This afternoon I excitedly hopped on a Zoom call.
Sorry, I couldn't resist the click-bait nature of that first line. And it's 100% true.
A little more than a year ago I got this idea in my head. I wanted to get into a recurring group conversation with a bunch of other people who could, as I recall thinking, "kick my ass mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually."
The mixed gender group I had been meeting with for personal and professional development for the previous 18 months had run its course for me and it was time for something new. And it was entirely clear to me that the group I needed to be in would be comprised entirely of other men.
Of course, I had no idea where that group might exist or how one would get into such a secret society. So, without knowing what the hell I was doing, I set out to create one -- or more accurately, co-create one.
My first call was to a guy I'd met only a few months before. A mutual friend had introduced me to Ed, describing him as the West Coast version of me. That statement? Accurate.
Ed and I had become fast friends in just a few short months, based on a list of shared experiences that we each deeply valued. The list included things like raising teenagers, leaving the corporate world to find more purposeful work, exploring the promise that Teal consciousness provides for the world, and challenging traditional norms of manhood that no longer make sense to us.
One day I blurted out my vague idea to Ed. I wanted to talk to other men, men who gave a shit about the same things I did, about what mattered to them. And I wanted it to be a recurring thing.
Ed was excited about it, too. Of course. (I am the East Coast version of Ed.)
Within a few weeks, we had each found a few guys in our networks who were interested, and away we went!
On January 11, 2021 we held the first of what has become a monthly meeting, including the one I was so fired up to see on my calendar this morning. We called it "Men of Teal", a nod to some of Ed's fine work.
So what's the big deal with this freakin' Zoom call???
There are a lot of factors in why, after attending something like 2,643 Zoom meetings over the past year, I would look forward to spending 90 minutes on one of those screens with 5 other men today. Here are several:
I can expect someone to crack us all up. Usually it's me, because I'm the funniest one in the group ... (I'm kidding! I'm not always the funniest one. Just usually.)
Someone is going to surprise me with some brilliant way that they've handled a difficult situation, something that I wouldn't have thought of in 100 years.
A topic that scares me a little is going to come up. It'll be something like somebody's fears about money (like mine), or confusion with how to handle something with a partner (ok, also sometimes me), or what to do about a concerning health situation (eventually, all of us). A big, real conversation is guaranteed to happen.
I will show up for the big, real conversation because the guys around me show up for it. And we're in it together.
We're a mix of three generations, with a heavy dose of GenX. (Ok, at least from this Slacker.) I get to see and learn from the coolest parts of each of those cultural cross sections.
Inspiration will strike. I regularly discover some new form of creative thinking that blows my mind. So many amazing ideas have emerged for me during the "MoT sessions".
I have totally achieved my goal of getting into a group of men who can mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually kick my ass on any given day. And I'll be kinda shocked if we aren't still meeting every third Monday several years from now, in one form or another.
Oh yeah, here's one other cool fact about this group of guys. I've never spent time in-person with 4 out of the 5 other guys who attended today's call.
We're from DC and Austin and San Francisco and Edmonton and Western Massachusetts. The one guy I did meet, I saw one time at an all-day workshop he was leading. I believe the same is true for most of us - many of us have never seen any of the other guys in person.
And these are some of my closest confidants in life. They are incredible new friends that I have made over the past year, during a time that has been described as the American men's friendship recession.
At a time when 15% of men have zero close friends, up from 3% in 1990, all during a global pandemic that has made it more difficult to even maintain friendships, the formation of this group is evidence that men can create new friendships if they truly want to.
[Stats above come from that same article on male friendship trends. The latter italicized reference is based on common reports I hear from men I work with, as well as some articles I'm being too lazy to cite tonight.]
As I shared about my "MoT session" with my partner at dinner tonight, I jokingly said, "I wish every guy could have their own Men of Teal group."
Perhaps in recognition of how helpful she finds it for me to have multiple outlets to explore my inner self, she nodded vigorously, her eyes wide and encouraging.
Fifteen months ago my goal was to find one of these groups. I wanted to have a place to go and connect with a group of men, who are often the people with the best perspectives on my situation. It's been a wild success.
So perhaps here's what's wanting to emerge next...
Maybe I can help a second group form, spend a little time getting it spun up, and then let it run on its own eventually. Then there would be two, which might lead to seeing if a third one wants to sprout up...
If that idea sounds interesting to you, let me know. I could use some inspired help on shaping this next idea.
Jim Young is a Men's Burnout Coach and the author of the upcoming book, "Expansive Intimacy: The Key to Unlocking the Shame / Burnout Double Bind For Men", due out in September, 2022. In it he examines how men can get out of old cultural traps and into the life they had always imagined for themselves.
At home, Jim can be found nerding out with his partner, goofing around with his kids, and being a dweeb on stage with his improv comedy troupe, Not In Charge.
At work, Jim loves helping men navigate their path through life's challenges, whether via 1-on-1 coaching or group programs. (Maybe even something like, "Men of Teal, Part Deux"...) He also works as an organizational development resource for a number of small to medium businesses, and is a proud co-facilitator of the Network of Executive Women's Beyond Allies male allyship program.
Jim talks on the occasional podcast, too. If you'd prefer to talk to Jim "in-real-zoom", you can let him know here. Just kidding, he'd be happy to meet you in person, if possible. But for now, one more Zoom call can't be bad, right?