Dylan Stewart Columnist
I remember before I found my team – my people – before I found my place among the men. Back then I was it do it alone mofo, cocky and sure of himself on the outside … but scared as hell on the inside. And completely controlled by my emotions, my fears and my doubts.
That all changed back in 2003 when I was introduced to a men’s circle. I found my team. I found my place. I wouldn’t have to do it alone anymore. I had a circle, a support system, an army at my back ready to fight with me and for me to make my life better.
For 15 years that was my story. I rose up in the ranks, leading my team, leading my division, leading events and trainings. I grew, and I changed, and I loved who I was.
Earlier this year, I experienced something I never thought I would have to go through.
Have you ever been in a crowded room of people, and decided it was time for you to leave? You just grabbed your stuff, and walked out the door. Not that big of a deal, you walked away and they all stood there.
Yes? Now, imagine the opposite.
Standing in a room filled with men, your team, your army… and then in one voice, in one moment, everyone stood up and walked away, and you were left alone.
The only man in the room.
I could never have imagined that, predicted that, seen that coming … and yet it happened.
I live in Los Angeles, and I’ve been a part of the largest region in my men’s organization “Mentor Discover Inspire” for my entire history being on a men’s team. Sixteen years now.
Shortly before the end of 2018, I was a part of a leadership team that decided that for Mentor Discover Inspire to survive, thrive and grow we needed to increase our revenue, which meant that we would have to increase our dues.
The dues had been at a very low level with only one or two minor increases for the entire history of the organization. It was no longer at proper market value. In fact, if you counted inflation, we were charging less than we had when we started.
So decisions were made, the dues were raised, and we rolled those changes out as best as we could. We made mistakes around this process, and we did our best to own them and continue forward.
But in the Southwest region, the largest region, those changes were taken differently. The men pushed back.
One moment, at a discussion meeting, a vote was taken to leave the organization. My division was approximately 50 men, a large majority of which were at this event, and when the vote was asked men were encouraged to cross over to “the other side of the circle” to commit themselves to forming a new organization and leave Mentor Discover Inspire.
I watched as one by one every man around me stood up and walked to the other side.
When they asked me, I refused to stand. I refused to move.
I was not interested in starting a new organization from scratch. We had finally taken a step towards building the organization I was proud of. We were valuing ourselves higher, we were finally taking a stand and a chance to build something that could last. Something sustainable.
And yet that wasn’t how it was seen. It was seen as leadership unilaterally making a decision that affected the pocketbook of every man in the organization.
It was not a “what can we do for the organization” moment; it was a “what has the organization done for us lately” moment. But that wasn’t what it meant to me. This organization has done so much for me, I couldn’t justify walking away and had no need to measure the value I had already received.
I was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Sitting still, watching as my army deserted the battle. Watching as the men I had fought with and fought for turned their back on me, and on what had helped me to become the man that I am. A man I am proud of, and a man I will not give up ever … under any circumstances.
There were five divisions in my region. San Diego, Big Stick, Full Monty, the LA tribe, and the Legacy Kings, the latter being my current division.
When the dust settled, and all of the five divisions had voted and made their choice whether they were going to stay in the organization or start something new, there was only two things left standing: The San Diego Men’s Division …. and me.
I wouldn’t join San Diego because they were just too far geographically, so all of a sudden I was a man alone in a once full room, in the fullest room in the organization. Suddenly I felt very alone.
My life was going good, I had just gotten into a new relationship, my business was thriving, and I thought for a moment maybe I no longer needed a team. Ironic.
But the funny thing about doing well in your life is that it’s not a result of what you’re doing today, it’s a result of what you did six to 12 months ago. The teams and support that you had around you. The self work that you had done that allowed you to clean out the garbage floating around inside of you, allowing you to be your best.
But just like the gym, striving to be your best is not a habit that you can ever stop. So here I am: a little more than six months after that fateful night, looking at my life, proud of where I am, but eager to continue my growth. Eager to keep building my business, eager to ensure that my new relationship is strong 10 years from now.
And who is going to help me do that?
Am I just going to do it alone like I’ve done for the last six months?
For 15 years I had been on a men’s team, part of a meeting every week, earning and honoring rank, doing everything that I could to better myself and those around me… and now here I was, alone in the room.
I had been the secretary of the board of directors… I was in regular conversations with the president, vice president, the chairman of the board… I mentored DC‘s, mentored team leaders… I was in relationship with many of the men that I had been on teams with in the past… but then there was no one to support me.
It was an odd feeling, and for awhile my ego told me it was not a problem. My ego told me I had gotten everything that I needed to get out of men’s circles. I was getting enough support from my personal coach. My therapist was still doing her job. What more did I need?
Once you find a solution that works, the tools that help, a way of being that changed who you were and allowed you to be who you are, how do you just walk away from that? Or in my case, after having that solution walk away from me, how could I find it again?
There was a gift in the bold and brave decisions that were made by the organization earlier in the year. It was trying new solutions, finding new ways to help men, working hard to expand our reach and our capabilities. One of those solutions was virtual men’s teams.
Using video conferencing tools, we were building teams for men in areas that did not have enough men for a physical team.
Suddenly that was me.
So I tried one of these Zoom Virtual teams. My first experience was OK. I liked the men, but I felt distracted being on the computer rather than being in a circle. I missed the fun and physical, I missed being able to hug a man when I needed it, or to push against a man when that was what was required.
So I pushed men’s work out of my mind and figured I would keep doing what I had been doing. But as more time passed I came back to the realization that I didn’t want my growth to stop. I wasn’t done learning. I needed men in my life. I remembered when I first learned that I needed men in my life, I wasn’t about to forget about that revelation.
So I tried again… I called a man from a virtual team, got the link to join the call, and prepared myself to be present with my men.
It was an amazing experience, a reconnection of what I loved about circles… And even though it wasn’t face-to-face, I felt connected… seen… heard.
The things I brought were valuable, the things that were given to me I took in, and sat in the inquiry around.
When the meeting was done, I felt like I was beginning to build my army again. Not as big as it had once been, and maybe they were not as clear on who I was or what I needed from them… but it was a start.
It was like that moment, when everyone around me got up and walked away. I realized life is long, nothing is final, and you have to start somewhere.
I’m proud of those men for walking away for something they believed, for being willing to do the hard work of building a new organization that they felt more aligned with, for staying true to their hearts. At the same time, I encouraged them to never give up on looking for the best solution, the best circle, the best way to grow and build and become who they were put on this planet to be.
I will never stop growing. I will never stop searching for better solutions. I will never stop fighting to fulfill the highest level of potential that I can as a human being on this planet. And now I won’t have to do it alone.
And once again, just one more time in my 16 years of work in this organization, I am grateful for Mentor Discover Inspire, for helping me stay on my path of growth, and helping me to be the man I always wanted to be.