The World Through the Eyes of John Brennan
“It’s a temporary city of 50,000 people, devoted to radical self-expression. So you’ll find anything you’d find in a regular city — art museums, dance clubs, yoga studios — only in the middle of the desert, with no money, and with more creativity than you’ve ever seen.”
I don’t think I’d be able to live in the desert permanently. In fact, most life can’t survive without major adaptations over several generations, and the truth is that I won’t be around long enough. It does, however, give me hope for a different kind of society. A society based on compassion over greed. One based on giving more than you receive.
Many people in our society want more than they need. For every mantra of, “Money can’t buy happiness,” there are five more telling us, “Just one more promotion.” Do you think you’ll be content once you make partner?
You think you can’t be free until you have it all. The truth is you will never have it all. All grows faster than you can consume. It can not be measured. So when will you set yourself free?
This was the environment in which I crossed paths with Sergey Brin, the Co-Founder of Google. It was a Wednesday or Thursday morning at the HeeBeeGeeBee tent at Burning Man. We were both taking an AcroYoga class (my friends from San Diego happen to be the instructors that day too!). Sergey turned towards me and a few others and mentioned that he’s never done this [AcroYoga] before. I spoke in context of our environment and said, “That’s what Burning Man is all about.”
Four years ago I would’ve approached Sergey Brin, the Co-Founder of Google, and pitched him my social venture. Not only do we have the same alma mater (University of Maryland not Stanford), but I almost worked at Google. The pitch was even thought out before crossing paths. It would have gone something like this:
Organizations are doing amazing work on the ground. Unfortunately many of these projects go relatively unnoticed because of a lack of resources. To make matters worse, donors on the other end feel out of touch because of a lack of engagement. This ends now.
OpenAction is an open platform for organizations to create that emotional connection that their donors have been waiting for. Through progress updates, photos and video organizations can engage with the people in more meaningful ways. People will feel empowered by this transparency and direct contact, and will therefore want to self-organize in their community around certain issues and causes.
Four years ago I would have, but not today. Why? I could have pitched him after the yoga class, right? Wrong.
I’ve gone through several transformations in the past two years. Between my Dad’s house getting foreclosed on to the economy to the uncertainty of life — there have been several experiences that helped transform my mindset. I wouldn’t say I am enlightened, but I do think I’m beginning to walk that path.
Life is about living in the present. If nothing else, Burning Man definitely drives that point home. Life is also about compassion. Sergey did not come to Burning Man as the co-founder of Google. And I don’t think he came to Burning Man to listen to business pitches. Could it have opened doors for the work I am doing in the social innovation space? Sure. Could he have potentially helped a fellow social entrepreneur and alum? Most definitely. But life is about more than that.
In the last year my mind has started to work in harmony with my heart. All the possible opportunities started to play out in my head. That was the first and only time during Burning Man where I even thought outside the “present”. My heart told me not to say anything. It told me that if Sergey Brin was meant to help with this cause he will, but that day is not today.
I listened to my heart that day and you should too. Your heart is the voice of your soul. It speaks truth absent of responsibility and consequence. And your heart has no regrets. I know mine doesn’t.
Code. Design. Explore. is the blog of John Brennan, a web developer/designer, entrepreneur, and avid world traveler. I currently live in Brooklyn, NY.
I am the Co-Founder of OpenAction and lead Product Development. We are a open platform social enterprise that helps organizations engage with donors, share knowledge with other non profits and empower the community to get involved to create positive impact on our planet.
This blog will mostly be around building cool things, although I will surely include my travel experiences when I am abroad. Feel free to subscribe to a specific category if that is only what interests you. And please connect with me. I always enjoy meeting new, interesting people!