Why being a Burner makes me a better employee

I spent the start of my week among Mormons.

To be more exact, I spent 3 days in Park City, UT where it’s easy to forget you are in the land where Mitt Romney was schooled.  Easy to forget until you order a drink at the hotel bar and watch as your bartender disappears to make your drink. Why? It’s the “Zion Curtain” -a rule that all drinks be made out of sight and prepared behind “a solid, opaque or translucent permanent structural barrier” (a.k.a. a “Zion Curtain”).

Its ironic that here-in this  bipolar mix of ski bum town meets Mormon craziness-I got into a discussion with my co-workers about Burning Man.

I work in Medical Sales-selling a super-cool medication for cancer patients.  But, the culture is super-conservative.  Everyone has a spouse and kids, most of the women have had plastic surgery, and more vote Republican than I’d like to admit.

Sooooo, when I go to company meetings-I hide my tattoo, downgrade the amount of yoga I do and never, ever mention Burning Man (I usually tell my boss I’m going ‘camping’ in late-Aug/early Sept)

But, this year, one of my co-workers outed me!  He is a fun guy from Park City who has  a soul patch and called everyone “dude“.  We were in front of everyone chatting and he exclaimed “Hey, do you go to Burning Man????”

I’m a horrible liar, so I squeaked “Yes” hoping that no one in my company knew what Burning Man is.  Well, thanks alot fucking Town & Country  with their Krug Champagne photo shoot last year, everyone knew what Burning Man is.

Then I thought “WHY am I hiding???”

So, under much scrutiny-I started talking about the 10 Principles of Burning Man and how they apply to our jobs-some of which:

Radical Self Reliance- What MORE can you want from an employee than reliance on their own inner resources?

Communal Effort- Most of us are selfish by nature-but as Burners, we realize collaboration equals creativity and that everyone  has their talents.

Participation– No one is a spectator-we are all participants.  Our company spends endless resources convincing salespeople to  ACT.  As a Burner, this comes naturally.

I’m missing a few but my favorite is:

Gifting: The idea that you GIVE something without expecting anything in return.  As people that work with cancer patients, shouldn’t the idea of giving without expectation be mandatory?

After I made my little speech-I was amazed that my conservative, dollar-driven colleagues were actually listening and not judging.

And, afterwards, several complimented me on being brave enough to defend something that looks like a “crazy party in the desert” and reveal what it really is to me and most Burners.

On the flight home, sitting at Salt Lake City airport, I showed coworkers pictures of Burning Man and a group of Mormon kids (dressed in black and headed out on missionary) ate behind us and were peeking over my coworkers shoulders salivating over the photos.

Hey, you never know!

Maybe next year on the Playa you will see some more medical device reps: breaking out of their suits and growing out their hair- and maybe you will even see some Mormons trying to check out Principles other than those written by Joseph Smith.

For myself, I’d enjoy wearing nothing but pasties and a tutu and serving them drinks- behind an opaque barrier of course!!

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