I’ll introduce you to F3 the same way it was introduced to me. In the morning, about a year ago, I was returning from a run, headed up the street to my house. I had been doing the loner workout thing for a while, you know, a few runs during the week and the lifting of heavy objects now and again. Anyhow, I was stopped by a guy in a police uniform but civilian vehicle. I had seen this guy around the neighborhood and at the pool, perhaps even said ‘Howdy’ to him once or twice, but I didn’t know him. He rolled down his window and the conversation went something like this (my thoughts in italics):
Officer Friendly: “Hey man, how’s it going?”
Me: “Pretty good.” (please don’t arrest me)
OF: “Hey, me and a bunch of guys are working out at 5:30 in the morning down at the Stonebridge church parking lot. If you want to join us you’re more than welcome.”
Me: “Oh yeah, what kind of workout is it? Like CrossFit or what?” (Not like it matters because 5 friggin’ 30 is not going to happen!)
OF: “No, it’s more like a boot camp. But it’s a really good workout, it’s hard, and it’s free. Just show up.”
Me: “Alright, thanks for letting me know. I might check it out.” (Once again, 5:30. Not going to happen.)
The crazy thing is, I couldn’t shake it. I kept thinking to myself: “If there is a group of guys willing to get up and exercise at 5 friggin’ 30 they must be a good group of guys. I wonder if I could keep up? I wonder if this is some kind of rogue, under-ground fitness group and I’ve just been singled out to join?”
Really, I knew I was missing something, some kind of awful: camaraderie. I needed to be part of a gang. I needed to see if this was it, and if I would fit. After a few mornings of waking up at 5am and pacing around my bedroom and talking myself back into the FartSack, I finally went. It changed things for me, big time.
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Dredd and OBT of F3
From the F3 Nation website:
“F3 — our three Fs stand for Fitness, Fellowship and Faith — traces its roots to a free, participant-led boot camp workout held on Saturday mornings at a Charlotte, N.C., park since 2006. The leaders of F3 launched their first Saturday workout on 1/1/11, on the campus of A.G. Middle School in Charlotte. Our mission is to plant, grow and serve small workout groups for men for the invigoration of male community leadership.”
Since 1/1/11, F3 has seen some amazing growth. Thousands of men across the East Coast have jumped in, many taking leadership roles to facilitate workouts (the Thang) and keep their small band of brothers in sync with communication and organizing and a host of other things. That being said, while F3 is all about men leading, it isn’t about a pecking order or recognition and no one demonstrates that better than its founders, Dredd (David Redding) and OBT (Tim Whitmire). This article isn’t to put them on a pedestal — they are already admired plenty by their peers — it is to glean what we can from them. These guys get it!
I hung out with Dredd and OBT over lunch and recorded the interview. It was a lot of fun. These guys are hilarious! Hopefully some of that will come through in the transcribing and paraphrasing below.
Also, in F3 every guy gets a F3 Name. Dredd is a combination of David Redding. OBT…well you’ll have to go to know.
Wolf & Iron: Tell us a little about your backgrounds.
Dredd: I gonna do OBT’s. OBT is the son of Mormon missionaries that originally settled in northern Arizona. And, um, they were part of the Mormon group that could have multiple wives…so he actually has like five mothers.
OBT: I have five mothers…
Dredd: No, none of that’s true. I’m from Connecticut, went to Boston college, was in ROTC…
OBT: You might not have heard of Boston college. It’s a public university…
Dredd: That brought me down south and I’ve never gone back. So I did 9 years in the Army, about half infantry and half special forces. Got out in 94′, went to Wake Forest Law School, met my wife there, she’s from Asheville. We meandered around a little bit and ended up here in 99′ and I’ve been practicing law since 97′ somewhere in the state of North Carolina.
OBT: I grew up in California, San Francisco Bay area. Went to college at Harvard and then spent about 15 years as a journalist primarily with the Associated Press. Met my wife through a selected Ivy League interbreeding program…
OBT: …when we were both living in New York.
We got interrupted at this point by a friend who stopped by. Some how the conversation rabbit-trailed into Dredd questioning whether Microsoft is still writing code or if they had given all of that up. When we got back on track we didn’t know where we had left off…
OBT: I don’t know where we left off…
Dredd: He met his woman in an Ivy League artificial insemination clinic. He was the donor and she was the receiver and they decided to cut out the middle man…
OBT: Yep. So, I started working with a number of investment banks here in town as a head of marketing and business development. Now I work for a software company that’s a provider in the investment banking space.
