Mastering the Art of Living ~ the Leadership Principles of Burning Man

lamplightersMany of my friends and colleagues are returning from a week plus from the greatest interactive art installation show on Earth, Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada. Or as may be more accurately described in this beautiful video: an experiment in social living with some of the most creative beings in the world.

Like the creative chaos of a start-up or business with an open and innovative approach to client engagement and employee motivation Burning Man is a living laboratory of what IS possible when we allow ourselves to live  in awe and respect of  the pure creative expression of who we all are and what we are capable of.

 I didn’t get a ticket this year, and I needed  somehow to connect with the most recent experience in Black Rock City. So I’m posting these principles written by Larry in 2004. I still believe they are practiced by most who, are an inspiration to all, and can be applied to our lives and businesses back home, here, in the “real” world.



1. Radical Inclusion~ No prerequisites exist for participation

2. Gifting~ The Gift Economy- The value of a gift is unconditional.

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. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

(Note: It’s true that the “economic culture” of Burning Man has changed since significantly over the past 10+ years, particularly with respect to decommodification and radical self-reliance. )

4. Radical Self-reliance~Encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

5. Radical Self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual.

6. Communal Effort~Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

7. Civic Responsibility~We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

8. Leaving No Trace~ Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

9. Participation~Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

10. Immediacy~ Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers.

The truth is that you will never understand Burning Man, until you experience it!

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between theirBurning-Man-Livestream-2014-600x369 work and their play; their labor and their leisure; their mind and their body; their education and their recreation. They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence through whatever they are doing, and leave others to determine whether they are working or playing. To themselves, they always appear to be doing both.” -Francoise Rene Auguste Chateaubriand

1 comment on “Mastering the Art of Living ~ the Leadership Principles of Burning Man”

  1. shera

    The new Truth be told by long time Burner, Village Mayor, colleague and journalist Giselle Bisson: “If you can’t fight the capitalist overthrow of Burning Man…join it. So much for “Radical Self Reliance” and “Decommodification.” I really enjoyed the abundance of the wealthy patrons and thank all of you for the free hats, costumes, cappuccinos, blinky necklaces, champagne, water bottles, brunches, ice cream, concerts from top tier music acts like Thievery Corp. (Paid $50 to see them last time I went to their concert), steak, sushi, wine tastings, energy drinks, Kind Bars, pickles, fresh juices, hors’ doeuvres, grilled cheeses, popcorn, dust masks, martinis, art car rides, mugs, smoothies, wineglasses, logo emblazoned cups, cucumber water, stickers, chocolate mousse, cupcakes, jewelry, el wire, blinky rings and other schwag. I can’t think of any other festival where I am lugging home more junk than I brought. This year they also encouraged you to take home abandoned bicycles. (;

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