Let’s Ask Dad

GMP DadsThis year at The Good Men Project, we have committed to a number of strategic initiatives developed to better engage our community. Original video programming where our distinct voice can be well-expressed continues to be a key focus for our creative team.

Our latest shoot which I helped produce got me thinking there’s a reason some things change while others stay the same. Our increased use of video may be new, but at its heart, it’s just another tool for telling the stories we so love to share. Many of those stories this month are about dads, not surprisingly with Father’s Day on the horizon.

We interviewed seven dads across a spectrum of different backgrounds. They were different ages, their children were different ages, some had one child, some had several. They came from different backgrounds, different income levels, different commitments to faith, and different hopes for the future. What they had in common was profound love for their children, deep reflection on the impact of their own fathers on their lives, humble concern about wanting to make consistently good choices for their children, and hope that their children would grow up resilient and caring in a world with unnerving obstacles at every stage of life.

As I sat in the studio and got to know each of these fine men through their detailed answers to our deceptively simple questions, I was struck by the commonality in their integrity, candor, introspection, and keen insights into the forever moments of parenting. Any single moment of a child’s development might or might not become a memory, but the memories each of these individuals recalled with resonance were as different as they were as human beings.

One father struggled to explain where a very young child’s grandparents “went” when their lives had come to an end. Another father lamented how the sad sarcasm his child learned to express was a direct result of the same sarcasm he wished he never expressed to that child in moments of exhaustion. Yet another wished that he could provide more material comforts to his children, yet hoped his child understood how hard he worked for what they did have.

There were so many emotions expressed in such a short time during the course of our interviews, I wondered how the clichés of men retreating to the silence of their insecurities ever became so widespread. The dads we met wanted to talk, wanted to share, wanted to explore, and most of all wanted to be the best dads they could ever be. They wanted to exchange ideas, hear what each other had to say, learn from each other, and find community in the complexity of fatherhood where definitive textbooks don’t exist and the future impact of their choices is as abstract as the roadmap that brought them to the present.

When you get a dose of honesty that concentrated and expressed with unlimited pathos, the mirror of your own life reflects vividly and without filter. We see ourselves in each other’s eyes, and we learn many of our lessons in seeing our own successes and setbacks in the similar acts of our peers.

It is very much our mission at The Good Men Project to further the conversation no one else is having, and while video in this form might be historical artifact, when placed in a give-and-take context it very much can inspire dialogue. That’s what we set out to do with this bit of storytelling, not just record the stories of those talking, but lay the groundwork for others to react to these truthful moments as starting points in diving into their own personal histories.

Dad relationships are complex, we all know that. One way to start making sense of the father-child bond is to listen carefully to expressions we might not otherwise hear, think about our own answers and actions, and then see where the conversation takes us. Empathy can be a strong force in course correction. Celebration can be an even stronger force in replacing strident self-critique with simple moments of approval and acknowledgment.

Fathers are not simple entities, there is no reason to pretend they are. We all may not have one active in our lives, but if we do, there’s no time like the present to celebrate the dialogue we can still enjoy. If that is not an option, then listening and sharing with others might be another path to awareness and bonding. Mistakes are plentiful, but forever moments matter more.

Enjoy the videos. Enjoy the conversation. It only works if this is a starting point, not an archive. Let us hear from you. Let your children hear from you. Listen to their prying questions and find their hearts in your heartfelt answers.

We’ll be adding more video to this page and our YouTube channel on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently as the story unfolds. The more we add, the better the conversation — but only if you become a part of it.

And hey, an extraordinarily Happy Father’s Day to our entire community from everyone at The Good Men Project!

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Here are the questions we asked in the interviews. Just click on the questions to launch the video answers.

How has the word “love” changed now that you are a dad?

Are your children more like you or more like their mom?

What’s the best advice your father ever gave you?

How would you describe your dad in a sentence or two?

What advice would you give to new dads?

In your family what are dad tasks and what are mom tasks?

What was expected and unexpected about fatherhood?

This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

Another Good Year for The Good Men Project

CallForBloggersI have just finished my third full year on the board of directors and as strategic advisor to The Good Men Project. It’s hard to believe that much time went by so quickly. On the other hand, it is amazing to see how far we have come in such a short amount of time. Every day we publish no fewer than thirty new stories, and every day we learn something about ourselves and each other. It truly is a remarkable journey. If you haven’t joined us yet, please stop by the site for a read. I’m pretty convinced one visit will not be enough. Like the three to five million people we reach each month, you’ll be back.

