Atlas Past

Dave Bowland
Atlas, Team M’ORT

Geoff Tomlinson called me during a particularly difficult day back in 2018 – “Wanna join myself and a few other men on Zoom tomorrow night – we’re forming a new remote team.” I had tried telephone teams before and they just didn’t work. Would this really be much better?

I wasn’t hopeful, but my life had become unmanageable and I needed a men’s team.

That night something told me I must be on that call, and it was right. I would be witnessing the start of something amazing – to be a part of the birth of Atlas – and join a changing team of men over the next three years who would massively help me make significant changes in my life.

But first, that fateful Zoom call.

Five men joined Tomlinson on this new thing called Zoom. We could clearly see and hear each other and the experience was better than I expected. The men were all somewhat experienced MDI men, but no longer lived near a “terrestrial” team. Might this really work? Near the end of what would be considered a “good” team meeting, I couldn’t contain myself.

I needed men in my life and I couldn’t let this meeting end without asking for help. Later I would hear from those men that they could see it in my face – like I was ready to explode. The floodgates opened and I allowed myself to be more vulnerable than I had ever been with men. The team came together out of sheer need to support me and the start of what would become “The Zoom Team.”

The Atlas Division was born.

I cried that night out of a bizarre mix of fear, pain, happiness and love. I had started on a journey that would change my life forever, and a spark would be lit that would bring what we had created to men across the globe. Kempner, Grebel, Malouin, Estes, Bowland and Clarke embarked on this journey, and I think it’s fair to say that none of us knew where it would lead.

The Zoom Team had its ups and downs, conflicts and every other issue men’s teams face, all compacted into six months! It was anything but bland. The men were engaged and present, and we realized we needed to figure out how to have a successful men’s team in the “ether.”

Our initial standards reflected how we started – be supportable and we hold men’s feet to the fire! Sure you needed to be on time and everything else that’s just expected, but we went deep and demanded in each other that we stay deep and never let our team become a surface-level “buddy group.”

I was constantly amazed that we could go so deep and support a man in a vulnerable state just through a Zoom meeting. What I came to understand was that when you can see and hear a man, all you need to really support him is to be fully present and love that man as though he was in the room with you. That first night I felt like the men were with me and this phenomenon occurred over and over again.

Oh, and we decided we needed a name other than “The Zoom Team.” Since we had men from all over the world (Mr. Kempner in Vietnam), we decided on “Atlas.” We started to see the potential of reaching men across the globe with this technology.

Our first test as a viable vehicle for creating men’s teams came about six months in when we had grown to a size (about 12 men) that was on the cusp of what I now believe is “too big” for Zoom. We had our first team split meeting and created “Screwed In.”

An additional team was also created alongside Atlas that used the Zoom technology and suddenly we had grown to three teams!

We grew and split and grew and split again. Fuck Ya, it meant that we could now become a Tribe, or a Division in waiting.

Although the start of Atlas was exciting and new, and we built a great foundation for what was to come, the truly hard work was just starting.

It turns out that turning a bunch of teams into an actual Tribe or Division in spirit and not just name was really hard. Dan Kempner, Justin LaBarge and Ben Schlosser each played a part in helping Atlas “grow up” so to speak. The commitment of these men, their dedicated core teams and the team leaders brought us through the process slowly but surely. At times it became clear we weren’t ready, but the men accepted that and got to work once again to build and support what would ultimately become the Atlas Division.

What a proud day. I thought back over three years and how much had happened. How much dedication and at times hard, grueling work it took to achieve this. There where some tough times and times I wasn’t sure we would ever get there. But then a man would do what happens so often in men’s work – he stood even taller, enrolled and embraced the men around him and made it happen. I don’t doubt any more. I just know that the right man will show up when he’s needed and we will succeed.

I have likely seen more growth in my character in the last three years than I can ever remember and it’s fundamentally due to answering the question “wanna join a team on Zoom” affirmatively. Without it I wouldn’t have a team and I would still be stuck in a much less wonderful life.

And equally exciting is the growth I’ve witnessed in the men on my teams. The growth and changes these men have sought and achieved is beyond what I ever expected to witness “online.” It is always a true honour to watch men do the incredibly hard work of creating the life they really want.

This is what we do. Atlas brings this incredible, life-changing thing called an “MDI Men’s Team” to men around the world who want to create the best life possible. Men’s teams change lives. Save lives. Save families, marriages, careers, souls, health … the list is endless. I am so proud to be a part of it, and to do my part.

Here’s to the next 100 men.

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