The B Team was formed approximately seven years ago and is still going strong with six active members. We meet once a week, usually at one of the men’s homes, with a pot luck dinner for the first hour (including family members or other visitors), followed by a two hour meeting of the B Team members. During this meeting the men share what’s going on in their lives and get support from their teammates to be better men. We get out of town once each year for a “Team Away” weekend, when we have fun and engage in deeper processes toward improving our team and our individual lives. The B Team is devoted to the health of EBNoM as a whole, is actively involved in EBNoM leadership, event production and community service, and can always be counted on to support the men, whatever it takes.
I have received a number of rich friendships both on my team and in EBNOM. Doing community service provides a sense of satisfaction in giving to the world. I used to be an angry person and involvement in the nation and therapy has calmed me down a lot. Being a member and teammate provides me with a structure that is fulfilling and valuable.
Brotherhood, camaraderie and closeness. Working and playing together. Sharing our lives and being a part of each other’s lives. Being committed to growth and supporting each other to work at being our best and giving our best. Love each other to the best of our abilities and being thrilled and delighted without faking it.
I joined the B Team in mid-2014, after having done similar “men’s work” in Los Angeles for the previous 7 years. Being on a men’s team, and the B Team in particular, has profoundly influenced my life. It has provided me with camaraderie, brotherhood and fun. But more importantly, it is a safe and sacred place, like no other place, where I get the support that I need to help get me through the struggles we all face as men and to support other men in those same struggles. There is no better feeling in the world than knowing that there is a family of men that have your back 24/7/365.
I discovered EBNOM back in 2011, and it has made a big difference in my life. EBNOM has a lot to offer in terms of making connections, sharing your true self, helping the community, having fun, and becoming better people. For me, the real magic happens on teams. Teams provide the opportunity to make deeper connections. When I first joined EBNOM and was looking to join a team, I found that I really resonated with the B Team. B Team has some of the most caring, generous, positive men I have ever met in my life. We meet weekly, allowing the opportunity to get to know each other more intimately. It’s a safe place to reveal my deeply personal issues and work on them with the support and encouragement of the team to grow as a man, parent, husband, human being. On top of all that, the guys have a great sense of humor, reminding me to have fun and not take myself and life so seriously.
Accepting an invitation 23 years ago to visit a “team meeting” was a life changing experience for me. Since then, I’ve been an active member of EBNoM, a member of the legendary NITS team for 15 years, an EBNoM chief for three years and leader of multiple major events, and a B Team member for the past seven years. EBNoM has provided amazing opportunities to grow as an individual, and has been the center of my family’s social life as well. EBNoM’s Community Campout in 2001 was the starting point for my wife, Leslie, to co-found a “women’s circle” (team) that has been meeting for the past 14 years. Our daughter, Elena, has grown up in the EBNoM community literally her entire life, and participating in dozens of EBNoM community service projects with her EBNoM “uncles” has been a significant influence in her life. EBNoM and the B Team – with their imperfections and sometimes inefficient quasi-democratic decision making process – continue to provide me with mentors, opportunities, “mirrors” and other tools for my journey toward personal growth, living a life of integrity and helping to enrich the lives of others. Everyone in our family knows that I’m a better man, a better father, and a better husband from what I’ve experienced and learned from EBNoM and my teammates.
(A former team member once said of Peter, “What he lacks in succinctness he more than makes up in verbosity.” While Peter is aware of his “ problem,” he sometimes does have important things to say, and feels that the following tome could help some newcomer to EBNOM understand what the our community and teams have to offer:)
My name is Peter Gradjansky.
As I write this, in August, 2015, I am sixty-two years old and about to have a newly “empty nest,” as my nineteen-year-old son goes off to college. Twenty-four years ago I was a founding member of the East Bay Nation of Men, and about to have my first child. At that time I had a very difficult marriage. I am still married- thirty years now- to the same woman.
My marriage, my family, and EBNOM are the things I am most proud of and grateful for in my life:
I have the best marriage I know- second to none in lovingness, mutual support, fun, companionability, connectedness, and mutual support and independence. In particular, my wife Laura knows- contrary to what she feared when EBNOM began- that the time and energy I have given to EBNOM has always come back to our family in spades- to me, to her, and to our children, in the form of community and of moral and practical support and wisdom.
I have been able to be a great father, really present in my children’s lives, and a role model- especially when they have participated in EBNOM events- for them- especially when they have participated in EBNOM events- of a connected life of commitment, service, community, and personal growth. My kids have seen through their whole lives the love and trust and commitment between me and their Mom, and also between me and my teammates and all the men of EBNOM, and they know they are loved unconditionally by all of us. My children both have their personal challenges, but as they head out to make their independent lives, they have lots of great men rooting for them and ready to help.
