A time in the desert

If you work in Silicon-something—Valley, Alley, Wadi, Beach, etc.—and your coworkers are disappearing right about now, they might just be finding their chi at Burning Man, also known as T.T.I.T.D., Black Rock City, or Home.

The attraction between Silicon Valley and Black Rock City is far more than a swipe right—it’s a relationship that goes back decades. The first Google Doodle in 1998, after all, was an homage to the Man, the effigy that is at the literal and symbolic heart of the event. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin went to Burning Man to find a new CEO—Eric Schmidt—and Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and other moguls have made pilgrimages there, too. (If you want to read about the more controversial side of tech’s invasion, read Nick Bilton‘s 2014 story for The New York Times about how the tech elite try to outdo each other on the playa.)

“Both Black Rock City and Silicon Valley embody a similar cultural ethos—the encouragement of rapid prototyping, a disregard for the status quo and how things have been done before, and the self-reliance to change the world around you for the better.”—Sarah Buhr for TechCrunch

So why do the world’s best-known tech founders and entrepreneurs (and the people who work for them) return year after year? A week in the desert turns out to be the ultimate life hack for people in Techland. (Funny how disconnecting from your phone and spending time with people, communing with art and music, can be so life-affirming.) It’s a hard reboot, a reset, and an enduring reminder of some of the basics that make life as a tech entrepreneur unlike any other.

Here are five things they discover—and re-discover—on the playa:

  1. A Clean Slate

There’s something about being in the middle of the desert that forces you to return to the basics. It helps when you’re cut off from ubiquitous electricity and wifi. “Being a tech entrepreneur is 24/7: there isn’t a moment that goes by where you’re not connected,” Christian Taylor, the CEO and founder of Chatcast, told us. “To have this week where you can internalize, where every moment is not about checking your email, was, at first, very jarring. I had a lot of anxiety about that the first year…but I realized very quickly that: No, that’s the point.”

Habitués also seek a clean emotional slate on the playa. Falon Fatemi, CEO and founder of Node.io (also the youngest person ever to work at Google), calls Burning Man the “healing experience you may not realize you need.” She found catharsis at the Wall of Shame, where people wrote down, anonymously, what made them feel sad, shameful or insecure. “As I was reading all of the powerful feelings on that wall, I was moved in a joyous way,” she said. “I realized that I am not alone. Writing out my own insecurities on that wall and then watching it be lit on fire was a symbolic way to let go of feelings of self-doubt and shame I didn’t realize I hold.”

Read more at Flipboard.