Jan. 3, 2023

155 Samantha Coker (Pele): Burning Man, Red Lightning, Leadership Lessons

My guest is Samantha Coker, an entrepreneur, writer, and humanitarian. She was the project manager for Red Lightning, a theme camp at Burning Man, for 5 years, and is also the co-founder and CEO of Rich Nuts, a rapidly growing sprouted gourmet nut company that she hopes to expand internationally to bring healthy food and education to a wider audience. With a career that exists at the intersection of art, commerce, and social change, Samantha has a unique ability to balance the creative and pragmatic. She has a passion for diversity and has spent time living abroad, immersing herself in different cultures.


We talked about

+(6:05) Introduction to intentional or conscious camps

+(9:34) Evolution of Red Lightning's intentions

+(17:03) Definition and discussion of culture appropriation

+(21:48) Finding the right scope or ambition for Red Lightning

+(26:01) Decision-making processes in running Red Lightning

+(31:48) Key lessons learned from running Red Lightning

+(39:46) Identifying intrinsic motivators in people

+(44:23) Creative ways to fund theme camps

+(52:29) Why plug-and-play robs people of their burning man experience?

+(56:37) Tips for maintaining healthy romantic relationships at Burning Man







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[00:00:00] CK: Today's guest, she has been the organizer of red Lightning, one of the most spiritual theme camps at Bernie Man. She is the co-founder, CEO of Rich Nuts. If you wanna learn more, go to rich nuts.com. Please welcome Samantha Coker. Thank you. Thanks so much for being here,

[00:00:14] Samantha: Samantha. That's exciting to be here.

It's my first time doing one of these, so I'm

[00:00:17] CK: excited. Yeah. Uh, why don't we go right into it. Um, burning man is very special. I know that you've been going for a long time, since 2011, if I recall correctly.

[00:00:25] Samantha: Yes. 2009 was my first year actually. Yes. Wow. So 11 was my first year in leadership.

[00:00:29] CK: So 13 years you, have you ever took a break or, Uh, it's 13 years straight.

[00:00:34] Samantha: I did not go to the two rogue years. So two years that Burning Man officially didn't happen. We didn't go those years. Got it. And it was nice cuz my birthdays at Burning Man, so I had two birthdays. Not at Burning Man in 13 years.

[00:00:44] CK: So, So, so let me ask you this. Mm-hmm. , uh, this is my third year. Mm-hmm. . And during my third year, I have thought to myself, Hmm, do i want to come back to this.

So, as a veteran who's been going for 11 years, Well two part question. One, what's Burning Man to you? And two, have you ever encountered a moment [00:01:00] where you thought about, Hmm, I wonder if this is the last year for me?

[00:01:03] Samantha: Those are two really good questions. Um, the first question, what is Burning Man for me? So,

My life in and of itself has been a really big personal journey of healing and growth and evolution. And Burning Men first and foremost was like, and people say it's like coming home. And it was, it was like, Oh, there's other freaks like me in the world. Like a place where I felt not only that I belonged, but I was, I was part of a tribe, part of a tribe of, uh, interesting genius, crazy, creative misfits that found a place called Burning Men where they belong.

Uh, and it it, it was a beautiful coming home. As I said, as everybody says, uh, that it's like coming home, it's also a place where I feel you can really explore being the most expansive, true version of yourself. If you wanna really lean into something, do it at Burning Man. because you have permission and you'll have a supportive cauldron to feel through what it might feel like to lean into parts of yourself that you might not have permission to do so much in the default world.

Um, [00:02:00] so that's what really Burning Man has been for me. It's also been, so for me, I l I leaned into leadership. I leaned into can I really be a leader? And there was a group of people at Red Lightning who wanted me to step into that. They saw skills in me that I was too afraid to test out in the real world.

Uh, and it really gave me a platform to learn to lead. Mm-hmm. . Um, so that's a Burning Man is for me. And the second question about have I ever thought about not going, usually in one of those moments that everybody has at Burning Man, where you're challenged and you're struggling and mm-hmm. really hard and you're, For me, it's.

Again, it's, it's a cauldron. It's an alchemical space to really lean into things. So for me, it's like I'm bumping up against something within myself. So this year it was the heat, it was so hot. Mm-hmm. and the generators were breaking down and our redundancies broke down. And it was like thing after thing, after thing not working.

And it was so hot. And there was a moment where like, I'm not coming back to this place, . Okay.

[00:02:46] CK: So after 11 years, this was the year that really tested you.

[00:02:49] Samantha: It happens almost every year because if you let it, it will challenge you in ways you need to grow. So I ask myself in those moments, what lesson am I supposed to learn here?

What really am I rubbing up [00:03:00] against that I can, that I'm being challenged with, that I can learn that can help me grow in a new way that can help me bump up against challenges in life in the default world. So, of course I'm going back . Um, I, I was, it was nice to have a reprieve. For two years. I had my 50th birthday off playa.

But, but it is part of my life and it's hard to contemplate not going.

[00:03:17] CK: Mm mm Yeah. This year was really hard for me. The heat really got to me as well. And, um, I experienced my, uh, white out moment where I didn't have goggle or a light or, you know, I had a broken bike. So basically everything, all the tools I had just stopped working, so, Oh, did

[00:03:33] Samantha: they stop working or you didn't have

[00:03:34] CK: them?

I just didn't have them because I was too overconfident and I was like, Yeah, you know, this is not gonna happen. It's gonna look at, this weather's beautiful. And then of course, you know, moments later, uh, I really, I was really tested and I couldn't breathe cuz the, the sand storm. I was like, Oh my gosh, I could, So I experienced a moment of panic.

I was like, oh, and overwhelmed. In that moment, I, you know, had a brief moment of panic and then, and then I surrender and then I just started laughing about the predicament. I put myself in [00:04:00] and in, it's such a learning moment for me, like where else in my life where, um, I was overconfident and I was not prepared.

Mm-hmm. . Um, yeah, it was, it was definitely a big teaching moment for me this

[00:04:10] Samantha: year. Well, that's beautiful that you did that and is, that's a skill that you have to be able to say, Wait a minute, what did you say? You surrendered and had a laugh about it. Like, okay, that's great that you can do that cuz a lot of people can't.

[00:04:20] CK: I mean that's a big part of Noble Warrior, this podcast really like how can we, uh, part of who I am, I don't know if you know enough about me yet, who, part of who I am is I'm all about lessons and insights and learnings, and hence why conscientiously put myself in situations where normal people would say,

Oh, wow. That's crazy. Why do you want to, you know, seeing the intensity of a Spartan race or Iasa Journeys or Burning Man? Because in my, uh, from my perspective, those are the places, uh, Cauldron, you call it alchemical spaces, you call it, where we can learn the truth of who we are because we're tested there.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah.

[00:04:49] Samantha: No, that's beautiful. I, I, I don't know if you remember, Richard did a podcast, Rich from Rich Nuts, did a podcast from you, was it two years ago, and was really inspired by the work that you do.

[00:04:57] CK: Oh, thank you. Yeah. Rich was important to get out there. [00:05:00] Oh, thank you so much. So burning Mans the caldron of transformation, uh, alchemical space, as you call it.

Um, so inside of that big container that's called Burning Man for 80,000 people, what is a theme? What is the role of a theme camp to you? Someone who used to be the mayor, the organizer, the managing director of theme camps. What is a theme camp to you?

[00:05:17] Samantha: Yeah, so basically the gist of the theme camps is because it's a co-creative event, it's a participant driven event.

The Burning Man org doesn't put all these events on. It's not like going to Lightning at a bottle or another festival where the festival producers get venues together and produce all the venues. Mm-hmm. . Instead they say, Here's a canvas. You paint upon it. So the theme camps, uh, fill out a questionnaire and say, We wanna come together and we wanna put on workshops or roller derby or the orgy dome , or whatever it is that they wanna put on out there.

You know, Opulent temple or, uh, so the theme camps are really the groups that put on. , the programming at Burning Men. I mean it, So they are, but they're really, they're, they're the clusters, the families of participants who camp together, who then bring in interactive or [00:06:00] interactivity or interactive events so that you have something to do when you go to Burning Men.

[00:06:04] CK: So what's, what's, what's your position on, um, a conscious camp or a spiritual camp or, or intentional camp? Cause for some people mm-hmm. , um, they kind of roll their eyes when they think about, Oh, conscious camps, like the kind of snobby people or whatever. Like, that's what they have. I have, I have heard that before.

Mm-hmm. Um, so I'm curious know from your perspective, what is the difference between, um, spiritual camps versus just, you know, regular camps?

[00:06:25] Samantha: Yeah, that's actually a really good question, and I think you get the eye roll because, As with every community ev, with every dogma, with every group, there are the loud ones that do a lot of pontificating and posturing.

