An Open Letter to the MDI Board of Directors

By David Dressler, Southwest Region, Full Monty 

When I first joined my men’s team I knew that I was becoming part of something bigger than just ten middle-aged men sitting in chairs around a lantern. 

While I was instantly drawn to them for the fathering and big brothering I so badly needed, I also felt increasingly compelled to bring other men to these meetings because I was connected to an organization that I admired. I remember when leaders from MDI would come to our division meetings. It was impressive when Fowlkes would step into the circle to deliver something around excellence or when Bihr and Irwin would get emotional about our higher purpose as an organization, or Howard Spierer would send a message and share his passion for what we were all doing across the country and in my native Canada. 

We would hear amazing stories of our men out in other parts of the country doing great things. I felt so uplifted by my connection to the greater community of men. I felt so proud to be a part of this organization. I drank the Koolaid and jumped right in. I brought men to meetings. I sponsored men into weekends right and left. I stepped up for production, held core team positions, pointed a team, did my weekends, led the Southwest Men’s Conference, and even wrote a handbook for Team Leaders and another one for mentors. 

I’m not patting myself on the back but simply saying that like so many before me, I was greatly inspired to be part of something that had the ability to transform lives and communities. I felt deeply attached to all the men out there who didn’t even know we existed or that they could have this too. I referred to our organization as “my own secret army.” I banged my drum for men and mankind. I was making a difference in my life and in the lives of others. Fuck yeah! Go MDI!

About 18 months ago, my wife and I had our first child. At that time, I made a conscious decision to take a step back from the organization to focus my energy on my family, and my growing business. I stayed connected to my team and my “jerkhood” taking my seat at the back of the bus while newer men stepped up and more senior men became revitalized in service to the division. 

Big things happened during this time. A great man on my team became DC. He helped create a new division in the L.A area. My men’s team put 15 new men through a 12-week training program and created a thriving men’s team. Our men literally scaled mountains, bought homes, had children, got engaged, revitalized marriages, grew businesses, coped with colossal personal loss and all the rest that comes with living lives of purpose. My team was doing great things. My division was growing and changing. 

But there was something missing. What happened to MDI? What happened to the organization that seemed to go through some kind of masculine mid-life crisis; changed its name, bought a fancy website, launched a lofty and ill-fated campaign of ending domestic violence and then disappeared only to reemerge in a series of sad photos of old men named Bubba? What happened to the voice of our great and vital organization? What happened to inspiring growth, higher purpose and service from the top down and out into the world? Where did MDI go?

When my men’s team asked these questions as concerned dues paying members, we were saddened to learn that not only did our leaders not know, they didn’t even know it had gone missing. The story we heard was that as long as the teams were healthy and thriving then leadership was doing its job, and as long as men sat in chairs around lanterns on weekday nights, the organization was on solid ground. I was bummed. Could that mean what I thought it meant? That my leaders had become disconnected from accountability for any function other than planning a Bubba? 

Like the MDI Board, my business partners and I lead an organization of regions, teams and members. We realize and take very seriously that above all, the 1,000 families in our growing company are primarily looking to us for one thing above all else: inspiration. Not only are they looking for us to personify and communicate the mission and principles of our company, they deeply want to connect with us as the ones who “dug the well.” Our team members want to know that they belong to something that matters and they want to hear the story from those who first wrote it. 

I don’t want to appear instructive to the Board, but at the risk of selling you out, I will add that to no one is this phenomenon more compelling or vital than to “Millenials.” People about 18 to 32 years of age, our current and future leaders have a very distinct way of looking at the world, and our organization is missing them entirely. This is the first generation who do not know a world without the Internet, texting, GPS, Facebook and Smart Phones. They consider e-mail to be old school and the telephone obsolete. 

Most importantly, these young people demand a rich culture of learning and development in order to feel connected. They want access to leadership so that their experience feels customized to them. They want to feel like they have a seat at the table with leaders they admire. These are the men that will join our organization in the coming years. These are the men who will either be attracted to MDI or find us irrelevant. We have so much to offer to these young men but, respectfully, if our leadership doesn’t find a way to energize themselves and come up with something meaningful to say to us, and, in particular to our young men, we run the very real risk of fading into oblivion. 

Respectfully, you need to get back to passionately leading the organization with one eye focused on the present and one eye firmly fixed on the future. 

We look forward to being inspired by your vision and continuing to support your efforts.

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