Kenny Bodanis on how the Dad 2.0 conference changed his outlook.
A Summit of Daddy Bloggers. It sounded quaint, even to me – a ‘Daddy Blogger’ (for the record, I prefer ‘Parenting Blogger’).
I signed up for the conference after repeatedly having the importance of networking drilled into me, especially for a blogger and author. I spent the two flights over searching for justifications, and practicing hiding my nerves.
I expected there to be golf shirts, baseball caps, goatees, beer, and just enough content to justify heading to the local steak joint for an expensive meal which would be interrupted constantly by the din of the televisions dangling off the walls.
Apparently, battling stereotypes begins with me.
What followed over the next two days was, for me, nothing less than revolutionary. While being a father is often synonymous with listing out loud the important life-lessons one must teach his children; it took this special group of fathers, and mothers, to make me aware of how much I needed to learn. What follows are lessons I took with me from a gathering of dads in Texas:
Being successful means working for it.
– I learned this first on a grand scale from the opening keynote speaker Jeff Pulver. I listened as he spoke of his own loneliness he healed though the support of strangers via ham radio. By the time he reached the conclusion, with monetary success and the sale of Vonage, I was struck by his fearlessness in admitting his vulnerability throughout his life, and how he constantly took risks to develop ideas that he believed in.
– I learned this lesson a second time on a smaller scale from panelist Tracy Beckerman: “Go. Speak. Sell yourself. Waive your speaking fees and ask that they let you sell books instead.” In other words: work at it. Don’t give away your talent without something in return. Place value on the hours you put into your writing. In other words, turn off HBO every once in a while, don’t look for shortcuts, and put in the hours.
– I listened to a father, alienated from his children by his ex-wife, explain how he will always be there, always show up, despite his lawyer pointing out that “most dads give up at this point.” Once his children (hopefully) complete their journey though emotional healing, he will be there. My marriage is fine, but I now know it is okay to be from a broken family, and I understand more than ever relatives who lurk in the sidelines rather than give up. I also now recognize dads showing up for what it is–courage–and what it’s not–bothersome.
-I am not unusual in not gravitating to football metaphors and cheerleaders. These dads were involved, and sensitive, and intelligent, and different from one another, without being fearful of the competition.
-After my second day of fighting off drymouth and weird abdominal quivers brought on by nerves (I was feeling dry and cold – Texas is more like Canada than I thought), I finally voiced my condition out loud.
“Man, I can’t warm up; I think it’s nerves.”
“You’re not alone; everyone here is nervous.” was the answer.
I should have hugged him; at least I would have temporarily warmed up.
It is possible to want success for yourself, while also being generous with others.
– Thank you Geek Dad, Andrew Mellen, ReWriting Dad, Dada Rocks and so many others for your advice, contacts, feedback, and points of view, which you shared selflessly so often throughout the weekend.
This most important lesson of the weekend (for me) was taught by Keynote Speaker Brené Brown.
I learned that I can, and should, put myself at emotional risk to expect reward. Per the title of her book (which I mostly devoured on the two flights home), I need to “Dare Greatly“. It may (will) lead to embarrassment, and criticism, and mockery, but never from those I trust and hold dear.
After listening to her for an hour, I was left with the same feeling one has after an effective therapy session. I didn’t feel better, but rather destabilized. I know that “better” is down the road somewhere, but right now, I needed to be knocked around a little.
I now know that taking risks with my emotions will develop stronger relationships at home, and more satisfaction from my writing career.
I may go nowhere with books or speaking engagements, but I won’t be hiding behind all the reasons which keep me from speaking out in the first place.
This was not just a “Dad Summit” as I expected, but rather the Summit of Fatherhood.