Wolf & Iron: What do you do for F3?
Dredd: I have no official role in F3. OBT and I were the founders of it, for lack of a better word. Founders is the name they will give to you if you happen to be standing around when something starts and there’s no one else who’s responsible.
OBT: I get on peoples nerves mainly. (laughing) So, if you want to talk more about roles, he (Dredd) is the Nant’an which comes from the book The Starfish and the Spider but actually refers to the Apaches. Nant’an doesn’t actually mean “chief” but is more of a spiritual leader with no actual authority. One of the things they say made the Apaches very hard to conquer when the U.S. military was, you know, committing genocide in the American West…
Dredd: Paving the way for freedom…but go ahead…
OBT: Well, yeah, Manifest Destiny…whatever you want to call it. They would get rid of one Nant’an and another one would spring up and they couldn’t figure out what the secret was. The secret was they [the Nant’an] really had no power except that people chose to follow the Nant’an. He was someone people chose to follow of their own free will rather than physical coercion or political power.
Wolf & Iron: So the Nant’an doesn’t come from a certain lineage or anything like that. He’s just the guy they are all willing to get behind?
OBT: Right. So, he’s the Nant’an…
Dredd: The cultural and spiritual leader of a transitory nature…
OBT: And I’m what we would call, the WeaselShaker. I grab weasels who say they are going to do things and don’t do them, and shake them until they do.
Wolf & Iron: That could be taken a lot of ways…
OBT: Well yeah, not my own weasel but other weasels…but not their “weasel” weasel.
Dredd: You have a gift of logistics.
Wolf & Iron: You both have very different personalities. Sometimes that works really well when it’s complimentary as it seems to with you guys. How have you used that and what issues have come from it?
OBT would typically play it straight, while Dredd likes to poke and prod and stir things up. In other words, Dredd is something of a smart ass — he’s a lawyer after all — and OBT comes across as a square. Of course they have broader, more dynamic personalities, but this is the initial impression I got when we first met.
Dredd: The first thing is to recognize the differences. It’s always a good idea to side-source your weaknesses. All of the things he just described at being good at, I’m not good at. I could beat my head against the wall trying to get details and line things up and spreadsheets and all that. We have to rely on each other.
How it’s caused problems? I’m not sure I have any problems. I mean, we don’t always see eye-to-eye because we come at things, you know, from a different direction.
OBT: Right, right. Our strengths are so disparate from one another that we tend to have very different approaches. The challenge is, we each need to be open to what the other is bringing to the table and not try to drive things off in our own direction. If we don’t hold each other accountable and hold ourselves accountable to the other, we are liable to steer things in the wrong direction.
Wolf & Iron: Did you guys know each other before Campos?
OBT: We had gone to church together for 6 years actually. Which is actually very emblematic of F3; it tends to bring guys together who have been moving in separate circles and never would have known each other. To me, that was the magic of the original Campos. All of the sudden I am becoming friends with all of these guys I never would have met under any other circumstances.
Wolf & Iron: As you were talking it made me think of something. We were getting our dog trained a while back and in the training class you have all of these big dogs and little dogs of different breeds. And the instructor said something that stuck with me. She said, if you let all of these dogs loose they wouldn’t pair up big dogs with big dogs and little dogs with little dogs. They would pair up in teams with the little dogs having something to contribute to the pack and these other dogs have something to contribute to their pack. So, what you would see running down the street would be these mangy animals of all different sizes and breeds, all working together, because, in that gang, they fit.
That reminded me a lot of F3 and how guys work in general. When you take away the minutia of daily life and our backs are against the wall, you pick out the guys that are going to be a contribution to the gang.
OBT: That’s really interesting, what you said about the dogs and the pack. So, then in that sense, the dog pack in Lady and the Tramp isn’t that made up; that would be relatively true to life. I mean, I always assumed they threw in a Great Dane and a Scottish Terrier in there for comedic effect or something.
Dredd: I never saw Lady and the Tramp (manliest answer possible)
OBT: You never saw Lady and the Tramp?