Mm. And then they're the ones who just walk the walk. Mm. And I, I find it Burning Man. There are camps that I would consider walking the walk, and you don't really, I mean, some of them you could consider like a spiritual camp, and some of them you wouldn't consider a spiritual camp. But I would consider the way they approach their work has a spiritual note to it [00:07:00] because of the intentionality and the mindfulness with which they approach their leadership or their community, or even their programming, Um mm-hmm.

because the front banner might say, you know, Come Roller derby or Pink Heart or something else like Pink Heart. Pink Heart is a, is a, is a shade, is a pink fuzzy shade structure and they hand out ice cream. Mm-hmm. . But the way, the intentionality, they were our neighbors from Red Lightning for many years.

The intentionality with which they work and move, which they engage each other and with which they build and they come to the playa. I consider them like a deeply spiritual group of people. Now they don't necessarily meditate or pray or go to church or whatever, but they're in alignment with the values that I feel in my spiritual world they align with.

And they actually do the work where the rubber hits the road. I find Mystic to be very much like that. Uh, Camp Mystic. Um. Where they do put on spiritual program, and I find this a very middle of the road camp, right, where they do programming that is spiritual in nature and that, and that it's, it's um, uh, evolutionary work or, or workshops on how to expand yourself, how to do [00:08:00] healing work, that kind of stuff.

But then also the way they approach things. Not everyone in the camp is spiritual, but the way they approach things is very mindful, um, is very conscious, very awake. And then you'll get some camps that do a lot of woo woo talk and a lot of woo woo programming, but it's a disaster on the inside. It's a lot of infighting and a lot of politics and that happens a lot.

I mean, it's hard for that not to happen at Burning Man. So when you find these camps like Pink Heart, like, um, Mystic who've been around for 20 years, uh, you know, they've lasted because they have a very grounded, uh, conscious way. They work together. So does that answer your question on what a spiritual campus?

[00:08:29] CK: Uh, yeah, sure. I mean, my , I mean, to me it's, you know, take, take the language out is the level of intentionality. Yes. You know, if someone who's really in intentional, I mean, in many ways I have never experienced what you doing myself, but I, I have friends who are fans, right? They go all the time. Yes. And then they come back and tell me how they do certain things and I was like, Oh, wow.

They're very intentional about how they hold that space as a, as a container. So then you don't have, uh, riff raffs coming in and disturb the space. I was like, Oh, cool. That's, you know, to me it's a matter of intentionality and in, in, in, in thought, but also in [00:09:00] practice. That's the way I think about these type of camps.

[00:09:02] Samantha: I really appreciate that. Yes. And I, I would lean towards intentionality and mindfulness, which I guess are kind of the same thing. Mm-hmm. . Um, but it's like really paying attention to their impact on their own community, on the community. Who's coming in, who are their neighbors. And so yeah, the intentionality, the mindfulness around their impact and how they're doing things.

And it's funny, like you say, and, and even as you said that, I was like, Yes, spiritual isn't even the right word, but that's thrown around a lot. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. So I completely get what you're saying.

[00:09:29] CK: So inside of that, I know that red lightning is no more, but what was the, the, the meaning of the name and what was the specific intention of Red Lightning when, you know, doing the, doing the evolution right from the birth to the, the finality of what it is.

Yeah. What it was

[00:09:42] Samantha: Red Lightning had such an interesting history. So my first year at Burning Man was Red Lightning's first year at Burning Man. And I came in with a man I was dating and he was friends with a group of the people who were formulating this camp. And this camp was a few people from Enon, which was a very large camp at this point, Sacred Spaces, uh, [00:10:00] Venice Vibe Tribe.

There was several different clusters that had come together to create this camp. And as I recall, because I wasn't a part of this process, so the story I heard in several versions, which may be partially accurate and partially not accurate because I've heard it in many different ways. But the way I heard it the most was that there was two different groups of people.

There was a group of women who came together and wanted to put on a camp, really about feminine leadership, about uh, the blood moon mysteries, um, which is. The women's cycle and the cycle of the Earth and women and have that be connected to this Native American, um, ethos that I don't know much. I can't, I don't know enough to speak about.

Right? But that was what it was grounded in. And there was a group of men who were connected to these women, I believe it was Brock and Brad and I, um, who said, Let's build a really deep spiritual, intentional, conscious camp at Burning Man. And, uh, Brad and I, who's very well known in the community, who's like one of the best networkers connectors I've ever met, also knew these women who wanted to put a camp together and, and, and bridged this.

And I've heard two different things about the story of the name Red Lightning, and I don't know if either of them is true. One was [00:11:00] that, uh, there was a Native American myth about Red Lightning and the earth scorching. Itself through the sky in order to heal. And then I heard that that may not be what the myth was, and that there was another myth.

So if, if I tell you the story, I'm gonna tell it to you wrong. But those were the stories that floated around the camp in the early years that I heard. So, um, I don't know any more than that . Um, but what the main intention was in the first few years was really bringing insight and awareness into what we call gender alchemy, which is balancing the masculine and feminine.

We had men's circles for women's circles, each in tepees every day that were deeply and profoundly healing for people. And we also had a, a woman's lodge that was specifically for women mooning on the playa, women having their cycle. There were stories of women who hadn't cycled for years that walked into.

Moon Lodge and started cycling again. There were women who were infertile, who got pregnant after visiting the Moon Lodge. There's so many extraordinary stories about women who had really been healed in and around their own stories and histories, sexual traumas, um, Shaming traumas around their own menstrual cycles and things like that.

There was also a tremendous amount of healing with [00:12:00] regards to the men's and women's circle and the gender alchemy Circle. Men healing a lot of emasculation that they had gotten from their mothers and the women in their lives. Women healing so much trauma for men in their lives and creating this bridge in between.

So deeply, deeply healing for a lot of people. And then the other, I mean, we had loads of workshops that were extraordinary that people got a lot out of. But the other really big piece was a woman named Sonya Sophia, who does, she's one of the world leading EFT practitioners, and she would do two hours of workshops a day and people would come from all over the world to Burning Man to sit with her for five days.

And I would get email. Dozens of emails every year after Burning Man about how their lives were saved sitting in her workshop. So Red Lightning kind of became, and especially for me as a, as a young leader, learning to lead, it became, Let me build you a platform. Let me build you a beautiful space built by a wonderful crew of people who want to create a space for healing.

And you guys do your magic. Mm-hmm. . So we would get all sorts of different incredible magicians, , magic healers, or people with so much wisdom who would come into the space and heal people. And, [00:13:00] you know, whether or not, at least the arc that I took red lightning through, uh, matched with the original intention, I, I don't think it did , but I think there was so many different intentions and I just tried to create a space and allow whatever would flow through, would flow through.

Um, Uh, you know, and, and, and leaders came and went. Several of the original women left after the first year, and then some continued, and Brad continued, and some of the core men in the group continued. Uh, the core there was about a core of 60 to 70 people who, some came and went throughout the years, but there was a core group that literally just loved building a beautiful space.

Jeffrey Collins was an architect, is an architect, but he would do these luscious spaces that even, even our camping spaces were beautiful in design and layout and, and, and we just cared about lovingly building space and letting the magic makers do their magic in it. So it was kind of, again, like two different groups of people.

There was magic makers and, and, and the rough and tumble builders. So I don't know if that answered your question, but ,

[00:13:51] CK: I mean, I, I, I, I. So my first year at Burning Moon in 2017. Mm-hmm. , I understand that that was the last year of red lighting. Correct. And the moment that I [00:14:00] encountered the red lighting space was like 2:00 AM And um, I walked in and I saw this immaculate, beautiful space with an open mic.

The mic was still on at 2:00 AM there's no one there. So I went up and I, you know, did my talk and, you know, made some noise. And, but what I felt probably was a, a lot of intentionality behind, um, the space design and the day after I, uh, came in set with the workshop with the Mankind project. Mm-hmm. Uhhuh.

Yeah. So anyways, my point I'm mentioning all that is, um, the intentionality of the space design is, is very palpable even when there was no one

[00:14:28] Samantha: there. Hmm. Thank you. Was that the mandala? ,

[00:14:30] CK: Uh, I'm

[00:14:31] Samantha: not sure. Is that the big space with the orange, uh, shade above and little

[00:14:35] CK: shade. Yeah. Yeah. There's lots of different, like triangular shapes above mm-hmm.

and, uh, there was an open mic and it was a big space that could house like, I don't know, three, 400 people or something.

[00:14:43] Samantha: Yeah. And I, I, so I wanna mention that structure for a moment and, and also talk about the cultural appropriation issue. So when Red Lightning started, there was a group of women who were very connected to the Native American space and had been like, lived in.

Several communities that were African Am sorry, Native American communities, and had permission to bring the Tepe [00:15:00] and had depth and knowledge and wisdom and brought the Tepe. And as we continued with the tepees, this is before there was a lot of conversation around cultural appropriation, but then it was really like, I loved the tepees.

