheartedly?
3. Decommodification – in order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions or advertising.
Don’t buy into consumerism. How often do we buy things because our friends have one, or we happened to land on the shopping channel late at night and convinced ourselves that we absolutely need a “speedy mop”, “night-vision glasses” or a pair of Jeggings? In today’s world of social media living, it is easy to be distracted by the “earn a six-figure income by tomorrow” posts and to then compare ourselves negatively to those who are apparently doing it bigger and better than we are.
How do you view consumerism? Do you buy into advertising or “keeping up with the Jones’”? Do you buy products in your life/business because of the branding or are you a conscious buyer? Do you avoid manufacturers or suppliers for ethical purposes for example?
4. Radical self-reliance – Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
How often do we tell ourselves “I can’t”? I know I certainly am guilty of it when it all just feels too hard. But the more we get to know ourselves – our strengths, our weaknesses (or as I like to call them “areas for development”), our values and our knowledge, the more able we are to trust our capabilities. Nobody else is going to fix our problems, and even if they could, would we really want them to? Life is about learning and growing and we can do neither whilst ever we are totally reliant on others.
How often do you try new things? Do you shrug off your own professional abilities rather than value them as part of your life experience? Do you work on your areas for development regularly, or are you even aware of what they might be?
5. Radical self-expression – radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual.
In the wise words of Dr. Seuss “Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no-one alive, who is youer than you!” Who else on this planet has your background, your skill-set, your life experience, your innate wisdom or your take on the world? No-one! Not one single person!! So, STOP comparing yourself to others as it won’t get you anywhere. Can you aspire to be as successful as someone else? Absolutely. But if you are doing it to be like someone else, you are destined for failure…. or misery.
Do you find yourself comparing your success in business to that of others? Do you wish you could be more like someone else? Are you always putting things off for when you are “better”, “thinner”, “fitter”, “more experienced”, “qualified”? How can you be more accepting of yourself?
In part 2, I will be discussing the second half of the ten principles and continuing to reflect on how we can use them in both our lives and our businesses.
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