Doug Ernst Staff Writer
A North American organization created nearly 18 years ago by men to provide each other with the means and tools to become better fathers, husbands and leaders is looking to grow by sharing the stories of men whose lives have been changed.
Members of Mentor Discover Inspire (MDI) are stepping forward to tell how helping other men has changed their own lives.
“I learned to trust men who saw more potential in me than I did in myself,” said David Horobin, who was there to contribute when MDI was created in 2000 in San Rafael. “That courage opened up a new world in me. I could not have imagined today, when men come to me because they see me as a ‘big picture’ and ‘big context’ leader.”
In what has been described generally as “men’s work,” members agree to honor a standard code of behavior, come together weekly for three hours to discuss their lives, engage in non-denominational rituals, conduct sacred ceremonies, share leadership experiences, give each other a chance to describe wins and losses for the week and get support to be successful in their lives.
In the process, the men become real with each other by telling the truth and accepting what other men have to say.
“I had no idea what I was about to experience, but after some introductions and talk of confidentiality we sat and broke bread together, and that’s when things got interesting,” said Greg Anderson a Californian who joined MDI in 2016.
“I got into a conversation about my father, who I never really talked much about, as he abandoned our family when I was five,” he said. As Anderson learned more about masculinity and leadership he began to change as a man.
“All my relationships changed. I see things in a much broader vision than before. My ego now seems to have been tempered quite a bit and all of humanity has taken on a bigger role in my life. My relationship with my wife and children has improved greatly, as this inner calm works wonders on anger issues that may occur in my life, and my outlook improves daily.”
Living my purpose
Gary Ledson, of Cobb, CA, said doing “men’s work” for the past 20 years has changed many facets of his life:
“I’ve gone from being out of work to having a successful, 10-year career in car sales, and more recently, my present career as a care provider for the developmentally disabled and the elderly,” he said.
“I’ve gone from almost divorcing to enjoying a successful, strong and enriching marriage of almost 42 years and together, raising four children who as adults are kind, generous and caring humans who are gainfully employed.
“And, I’ve gone from a victim, feel-sorry-for-me mentality to a strong, intentional, positive man who is living out his purpose.”
Drop my mask
A fairly new member, Dale Weide of Napa Valley, said that changes in MDI men take place because men are encouraged to be themselves.
“Never have I found a place where a team of men is able to drop pretenses and be fully human,” said Weide. “For the first time, I have found a place where I only get the advice of men, who voice their helpful wisdom about the current circumstances that I and other team members find ourselves in.
“I have become more whole by seeing other men as collaborators and not just competitors, thereby being able to drop my mask of pretense.”
This method of trusting other men by “taking off the mask” leads to self-confidence, say men in the organization.
“Men’s work has given me confidence to do and act on what I feel is right, even if I am the lone man defending something,” said Horobin. “If my ego is not involved, most of the time I find other men coming to my cause and seeing the light. My experiences have made me somewhat instinctive in perceiving of situations with men that many others may not see.”
“I attribute my new feeling of well-being to the fact I have a team of men I can open up with, express my feelings to, and get a genuine and thoughtful response from, on a weekly basis,” said Anderson.
“I found teams of men willing to hold me accountable for my actions and also willing to support me in my dreams,” said Ledson. “My purpose is to serve … men to be successful in their lives. I have never been more rich and happy. My men’s team has played a huge part in bringing that about.”
Weide said that listening to other men and accepting their insights has made him a better man.
“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Not only to I get support, but I am also there for men I have grown to respect and appreciate.”
Mark Battuello, another new member, said he has learned how to support other men.
“At first, I didn’t think I would be able to help some men because I have not lived or experienced what they have, for example I’m not married so I thought there was no way for me to tell someone in that situation what can be done to make things better for a marriage.
“But one evening I suggested that the couple having problems may need to find someone to watch the kids for a weekend and let mom and dad get away and do something enjoyable.
“Men have suggested that I try to look at life through a different window, to be more positive in my view of people, and to live as if nothing is to be expected of anyone and, in turn, whenever we receive it is so much more appreciated. In turn, I do a random act of kindness whenever I can.”
Joe Spezza of Middletown, CA, said that, since he started attending weekly team meetings six months ago others have noticed that he is becoming a mature, masculine man.
“My wife has noticed an increase in my confidence, compassion, energy and ability to focus,” he said. “I’m not as irritable when I come home after a hard day, and I enjoy spending time with my daughters, and they appear to enjoy spending time with me.
“I want to live the example of a good husband, so that my daughter seek strong, compassionate, truthful and loving husbands to share their lives with. I want to help other men become the husbands that are worthy of my daughters,” Spezza said.
Horobin was asked why he’s still doing men’s work after 22 years.
“I am there to learn. I am there to give. I am there to help. I am there to grow. I am there to help other men down the same path. I am there for my sons. I am there to help me fulfill my purpose. I am there for the rewards of seeing men’s lives change and to be successful in their families, careers and communities.”