by Todd Adams, MenLiving Executive Director & Co-founder
There’s a great scene in the movie My Cousin Vinny where Vinny, played by Joe Pesci, goes to a small-town restaurant with his wife and sits down to look at the menu. After looking for a moment, he asks his wife, played by Marisa Tomei, what she is going to order, and she says:
He agrees as the camera invites the viewer to see what the menu reads:
- Breakfast $1.99
- Lunch $2.49
- Dinner $3.49
In 2012, when I founded this organization with Frank Naugo, our MenLiving menu was also just like this because we only offered one choice: a monthly meeting in my living room—nothing more. Twelve years later, our menu has surpassed my wildest dreams, reminiscent of the expansive selection at The Cheesecake Factory. Have you ever been? Their menu is massive.
As our community expands, so do our offerings. While some men’s organizations offer a one-size-fits-all experience, our strategy is the opposite. We aim to create offerings that meet the diverse needs of our community and continue to evolve. Some guys simply want to connect with a loose structure, some seek opportunities to have fun together, and others are looking for a deep dive into personal growth work.
The category I want to focus on today is Small Batches, gatherings in smaller groups that create a more intimate connection than might be experienced in a large virtual or in-person meeting. I have participated in many of these small batches and can attest to their deep connection. What makes these opportunities special is that they provide a space where a dedicated group of men can meet over a specific period and work on personal growth. Last year, I joined the Self-Compassion small batch – a group of men going through a workbook written by Kristen Neff, a leading researcher in the self-compassion field. We covered one chapter each week, learning, sharing, and practicing self-compassion within the group, along with an assigned accountability partner. Personally, as someone with a history of being my harshest critic, I found this experience transformative. I realized I was more willing to give my wife, child, or barista at Starbucks a break than I was to give it to myself. Throughout the small batch, I learned the three elements of self-compassion:
- Self-kindness- the ability to go easy on oneself.
- Mindfulness- the ability to be aware of what is my thoughts, feelings, body sensations without judgment.
- Common humanity- the understanding that as human beings we are all flawed and struggle.
The outcome of this small batch was forming connections with some incredible men and achieving a deeper understanding of myself. This understanding positions me to be more empathetic toward the people in my life. Can you imagine a world where all men connect with each other authentically while actively working on becoming the best versions of themselves? We have imagined it and are making it happen—one man – and one small batch – at a time.
PS: I recently led a brainstorming session with 15 different stakeholders of MenLiving and together we made a list of existing and potential small batches that might interest our community. This is where you come in. Here is a list with the name, status, category, and one sentence summary of each idea. If you are interested in being a part of these groups, email me @ email@example.com and let me know which one (s) you are interested in – I’ll make sure you get the information.
Existing MenLiving Offerings:
- Full Houses (4/week)
- Small Batches
- Men Practicing Self-Compassion
- MenAging- Age 50 & Up
- MenWalking (Tallahassee, FL & Chicago, IL)
- Meditation (1/week)
- Separation/Divorce (1/week)
- Thursday Wildcard
- 4th Thursday combined meeting with CalComMen
- Sex, Intimacy, Relationships every other month
- Special Guests
- Thanksgiving morning
- Elmhurst (1/month)
- Evanston (1/month- led by Dan Bulf)
- Tallahassee (2x/month led by Shawn Woodin)
- Oak Park Sex, Intimacy, Relationship (Every other month- led by Myles Fey)
- Western Advance (1/year Connection/Personal Growth)
- Mindful MenLiving Meditation Retreats (2/year meditation/personal growth mix)
- Midwest Advance- 1/year Connection/Personal Growth
- On the Road Gathering- 1/year (loose structure, no rules, all connection)