Starting the Conversation - Dan Doty of EVRYMAN
T: Who are you? What is your role at EVRYMAN, and what is EVRYMAN’s mission?
I’m Dan Doty, and I’m one of the 4 co-founders of EVRYMAN, and to take that a little deeper - EVRYMAN had been building in my vision for, I mean, at least 5 years, but before that even up to the last 10, 12 years of my life.
I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’ve had many different parts of my life and career. I was a wilderness therapy guy, a high-school teacher in the Bronx, I was a director of outdoor and adventure TV and film for a handful of years.
T: And what is the goal at EVRYMAN, if you could nail it down in a few sentences? The vision for EVRYMAN, and how it can change people’s lives.
Dan: EVRYMAN helps men in the community with education and a practice area to learn how to slow down, get in touch with what they want and how to speak transparently and honestly with people in order to create deeper relationships and a deeper sense of life across the board. Our goal is to turn this into a true global movement, with millions of men around the world participating in men’s groups, and our community.
T: Yeah, it’s been interesting, the deeper we get into this project, and the more conversations we have, it’s interesting to see how many guys have thought about these themes and discussions in their heads, but have only gone maybe 5, 10 yards with it. It’s great for us to hear from people, like you said, who have been thinking about this sort of thing for a decade now. To get that initial point in the right direction, because these are important discussions that people should have.
Speaking of those conversations, when you guys go to start a discussion with a new group of people for the first time, are there any foolproof methods that you guys use to get the conversation started and to get people talking.
Dan: Yeah, one of the most important things is to set a level of mutual understanding and safety right up front. So that people know what they’re getting into, and what the purpose is. So one of the most powerful and simple things, we have a set of agreements, that we read before the meeting, that just maps out the ground rules. It’s simple, but it’s really powerful and important - without that it’s hard to get people on the same page at the outset.
Beyond that, the simplest process that we have, and this underlines almost everything we do, is called the ROC formula. R-O-C, it’s Relax, Open Connect.
So look, Relax means that we have to slow down. For these conversations, we cant be up in our heads, going a million miles an hour. Most of our day, most of our lives, we spend in a mental construct. For these kinds of discussions, we’re slowing the hell down.
O is Open, so open to your body and open to your emotions. So that’s tapping in - we use the meditation technique, called Somatic Meditation, so simple body awareness - noticing what’s happening in our body. And that gives us a back door into our emotions, and our emotions are actually physiological experiences in our body. All of our emotions show up with a certain imprint in our body. It’ll be different for everybody, and for each emotion, but it can be helpful for men who don’t know what they’re feeling, or what emotions they’re experiencing.
T: Yeah, or it’s the thing like “I’ve got that feeling in my gut, and I don’t know what it means, but I don’t like it”
Dan: Exactly, so when we use the body and emotions together, we start to get a sense of things. And then, C is Connect, so that’s really the simplest step. Speaking up, reaching out, you know, taking what’s internal and making it external. And that process, literally clicks on this “Connective WIFI” in the group. It’s literally like 3 buttons - bop, bop, bop, hit those buttons and speak from that place, and it automatically creates safety, connection and depth between people.
T: Interesting, the physiological aspect was not one that I would have thought to point out, as a starting point to watch.
Have you ever worked through these conversations, or helped someone work through these conversations on more of a solo level? I can see, a lot of our members could be working through this with 1 or 2 people, so can you work through them solo, or with a partner?
Dan: Yeah - absolutely, with a partner for sure. For solo, we’ve actually started to develop some courses for self-inquiry. Just to, know yourself. For me, half of this, or even more, is solo practice anyways.
This can be done through journal prompts, it can be done with meditation, just simple awareness throughout the day.
T: Even on your drive to work, you could work in some of this stuff
Dan: Totally! Just to check in, even with yourself, take 5 minutes. Some of our guys will do a little check-in and record it on their phone, and you know, replaying it later to think on it.
A couple of the reasons that we primarily do this in groups or with others, is that because it’s one of our core tenets. Another part of it is that self-inquiry often only goes so far. Other people can point out what we're feeling, oftentimes far more quickly and accurately than we can.
Last, there’s 2 big things that we’re fighting against: One is emotional repression, and the second is social isolation. 2 of these common, core male ways of living. They hurt us - they’re not very good for us, so that’s why we prefer using groups. But, personally, at this point, my meditation, my own self-inquiry practice, is my North Star. We are developing more of the self-inquiry stuff, so we can share more tools with the guys.
T: It is a difficult thing to get into on your own. Especially if this is where you’re starting, is exploring this on your own, it can be a maze to try and navigate.
