Principles to Live By: From Ten at Burning Man to Shalon's Top Three

Like Shalon, Burning Man was created organically, as a way to bring people together in a welcoming space to connect over something they cared about deeply. Since that first night at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, the event and the community have evolved dramatically. What started with fewer than 10 people reflecting and celebrating over the course of one night has grown to over 80,000 people creating a city in the middle of nowhere; expressing themselves, sharing art, ideas and inspiration in the most extraordinary ways possible.

Through its evolution, Burning Man has established 10 Principles that guide participants’ behavior, interaction with one another and experiences both on and off “the playa.”

Burning Man 2016 (photo: Mike Pearson)

Burning Man 2016 (photo: Mike Pearson)

They include:

  • Radical Inclusion

  • Gifting

  • Decommodification

  • Radical Self-reliance

  • Radical Self-expression

  • Communal Effort

  • Civic Responsibility

  • Leaving No Trace

  • Participation

  • Immediacy

I encourage you to read more about each of the principles – understand the origins and what it means to the Burning Man community and how it can be applied every day in what Burners call “the default world” where most of us spend the majority of our lives.

When I created Shalon, many of the ideas behind the principles of Burning Man helped me to establish the mission of the organization and to determine how to share the values that I believed would enable me to build a strong community of engaged, passionate and diverse people.

I use Shalon’s tagline: Break Bread | Break Barriers | Break the Silence to evaluate whether or not every single event I plan is aligned with my goal of making Shalon more than just a gathering of friends, but an opportunity for people to learn and grow.

First and foremost, it was important to me that people were excited to be part of the conversation. That’s why every event is built around an incredible meal. Nobody is happy when they’re hungry. Feeding people has always been my default to break the ice and there’s definitely a reason why 99% of us associate our best cultural, regional and religious memories with food. As we break bread together, people become more open and share opinions without fear of judgement. We are able to ground conversation in personal experience that may help others see situations in a new light.  

I wanted to be inclusive of people from all backgrounds in order to expand everyone’s perspective at the table. At the beginning of each meal, the expectation of respect is established. While diverse views are welcome, they must be accompanied by a willingness to listen. Everyone is encouraged to attempt to understand why people feel the way they do about the topic being discussed. Every time someone shares a respectful (and tasty) meal with someone who disagrees with them, we break barriers and move towards appreciation, compromise and progress.

Lastly it was essential to me that Shalon be interactive and action oriented. I connect with and invite established experts to both set the foundation and to help guide conversation throughout the meal. Their expertise and passion for the topic is incredibly important so that everyone walks away feeling that they’ve truly expanded their knowledge of the subject matter and can incorporate new information into the way that they live and interact within their communities. I remind every expert that joins the table that they are not there to present to a silent crowd. By establishing both a foundation introducing our topic and developing seed questions that drive conversation we break the silence and bring everyone’s voice, opinion and insight to the forefront.  

burning man swing.JPG

As Shalon expands and the conversations get bigger, with more participants eating and learning together, I will continue to incorporate Breaking Bread, Barriers and the Silence into each event, starting with our first ever event in New York City on November 2, 2018!. And one day, when Shalon is an international phenomenon perhaps we’ll even see it at Burning Man!