As a co-founder of Burning Man and founding board member of Burning Man Project, Harley K. Dubois possesses nearly 20 years of project management, art facilitation and city planning experience.
She is the Chief Transition Officer of the 501c-3 Burning Man Project, and currently oversees the complex transition of the Burning Man for-profit event production company into a subsidiary under the non-profit. Harley is also a founding member of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, where she created the Grants to Artist program and acts as the foundation’s liaison with Burning Man Project.
Harley has received extensive education in the visual and performing arts, and at one time served as a San Francisco fire fighter.
A Key Talent | Humility. My world is extremely collaborative and Burning Man is a test in inter-dependencies. All of our work is done as a team. In this type of environment, it is important to own and be proud of what is yours but know that you do not do it alone.
The longer I live, the more I see that every person in my life has given me something. As I watch my parents age and my child grow I see that even the earliest moments with my family life have shaped everything about me. I have built on the experiences of my life from there. With early life as the foundation, develop whatever strengths you bring to the table and then surround yourself with people that have what you don’t, that know what you don’t, and can give what you can’t. Make your own kitchen cabinet for success!
Dealing With Doubt | Being in a “muddle” is one way I describe self-doubt. When I don’t know which way is up and everything seems fuzzy or unclear, causing me to question what I’m doing, I know I am in a personal growth period that will lead to great change. This is a “muddle” and a healthy sign! This means I am pursuing something that is hitting me at my core and really matters. It is normal to sometimes feel out of sorts and confused. By surrounding myself with good people and staying on task—even finding a good thinking buddy—I prevail and am better off than before.
Fear is different. When I’m afraid, I find that speaking truthfully and with poise is the key to overcoming fear. It is honestly one of the hardest things to do while I’m feeling attacked or persecuted, but I have learned this lesson many times throughout my life and career. I have worked hard to develop more inner strength in the face of fear.
What is my practice? I acknowledge my fear by first listening to myself. I have learned to filter out the voices that are not mine and the thoughts that don’t matter. When it feels right in my body, whatever the question or answer is, I feel at ease with myself and can then voice my thoughts clearly.
Next, I have to act. This usually means taking a risk—often a big one. I gain courage by remembering that ultimately, I am responsible for myself. So if I exit a situation by not speaking my truth, I have betrayed myself. Putting myself out there in full view, undeterred by what others might think or say because I know it is right, is my antidote to fear.
Lessons I Have Learnt | There is rarely a black and white scenario in anything that involves people. There are almost always shades of grey. Why? People are not simple creatures. In a world of individuals, someone’s black is someone else’s white. In order to understand someone, you have to bring all of your individual talents and intuition as a human to understand him or her. It is never simple. You have to be willing to see the grey.
I Am Driven By | I am driven by a sense of purpose toward a greater good. If this is within a community of people share my values, all the better! Right now, I am part of a transformational machine that has amazingly positive affects on hundreds of thousands of people year round. If what I bring to the table is integral to the functioning whole, I feel a responsibility to my community to bring it. It is very satisfying.
Advice On Building Wealth | Make enough money to support yourself and give others the opportunity to do amazing things for the world. Money is a means to an end but money alone is meaningless. Earn enough money to make yourself comfortable so that you can actualize your better self and then find the space to give. For some, that will be a simple life with little money. For others, it will be a busy life with lots of money.
Build wealth, but if that is your only goal you will find yourself on a path to unhappiness. People inherently want community, and an overwhelming number of people want to do well by the world. Fold that into your plan and you will have a winning aim.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Learn how to meditate and own your space.
On Inspiring Others | I am a good judge of character, especially when it comes to identifying individuals who are connected with their authentic selves, so I generally pick good people to work with from the start. I really love people and always find something to genuinely love about everyone I work with. From there, a bond is formed that makes for a healthy, reciprocal relationship. Having said this, I believe it is important to keep my personal life separate from my work life. This is particularly challenging with Burning Man, but I have struck a good balance with time. I love to have fun with my staff. I want to be accessible, but if you are too close, healthy mutual respect can erode, so I watch my relationships carefully to keep them productive.
I challenge people to be their best, not just do their best. I start off in a very tight formation with a new person, watching and working with them closely. As we build trust and rapport, I distance myself, allowing them to take on the responsibility of their work. Sharing a common vision is critical to allowing this sort of working relationship, so I try hard to give them as much information as possible early on and keep them in the information loop as time progresses.
The Difference Between Good And Great | Passion and conviction. I always believed that talent is a dime a dozen. It is perseverance that creates the victor. For that sort of effect, you need to be fueled by passion.
My Definition Of Success | My definition of success is making the best impact you’re able to while you’re alive. I don’t separate personal success from private success. I try to hold myself to the same standards wherever I am. Every exchange is an opportunity for a positive impact.
My definition has changed over time. It has gotten simpler. I used to think that my reach or impact would need to be big to be successful. More and more, I am content with the quality, not the quantity or reach.
Performing At My Peak | I believe in a well-balanced lifestyle. There should be on and off hours. Unplugging from work each day is critical. Family is always first, and they deserve undivided attention. So when I get home, I’m all theirs. Giving your mind enough space to breathe makes for better decision-making. That said, working at your maximum efficiency and doing whatever it takes is sometimes required. You need to be ready to step up to the plate, but always remember to take time for yourself and your family.