They did so much for me. But then we started to understand that like the people who had held the original teepees, most of them weren't there anymore. And there was a co, there was two people specifically who held the teepees that were, uh, given permission by their native tribe, people that they were connected with to bring those to Burning Man.

But we, we builders, we, Red Lightning leaders weren't connected in that way. And so what we ended up doing was leaving a couple of tepes for the men's and women's circles for those two people to basically hold and run. And I created that mandala space. Mm-hmm. as an honoring and as a thank you to the Tepe, but it's why we specifically didn't use traditional tepe polls.

We, we, we did a, a suggested of a TEP circle, but without any, but without canvas. We tried to say an honoring and a thank you and an art piece honoring to a TP circle without using anything traditional. And, and we really believed in Hannah Natally, who decorated that space, made it so luscious. What we then is we merged that idea with the notion of a mandala above and, and turning each sacred.[00:16:00]

Suggestion of a tepe space into a representation of each chakra, so we could actually turn it into something different while just nodding our head and thanking the Tepe circle without actually culturally appropriating anything, or that was the intention behind it. And, and I'm so happy that that landed on you because that's really was about an honoring of a space and come, and come and create.

So I'm so happy that landed

[00:16:17] CK: on you. So cement that you, you mentioned the concept cultural appropriation. So this is not why I want you to, um, uh, to be on noble warrior, but this is something I think about a lot cuz um, I'm a student, I'm a practitioner. I'm a student of iowaska as an example, right?

I'm, I'm Asian, it's not part of my lineage. Uh, and, and I'm a, I'm deeply, uh, I have deep reverence for it. And at the same time, I also see this is ck the scientist talking now. Um, Holding onto tradition too tightly, um, stops innovation and growth in, in their own evolution, right? But, but also don't pay, uh, homage and, and, and reverence towards it.

That also disrespects it. So finding that middle ground, I really appre appreciate how you articulate your, um, trying to nod, pay homage at the same time, not [00:17:00] just hold onto the traditional way of doing it. You're evolving from that. Can you say a little bit more about, you know, at what point is cultural appropriation right.

At Westerner using a Native American concept and benefit from it or whatever. Um, versus not. Yeah. Can you say

[00:17:13] Samantha: a little bit more about that? As a white person, I'll give you my perspective. Mm-hmm. . So think about the Buddhist culture. The Hindu culture. You go to India, everybody wants you to wear mobi.

Mm-hmm. . Right? They're very happy for you to learn about yoga and breath work and meditation. Mm-hmm. , and many people have come to the west over centuries, what? Decades and then centuries. Right. Depending on whether it's Europe or the United States or the America to teach people, um, yoga, breathwork, meditation, all of that.

It's great because it's helped people. It's helped people evolve. And we've turned yoga into an exercise, right? One of the things that I learned, there's, uh, some of these, like the, these original Tibetan breathwork, which became something else over the years. We all know the, you know, breathe in one side, breathe in the other side, right?

Like this. [00:18:00] You use your hand, use your fingers like that. Well, it was originally done with your thumbs. Mm-hmm. and why? Because the lung meridians are in your thumbs. Mm-hmm. , but it was changed for the West to make it a little easier like that. So they found that some people doing it a lot was having a lung issue on one side and not the other.

Mm-hmm. . So yes. You don't wanna hold onto it too tightly where people can't learn from it or where, or where your culture isn't continuing to expand. Right. And, and grow and thrive. But the people taking it and, and evolving it, wanna make sure that they understand it deeply enough. Mm-hmm. so that if they do evolve it, they don't create harm down the road or they don't take the whole point of it and turned it into just an exercise workout, , you know what I mean?

Like you're missing the whole point of yoga if it's just a workout. Right. So with the Native American cultures, I had this conversation with one of the elders that came in 2017 and I, to be clear, I stepped out of Red Lightning in 2017. My concern was it was taking on too much and, um, there was just, we were not in alignment, so I thought I'll go and do my own thing, uh, rather than creating discord in leadership.

Um, so I was, I, but I was there [00:19:00] visiting the camp and visiting with one of the elders, and we discussed cultural appropriation. And I asked him this question. I was like, What about all the curious young people who were curious about your culture, who want to honor your culture? He was very concerned about the man who had run into the fire and, and the fact that we were bringing fire to the desert and not doing it properly.

And we had this conversation. And there are elements that I believe as a white person who is not native, Richard is native, so I have a connection, but I'm not native. So I do not know what their experience is, but I, I do fear that. Holding onto it too tightly will do, as you say it, it could kill it off.

Mm-hmm. and discourage people. If people knew more, then they wouldn't wear the head dresses. For part, if people were allowed to know more, they would light a fire with intention. But when it's, no, you can't learn because you're white and you'll be disrespectful. And they have every right to feel the way they feel because their culture by our government has been utterly demolished and destroyed and is still being utterly demolished and destroyed.

Right. So there's still no honoring of the treaties. There is still destroying of their sacred land so we can get oil. So, you know, it's [00:20:00] kind of like saying to a woman who's molested or raped, you know, Get over it. The guy's just hitting on you cuz he wants to date you. Like you gotta let her heal before you can just throw a dirty joke at her and wanna try to get her out to go out on a date, right?

It's like we need to honor the healing process with the Native American culture before we try to push them too hard. So this is a three hour conversation, , but it's a really big and important conversation and it's far more nuanced.

[00:20:20] CK: Oh, for sure. Uh, certainly like I said, well I wasn't planning on having it, but since you mentioned it, I might well ask because I know that you are, you know, you're a very sincere and earnest in learning about different cultures and, and different transformational modalities.

You're very respectful in when you architect transformational spaces, containers, and so forth. Thank you. So hence why I wanted to ask that question to you. And one question that I will ask the elders, the indigenous elders of iowaska or you know, Native American or whatever their lineages is, is that very question cuz what I sensed from them, this is again, it's totally a side conversation.

What I sense from them is there's a desire for their culture to proliferate still. Mm-hmm. in 2022 and beyond. And they also want to control the narrative [00:21:00] very tightly. So there lies the. the right, the paradox, the right, the paradox, right. How do you, you know, allow your culture to thrive at the same time?

You want to control the narrative very, very tightly. It's

[00:21:10] Samantha: paradox. But we all do that when we're in that kind of fear and pain. Yeah. You know, and, and it may have to start with a massive healing process and who knows if the perpetuators of that pain are ever gonna be able to acknowledge on the level that is needed.

It's, it's gonna have to take a big healing process. Yeah.

[00:21:28] CK: Uh, different conversation. Bring back to Burning Man theme camps. So one thing that we had talked about is the level of scope or ambition. Mm-hmm. , when the camp organizers are too ambitious. , uh, chances are, you know, force or, you know, disaster happens.

Right. But, so, so I'm curious now, from your perspective as the mayor of five years, what would you say, what is the right level of ambition slash scope?

[00:21:52] Samantha: Well, again, you, you always ask such great questions. Um, that's gonna depend on the camp. Mm-hmm. , um, and ambition is [00:22:00] always great and scope is always great for us.

My ex, the experience I've had on the playa, you can have a 30 person camp that's unbelievable and fascinating and interesting. And we live in this culture and age where everything needs to be bigger and better. It's gotta be Vegas strip, it's gotta be like the biggest, coolest thing ever. Mm-hmm. . And that's awesome.

I mean, it can be incredible. and you could probably have a 500 person, you know, Well, well size of scope doesn't necessarily equal the amount of people in your camp, but at Burning Man it does. Only because of size and space and the amount of people to do the work. Mm-hmm. . Um, what I think is more than size your scope, cuz I really, you know, we need to, and I talked about this the other day about a conversation.

I really wanted to sort of meditate on it and what I think it really is, Are you a community of people who are birthing something and bringing something out that inspires you, that nourishes you, and you have the support and team to do it. Mm. Or is this a big agenda put on the crew by somebody else?

that the crew aren't really [00:23:00] behind and don't feel supported in doing. And that's, that's kind of, you get, I've seen this happen a few times where you get a group of people who like wanna do a burning Pan Man camp and they do a burning man camp and it's awesome. And they grow and they get bigger and they do bigger stuff and it's awesome.

And then all of a sudden ideas diverge. And some people go like, You know what, we don't wanna do this bigger. We wanna be with our peeps. Mm-hmm. . So let's scale down. Let's just chill. And then there's another group going like, No, we wanna do this bigger and better and bigger and better and bigger and better.

That's where things start to divide. And so often what, what I really see is the breaking point is when a camp becomes a brand. Mm-hmm. and that brand is at odds with its. So it's either this tribe keeps building this thing that's a brand that, that, you know, Oh well we gotta keep up appearances cuz we did this last year.