OBT: It’s like the story of your life…you and Marge.
Dredd: As a child my parents would not allow me to see anthropomorphic presentations…but, I mean they took me to see The French Connection when I was about 8 years old.
Wolf & Iron: What are some of the challenges that have come with the fast pace of F3’s growth?
Dredd: The biggest challenge has always been finding enough leaders to keep the thing moving. Finding empty fields and parking lots, easy. Finding men who need it, they’re everywhere. Finding men who are willing to take responsibility for the outcomes and lead has been very challenging. It’s a very circular-logical problem; F3 exist to invigorate leadership, but we need leadership to do it.
OBT: I would say, on the other aspect of this, and I’m more involved in this part of it than Dredd is, when we go into a completely new market, meaning outside of the Carolinas, F3 is so counter-cultural that it makes finding leaders and finding connectors in any given city a challenge when they’ve never heard of it.
Dredd: There is a fact [when starting in a new area] that we have come to rely on: there is always some guy, every place we find, that will be a leader and it’s usually not the first guy we had our eyes on. We have to be nimble about which guys we choose because we focus our energy into leaders. You see, it’s the exact opposite thing you do in warfare, which is, kill the leaders. You take out the leaders and they’re just done. We do the opposite and we aren’t real structured in how we do it.
OBT: The key in planting in a new location is to plant it well enough so that it stays alive until that guy [the leader] shows up, not knowing who that guy is; plant it with a culture where the guys that are keeping that flame alive until that guy shows up, are open to him showing up and to his leadership when he does show up.
Wolf & Iron: On paper F3 shouldn’t work. I mean, you are asking men to workout early in the morning, in all weather, outside, with no professionals. There’s nothing to sell, no gimmick or product. Why is this working? Why not just go to the gym, go to work, go home & have a beer?
OBT: Well, it’s the Second F [Fellowship]. When you’re at the gym pounding out weights, you’re doing that by yourself or in parallel play like 4 year olds in the sandbox; they’re not playing with each other. Johnny is playing with his toy and Susie is playing with her toy, but they’re not interacting together. That’s what the gym is like. I have no desire to wakeup and go to the gym the next day. I might do it because I’m motivated but I don’t really want to go and parallel play with all of the meat-heads in the weight room.
This is what really hooked me on to Campos. I realized — and I used to FartSack a lot — it was probably the 3rd or 4th Saturday where I forced myself out of bed and I went and I realized afterward: “Boy I’m really glad I went. Why is that?” It was because I saw these guys and it made my week better to have seen these guys. I never got to the end of a workout and sat there and thought, “I wish I would have stayed in bed.”
Dredd: I think it is elemental of every man to want to want to be in combination of other men in the accomplishment of something. And I think that’s just born inside us. The exceptions to that, um, the Unabomber? (laughs) I mean they are sociopaths. We’re just not built that way. We’re built to work with each other; to act as a team in some way. We’re really tapping into that. Men are stuck on their jobs, in their cubes, they don’t know anybody. They’re at church, they don’t know anybody. They’re in their house, in their neighborhood and they don’t know anybody. There is this need we have to go out and do something, in conjunction with other men; to combine for a purpose. That is in there [inside us]. That’s really all F3 is.
OBT: One of the dirty lies of corporate America is that everybody is on a “team”, in various corporate settings, but it rarely actually functions that way. They just throw a bunch of people together and say “Oh, you’re a team now.” “Do I have complementary skills to the rest of my team members?” “No but you’re a team.”
Wolf & Iron: Do you have any wisdom or advice you would want to share with other men?
Dredd: I have thousands of pages of that. I think we have come to a place where the world is so starved of leadership, that we will forgive our leaders for almost anything; any flaw in their character, just to have someone to follow. Almost to the point, where lately, it has become comical.
Wolf & Iron: Do you mean politicians or…?
Dredd: Not necessarily, but politicians would be an obvious and easy place to start. I think Bill Clinton is a great example. He’s a great natural leader; more leadership skills in his pinky than I have in my whole body, but for the people who are determined to follow him, they’ll forgive anything…I mean absolutely anything. I think football coaches are a better example of that, maybe. What we are seeing right now with the Patriots is a good example. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are fundamentally flawed characters, and yet, people want to follow and they’ll overlook it…they don’t care.
