I want to start this off with a disclaimer: This piece isn't about how techies are invading Burning Man, and it certainly isn't about how the rich are flocking to the Nevada desert. I couldn't care less.

Instead, I want to talk about what I learned at Burning Man, and why everyone who has the means should do themselves a favor and make the trek to Black Rock City at least once, both for your business and your personal growth.

Over the next few days, 70,000 people will make the journey to Burning Man, where they will construct an entire city filled with hundreds of music halls and art installations, yoga studios and whiskey bars, breakfast stations and art cars, meditation centers and orgy domes, and so much more. Black Rock City has everything it needs to be a city--a communal culture, multiple neighborhoods, restaurants, and bathrooms (well, porta-potties). The difference is that everything is constructed that week and torn down just as quickly. Without a sense of permanence, people let their wild and artistic sides flourish. You can see it in the camps, in the art, and in the costumes that turn the eye and awe the mind.

I journeyed to the desert for the first time last year. It was an incredible experience that still pays dividends. Ever since then, I have consistently told friends and business acquaintances that everyone should go to Burning Man at least once in their lives.

Why do I recommend the experience of the Nevada desert? I’m going to highlight some of the things I learned from Burning Man, but scroll to the end if you want the real reason why I always tell people to go.

It's not what you expect.

Some of my friends say that Burning Man isn't their scene and it isn't for them. Some think it's all about drugs; others aren't sexually or artistically adventurous. But it isn't these things. The biggest mistake is thinking Burning Man is an event. It isn't--it's a city, and cities have countless options for food, entertainment, and love. Burning Man's Black Rock City is no different. Which leads me to …

There's a camp for that.

Not into drugs, but love philosophy? You'll find it in Black Rock City. Not much for nudity, but addicted to yoga? There's a camp for that. Jazz? Bacon? Woodworking? Bitcoin? Grilled cheese? Fire dancing? Painting? There are camps for that. My first night was spent meeting new friends over whiskey cocktails while listening to extremely talented musicians rock out with jazz until 4 in the morning. Just like in any other city, there will be something you love and you will find it.

Business relationships.

Yes! I have done business with people I met at Burning Man. And just as important, I have bonded with readers, startups, and clients over the Burning Man experience. Your guard is down at Burning Man--the networking is deeper and more intimate.

Digital detox.

My good friend Facebook engineer and BM campmate John Fremlin says it best: "Burning Man is an ineffable moment of self-actualization and digital detox for a generation of techies." You won't believe how refreshing it is to detach from your laptop and phone until you actually do it.


Ben Parr's family at Burning Man 2014

I could list countless rationales for why people of all stripes should give Burning Man a chance. But really there is only one rationale that matters, and it isn't exclusive to Burning Man: New and challenging experiences help us grow.

Trying something different, whether it is camping for a week in the desert or learning a new trade, forces our brains to think different, process information differently, and learn more. When our lives stagnate, we lose our ability to innovate, think creatively, and take risks. There is nothing more tragic.

You don't need Burning Man to challenge yourself, but I have never encountered a place or experience that has challenged so many people so completely. Black Rock City's magic is in its experiences, many of which you will never find anywhere else on earth. So, my advice to you is simple: Don't be afraid to try something completely out of your comfort zone, whether it's Burning Man or something else. Your career, your relationships, and your mind will thank you.

Published on: Aug 26, 2015
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