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Why our Burning Man Policy matters

Words by Traction Alumni, Kasey Smith


This is a response to Adam Kleinberg's post Why We Have A Burning Man Policy

After six consecutive burns I planned to skip this one. I was going to backpack through India! Or ride AIDS Lifecycle! Or apply for grad school! Or visit friends in Europe! Honestly, I didn't really have a plan aside from wanting a Big Important Adventure that involved running water, flushable toilets, and wearing pants. (in hindsight perhaps India was incompatible with this goal) So I retired from my position as Store Manager for Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet, said "See you in 2013!" to my far flung burner tribe, and *POOF* I was no longer interested in the burn. Then early August rolled around and friends started selling their extra tickets... Fuck.

Three weeks before the burn I wrote ONE snarky email to the Costco mailing list. ONE snarky email that simply said, "WHY ARE ALL OF YOU TEMPTING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and within four hours I had a ticket, an early entry pass, a ride, and a camp. *POOF* I was suddenly going to the burn. Again. Flush toilets be damned. 

Fast forward to now, two weeks after the burn: It took me several years to grow into my own as a burner; to become the kind of person who runs theme camps, designs experience art, and organizes complex events. When I first went in 2006 I was still awkward, introverted, and completely unconvinced of my own awesomeness. What can I say, I was a late bloomer.  Insert cult-like language here ---> But being a burner helped change that; and working at Traction has done a lot to help me down that path. How? This ------------------>

From the Traction Employee Handbook:

Traction will prioritize requests for time-off—even if people have no vacation time left to attend events that inspire or enhance professional and/or creative development such as Burning Man or SxSW.

You see, in my pre-Traction, pre-Burning Man life I worked in customer service/sales. I loved my job but my company had very rigid rules about time off. Essentially, if I didn't get sick, didn't go on any other trips, and I didn't attend any weddings or funerals or awkward family reunions I could eek out a trip to the burn - but only for the event itself. This was problematic because it prevented me from doing early setup and volunteering at related, non-Burning Man events - all of which effectively capped my ability to assume a significant leadership role in the camp/community. So Past-Kasey, who had infinite interest and ideas around project management/leadership, was somewhat hindered in her ability to act on them. That is, until I lost my job in the Great Econopacalypse of 2009 and started working for Traction in mid 2010.

So what have I learned from my expanded ability to attend/participate in all things Burning Man? It's helped me find my own voice and agency as a leader - to juggle personalities, abilities, resources, schedules and money to make something functional and beautiful. It's taught me how to take big dreams and turn them into a bigger, better, more awesome bits of reality. It's taught me to not only think outside the box but to light the goddamn thing on fire. It's taught me the power of me and the beauty of we. It's taught me how to network the fuck out of my social sphere. It's taught me to delegate, to trust, to find the unique, amazing abilities native to everyone. It's taught me to love spreadsheets and GoogleDocs. In short - it's helped me to become the person, the leader, and the project manager that I needed to be. 

Personal growth is awesome and the Traction Burning Man Policy has been an invaluable resource along that journey. Which is really the whole point behind it. See you in the dust in 2013. )'(

Traction Digital Agency

Traction is an award-winning agency based in San Francisco that believes everything is interactive. And we kick ass.