We gotta do bigger, we gotta do better, we gotta do different with like, what do we wanna do this year? What do we wanna put on this year? And one of the things we used to do at Red Lightning, which was really great, is our first call every year is like, Okay, here's the theme, what do we wanna do? And we would brainstorm and we'd popcorn and actually, um, you know, different people would come up with different ideas about, Oh, I wanna do this little thing.

And we would always have our workshops [00:24:00] and our workshop space mm-hmm. , right? But sometimes it'd be like, Oh, this is the theme, so let's do that thing, let's do the, And it was really bubbling up from the bottom. What do we wanna do? What do we wanna put on for our tribe at Burning Man? And what do we wanna bring?

What are our skills that we wanna birth forward? And, and for me as, as a lead at the time, because I wasn't the, I wasn't. The programming designer. I wasn't a structured designer. Like I wasn't, I, I did eventually design the Mand, right? But I wasn't, I was just like, What do you want me to produce? That worked really well.

And then there was a few people who really wanted the bigger show. The bigger show, the bigger show, and then it became a push and pull between like, gosh, do we produce the bigger show or do we scale it back? And we, you know, we had to have votes in the community and this is when the community started to pull apart.

And, and right at that time there was a few people from Enon who goes, This is exactly what happened with Enon, right? And I wasn't part of Enon, so I don't know that story, but it was like, do we go bigger, bigger, bigger? Do we go smaller or smaller or smaller? And it kind of pulled apart. So I, I see that happening on the ply and, and again, like look at Ply Alchemists.

They do an amazing job. Mystic does an amazing [00:25:00] job. And the question I, you know, I would say, I would ask if I was leading that community, Is your tribe, is your build crew, Is your main core crew nourished and thrived? Do they love it? Do they love doing this? Or are they like Uhuh too much? And that's, that's I think, where the crux point is.

And again, like you lean in at Burning Man, you try something, if it screws it up, you have a chance to do it again next year. But I think that, I think I often see too much emphasis on the big show where the big show can be great. There are so many fascinating, amazing little, some of my most magical moments at Burning Out have been in the smallest, coolest camps.

And I don't even know, like, what are we doing in this camp? But it's awesome. . Yeah, I mean, to each its own, but I would say are the people building it, feeling nourished and loved and loving it? Yeah.

[00:25:43] CK: Uh, I used to be the chief cultural officer of a company of 250 people, Uhhuh . So part of, um, my one big lesson is what you're pointing to is the feedback cycle about are you people feeling nourish or you just putting on end product at the cost, at the sacrifice of your crew?

So mm-hmm. , that's a really, really [00:26:00] beautiful point. Um, let's talk about governance a little bit. Okay. Because, um, some camps, I. . Pink Car is very a single personality based camp. My understanding of it, I've never been there, never talked to, uh, healthy, healthy on. So I don't really know, but my impression is that mm-hmm.

um, versus some cams are more bottom up, right? Democratic. So, um, when there's tension of different opinions, a bigger, bigger, bigger. Now small is better. How did you resolve, um, you know, is it majority votes count or is it, you know, super majority is it, uh, single persons benevolent? Uh, dictators says, No, we're gonna do this, You know, then the rest just get a line behind it.

How did you, you know, make decisions? Difficult ones when you were

[00:26:35] Samantha: Yeah, so there was, there were certain times, uh, there were certain things like, are we having water delivered? Mm-hmm. , where I would have to listen to the crew and listen to people, and then look at the budget. and then say, Okay, well it was some, And if it was really, if it was a 50 50 split, I would have to make the decision.

And if, and, and I had a, I also had a core team. I usually had a core council of like four, three to five people. Right. And, and we would usually kind of go through like, God, it's really split down the middle of what people want. And, [00:27:00] and then we would make a decision. And that decision usually would come from like budgetary or something else.

Mm-hmm. . And then we'd go back to the community and say, you know, look, this is really, this is the decision we had to make. It was pretty split down the middle. Um, . And I remember there's a couple of people, like, there's a couple of people whose opinion were really, really mattered to me. Um, for instance, our friend Jeffrey Collins, who was the, the architect, the designer.

And you know, every once in a while, like it would lean a little bit away from his opinion and I'd have to go to him and be like, Ge, we're gonna have to decide it the other way. I'm really sorry. Like, if there were people who were like really core members of the community who, who leaned a little towards the minority side, um, and the majority really wanted something else, I would make sure that the people who really had put enormous amount of time and effort and work and whose opinions really like mattered and we had to go the other way.

I would make sure I would have a big conversation with them as to why the decision was made the other way. Um, when it came to the big one about scope. I ended up, so there was like a core group of about 70 people and we started to have this thing where it was the core council when things started to get really like oh two big different directions.

And if you had been at Red Lightning and been on build for two [00:28:00] years or more and um, you would either committed to, there was like several criteria, then you were considered part of the core team. Um, and then you vote, We had a vote and we had an entire weekend workshop about whether we were gonna scale up or scale down.

Cause I was listening to the groundwork. And then some of the leadership really wanted to scale up and most of the ground crew wanted to scale down. So we did a two day workshop at my house and we played games and we did brainstorming and we did all these kinds of things. And at the end, everyone presented their position and we had a vote.

And the vote was 79%. Wanted to go considerably smaller. Um, and then when the leadership started to push significantly larger the next year, it was like, we're gonna just have to split. It's just gonna have to be an amicable divorce. Right. . So, so where I stepped out and then the, in 2018, um, about 40 of us put a pod together called the Mystic, called the Cosmic Heart Temple, and we went to Mystic.

So that's pretty much what happened. And then Red Lightning took a year off and then a couple of people went to Brock and said, Brock, let's bring this back as something different. And did, uh, Red Lightning Blue Funder. So it ended up being just a split because there was enough [00:29:00] of a, a separation where it just needed like, Great, go do a big show, we'll go do something smaller.

Mm-hmm. . So at some point then maybe it needs to be a split because. People want different experiences on the playa and it's not better, worse, and it's not right or wrong, it's just what experience do you wanna have? And if you've got a group that wants a experience a significantly different than what your camp is doing, then maybe you go do a different experience.

And, and it can't be like, we're betraying the camp by leaving and it can't be like, Oh you're, you're gonna break us cuz you're leaving. It's like, look, it's burning man, , you know, we're going in a different direction. So I mean that's what we did and then it didn't work so we just had to split. So that's

[00:29:31] CK: So quick question.

So quick question there, cuz we talked about intentionality and from the very beginning. Yeah. For example, the Birth of the United States, it started with that declaration independence and then you had series of documents that. Crystallize the intention realities of the birth of this nation. Right? So I know that came stick, We have lots of documents about the intentions behind certain things, and then now it's a lot.

But , So when it comes to, uh, Red Lightning, uh, was there a series of documents that make it black and white? What is the intentionality behind the mission, the, the different [00:30:00] programming and so on and so on

[00:30:01] Samantha: in the beginning?

[00:30:02] CK: Or, or was it more of just a holistic, ever evolving understanding without documentation?

[00:30:08] Samantha: I think it was a holistic, ever evolving misunderstanding, documentation. No, it's not something that we did. And it's something I, it's something, you know, and again, like I came in as a baby burner. Never really led anything, uh, and was taught how to lead by the crew, uh, by the guys who'd been burning for like 10, 12, 15 years before me.

And so I just kind of, uh, as somebody who was very shy about leading, I kind of followed them. And then we never really did that. And then we tried to do some of that and, and then we had some people kinda outsource some of that. And then, no, I mean, it was a big missing. It was something that yes, I wish we had done that and I didn't have, have the foresight or knowledge.

And, and again, I think it started with several different intentions. Uh, so it always kind of just morphed into whoever was doing it that year. That's what we were doing. And, and, and, and that's been one of the wonderful things I've learned so much from, uh, Genevieve Mystic. She's an extraordinary, extraordinary leader.

And, and just to see how she does. Put that manifesto together and things are in black and white and you sign off. When we had some like agreements, we signed [00:31:00] off on Red Lightning that I agreed to strike and I agreed to blah and do my shifts and that. But with the way she does it is, is extraordinary high level.

And, and, and Mystic is a camp to learn from with regards to all of that. We did not have that . That was a

[00:31:11] CK: part. Yeah. So, So knowing what you know now, uh, as a former mayor of five years of red lightning, uh, how big was the camp? The biggest, when you were The biggest Visa

[00:31:20] Samantha: was 2 57, I think.

[00:31:22] CK: 2 57. That's a lot of people.

That's, that's like a small company right there. Yeah. Uh, and you're also now, uh, a participant of Camp Mystic. Yes. And, uh, you are also a founder, a co-founder of Rich Nuts, Right? A rapidly growing company. Yes. So what are some of the lessons that you have derive from. Ultimately having effectively a second job, , Right.

