Change Your Underwear. Change Your Life.

Photos by Ian Cooke

A Dinner at lululemon’s HUB seventeen uncovers the things that spark change

That Time I Went to Dinner With 10 lululemon Dudes Way Cooler Than Me and Came Out All the Better for It

You might think as the only woman at a dinner with fifteen guys, I’d have been privy to conversations revolving around football (this was a day after that team from New England with some super model’s husband played a game in between very expensive commercials), The Sopranos or the best chicken parm sandwich in Midtown. But the assembled gentlemen talked openly about their feelings.

More specifically, about change and what led to them becoming the men they are today. The accomplished group had been assembled by lululemon on the occasion of the launch of the brand’s new and improved men’s boxers. The product hadn’t changed in the past five years but just received a top-to-bottom overhaul, and the good folks from lululemon organized this dinner for a discussion on how making small changes—like even your underwear perhaps—can have a huge impact.

The result? An inspiring evening of thought-provoking conversation set to the faint background sounds of Leon Bridges. In fact, the only things missing were doggy bags for the fantastic food and the usual iPhones on the table lighting up every minute.

The gents had been assembled by lululemon on the occasion of the launch of the brand’s new and improved men’s boxers

The perfect-ratio shindig (in my opinion) was hosted at lululemon’s ultra-cool underground HUB seventeen. HUB seventeen is a cozy stakeout to commingle and collaborate. The HUB, below lululemon’s Flatiron location in New York, includes a yoga studio, full kitchen and a mini library where I spy a Neil Young book on the shelf among the inspirational tomes.

HUB seventeen lululemon Flatiron dinnner

The conversations went deep and the guys found inspiration in each ’s stories and also probably shared tips about the benfits of wearing seamless boxer briefs with a “pouch” to the stretch lab.

One-by-one perfectly chiseled and confident men with names like Beck and Duce strolled in. Sporting spirited fervor and refreshed luminous faces, I got the feeling these guys hadn’t spent Super Bowl Sunday dipping Doritos in queso and shotgunning Bud Lights.

I became acutely aware of how incredibly clenched my jaw and fists were.

The dinner began with an intention-setting guided meditation. I did my best to stay present, as Trina, the founder of Style Root, and a lululemon ambassador herself (also one of the only other females in the building), serenely instructed us to focus on our breath and let go of any tension. As I became acutely aware of how incredibly clenched my jaw and fists were from the toll of the workday, a sense of calm passed over the faces of these men who no doubt have achieved more in the last 12 hours than I may ever in a month. Most have been up since 5 a.m., managing leadership groups, podcasting, social media influencing, exercising, collaborating with lululemon, running companies and yoga studios and apparel brands and agencies, male-modeling, likely exercising again, and juggling countless other projects and endeavors.

When was the last time you changed up your toothpaste?

We found our way to our randomly assigned tables, named Bed, Toothpaste and Breakfast, and started out with an icebreaker: “When was the last time you changed your [insert table name here]?” My table, Breakfast, discussed the importance of starting your morning with water and positivity. Maybe I should rethink my morning regimen of a greasy breakfast sandwich from the corner deli and the strongest coffee I can find.

An honorary lululemon-ite gave a brief introduction on the new gear while shedding light on the irony of his past career with, and this is a real thing, Puppetry of the Penis (google now). Who better to talk about the features and benefits of a boxer brief? He emphasized just how comfortable the new style is with the lack of seams and perfectly placed “pouches.”

The first official question posed to our group: “In what area of your life are you most resistant to change?” The floodgates opened. I was staggered and refreshed by how comfortable and downright vulnerable the guys were as they talked about being hesitant to change their looks, their schedules to fit new significant others and their resistance to letting life happen versus planning every detail. We contemplated the idea of “failing forward” as colorful plates of vegetables, lentils and beet hummus were served, and how powerful surrendering to the universe can be. They all agreed that getting comfortable with where your life is leading you may even be more challenging than a Tone House class. The line between knowing when to fight the good fight to pursue a goal or leave some of it up to fate can be so thin you can’t see it, someone said.

Trina took us back to nature, winter is a taking season. The trees are bare and can’t provide shade, they are taking time to replenish themselves and rejuvenate and if it’s OK for the Earth to take some time off, it damn well is OK for us, too.

Getting comfortable with where your life is leading you may even be more challenging than a Tone House class

Over the second course of 24-hour poached salmon, seasoned chicken and another bowl of healthy-something, we were asked: “Who has inspired you to change and what about that person made you want to change?” Now we were in the real thick of it, no turning back. Just some strangers casually discussing the most pivotal events and people in their lives. Nothing was left on the field, lost loved ones, slavery, significant others, children and David Goggins.

Someone bravely shared a story that hit right to the core about his father’s unabated positive outlook during his short four-month battle with skin cancer. The story reminded us that no matter how bad your hair day is or if you couldn’t find time to meditate or if you didn’t quite run the number of-minute-mile you wanted to in your morning workout, someone else always has real stuff they are dealing with.

Yes, these beets do go well with emotional vulnerability.

Over at the Toothpaste table, one of the guys told an inspirational story about his grandmother, who had single-handedly raised his mother and put her through Princeton University. (I love my grandma but I’m still paying for my student loans… and so, just, wow.) After moving tales of rapid weight loss and overcoming depression after pregnancy complications, another one of the men at our table delved into the struggle with acknowledging a need for help from therapy and getting over the stereotype of that as a sign of weakness. This prompted reflection about how important having a support system is through hardship or change. And if we all had communities as strong as these guys (and I am not talking about their capacity to support their own body weight on one arm), man, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

I had barely picked my jaw off the table when we were delivered our third question: “What is one change that you could make that would have a massive impact on your community and why haven’t you acted yet?” It was time to cut the BS and own up to the excuses that we all use to justify our passivity. Nick disclosed how he found the worthiness to be a leader through his personal growth during the transformational Altru program. Prior to the program, which holds you accountable to others to achieve your goals, he had felt unworthy of being a leader given his “normal” upbringing as a white male in America. The program gave him a new perspective and he found an unprejudiced responsibility to support his community and be a leader—the world does need its Nick Paganellis.

Making Space for Change

And then, the question that would echo in my head for the next few hours. “What is the one thing you could change that could change everything?” Maybe it was because we had been on an emotional deep dive for almost four hours at that point or maybe it was because it was almost 10:30 p.m. and their morning alarms would be going off less than 7 hours from now but the room relatively avoided the question for a top up at the bar and some dessert. The Breakfast Table agreed that having a positive outlook even in adversity and using your setbacks as learning opportunities for making changes in your life rather than excuses would improve your perspective and experience. Trina thoughtfully advised that it is indeed up to us to make space for change.

In spite of phrases like “water keeps me full for two to three hours” and “I was finishing a 14,000-mile hike” slipping effortlessly from the beautiful lips around the room, I found kinship in the men’s honesty and willingness to divulge their imperfections and setbacks. Sitting one month into New Year’s resolutions and my commitment already shredded to a sliver, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the conversation I had just witnessed and you bet your ethically-sourced, organic cotton shorts I showed up to my 6:30 a.m. gym class the next morning. Or at least I set my alarm clock. Change has to start somewhere.