Wolf & Iron: Unfortunately I think this is because these are the guys that get promoted as leaders in society and they are the ones that set the standard for what leadership is. When you’re President of the United States, and you’re setting the standard, now it’s OK to get a bj from your assistant if you are the president.
Dredd: Yeah, in a world starved for leaders. Take Apple as another example; Steve Jobs. I mean, odd would be one way to put it, but fundamentally flawed character would be a more accurate way to put it. And, it doesn’t matter in that industry how odd or fundamentally flawed that guy is as a leader, they’re willing to overlook it. They’re willing to overlook it because he is, in fact, capable of having a vision, articulating that vision, persuading people to follow him, and working through the options.
My one thing, my piece of advice would be: If you have leadership ability, you need to work on your character. Because ultimately, it will be those flaws in your character that will destroy the organization. The organization will follow you over the cliff and you’ll be done.
OBT: I would say two personal things I have learned over the past 7 years now, that have changed me as a man and my behavior, and they are a little bit contradictory. One is to have patience. Which, I think that is something we get as we get older anyway, but that impulse control. It certainly is important for little boys and some of us never get past being little boys; mental, emotional or whatever. And, I think he’ll [Dredd] will support this: the ability to look around and see how passive most people are. Any willingness to act passes for leadership in this society. If you are willing to come out and plant a shovel-flag in the ground at 5:30 in the morning, a bunch of guys will come follow you. That’s a good thing but it speaks to just how starved for leadership we are.
If you can somehow combine patience and wisdom to overcome what I look around and see as “rampant passivity” among men in this culture, there is a lot you can do out there. It’s an open field and there aren’t a lot of people out there that are willing to act.
Wolf & Iron: This is one of the reasons I started Wolf & Iron because there is a desire, a vulnerability among men because we don’t have those leadership examples, so almost anybody can come in and take charge, right? This is what ISIS does. They come into some starved area where they have a bunch of young guys and they are looking for someone to give them a mission. They say, “Hey we’ve got a mission for you. Come fight with us. We’ll all kick ass together and be a bunch of brothers. You’ll know where you stand in the group.” And, that’s dangerous.
Wolf & Iron: What does F3 mean to you as a man?
OBT: For me it’s been purpose. I would say…
Wolf & Iron: Porpoise?
OBT: Yeah, porpoise with a purpose. I would say that my faith as a Christian was strengthened by believing that God put something in the way for me to do with my life, which is F3. I certainly did not feel that way [before]. I had left journalism, and never career-wise felt like I was doing something on earth that God had destined for me to do.
Dredd: Yeah, I’ll say the same thing. I won’t say it’s the reason I’d get up in the morning, I mean I’d get up in the morning anyway, but I like the idea of getting up in the morning to this specific end. That there is something that day for me to accomplish that will not only benefit me but benefit society. Purpose, yes, but an identifiable, objective purpose. What am I specifically supposed to do.
If you show up to a barn-raising, you know, a bunch of Amish guys raising a barn, the first thing you are going to want to know is, “What do you want me to do?” And some guy with a beard and no mustache says, “You carry the hinkets,” or whatever they use to build barns. OK, I get it, I know what to do now. I don’t want to stand here and feel out of place, I want to be part of the machinery. And that’s where the leadership role comes in. I’m thinking, you know, the elder, Jedidiah, with the grayest beard and no moustache is going to be directing traffic. They’re going to have a leader out there. That’s what American culture is in danger of, because we are lacking in that. We need those Jedidiahs to say “Here’s what we’re after; we’re raising a barn.” “Why?” “To house the animals, why else! Now let’s get after it.” Most guys don’t need much direction or a reason but that’s also the danger. That’s what Hitler did. You have a bunch of guys that hadn’t raised a barn in a long time and suggested to them to do something evil and crazy, and they said, “What the hell, it’s better than nothing.” and they did it!
Nature abhors a vacuum, and I would say, we are pretty close to a vacuum in America.
This interview was one of the most fun and inspirational talks I have had with men in a long time. Like I said at the beginning, these guys get it! They really do. I see a lot of this passion and understanding from the other men I have met in F3, which is one of the reasons I believe it is going to succeed.
Find out more about F3:
On the web: F3Nation.com
Facebook: F3 Facebook