Craig Kessler, Topgolf COO, knows when he needs advice. And when he became a father to three young boys, parenting advice was what he needed most. So he asked a handful of his friends to write him letters on “how to be a good dad.” Inspired by both the actual advice and the outpouring of support, he began compiling and the letters into a book.
That book “The Dad Advice Project: Words of Wisdom From Guys Who Love Being Dads” brings together advice, stories and examples from more than forty dads from all walks of life—including professional athletes, TV personalities, businessmen, civic leaders, military veterans — all sharing the lessons they’ve learned and joys they’ve found in fatherhood.
The Good Men Project interviews
GMP: Craig, your kids are still young. What do you wish you had known from this book at the start, when your kids were in their very early years?
Craig: I wish I had known that all dads struggle with similar themes: How to be a good spouse. How to be present. How to encourage our kids to take failure in stride. In a strange way, recognizing that many of the dads I admire the most struggled (and still struggle!) with the same things that I struggle with is a powerful liberating experience. It’s taught me to just keep pushing forward, no matter the situation.
GMP: The Dad Advice Project features such a range of advice that it seems like not just a manual for dads, but a manual for life. As you were putting together the book, did you find yourself having unexpected epiphanies about life?
Craig: Absolutely! Several of the epiphanies seem obvious, in hindsight. For example, one of the most common pieces of advice is to “love your wife and make sure your kids see it.” No surprises there. But many of the less common pieces of advice have become cornerstones in our family and fundamentally changed our family dynamic. For example, thanks to a piece of advice from contributing author Josh Redstone we’ve started a monthly dinnertime ritual in which our kids (and the adults) introduce themselves one at a time, while standing on a chair, and then share with our dinner guests what they’re thankful for. It may seem odd, but this tradition has taken on a life of its own, and given rise to the importance of showing appreciation.
GMP: A lot of what is shared here in The Dad Advice Project is the sheer joy of being a dad and the importance of being present (and what that looks like in so many different ways). This seems like such a switch from even a generation ago, when dads were seen as the breadwinner, the disciplinarian, the provider—but not much else. It seems like such an important generational shift! Do you think this is expanding the very essence of what is for all of us?
Craig: Yes! When I look at the level of involvement that my peers have in their kids’ lives and I compare it to the prior generation’s involvement, it feels like there’s been a huge shift. And for the better.
GMP: One of the things we really loved about this book was a recurring theme—that not only do you need to know WHAT to teach your kids, but you need to know HOW to teach them. So the book is chock full of specific ways we can better understand the “hows”. Everything from customized bedtime stories to helping kids do something both challenging and great (ride a bike, cook a meal) or, a favorite, having a competition under a starry sky to see who could find the next appearing star, and using a star-gazing app to find its name. Could you explain a little how this fits into your idea that some of the advice in this book is big picture strategy, and some is more tactical? It’s much like running a business, right?
Craig: You nailed it. The lessons in the book, for me, can be boiled down to two types of lessons. First, the most common and fairly obvious thematic lessons (e.g., love your wife, teach your kids it’s OK to fail, ensure your kids feel emotionally and physically safe). The second set of lessons are one-off lessons that are incredibly unique. I can’t spoil all of these, but I hope you’ll read the book in order to capture these clever tips and tricks.
GMP: Another point that resonated was when Amit Jhawar told how he couldn’t wait till his kids got to the next stage “if they were a little older, they would sleep through the night!” But now, the thing he wants most in the world is to slow time. Does that resonate with you? And do you think a book like this actually helps people slow down time, because you are more present in the moment, more conscious, and more aware of how to make memories that last a lifetime?
Craig: Amit is an incredible dad and a remarkable human being. When I read his passage, the idea of wanting to speed things up and slow things down all at the same time jumped out at me, too. And it jumped out, most likely, because it’s something I struggle with, too. What I’ve learned from the contributing authors is that each life stage has its own magic. And if we can learn to appreciate and enjoy the stage we’re in, the more we’ll be able to find joy in the chaos and the peaks and the valleys that come along with each stage.
The Dad Advice Project: Words of Wisdom From Guys Who Love Being Dads is available on Amazon.
Main photo: iStock
Brought to you by Post Hill Press.