“Doug Dirt” Proves the Power & Fascination of Personal Narrative — If You’re Not Using It in Business, You’re Missing Out!

"Doug Dirt," lounging at Skinny Kitty Tea House. Burning Man 2013, Black Rock City, NV.

“Doug Dirt,” lounging at Skinny Kitty Tea House. Burning Man 2013, Black Rock City, NV.


So I stumble into the Skinny Kitty Tea Lounge around 8am after staying out all night the night before. Today is Sunday. That means yesterday was Saturday.

I am at Burning Man, Unplugged…And I’ve Never Been Happier

I am at Burning Man. It is the first of September. For one week, 68,000 plus people have created a pop-up city in the middle of nowhere. Everywhere art. Everywhere people in outrageous colorful costumes. Everywhere generosity. We are all actors in one big dusty play, engined by a gift economy. I’m unplugged from technology — me, the iPhone queen! Admittedly, I’m miserable with the camping part — the Porta Potties, the dust and heat. And…I’ve never been happier. That’s how good the good part is. I am part of the crowd, unmediated and unwired. Naked to the pulse of our connectedness.

I forgot how much I craved this.

I forgot it was possible.

How OCD Tendencies Can Help You Reach Goals

What I remember is, at dusk on Saturday, I bicycled with two friends to watch the Man Burn. Then we astral traveled (that’s another story that perhaps you’ll never hear). Then I had the genius idea that we should find our three bicycles in the dark, in the dust, somewhere in the miles of Playa surrounding the now smoldering remains of the Man and his UFO platform. After many hours tracking crazy blinking bike lights through murky air with no luck, I finally found those three bicycles! Eureka!

Make Even Silly Events into Adventures — Wake Your Sense of Fun and Others Will Follow

But by that time I had lost my friends, and it was near dawn. So naturally I left the bicycles there and walked to the Temple of Whollyness to sanctify myself and sleep — until I got rudely awakened and kicked out by the rangers because they were preparing to burn the Temple that night and preferred not to roast festival attendees in the ensuing flames.

Plan a Pilgrimage Every Year to Unstick Any Ruts – Unplug So You Can Return To Clients Renewed & Inspired

So after a long, dusty trek past art cars shaped like dragons and octopi and 18th century sloops spewing flames across the desert; past prehistoric fish and two-story-high sexy dancing woman sculptures stretching their graceful arms into the sky; past other stragglers in electric wedding gowns, purple furs and breathable acid green morph suits; through the never-ending bone-jolting brain-numbing thump of dub step; my tired googly eyes now feeling like a pair of soft-boiled eggs shoved into eye sockets, blessedly hidden behind amber-tinted goggles — I end up at Skinny Kitty Tea Lounge. You would have too if you’d been foolish enough to think you could actually sleep in a dinky sun-blasted tent (sans shade, located a mere 100 feet behind an all-night British rave club housed in the nose of a plane) at Burning Man.

The Benefits of Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone

Why Skinny Kitty Tea Lounge? Because along with free-flowing 24/7 tea, this camp offers weary burners a fleet of couches under their glorious tent which looks like the Sydney Opera House and sometimes has circus acts trapezing and twirling from the beams above. I love you Skinny Kitty! I plan to claim one of those saggy couches to sleep here for as many hours as my fatigued body and overstimulated brain can muster. See? If I’d gone the comfy RV route, I never would’ve discovered Skinny Kitty, nor met the delightful “Doug Dirt” (his Playa name.)

Always Talk To Strangers…and Always Ask Their Names

Before I settle into my Chosen Couch, I meet Doug Dirt at the tea dispensers.

“Good morning,” he says cheerily. He doesn’t seem to mind he has only one bunny ear. “Welcome to Skinny Kitty! Never mind the mummified cats. Chai?”

Even though I can barely stand from severe sleep deprivation, dehydration and general overstimulation of every neuron I own — we chat. I love the random encounters with strangers. The surreal conversations. The sweet, fleeting and deliciously human connections.

We are all covered in dust.

We are all — from friends you thought you knew to strangers you’ve never met — more nakedly human here. Undistracted by technology. More creatively expressive. Emotionally expressive. And personally responsible.

Talk about alchemy.

This to me is Burning Man.

Doug Dirt is his Playa name. No idea of his real moniker. “You’re a virgin burner!” he says, beaming. “Welcome! Me, I’ve been 15 times. Can’t stay away. How’s that for crazy?”

We All Want To Be Seen:  The Power of Deep Listening

We continue in this vein until, I think, he realizes I truly am listening. Deep listening. Despite my wobbliness. So in the midst of charming Burning Man patter — he says this, while I prop myself steady on the tea counter.

“Yeah, I never figured I’d marry. I’m the weakest of the three brothers.”


“Yeah. They’re both married. Have good jobs. Solid guys. Me, I just…I’m weak. I wander around. You know. Can’t settle in one place. Can’t stick with any job. I thought I was too fragile to ever find love. Ever be with someone. Then I traveled to Latvia, where my family is from — and met a beautiful young girl there I wanted to marry! Sylvia…” He pauses. Liquid gold fills that moment. It is full of possibility. “We almost did…until someone told Sylvia’s family about who I was in the States…” he trails off.

