Every year, a group of EO members convenes in northwest Nevada, USA, at dEOxidized, one of the hundreds of theme camps at Burning Man. For the uninitiated, Burning Man—a temporary, pop-up community of 70,000 people with a commitment to decommodification and gifting—may seem like the antithesis of typical entrepreneurial pursuits.
Look a little closer, though, and it makes perfect sense.
These EO “Burners,” as Burning Man attendees are called, run the dEOxidized camp as a lounge featuring talks and classes during the day and an open bar and DJ in the evening. Sound familiar?
According to the description in the directory of theme camps, “dEOxidized is about creating community no matter where you are—even on the far reaches of the playa. Our camp is comprised of members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization along with guests from around the world. Together, we will co-create an unforgettable experience with our community of friends old and new. Come join us every day in the dEOxidized Oasis, our lounge-type chill space featuring a 50-foot parachute shade structure.”
Remove the 50-foot parachute shade structure and relocate to a place that’s more than seven square miles of dust on most days, and that could be the description of an EO learning event.
What brings these successful entrepreneurs back to the scorching desert every year is much like what draws them to the EO community: Burning Man’s core values are about creating community, exploring, learning, growing and enjoying the moment.
EO Cleveland member Jim Benjamin sees the parallels: “Burning Man is like EO on super steroids: Open, honest, nonjudgmental. It is one reason I like EO and one reason I love Burning Man!”
We asked EO Burners to share their experience with Burning Man and what really goes on at Black Rock City.
Myths and Misconceptions
“I think the biggest myths about Burning Man are regarding the type of people who attend and that it is just a big party with naked people on drugs. In reality, there are people from all walks of life and many of them are people who you would most likely consider friends in the default world. There is a big party atmosphere but most of the time, it’s not about that. Learning is a big part of the experience, as well as digging into how to make life better—with less stress and more happiness. – Jim Benjamin, Precision Brush, EO Cleveland
“People believe it’s nothing but drugs and hippies. They are there, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a place where people can connect with the person they wish they could be, due to their own belief system or society. You can truly be yourself. – Anthony Gatto, Kensington Protective Products, EO Inland Empire
What It’s Really Like to Play on the Playa
“This is a quote attributed to Plato I heard at EO Alchemy-Portland and, in my opinion, this is the power of Burning Man—especially for EO members. ‘You can discover more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation.’
For EOers who truly embrace the culture of EO, a week at Burning Man playing in the desert without the distractions of life will allow you to forge friendships and connections unlike any other. That week can feel like a lifetime in itself.” – Anthony Gatto, EO Inland Empire
“When I try to explain my Burning Man experience, I find myself turning into a caricature of someone talking about Burning Man. Trying to explain everything is really impossible, and you end up sounding either insane or like you’re making fun of someone who loves Burning Man. Everything about it is more than you expect.” – Borzou Azabdaftari, The Falcon Lab, EO DC
Why Attend Burning Man?
“If you’ve found yourself drawn to it, you should probably go. If you haven’t, I won’t try to convince you. If I had to pick one thing that would appeal to any entrepreneur, though, it would be that it is a true reset.
I don’t think I’ve had a week completely without technology since before I had technology. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the night that dark or the lights that bright. You are fully engaged with everyone you meet and everyone meets you with open arms. I came back from Burning Man 2019 excited to work in a way I haven’t been since I first started.” – Borzou Azabdaftari, EO DC
“At the root of all entrepreneurs, we do what we LOVE. Burning is all about doing what you love. If you love talking to people, you can simply talk to people from all over the world and from all walks of life for seven days. If you like cooking, you can prepare dishes to share, with one or with 1,000. If you love self-expression, you can dress (or undress) yourself in such a way to share with other Burners. Basically, you can be the best of yourself without judgment.” – Anthony Gatto, EO Inland Empire
“The experience is unique. I can say Burning Man is the most incredible experience I have had in my life. Attending is the best decision I have made in my life. At first, it sounds hard to go to a desert for many days. People ask me, how do you manage to not be in touch with your family, your business, your daily life for so many days?
But the truth is, once you do it, you realize that it is one of the most beautiful ways to connect with yourself, to give yourself a special gift of time for you. It’s time to reflect on your journey in life. It’s time to connect with your inner self—through meditation, dancing, working, whatever you want. In the end, you become a better person, you just learn a lot and grow.” – Hugo Salinas Gonzalez, Q-Ver Construction, EO Monterrey
“The ten principles of Burning Man are a big part of the experience. It is a human experience, not an opportunity to sell or receive free stuff. It is also not about being irresponsible or taking advantage of others. Freeing your soul and making yourself a better person is just one aspect—and what entrepreneur would not want to do that?
My main take away each year is how awesome people can be for no reason. When you remove the reason for people to be nice or kind (as in a transaction) and people are just nice because it makes them feel good, it renews my sense of hope about the world. Burners work well together, help each other for no reason, gift for no reason and love each other just because. I try to take that back to my business and life. It is not always easy, but it is a goal.” – Jim Benjamin, EO Cleveland
Tips for First-Timers
“Bring lots of water, lots of lights and crazy outfits. Connect with someone else who has been before.” – Anthony Gatto, EO Inland Empire
“Take the time to talk to veteran Burners. There are a lot of logistics and almost everyone brings too much stuff. Enjoy the dust. Enjoy the sunrise. Visit the temple, which is the best secret of the whole experience. I have visited many of the world’s most sacred and historic landmarks and, for me, the temple is more special and powerful than any of them.” – Jim Benjamin, EO Cleveland
A week in the desert, it seems, may be exactly what an entrepreneur needs to refresh, renew and engage.