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What Burning Man Taught Me About Following My Joy

Edmond Lau
Edmond Lau
4 min read
What Burning Man Taught Me About Following My Joy

"Choose intimacy," my new friend Mark said to me, as we stood outside a geodesic dome at Anahasana Village at Burning Man.

"There are a thousand things you could be doing at any moment at the Burn," he continued. "Pick the one thing that's calling you, and get intimate with it."

They were words that I really needed to hear.

The night before, as I explored on my own, I felt awestruck by the beautiful and neon nighttime lights of the deep playa. Hundreds of art installations and art cars lit up 7 square miles of open desert — each set of lights was a unique and artistic expression of people's voices.

I felt so much wonder in every direction I looked that it was hard to take everything in.

In fact, I felt overwhelmed.

I found myself biking and wandering aimlessly — stopping at a sculpture briefly here, stumbling on a marriage ceremony there, seeing a long line to enter a soundscape installation somewhere else — but never feeling dropped in or settled into a sense of place anywhere.

My mind kept asking, "Where should I be right now?"

The next night, on my new friend's advice, I decided to try something different.

With my friends Kelly and Jess, we followed our joy and permissioned ourselves to get immersed in whatever experience we were at.

Deep in the desert, we stumbled on Dust City Diner — a 1940's style diner replete with red leather stools and waitresses who'd take your order and then serve you coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches.

As I sat on the stool eating my late-night meal, I couldn't help but grin ear-to-ear. I felt so delighted at discovering a magical gem in the middle of nowhere.

The rest of our nighttime adventure took us to an actual indoor movie theater in the desert, complete with a concession stand; an angelic and powerful sculpture of the masculine and feminine that brought me to tears; a massive overhead kaleidoscope light show; and so much more.

That night was my first glimpse into the magic of Burning Man that I'd heard all about.

Creators and artists followed their joy and inspiration to create something that spoke from the depth of their souls — something they really wanted to exist in the world.

And in following my flow, trusting my joy, and immersing myself in the experience of the moment — rather than wondering if I ought to be somewhere else — I discovered a new level of delight and magic.

And what a lesson for life it was.

In life, at any given moment, there are so many options that we could invest our time in.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed, hopping from option to option, always thinking about the next thing, wondering if we should be doing something else, fearing missing out, and not being present to where we're at. And that's not truly living.

And, to be honest, that's how I'd been feeling about my creative projects the past three months.

I'd been feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices of things that I could be creating — a school for connection, emotional mastery programs, couples' retreats, a new website, men's programs, men's groups, deep dive retreats, coaching programs, and more.

My wife and I had been doing over a dozen market research calls, trying to find the "right" idea that others would love and that would serve as the long-term foundation of the business that we’re building.

Nothing was clicking, and I found myself not making real progress on any single initiative.

The weight of trying to make the right, long-term decision and to create for someone else was holding me back from making anything at all.

After experiencing the joy and magic that's possible when people create something that lasts only for a week at Burning Man, I realized I had a fresh approach available.

So, this past week, I've been asking myself:

  • What's the thing that I most want to exist in the world that even I would love to experience?
  • What’s the thing that’s yearning to come out of my creativity?

In asking those two questions, I've been able to do creative work the past week while feeling expansive, grounded, and confident each step of the way — without being taken over by the second-guessing of whether I should be doing something else.

From that grounded approach, my next steps were clear.

Much of my life energy right now (and in the past years) has been invested in increasing my body and nervous system’s ability to respond to intense situations and emotions.

For a while now, I've been curating and developing a set of frameworks, personal practices, and tools to ride the emotional waves that show up in our most cherished relationships and in our journeys toward creating a life we love.

And it's become clearer and clearer that the more willing and able we are to feel, the more that we can do.

In my own life, deeper emotional mastery has brought me more freedom, confidence, self-trust, and aliveness than I ever had before. And it's something I'm devoted to investing in for the rest of my life.

In the next couple weeks, I’ll be announcing and experimenting with a brand new project to help people develop deeper mastery of their emotions.

I can't wait to share it with you.

Thanks to Candace Sauve for reading a draft of this post.

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Edmond Lau

Entrepreneur. Bestselling author. Engineer. Leadership coach. Dancer. World traveler. Adventurer.

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