If you’re not yet familiar with The Good Men Project, we are an editorial site that focuses on men’s issues in the 21st Century. We call our electronic publication, “The Conversation No One Else Is Having.” What sets us apart and makes us unique is that we are a site with the word “Men” in the title above the masthead, while only half our audience is male. Likewise, we are a site where half our writers are women. In the many comments that follow our stories, men and women discuss difficult issues about marriage, parenting, work-life balance, career stress, family stress, health, sex, romance, relationships, dating, splitting up, advice, confessions, sports, ethics, faith, discrimination in all its forms, justice, growing old, staying young, entertainment, the arts, and pretty much any other human issue you can imagine. We demand high quality writing, respectful commentary, and a firm commitment to dig a little deeper emotionally than you otherwise might expect in high volume editorial. Beyond that, we are an experiment in progress, and we welcome the creativity of every voice that joins us.

This past year has been particularly exciting for us, because our endlessly devoted CEO, Lisa Hickey, relocated to the west coast and set up shop in Pasadena, California. We are now in a fabulous shared workspace environment where any of our writers or editors can stop by and have a cup of coffee with Lisa. Our team of three executive editors, over thirty section editors, and more than 2000 regular contributors around the globe generate topical as well as perennial stories with precision teamwork. We have almost 500,000 Facebook fans, up from about 60,000 the last time I summarized our business for you in early 2014. Something is definitely going right at The Good Men Project. I get the sense you are all heavily into this conversation. Don’t worry, we’re still just getting started.

One of our editors recently asked me in a comment string on another site what I thought was working well at The Good Men Project, and what could be learned and applied to other endeavors similar in aspiration. Well, the number one thing that’s working here is the people — the readers, the writers, the commentors, the staff — all of you are what make this thing matter. Beyond that, I offered three themes that Lisa and I pledged way back would be core to our focus and that we try very hard to make real. Here is what I wrote:

1) Our platform is meant to be a dialogue, not a diatribe. The brand does not define what being a good man is, it poses that question to the community to sensibly discuss in a conversation that never ends. We don’t name a good man of the year, because if we did, the chances he would be unveiled as flawed a minute after we did are 99%. We discuss goodness, we don’t cement a model of good.

2) Diversity to us is air. Because good is so hard to understand, we see the whole of our contribution base as vastly more important than one dominating voice. We are The Good MEN project with half our writers women and half our readers women, so men and women can discuss important things with each other, not at each other. Ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, we cast the widest net we can, so we can learn from each other.

3) We demand good behavior without imposing political correctness. You can disagree with a point of view, but you can’t attack a contributor. We encourage articulate contribution over invective. Again, it’s meant to be a conversation, which means there are rules of civility, but not so many that they curtail free exchange of voice.

Lisa and I spend a lot of time thinking about our brand, the promise we make to all of you and to each other, and my sense is if we are true to these three core values, we will keep growing on a steady trajectory. Like I also say, because we tread on creatively dangerous terrain, it is inevitable that we will step in poo now in again. When we do, we go back to our values, and that’s how we hope to get unstuck.

In the coming year you will see some forward strides at The Good Men Project, where we are now investing the limited but stable financial resources we can forecast.

First, you are going to see a much-needed and long overdue redesign that prioritizes mobile in a way we haven’t before. We know you tolerate our templates with “pinch to expand” dexterity, and that’s not fair in a world gone mobile. Both a responsive site and an app are on the way. Both a responsive site and an app are on the way.

Second, we will be expanding our sponsorship model, where we work with relevant brands to produce content that helps tell their stories in ways that align with our values, but also lets us grow our business. We have always been careful about this, but we have also become quite good at it. When our phone rings with a great sponsorship opportunity, we want to connect the right writer with that message. That writer could be you!

Third, you will see more emphasis on our premium product, where we ask a modest annual membership fee to help support our efforts in a world where advertising can not be our only business model. By the way, if you write for us, you are entitled to a free bronze level subscription badge, so if you don’t have it, email lisa@goodmenproject.com and she will set you up.

Finally, we are going to be experimenting more with video, and we will have some production days in our office for pilot shorts we want to test. If you have ideas or original videos you want to share, don’t be a stranger.

We also plan to increase our coverage of the Presidential Election with unique perspectives on the meaning of campaign verbiage. We will continue to collect far-ranging points of view on movie favorites both current and classic. We will also stay on top of breaking news stories and events, not so much with added mainstream reporting, but with analysis and interpretation of the implications and underlying meaning in mainstream reporting. All in all, we have quite an ambitious agenda, as you would expect of us.

I personally want to thank you for embracing The Good Men Project, where I am not only a business guy, I am a regular contributor. Not surprisingly, I write mostly about business, where I try to focus on the human side of creativity, innovation, overcoming obstacles, and taking on big challenges. It is a joy to share my words with you, and it is a joy to share this space with you. Keep the good words coming, keep us honest and on our toes, and we promise to continue The Conversation No One Else Is Having.

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This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

Photo Image: Courtesy of Good Men Media, Inc.