Dan: One of the big things I would suggest is to get a meditation app that works for you, and just start slowing down on your own. That would be a good way to begin this process
T: When you guys have new meetings with a new group of people, are there like 2 or 3 common things that people do that are stumbling blocks or pitfalls that you might not anticipate and easily avoided?
Dan: Oh good question - going too fast, for sure. Not using the agreements that I mentioned, and going too fast. The best way to start this, or lead this, or kick something off - there’s only 2 skills for a leader, 2 tasks: the first is to create and follow some sort of agreement, just so everybody is on the same page. The second, is to lead by example. To show up..
T: And just do it..
Dan: Yeah - show up and do it, show up and be vulnerable. Don’t pretend like you have to be the guy, that’s what EVRYMAN is built on. I showed up to lead our first retreat, poured my guts out and boom, everyone else did too.
T: It’s like flicking a light on, as soon as one person does it, everyone else is like: “Oh, I’m feeling things too, let’s get this going, I want to talk.”
Dan: 100 percent, definitely
T: And the agreements that you do, is it a communication thing? Like, “this is how we expect you to communicate with everybody else?
Dan: Yeah, exactly. And you can go on our website, and under the groups tab, you can probably find a copy there as well.
T: Oh great - that’s a great tool to have. My next question, and I’m not sure if you guys think of yourselves this way, but like activism and dealing with critics. If someone comes up to you in the bar, saying something along the lines of “I don’t believe in this whole New Masculinity thing, and either should you”. Is sticking to your guns in that moment important to you, or do you just understand that your personal ethos is different than his, and it might not be worth trying to change that.
Dan: Yeah, so I’ve never felt like “Activist” was a word that really resonates with me.
T: Me neither, but it’s a quick word to describe a complex task - people tend to know what that means.
Dan: Yeah, I think so. We certainly have a mission, right? The other thing too, is there’s this low-hanging fruit, that can get us more of what we want. Having better relationships, having more love in our lives, having all of the good stuff that we sit around and dream about - this low hanging fruit. Honestly, for guys to get together, and team up, get open and real with each other, give each other support, it’s like “Holy shit guys, I wouldn’t be pushing this so hard if it was this middling thing, but my God it works. It works insanely well. And it happens fast, so really what we’re trying to do is pull back the curtain. Like look at the possibilities”
T: Yeah, it’s not hard
Dan: I’m still astounded, every single event we do, I walk away blow away, like “My God, this is crazy”
But I would never try to explain masculinity - New Masculinity is I think this cheap, but maybe necessary label for what’s going on. This is really important to me - it’s not about replacing the old ideal of masculinity with something new, it’s creating the environment and the tools, for guys to just be themselves.
T: Yeah, and when we first set out the series, I did a little post and I talked about the New Masculinity feature in GQ from last year. It was obvious to me, like in this series of interviews, that each contributor came from a different place, you know, be it sexuality, be it gender, be it cultural background, anything, these people are coming from all these different places. So our goal with this, is definitely not to finish it and be like, “Ok, here’s the things you have to do to be a man in 2020”, we understand that it’s a personal thing. My beliefs and your beliefs on masculinity might not be the same, but that’s not what’s important at all.
Dan: Yeah, exactly. And to answer your bar question - if I guy came up to me and said some bullshit, I’d be like: “Alright man, if you want to talk about you, we can talk about it, but I don’t give a shit. I’m not here to have words with you, I’ll do my thing, you do yours.”
T: One of the other things I wanted to touch on was your thoughts on turning some of our beliefs into a more full credo or ethos that you can live by everyday. For example, people might have these things that they might aspire to, or they might do like 70% of the time, that they say: “This is the man that I want to be. These are the habits I want to have”
Do you have any insight on turning those beliefs that are more informal into something a bit more holistic?
Dan: Yeah, good question. Practice and experience - that’s really it. Like reps. I think that beliefs are actually really flimsy. When you get that experience, you get feedback from the real world. That’s what turns beliefs into part of you.
T: So just like any other habit, you just have to do it.
T: The last one for me, during your time at EVRYMAN what was something that sticks out as especially impactful? A moment that made you think: “This is what I’m supposed to be doing”?
Dan: Oh yeah, man. I’ve been having those for a long time.
T: I did get the sense that it would be hard to narrow this one down.
Dan: But I think correlating with your last question though, it was something that was more intermittent, but now it feels like every moment, every question. The first time for me would’ve been, 21 years old, working in the wilderness with young guys in Utah, and it all just started there like “Jeez, alright. This is it. I’ve found it”
T: That’s awesome. I really want to take a moment to thank you for going over these questions with me. It was definitely eye-opening, and I feel like people who are doing through this content are definitely going to be buoyed, and pointed in the right direction by some of your feedback, so thank you.
Dan: Cool man, glad I could help. Good luck, and let us know what’s happening with it all.