Running red, lightning running brand. Man Cam sounds like you had to lobby a lot of different things. Yeah. Yeah. Without, um, quote unquote authority per se title. Right. Um, so anyways, what are some of the big takeaways and lessons that you can share with us?

[00:31:52] Samantha: I would say the biggest takeaways that I've gotten, you know, are what a, what we've been talking about is having a nourish team is really loving your team.

You know, a lot, a lot of [00:32:00] companies, a lot of the corporate world used to be just sort of like, just get in employees, you know, and the number one is shareholders. What I think the number one is really like the people who are making your product that you're gonna put in someone's hand, right? Mm-hmm. love them, right?

And that's really the big thing I learned at Burning Man and running a camp was like, Oh my God, these guys are working their butts off and they're the one building the structure that people are gonna come healing, right? So, I've talked enough about that. But that's number one. Number

[00:32:20] CK: two, well actually, if you can double click on building the structure of people are coming to get heal in, because that's something that I think is implied, but we didn't actually touch

[00:32:28] Samantha: upon it.

Yes. And we make a food product. Right? So these are the people who are gonna make food that someone's gonna put in their body. And we actually used to use this, I used this metaphor with the camp. I said, you know, how do we pound our rebar as we're building this structure? Right? Imagine you're building a toy for your child, and are you gonna be cussing out the dust storm and the wind and you know, you know, f and s and like, you know, cussing and yelling and screaming and, and all of that and, and getting enraging while you're building a toy for your child, right?

So I would say, how do we pound our re rebar? It's not what we're doing. It's how we're doing it. And, and are we approaching it with love and curiosity? [00:33:00] And when we come up against a challenge, And this is one of the things I challenge the build crew with a lot. When we come up with a challenge, uh, how do we fix it?

So the first year we built the Mandala, uh, we had a massive windstorm. And uh, there's a, a company called Guild Works. They're the ones who built our structure, designed, we design, like we gave them a, I gave them a drawing on a napkin, and they actually did the real, uh, physics of the design and cut.

[00:33:19] CK: Oh, okay.

So it wasn't Samantha on her kitchen counter drawing it out.

[00:33:23] Samantha: Oh, no. I literally like drew it on a napkin and handed it to them and they said, Okay, we'll do the design. Like I gave them the intention and then they did the design and of course we had input from the other members of the community. And so, and then they put, they sent a crew to put it up so they, it was all stretch materials and it's an art form with ropes and our centerpiece, which was this beautiful center cut.

Shape ripped in half during the day. Mm. So these three guys, um, who uh, came with the Guild works, who were amazing, like unbelievable team of guys, like worked their butts off, um, with Rope, made this extraordinary beautiful twisted design to take the, just to keep them all together, but to take place of that.

And not a single person got [00:34:00] mad or yelled, or there was no temper tantrums. And it was like, this is what, this is the ideal, right? Oh, this ripped. Okay. There's a 60 mile an hour. I think there was an 80 mile an hour wind storm that year. We watched a piece of plywood cartwheel across the fly. I was insane, right?

So, and that was what we tried to achieve, is when something breaks, when something fails, it's burning Man, stuff's gonna break. The generators are gonna not work, right? So how do we. How do we meet that with generosity of spirit and, and curiosity as opposed to getting pissed off and throwing temper tantrums.

Right. So, so that is the whole point. And if you're building a structure for people to heal in, then you want there to be love and safety and, and thoughtfulness in every single piece of rebar and rope in that structure. So that's how we tried to approach the build. And so with the

[00:34:41] CK: company, So, So how do we do that though?

How do, because in the moment, you know, let's say the example you gave the piece of cloth ripped and opening nights. Tomorrow or whatever, and pressure's on, so to speak. Right. So then how do you in that moment still bring generosity and love and patience with each other? When the, when the clock is ticking and in an opening night happening [00:35:00] tomorrow, a

[00:35:00] Samantha: decade of therapy, no , you know, you can say, Oh, you can breathe and get into your body.

And where are your triggers? Mm-hmm. , where are you in your journey? Are you able to go, Oh gosh, I'm terrified, I'm enraged. Uh, I'm, my ego's a flare. It's not gonna look right. Or whatever your pattern is. Are you able to become observer in that moment and go, Yes, I'm enraged, or I'm fearful, or I'm embarrassed, or whatever, and let's figure out how to fix it.

And that's really, you know, for me that's the key is like, Okay, I'm freaked out, I'm upset, I'm angry, or, or, or I'm fearful. Or I'm embarrassed, or whatever that is. And. and how do we fix it in this moment? And, and it's, for me, it's breathe calm down and what do we do to fix it? Mm. Yeah. And so that's number one is how do we do what we do?

And are we doing it with kindness and love and generosity and nourishing our people? And then I guess those are two different things. And then, um, yeah, I, uh, completely lost the third one, right outta my head. But how are we doing? What are what we're doing? And nourishing our people are two of the really big things, um, that I learned out there.

[00:35:59] CK: Is there anything [00:36:00] operationally that you help your people to maintain that. tonality, that spirit, that's that ethos, that intentionality. Um, so I'll share a couple of things maybe that would jo your memory. So, um, we had our mission printed out everywhere, so that way it's very, very clear. So when in doubt I could just point to the mission.

So like, hey, we bringing that right, right now, right here. And now another thing that we did that I wish we have done more of is to align our comp structure along, um, our core value. I wish we could have done more of that, but that's something that we, you know, have done. So we created a, we, you know, one big value at the time, uh, is fitness.

So we actually built an entire gym. We hire, um, CrossFit trainers, you know, on company premises. And then we also did, um, , uh, regional fitness competitions. So whichever team have lost the most poundage, win certain, you know, holiday in Hawaii or whatever the thing is. So basically we're trying to align all of the, uh, employee programs along our core, uh, value, which is health when you have inter, when you have health and everything else built on on that.

[00:36:58] Samantha: That's awesome. I love those [00:37:00] programs. We're rich nuts is small enough where it's really, it's really four of us. Mm-hmm. and so it's me and Richard and uh, we have an amazing, my right hand, uh, Aaron and Richard's nephew, David. Mm-hmm. . David was production. Erin came in as our bookkeeper, but she's my right hand on everything and we treat them as tribe.

Mm. Right. And one of the first conversations I had with both of them was, um, , I want you to feel like you can come to me for anything. Mm-hmm. , if there's a way that I'm engaging with you that doesn't work for you, that doesn't feel good, tell me If, um, there's something you don't know, tell me. Um, let's just keep a really open dialogue so that we can make sure we're working really great together.

The most important thing to me is we have a great working relationship. Mm-hmm. . And then the second thing was, what do you need to ex what, what do you need to expand yourself like mm-hmm. Is there a class you wanna take? Mm-hmm. ? Is there, uh, a specific skillset you want to add on to what you already have that not only will help you here, but will help you if we, if you decide to leave here?

Like what will help you expand your capacities? Um, and then also both of them, we like, for David who runs production, one of the most [00:38:00] important things for him is travel. He loves to travel. So we go, Great, let's figure it out. Um, so that. If you really wanna go on a trip, we sort it out so that your work is done and we can still fulfill while you're gone.

Right. Um, that's really one of the most important things cuz we want people to be living a life that they love. Cuz then they'll be devoted. And, you know, Dave just started to work with us because he needed some extra money. He was working for, uh, a music company doing festival stuff. And festival stuff had shut down during Covid and so he needed a little extra money and he was a little bit shy and, but very smart.

I mean, really smart. And so right away we started just like dribbling a little extra, Do you wanna be able to do this? Do you wanna be able to do that? And that can help you as you move along. And now we might be moving our production to Alabama. He's like, I'll move to Alabama. I'll learn how to run a production facility.

I'll like, he. Completely devoted forever because he knows we really respect him and want him to enjoy his life. Um, and so actually I remembered the third thing then, which is surround yourself with really awesome people. Um, not only people, like people who know more than you. I think as a CEO I'm not about knowing everything.

I'm about hiring people who know everything and then let, and then let me just build the team. Like if I can build a [00:39:00] nourished team, then I don't have to know everything there is to know about cpg. I hire people who know about CPG and just nourish them and let them feel loved and supported, right? So that's hiring really great people, I think is a good thing.

And also I would say the last thing I learned is really about understanding when somebody is in alignment and when someone's not in alignment. And that means values, um, and all of those kinds of things. Like somebody isn't. Doesn't want to be curious, doesn't want to work from a heart space, then, then let's, let's let them go to a more corporate environment where that's a more expected, Um, we need people who are aligned.

But I How do you do that?

[00:39:32] CK: How do you do that? Cause I, I would, I mean, I don't know you very, very well, but I use, the sense I got from you is you really love people. You, That's one of your superpowers. Right? So, and let me know if I'm projecting too much.

[00:39:42] Samantha: No, thank you. I love, That's my superpower. Yeah.

[00:39:44] CK: Yeah.