I have been able to be an influential participant, from the beginning, in shaping the unique culture of the East Bay Nation of Men, to be the loving, connected, genuinely democratic, supportive and kick-ass extended family it has become.
All these things I am proudest of are all intertwined in a way that makes my entire life feel well-balanced, integrated, and very blessed.
This singular moment in my personal journey is a natural occasion to reflect: What exactly is this unique culture of EBNOM, and of the B Team, that has worked so well for me and my family?
It is mostly a matter of constancy. My expectations of my team are very simple:
The team meets weekly, normally at the same time each week.
We do whatever it takes- including adjusting the time if necessary and possible- to have every member present at every meeting.
We also do whatever it takes- individually and collectively- to have each of us and the team as a whole win at everything we take on and show up as the men we want to be.
We each take responsibility and occasional leadership in the regular functioning, projects and events of the team, and also of EBNOM, which supports the team in so many ways and gives us the feedback we need to be our best, as well as the larger community we need, to play and work with. This regular sharing and rotation of responsibility and leadership gives each of us the opportunity to develop different sides of ourselves, to try different ways of being, and it gives our teammates a chance to see how each of us actually “shows up” when it really matters.
We each take responsibility for being as transparent as possible to our teammates, about what is going on in our individual life, and about what our challenges and patterns and dreams are . We ask the team for listening, and for help and advice when we are open to it, and are willing to use the team as a mirror of how we are showing up. This is where the constancy comes in: the team really knows me, because they see me for better and for worse, so I cannot hide: How I show up on the team is inevitably how I show up in the rest of my life, so I do well to listen when my teammates have an intuition about what I need.
My expectations of the men of EBNOM are:
Again- as with my teammates- to show up: this means regularly, at monthly meetings, and transparently.
To be accountable, to welcome me and the other men to challenge them to be the men they want to be.
To bring “tough love” for me and others who may need sometimes to hear hard truths or take on challenges we would rather ignore.
To bring and share with the rest of us their unique qualities and talents: For instance, much as I like fun and see its importance, my tendency is to be too cerebral and serious too much of the time. I rely on the men of EBNOM and our standards- which include “Have Fun!”- to get me “out of my head.” On the other hand I feel that I can offer a lot in a different way, because I am always thinking “outside of the box.” It takes all kinds!
To listen to me without judgment in a safe, completely confidential environment.
To remind me to be grateful and optimistic, not to quit, and again, to have fun.
Beyond what I have already stated above, what have my team and EBNOM offered me and my family?
I have in EBNOM and on the B Team a regular, interconnected set of relationships in my life that do NOT center around Laura or my children. This takes pressure off of the Laura and the family in general to provide for all my emotional and social needs, and leaves me free to share with the men what I can only- or best- share with other men- including outrageous fun. Knowing the importance of this to myself, I feel unequivocal about extending the same support to Laura to do the things that she needs to do for herself and on her own or with others.
I get a lot of practice at managing major projects and events within EBNOM, and in working out inevitable personality conflicts in a constructive way, so that I bring those same management skills home to the family as needed- as during our recent move when also fifteen EBNOM men actually showed up to help physically.
I have a lot of men whom I trust, and who know me well enough, that they can help me get on track when I am feeling overwhelmed or bewildered by family or business challenges. This too takes pressure off of Laura to be my only confidant about things that concern her so personally, that she is less able than the men to be objective.
It is a pretty generally accepted tenet in EBNOM, that the only person whose behavior you can change is yourself. Therefore, when I do have any feelings of conflict with Laura or our kids, the men remind me that the only way I can improve the situation is to take responsibility for my own contribution to the problem and for what I myself can do to make things better and be the man I want to be. We just don’t hear men within EBNOM whining about how their wives or others in their lives are “causing” their problems. When we do start to hear a man sliding into that kind of complaint, we are quick to hold a mirror up to it.
I feel free, in the confidentiality of team meetings and the EBNOM “sacred circle,” to let down my guard and be vulnerable and fallible. EBNOM is the place I can safely fall apart, so that I can keep it together when I need to be the rock at home.
I count on almost universal and mutual unconditional love acceptance and tolerance from a very diverse set of personalities. Our community is just small and intimate enough that I really feel I know every man, and yet large enough that it represents a full range of human personalities. I come home from this feeling connected in such a secure way that I never feel isolated during the time I spend within my family.
So this all sounds like a rosy picture of the perfect life and the perfect community. It sounds unreal, perhaps. Don’t worry; my team, EBNOM and I myself have just as many imperfections, blind spots, etc. as any of you. (I, for instance, have paid a bit too much attention to EBNOM and to my family and too little to work and financial security. I am trying to address that in this new phase of my life and asking for my team’s support not always to try to be a hero and a leader, but to tend to business.)
No we are not perfect, but- when we really make use of EBNOM and the team- the big advantage we have is: WE DO NOT TRY TO DO IT ALONE.