A Case For Burning Man
In 2011 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In the following months I had two invasive surgeries, radiation treatment and the required isolation that goes along with all of it. It was a scary year. I dealt with depression, anxiety and crippling fatigue as I worked with the doctors to balance my meds and get back on my feet.
But cancer taught me a valuable lesson, as it seems to do. It may sound trite, but you just never know when your time will be up, so make the most of every moment you have. This led me to 2012 - cancer free and determined to face my fears; doing things I had previously crossed off of my list, like skydiving and going to Burning Man. And, to my surprise and amazement, I loved both experiences intensely.
I want to focus on some things I learned at Burning Man. First off, I learned that I didn’t need to be afraid. The dust storms, heat, drugs and crowds were all much less intimidating than I had built up in my mind. But more significant than overcoming those fears was the inspiration I received.
One day, mid-week of my third Burn, I didn’t feel well and remained at our dome while my husband and the rest of our camp attended various talks and events. In retrospect I felt ill because I was pregnant, but we didn’t know that at the time. That’s an entirely different story. I lay curled in a hammock and thought about the spectacular art installations we had explored the night before. I thought about old cathedrals and giant mansions and castles, all built with the hands of thousands and no longer feasible or affordable because of today’s fair wage and labor laws.
But being at Burning Man, seeing the scalability and contribution of so many tens of thousands of people, I began to turn over and examine this new concept: Thinking Bigger.
I’ve always thought only as big as I knew I could accomplish myself, which means I’ve always achieved my goals, but contributed only in a small way.
This particular experience on this particular trip - an afternoon of solitude and thought - led me down this startling new path of imagination. I thought about Covo not as a single entity or even a global enterprise, but as a centralizing, stabilizing force for good in the world. An organization known for helping to preserve buildings of historical significance, creating safe spaces for everyone and fostering innovation and positive change.
I stretched my mind further: perhaps through our involvement with LExC, we could help make even bigger change. We could work with governments to support entrepreneurs, the backbone of our economy, and create a safety net, or support platform, and a global fund for individuals willing to take risks and innovate.
Today as I reminisce and capture these thoughts in words, we have taken some great - and not insignificant - steps on our journey. We recently opened a second Covo location, a beautiful old bank building from 1896 that helped fund the 1904 worlds fair in St. Louis. We’ve shifted our focus towards work-life balance and offering a safe haven for those more likely to experience prejudice and bias. We have built a space bursting with aspiration, innovation and cooperation.
And we did all of this by Thinking Bigger and Starting Smaller. Taking that first tiny, terrifying and thrilling step.