I smile, hold his ache in my heart for some long, silent minutes, until the pain dissolves into the morning sun now gently painting the desert floor.

“I’ve got to go to sleep,” I say softly. “Or I’m going to faint.”

Doug Dirt smiles his broken smile. We clink tea mugs here in the clear desert light. Then embrace. And it is, in that moment, all okay.

Want to be Unforgettable? Share True Personal Narrative

I never see Doug Dirt again.

But because he shared a glimpse of his life outside of Burning Man — revealed a story of disappointment, of his all-too-human pain and vulnerability…he moved me.

I remember him.

Stop Hiding 

In business, we have our equivalent of Playa names. Playa personas. We present one self to the business world and forget — that what makes us memorable, what makes us human — is our raw and real selves. Our personal narratives. What we are used to keeping hidden.

Even if we only share a slice of true personal narrative in a blog post, or a spoken presentation — we increase our chances of actually connecting. Emotionally engaging. And making the impact we are here to make.

Sharing Personal Narrative Yields Undeniable ROI…and it Feels Good!

Recently I’ve had the pleasure and honor to work with some clients who’ve shared powerful, revealing personal narrative to live audiences. Both for the first time. The results have been astounding. Undeniable. One client said she’d never felt like she owned a room like that. “They were with me the whole time,” she said in awe. “I didn’t realize my story was powerful,” she said. “I didn’t even think I had a story!” Afterward, a substantial number of attendees signed up for her complimentary coaching calls. Another client ended up converting over half the room to her high-end mastermind group after she opened the one-day workshop by sharing her story with a newfound vulnerability. “A third of the room was in tears,” she said in wonder.

Time to Open Up

So take courage. If Doug Dirt can reveal even a glimpse of his flaws — and it tattoos my heart and brain — imagine what you can do if you isolate the pivotal moments in your personal and professional life and then craft and share them, from the heart. This is the only way to brand your business — and yourself — in this new ultra-noisy world. It is the most effective way to engage and connect.

Never forget. If you want to to succeed in business today, (and writers, you too are in business), you’ve got to run a ceaseless campaign to inspire people to Know, Like and Trust you. There’s no better way than sharing carefully chosen and shaped personal narrative — as long as it’s rooted in raw emotion. That’s the part you can’t skip. Or fake.

Join the Conversation!

Let us know your thoughts, your experiences. How have you used personal narrative in your business writings? Your speaking engagements? Blog posts? Social media? Bios and Abouts? Perhaps you’ve written articles, or even books? Or have you been avoiding it? Maybe never thought to “go there”? Tell us. We welcome your stories and your sharing. Be part of the conversation. Let us support you.

Entrepreneurs and Artists Alike, You Must Tap Your Story if  You Desire Success

Don’t miss out on this vital and ever more necessary part of modern entrepreneurship. Whether you are a straight-up writer, looking to position yourself more powerfully in the marketplace — or you’re an entrepreneur, looking for new ways to create compelling content and consistently engage your followers — personal narrative is key. These days, as author Sally Hogshead says in her blockbuster book Fascination, “Marketing is a metaphor for the modern world.” And we are fascinated by our fellow dusty humans — especially when they get real.

Yrs in truth,



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14 Responses to “Doug Dirt” Proves the Power & Fascination of Personal Narrative — If You’re Not Using It in Business, You’re Missing Out!

  1. Fay September 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Thanks for sharing and reminding me how powerful our personal story is! You’re so right..I always connect better with people I really can relate with. This was good for me to read as I haven’t truly opened up with my story. I need to get more real!! That Is how I will be unique in the market!

    • Rachel September 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      Hi Fay, Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Sometimes it’s scary to share even pieces of our story in a business context — because when we do reveal more about ourselves, we run the risk of not everyone liking us. Or relating. And yet, because there’s so much noise — if we don’t take this risk and step and, we risk being invisible. And also, not connecting with those Ideal Clients who do relate. So cool the post inspired you to get more real and how that’ll make you more unique in the market. Can’t wait to see this unfold!

  2. Elaine Wellman September 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    First, I love hearing you’re happy! Second, I definitely want to hear about the astral travel, you tease! The idea of an annual pilgrammage to tap the creative juices is exciting. Thanks for continuing to demonstrate the power of story Rachel, through your crazy adventures.You show us the way so beautifully. Although

    • Rachel September 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      Elaine! Yes, the happiness I felt at BM and after has given me pause. I’ll be unpacking it for a while. And of course I’ll share about astral travel! There we so many adventures, moments — narrative tributaries — that if you and the other readers are interested, I shall continue to explore. I know that many pieces directly relate to messages we deeply need as entrepreneurs and modern-day media-saturated alienated medicated Spectacle-fed passive beings — lots to look at. SO glad the idea of an annual pilgrimage for the sake of stirring creative juices appeals. It was scary, and hard for me to leave — not just the prep, investment and camping part — but the concern about unplugging and leaving my clients and biz for a week. Yet I knew — on a gut level — that I needed to do something waaaaaay out of my comfort zone to feed my creative and absurdist soul. So did you non-end your comment just to counter tease?!