So, so, so, so how do you determine someone's core value? They're intrinsic Motivat. I mean, the way I would do it, you know, I, I'm a little bit more heavy handed. I like to do like surveys and like questionnaire personality tests and extensive interviews. [00:40:00] So it is not as light , but uh, how do you do it? How do you discern in someone's, uh, intrinsic motivation, you know, what they're committed to, what their desire, lifestyles may be.

[00:40:09] Samantha: Um, so this is, I'm gonna answer your question, but I'm gonna loop in something. Mm-hmm. I've been in a lot of conversations lately about the movement about conscious capitalism. Mm-hmm. , and we talk about feminine leadership. And one of the interesting things about feminine leadership is it's feminine, so it's not structured.

Uhhuh . So it's one, one. And I'm a Virgo, so I love. One A, a one b Uhhuh, like I'm a Virgo. I love that stuff. So I, I have a healthy masculine, um, energetic side. And when I, let me be clear, cuz I know some people get triggered by those words. I'm not talking about gender as much as I'm talking about energy, right?

So we could say yin and yang, we could say, I don't know, organic and structured or something that there, I wish there was a better terminology, but we talk about feminine energy because women, women tend to lead more towards feminine energy. But there are some women who lean very much into masculine energy.

So I'm answering your question in a very [00:41:00] feminine way. So it's gonna go a little bit in a circle. So, um, it's organic and it's like the ocean. And so you don't put the ocean in a three inches wide and two inches deep and four inches tall. . So, so often some of these practices about nourishing your team or or finding someone's core values, men will tend to go towards a matrix, a questionnaire.

Right. And, and, or I'm sorry. People who tend towards masculine energy might head towards that and that's very corporate. Mm-hmm. women or people who tend towards feminine energy may tend more towards, I need to feel it in my gut. Mm. Right. Um, or feel it in my heart. And, and so where you're very accurate. I love to love people and I used to just welcome everyone in and then six months later I'd go like, Oh crap,

How am I gonna get this guy outta here? ? He yells at everybody all the time and I'm afraid of him cuz he yells at everybody. Right. So, So Richard and I really have to, um, Sit with each other because he'll have a gut hit in a different way than I will. We actually balance each other really well in that way.

So [00:42:00] we've had, um, a couple of situations where we thought about bringing somebody on and he would have a hit and I wouldn't, and he'd be right. And then I would have a hit and he wouldn't, and I'd be right. So it's really about listening to the red flags and taking your time. Mm-hmm. , I think that I used to be so quick to bring people on board, and now it's about taking your time and, and you know, we used to do this with boards.

I did a lot of nonprofit work. Mm-hmm. . So bring somebody on as a committee, bring someone on for a project, bring someone on for one project as a, um, consultant to do a job and, and test that out. Now we're a small startup company, so we're able to do that. , Right. Uh, and, and feel it out. And really, it's a feel out.

Um, and yes, I know that there are people who could create really good surveys and really good interviews and really know how to do that. And that's probably something as a company grows in larger scale that people would wanna take on. Because you can't just feel out a, you know, 250 employees. Um, that's not at, at least at this point, we haven't figured that out yet.

Um, but I think your structure is good for a big company [00:43:00] at this point. It's really about is there a red flag? Am I feeling something in my body that's like, am I feeling as something's, something's off? Uh, and we're small enough we can do that. So, I'm sorry, I don't have a better answer than that. .

[00:43:12] CK: It's.

Yeah, I'm not looking for the answer. I, Nobel Warrior we're very, uh, welcoming of the y young, energetic discussion cuz that's, you know, no warrior is an extension, know who I am and I don't believe in one size fits all answer anyway. So I don't believe there's such a thing. So I appreciate the, the, the nuance, uh, distinctions and bring it back to camps because, um, I know we, we veered towards company building a bit, but Burning Man camps I think is a really great, um, platform.

Mm-hmm. to get to know people well. Right. Because, you know, it's the, the harsh, um, environments is a very good revealer of someone's, uh, character. Mm-hmm. . So, so you had talked about, you had talked about striking a good balance. between, um, keeping the intentionality really high while keeping the rigor slash financial rigor in check, right?

Mm-hmm. . So is there something that you wanted to address for [00:44:00] aspiration, um, camp organizers? About, About that? You

[00:44:04] Samantha: mean meeting the

[00:44:04] CK: budget? Meeting the budget, correct. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So let me actually say one thing before you answer that. Is this, um, I had no, when I go to burning man, I don't think, you know, what did it take financially to bring this camp to life?

What I was. Surprised, uh, is that I found out most camps running Red . Oh yeah. And the founders, the organizer that actually pay out of pocket to bring their gifts to the playa. Yeah. So I was like, Wow. You know, that's, uh, number one, huge acknowledgement for the organizers to do that Allah love. And number two, like, man, if, if that's the case, uh, it's not sustainable for people that want to do this, bring their gifts, you know, to the playa.

So if anything you wanted to say about that, that would

[00:44:40] Samantha: be really great. Yeah. I love that you're asking that question and I hope there's a lot of people who aren't camp leads who are watching this, uh, because people don't realize what it takes to build a camp. And, um, it's one of the struggles we have, especially with the bigger camps.

And I am gonna answer your question, uh, because all these people like spend a year. Uh, uh, hiring generators and water and building and applications and [00:45:00] all the things that it takes to get it there. And then there's an enormous amount of people on playa digging trenches, laying power lines, building structures, building kitchens, feeding people.

Like it's extraordinary the amount of work you've seen it now that gets done on playa on build. And when most people arrive, they just think, Oh, here's the cool show. Right? And most people are used to festivals where that's hired staff build the show and it all goes off without a hitch. And most people who, if you haven't been on build or you haven't sat in hours and hours of meetings before Burning Man to know what it really takes to build it, you can't blame them for not knowing because it's unfathomable until you actually walk through it.

Um, So yes, it costs far more than the camp fees that we charge people. Mm-hmm. . And when you think about it, camp fees, I mean at Red Lightning we had a 2 22, a 3 33, a 4 44, and a 7, 7 7 and a 1000 or something. Right? And the 2 22 is for build crew. Now this feeds you for two weeks. What vacation can you go on where you get fed really good quality?

I mean, you've eaten the food both at Red Lightning and at a Mystic Food's. Awesome. Right? And for the amount of money you pay [00:46:00] for food, it's incredible. Like, and often people are a little miffed if it's getting over three or $400. I'm like, you getting fed for a week and power and water and showers. Right.

But still the it for what we pay in camp fees as campers, it doesn't, it doesn't cover the costs at all. But most camps try to keep it accessible. and especially the people who are there working hard. Um, and so you can get creative Now, I don't know if you're gonna go into the plug and play situation.

[00:46:27] CK: Yeah. We're gonna talk about

[00:46:28] Samantha: that next. Yeah. Yeah. So we, we did a, we did something that at Red Lightning was, we did a thousand dollars camp fee for people who said, Look, if you can afford to throw a thousand bucks, can you throw us a thousand bucks? Right. And maybe you can do one less shift, which gets a little transactional, which the Burning man org doesn't love, which I completely understand.

Right. Um, and then, or there was no pr uh, we did no pre Burning Man work. Like you gotta come to a, come to a work shift. If you paid $333, you gotta come to two work shifts before Burning Man and help us do whatever. So we structured it a little bit like that. Um, but we did what we called a MOOC D program.

A what program? [00:47:00] Moty, which was Sanscript for Liberation. Okay? So instead of it being a plug and play, we are going to liberate you from your notion of the default world, Uhhuh. You're not very creative, and we're gonna train you how to be a proper burner uhhuh, right? So you're gonna have a burner buddy who's gonna talk to you about costumes and what to bring and like how you're supposed to bring your own fork and knife.

And, and we're gonna teach you how to moop. And, and yes, we're gonna have a little tent for you with an air conditioner in it, uh, Uhhuh or, or in our, or a trailer, we trailers. Um, but you're still gonna have to do shifts. And we're gonna, we're gonna put you all together on a shift together. So you all gotta go and peel potatoes in the kitchen and it's super fun.

And then you get to feed people and we're all gonna love up on you for feeding us. So, Patrick Che, Google cfo, who'd been burning man plenty. But he's like, Do your Ty program. He and his wife came, loved serving people, Uhhuh, and they showed up. They flew in and walked. We were on the nine o'clock side, they Oh, wowed with their luggage.

And I was like, I would've said an art car for you. And I was like, No way. You're not gonna send an art car for us. We're gonna walk across the playa and enjoy the play. I mean, the coolest people ever like love them cause, and when we needed a little extra money, they kicked us a little extra money. They were awesome people.

Right? So [00:48:00] we did these quasi plug and play, but it was like, No, you're gonna work and yes, we're gonna bring you a bike, but you're gonna costume your bike. We're gonna bring you all sorts of stuff. Mm-hmm. . And we're gonna like help you. Like we're gonna have one of our creative people be like, Come on, let's your bike.