  3. Rhonda Ryder September 16, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Hey RR, this is RR. Thanks for the reminder. Going to go back to the video sales letter I just wrote and add some personal narrative to it. You’re so write-on.

    • Rachel September 16, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      Ah, fellow RR! Isn’t it fun to have an alliterative name, Rhonda? Let alone the same initials! Thank you so much for reading — and for sharing that the post inspired you to go back to your video sales letter and add personal narrative!!! Please update us and let us know what you added — and if ti alters the results. The response. So cool! And of course, love your “write-on,” witty one.

  4. Carol Steinberg September 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    It’s funny….I used to be all about sharing my very personal story…and then over the years I became much less so…if the internet had been around when I was younger everyone would have known my story…I would have made sure of it…but now I think if one just shares one’s story without letting others know how it can benefit them people will just move on and pretty quickly too. Especially if it doesn’t have the craft you display. Then again, a lot of people are trying to improve the lives of others without telling their personal story and I find that is getting pretty boring too. Have to find a balance. One of my recent blog posts I shared that the joyful painting posted was created on a very depressed and uninspired day…I think that might help someone…my bank account? doubt it… I’ve always wanted to go to Burning Man…have to admit the Porta Potty is a serious deterrant since you wrote about them…I guess I just don’t want to be that uncomfortable…is that wrong? Always fun to read what you’re up to.

    • Rachel September 16, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

      Carol! Lovely to hear from you! And to know that you are painting away. How fascinating — the creation of a joyful painting regardless of a day that felt depressing and uninspiring to you. Such a testament to “acting as if” and to taking action regardless. Take the action and the feeling will follow. Or paint the painting.

      You make some great points. Yes, your story needs to be CRAFTED. It cannot be spewed journal-style. In business — story needs to be context for a message. Else it’s indulgent (even if well crafted.) Also interesting that people trying to help others without sharing WHY they are people who could do that — can get boring. Always about balance. Yes.

      I hear you, too, on the doubt about all this adding up to any concrete results in the bank account. I feel you. I come from a long line and racked-up years of poverty artist mindset. NOW, I can use the 10,000++++ hours I put into learning the craft of writing, in service of voice and story — and then dig the channel over to sales. Because that is about not only standing up for my self worth and self value, and also for the value of what I offer. Personal narrative writing has undeniable commercial applications. No doubt you can figure out the same for painting and/or creativity.

      And honestly — you must go to Burning Man at least once! Despite the hardships — including the Porta Potties! — it was beyond worth it. It’s a don’t miss.

      Thanks again for your comment and warm words, Carol!

  5. Kerry Swetmon September 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Sooo, this is some event, huh? Sounds pretty wild. And I like it:)

    It’s so true..I look back on memories from long ago and it’s the human aspects I recall (whether it was my own emotion or that of someone else). THAT is what affects me. THAT is what plants itself in my mind to stay. It’s what connects us – you’re so right.

    • Rachel September 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Yes, Kerry, and if we want to connect, if we want to be memorable, we need to isolate and celebrate those human gestures. Those moments of the raw and the real. Even when they’re quiet. Especially if they are. A kind smile, a gift of blinking lights for your bicycle so you don’t get mown down by “art cars” — a spontaneous compliment. The trick is not only how to make sure we connect this way in real life — it’s how do we convey that in our messaging? Pretty cool mission. Glad we’re doing it collectively! So appreciate your support and affirmation on this.

  6. Jennifer Truesdale September 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    I’ve heard about Burning Man for years, but have never been. It sounds like an amazing experience! Ah to be thoroughly immersed in creativity and raw humanity. Real, true, honest human connection is about the most powerful thing there is! Such an important reminder and I worth looking at daily!!! 🙂

    • Rachel September 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      Hey Jennifer! Great to see you here. It was my virgin burn. Next year can be yours! It was incredible, immersing like that in both the creativity and self-expression plus the unmediated encounters with humanity. Real, raw people. Disconnected from tech and phones. Truly is the most powerful thing, and what we all crave. Pure connection. Thanks for visiting and acknowledging this!

  7. Pamela Wills September 25, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    OMG you totally make me want to run to this event, dehydration dustiness insomnia and all the other stuff I usually can’t deal with… The power of story… You prove it here again! Thanks for sharing a slice of your experiences on the Playa. So glad it moved you to move us!

    • Rachel September 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      Pamela! So appreciate your energy and enthusiasm here. Very cool you’re open to the power of story — isn’t it trippy how effective it can be? Even better that dust and all the rest is not alluring. Perhaps see you on the Playa next year. For now, let us make our entrepreneurial worlds more playgrounds!

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