Let's have a good time. So where we. And, and those cost $5,000. Mm-hmm. , right? It cost us about a thousand dollars to put them together, but that gave extra money for, and the first year they cost us, it was at cost because we had to buy the tents and the beds. But after that it cost us a thousand dollars pretty much to help them do everything they needed to do.

And it was great. And, and so that helped meet the budget. So if you wanted, Otherwise, what other camps do is they just load the camp with more people. Mm-hmm. . Yep. They're either loading and I think that was the question you were getting at is like, well, if we add an extra 50 people on, you know, at 400 bucks a pop, then you can see how that could add to the budget.

And so that is where the crux point lies. Cuz then if you add to the budget, then you create more work for the kitchen and you create more work. The, the, the, uh, the power people and the water people and the, the showers. And then you create more work for the placement team and you create more work onboarding all of these people.

So, so you can either onboard with more people or [00:49:00] you can get creative and, and raise money in other ways, or you pay outta your own pocket .

[00:49:04] CK: So, yeah, I mean, I, I, I really like that creative solution. Um, Actually I love it and I actually never heard that before. That's really, really cool. Cause I've heard the all or nothing, whether it's like full plug and play, like, hey, you pay, you know, I don't know, tens of thousand or whatever the, the, the camp fee is and then this's plug it full plug and play.

Or you do the diy, haven't really heard the middle way, As you can imagine. I really love the middle way. Right. This is creative. This is still embracing the, the Burning Man principles and at the same time also alleviated the um, the financial pressure of um, coming up with the budget of um, camp organizers.

Cuz you wouldn't be equitable or fair if camp organizers every year have putting money out of their own pocket. You know, in my mind. So, you know, so I love it. That is really, really cool in the middle ground. Anything else you wanted to say about, you know, Maintaining financial rigor, uh, uh, meeting budgets while keeping my intention really high.


[00:49:49] Samantha: never did. Never did. No, we didn't really, Cuz I did not want to keep raising the amount of people in the camp. And I didn't mind, I had, you know, I was someone who could afford to kick in a little extra. And I, there was certain, there were certain campers [00:50:00] who worked at the camp very hard, who couldn't afford to come and pay their tickets.

And I would, essentially, the way I made it work is there were certain people I would just pay for to come. Mm-hmm. and then certain camp, certain tickets I would pay for, uh, for people who worked really hard. And then, you know, occasionally we would get people to donate a little extra money and I would donate a little extra money Mm

[00:50:15] CK: mm In, in order to keep it in the block.

[00:50:18] Samantha: in order to keep it in the black, white, I mean mm-hmm. , is it really keeping it in the black? If I'm just being in the bank? I mean, I don't

[00:50:22] CK: know. , same thing.

[00:50:25] Samantha: And I felt like for me it's a, like, for me it's a gift. Like I, it was a gift to be able to learn leadership skills through this camp and to do work. I mean, I was first on, last off three years in a row for, with our camp.

I was there Monday. I was there till Wednesday of strike. I mean, it was grueling, but it was the most, one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done.

[00:50:42] CK: Yeah. So for, so for someone who was an aspirational camp organizer who is hearing all this, is thinking, Oh my God, this is a huge, daunting undertaking.

Mm-hmm. , uh, I don't want to take that on. I don't want to go into the red. I don't wanna , you know, work. But to have a second full-time job, what would you say is some of the, um, [00:51:00] you know, Happy accidents. Yeah. Something that you never thought you would've gotten, uh, had you not done. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:51:06] Samantha: I would say

we fail to educate our campers. Mm-hmm. and if we educated our campers in a loving way, not in know, like, you don't understand, we're at the last minute and we're outta money and blah, blah, blah. In a really loving way. Okay. We're coming into this camp, we're gonna try to keep these camp fees low, right?

Mm-hmm. . But here's what it's gonna cost us. So who has extra to kick in? Who can help us? Who can re recruit? There are a lot of people with enough for sources to come into the camp and say, you know, we'll help you. We'll do something fun for you on the playa. Help us out. And there's a, and, and you want people in your camp who are generous of spirit anyway, right?

So I would say get creative and be really transparent with your campers. This is super expensive. We're gonna try to do this inexpensively, but if we want X amount of people, this is what it's gonna cost us. Do you all want that or do you not want that? And, and, and I would just say be transparent in a, in a fun living way.

Be transparent and then see what shows up because [00:52:00] you'll get campers, he'll kick in some money. Mm.

[00:52:02] CK: Yeah. I think drive

[00:52:03] Samantha: your RV there for you and stock it with food. Can you give us an extra couple grand or whatever, Like get creative.

[00:52:08] CK: Yeah. I think a fun and loving is the, the key phrase. And then that's who you and richer are.

You're just fun and loving people. Thank you. So, um, anything else that you feel like we haven't. Touch upon that, you're like, Hey, you know, this is something that I think people, uh, who aspire to start on camp should know about.

[00:52:25] Samantha: I would, I would only say, and it just kind of dribbles into the plug and play thing.

Mm-hmm. , if you plug and play someone, you actually rob them of the real apply experience. Right. So that's one of the biggest problems with these plugin players is they don't realize they're paying 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 grand to have everything taken care of for them and they're being robbed at their experience.

So if you wanna do a camp and have a couple of people that you plugin play, or if you wanna do a plugin play, don't, don't do a Burning man, a acculturation program. Mm-hmm. where you train people to be proper burners. Make it fun and creative and interesting. Cuz if all these people wanna be cool and hit their bucket list and they wanna be an OG burner, they don't wanna be the person who's being laughed at.

For [00:53:00] taking, you know, selfies for Instagram, you know, and that's all they're doing at Burning Man and complaining that their art card didn't arrive on time or that their coffee delivery service didn't have , like you'll rob people of their experience. So, so like, create a Burning Man acculturation program for somebody who feels they can't get themselves there and lovingly joyously teach them, you know?

Yeah. Help them get there and teach them and say, Okay, it'll cost you 25 grand, but will help you and will, you'll have a helper drive with you to drive your RV there. And, and don't, don't give them made service. Don't make their bikes for them. Make them do work shifts. Make them say the coolest part of Burning Man is coming on.


[00:53:33] CK: It is actually, I, I would, I would, I would be the second to attest. Yeah. So like you wanna, especially, especially for those who are looking for a transformational experience. Yeah. There's nothing in, in my opinion, humble opinion, there's nothing that's built relationship faster than shared hardship.

Yep. You want to build relationship with people in your life. Go to build week. Yeah. In my

[00:53:52] Samantha: opinion, I could leave on Thursday of burn week, the past five years, I'm like, I'm complete . Yeah. I stay, but, but yeah, the best part is build.

[00:53:59] CK: Say more [00:54:00] about that cuz for people that's never been there, like here, here's something.

So my family has never been to Burning Man. So for them is insane that I would pay money. Thousands of dollars, right? Travel long distance to go to a really hot and inhospitable place where I need to bring my water, nutrition, whatever shade structure. And, and, and I want to do work, work your butt off.

Built weak . So for, for people who are listening who can't really fathom, what is the benefit, what's the lure of doing this? If you can articulate a few words? Sure.

[00:54:27] Samantha: Uh, there's nothing like getting there. When nothing is there and slowly watching it build up. It's, it's amazing. It's incredible. And also like building anything is, it is like building a house, right?

So you're building this camp that is going to be a place for people to have extraordinary experiences the following week. That's one piece is watching the city grow and watching your project grow. The second piece is, you mentioned it, the community you build and especially, so I run nourishment at Mystic.

It's my favorite thing to do. Uh, so I run, I, we call them the fluffers. There are energetic fluff. Uh, and, um, we just get to love and nourish the [00:55:00] team. And then like, imagine a small group of people who've worked really hard all day long, sitting around a fire eating beef fork and y or lamb stew, right? at the end of a day on build, It's like amazing food.

And around, uh, I have a, a little campfire, um, a propane fire under a shade structure with blinky lights. And it's this nourishing, and we always have a camp nearby that's not prepared that we feed on Build week, that we, you know, Red Lightning, we would bring over our neighbors. Two girls would show up at Pink cart all the time, two days before everyone else would be like, Come on, you're sleeping in my rv, feeding you.

And it just, it makes such beautiful tribe because you are wor working so hard together and you all collapse on your chairs as the sun goes down and, you know, have maybe a Boots craft or a, a beer. Or just water and have a luscious meal and just really bond beautifully. Um, and we had an extraordinary program at Red Lightning.

We would, we would play a game called, If you really Knew Me mm-hmm. you ever played. If you really knew me,

[00:55:48] CK: uh, if you ever really knew me, me, you would known this and that about me. Something like that.

[00:55:51] Samantha: Yeah. And it's gotta be something random, not like, well, you know, I, I work for this company. Yeah. We already know that

But it's like, I used to always say like, I love broccoli. Like I can't live without it. It be something silly. [00:56:00] And then you do a couple of rounds around the table, Right. Or Uhhuh , um, And it, it people bring up funny, fun, weird, interesting facts and it would just be, you know, a silly game of if you really knew me around the campfire.

So things like that, that just make it really super deep and you're going through, like you said, shared struggle, right? And people break down. People like get confronted with stuff and with, like you said, the heat and the dryness. People get super confronted working from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM really hard out in the, in the dirt, in the heat.

And so, so you get to know people very deeply and very well, and people hold each other and love each other and nourish each other and it's, it's glorious. So,

[00:56:29] CK: So, so I have something very specific I want to ask you because you and Richer are a beautiful couple. It's very inspiring to actually seeing you interact with each other.

Thank you, Bernie, Man. Typically reinforce relationships or break relationships because of its, you know, intensity, right? Physical, emotional, all these things, you know. So I'm curious to know how, um, how, how have you and richer not only survived, but thrive in Burning Man, how many years together and then how many burns together?

[00:56:55] Samantha: So we've burned together since 2012.

[00:56:57] CK: Yeah. Wow. That's 10

[00:56:58] Samantha: years. Uhhuh. He and his wife at the [00:57:00] time, Zona, uh, came to Red Lightning and they were all part of my crew and we were all really good friends for a long period of time and they ended up splitting up and we fell in love in 2016. And we asked her permission beforehand if we could go down that route, you know, after they had split up and it was all good.

Um, and I would say first and foremost, we had vetted each other for four years at Burning Man. We had been friends at Burning Man, and I remember he and his best friend, Johan, were two men that I would always go to when something was amiss in camp. If there was a man who needed support, who maybe wasn't acting in his highest self, if there was a real problem, I would go to them immediately.

And because I knew that they would handle things in a very grounded way, there were two men that I always deeply loved and respected. They were best friends and roommates and uh, and they came in the bus together. Um, the bus that Richard and I now, and so Richard and I had already prevetted each other.

and we had seen each other through really difficult things. And so when we're at Burning Man, we also are highly communicative people and we both really care about things going well. So when we see each other [00:58:00] struggling at Burning Man, and we both know it's a struggle, we know how to communicate with each other.

What do you need? How can I support you right now? Are you feeling a little crunchy? Do you need some support? Um, this year Richard knew that I was struggling with my body image this year on the Playa I was, I was having my own struggle with being around all these really young, beautiful, sexy girls. And I, and I bump up against body shaming issues from my own childhood stuff and.

he decided that he wanted to, his intention for Burning Men was to be in complete devotion to me in a way that I would know it and feel it completely. Mm-hmm. . And so everything he did was in complete devotion to me so that I would know that. Right. And he, one of the things with him is he struggled because our, our, um, redundancies fell apart, as I said in the beginning, like the generator for the camp broke down, but then our solar failed and our camp, our bus generator failed.

And instead of being like I told you, we should have checked that thing, I just was like, I let it go. Cuz he knew. He already knew. He already knew like our, I did not have to go. Like, it's that working. It's not working. So rather than like niggling him about it, how can I support you? What do you need? How can we make this better?

Right. So we both do that for each other. He notices that I'm struggling with one thing and he goes into a mode to support me. I [00:59:00] notice he's struggling with something else and I go in a mode to support him. And I think that's the big thing is like, if you think about it rationally and consciously, this is a difficult environment, right?

Oh, I'm in a grumpy mood. I better tell my husband I'm in a grumpy mood and make sure I don't grum at him cuz I love him. Right? , right? He's struggling and he says, Oh, I'm feeling grumpy. I need some support. Right? So you just have to be thoughtful and conscious and curious. It's kind of the same thing as everything else.

Curious, you know? Mm-hmm. , how can we make it better? We've never actually struggled on the P with each other. We've always been, I've never heard

[00:59:26] CK: that before, . Yeah, we've never

[00:59:28] Samantha: heard that before. We struggled, but not with, with each other as a couple. I understand. Yeah. We're a, you know, you, we wanna be. We just wanna love each other.

Like, we don't wanna argue with you. We love, we love each other. We're just like, Ew, I don't wanna fight with you. When we've had our arguments and we've had a couple of big ones in our, in our six years together, it's like, this is awful. This feels horrible. How do we not do this? Um, so we, we have a lot of practices and tools and, you know,

[00:59:50] CK: So for, so for the couples that are thinking about going to Burning Man together, what do you say to them?

Good luck.

[00:59:57] Samantha: No, I mean, like, guys, gimme call . Uh, no, [01:00:00] it's just like really get your practices down. Mirroring, I mirroring is one of the best practices you can. and I, we learned it through the Imago training. Mm-hmm. , which was fantastic. And we practiced it with great stuff. So we practiced mirroring with each other on, tell me all the great things that happened today.

So by the time we needed the mirroring, we already had the skill. Mm-hmm. . Um, and I would say if you're gonna go to Burning Man, know that it's gonna bring up everything that you're not dealing with. Like you were saying, like mutual challenge, Burning Man is a cauldron, as we talked about in the beginning, We're coming full circle.

It's a cauldron and it's going to put right into your face, everything that you're not dealing with. Mm-hmm. . So whatever's up that you're not dealing with, it's gonna be, where's the camera? Right in your face, . It's gonna be right place and you're gonna have to deal with it. So, oh, this might come up, this particular issue.

So think about it beforehand. Talk about it beforehand. And remember number one, rule at Burning Man. If you're grumpy, if you're mad, if you're upset, hydrate, you're probably more hydrated. Hydrate. Sit down, get in a cool place and breathe. Then go into your tools. But number one, if you're angry, pissed off, scared, whatever, Hydrate number one at Burning.

[01:00:54] CK: Mm-hmm. . I love it. Samantha, obviously, we're gonna send people to rich nuts.com, right? That's, [01:01:00] that's, that's where, yeah. All the, all the magic happens. Anything else you wanted to say? Last thing you want to say before we complete? No, just really

[01:01:05] Samantha: love, love, love what you do, and love what you're committed to, That you're committed to bringing forth these really important, mindful, intentional issues and, uh, sharing with the world.

I, I love spending time with you. I'm glad you're camping with us and let's camp it Burning Men together again. Woohoo.

[01:01:19] CK: Uh, Samantha, let me just take a moment to just thank you for sharing your experience, your, your wisdom and the beautiful stories that you brought. You know, I think. They hear me say enough of burning man, you know, uh, the esoteric of transformational experience, the containers and everything.

It's so cool to hear from you, . Thank you.

[01:01:36] Samantha: So thank you so much. And I'm an old world southern girl who went to Smith and boarding school, so I'm not kind of, not your typical burner, but you know, so you hear it from someone like me. It's kind of a different perspective, but thank you for having me so much.

Samantha Coker (Pele)Profile Photo

Samantha Coker (Pele)



Entrepreneur, Writer, humanitarian and project manager SAMANTHA COKER has spent most of her life cultivating a career that exists at the intersection of art, commerce and social change. Samantha’s zones of genius lie in her ability to balance the creative and pragmatic, and to create and nourish extraordinarily loyal and passionate teams.

Although she hails from South Carolina, Samantha spent her formative years in a small town out side of Toronto, called Brantford, ON. This widely international community set her up to have a great love for travel and eclectic communities. Her time at boarding school reinforced her passion for diversity, and sent her to live abroad off and on during her college years.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College, she began a career in the music industry. Always working with bands that had a level of social consciousness, she wove her way through the industry, touching almost every corner of it.

In 1999, Samantha was recruited by the Seattle-based, Frank Geary/Paul Allen music museum, The Experience Music Project. She spent three years managing their revenue, cash management, financial database and reporting system until she left for The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). There she helped build new database systems and produce their annual Auction/Awards show fundraiser. This led her to Seattle University, which pioneered one of the first Master’s Programs specifically for Non-Profit executives, where she received her Master of Not-for-Profit Leadership with a focus on corporate social responsibility.

Samantha moved to Los Angeles in 2004 where she spent time helping produce commercials and films, and over the years offered her non-profit expertise to such charities as her alma mater, Oldfields’ School for Girls; Salvando Corzones; and Children Mending Hearts, where she was on the founding board and traveled to DR Congo as part of CMH’s art exchange between students at L.A.’s Inner City Arts and displaced children in Congo; and most recently Global Green, where she is Chair of the Advisory Board.

Her deep curiosity led her to the Burning Man festival where, for five years, she project managed Red Lightning, one of the foremost spiritual theme camps at Burning Man.

Presently, Samantha is the co-founder and CEO of a rapidly growing sprouted gourmet nut company. She and her husband are looking to grow this company internationally, bringing healthy sprouted gourmet food, and education to the masses.