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How to be a Healthy Dad and make a Difference [E024]

Becoming a healthy dad or husband doesn’t come with an instruction manual… During this episode, Dr. Bryan Joseph and Dr. Jason Hamed interview podcast host Larry Hagner of The Dad Edge Podcast. These fellow husbands and dads share real-life experiences that have led them to the men they are today.

Table Of Contents

Becoming A Healthy Dad: An Introduction

Becoming A Healthy Dad: An Introduction
Photographer: Jude Beck | Source: Unsplash

Bryan: All right, welcome to episode 24 of The Wellness Connection Show. I’m Dr. Bryan Joseph with my co-host, Dr. Jason Hamed.

Jason: Hello, everyone.

Bryan: And a very special guest. Today, we’re really excited to bring to you another dad, I guess you could say right that we’re all in the club of healthy dad, right?

Jason: Yeah.

Bryan: Got a special, special guest, Larry Hagner from the Good Dad Project, actually the founder of the Good Dad Project is here today to teach all of us some of the strategies and ways that he’s developed over the course of time in regards to what it would take to actually develop the skill set as a father. So, thank you so much for joining us.

Larry: No problem, I mean I hope I can bless your audience with how to be a masterful father and if you’ve figured that out, I haven’t. I still make a million mistakes, I’m kidding, we’re still a student of this, this is just something that we’re constantly learning, constantly evolving. No one’s got this down to a science yet. And it’s kind of funny that we’re actually recording this right around Mother’s Day, which is sort of funny, but that’s okay.

Bryan: We have perfect timing, right?

Larry: Yeah.

Jason: A Good Mom Project is coming up next. Mindful moms.

How Larry Started On His Journey

How Larry Started On His Journey - healthy dad
Photographer: Aneta Ivanova | Source: Unsplash

Bryan: So for the people who don’t really know you yet, can you tell us and share with us how you got started on this journey?

Larry: Yeah, sure. So, I mean this really got started with my childhood, my mom and biological father were married in 1971, they had me in 1975, they got divorced when I was about nine months old, he left, was gone. I never saw him, never knew him. I even remember this whole thing going down when I was like four years old. I literally remember it like it was yesterday.

Larry: I remember being in pre-school and I remember men coming to pre-school to pick up my friends and I’m like, “Ah, that’s a healthy dad. Okay.” In my mind, at four years old like I literally thought that, oh, moms they go out, they find dads, my Mom just hasn’t found ours yet. So, that’s cool; no big deal, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, I didn’t even know I had a biological father at that time.

Larry: And then right around four years old, right around the same time my mom brought a guy home for the very first time, super awkward story. So brought him home for dinner, she had been dating him, I think she wanted to introduce him to me, so he walks him, like if you can picture this, walks in, has the 1970s handlebar mustache, the briefcase. There was no iPads or anything. The three-piece suit; double Windsor tie, the whole trench coat, the whole nine yards. He’s a white collar worker, he work-

“Are you going to be my dad?”

Larry: You would think, right? He was surrounded by two other guys with sunglasses and black suits, I don’t know what that was all about. Well, no, so he walks in and my first thought was like oh my gosh, wow, she actually did it, she found us a dad, super cool. So, my mom introduces me to him, I shake his hand and the first question out of my mouth was, “Oh, are you going to be my healthy dad?”

Bryan: Oh wow.

Larry: Like literally super awkward, I remember silence in the room, we have kind of like some awkward laughter. But lo and behold, a year later they got married, he was a great guy; a really nice guy, a white collar worker; really successful. Unfortunately, what happened though after like four or five years, their relationship got really, really strained, there was a lot of fighting, a lot of drinking, a lot of abuse, that kind of thing.

Larry: Then, when I was 10, they got divorced and he left. I haven’t seen him ever again. Actually, I take that back, I did run into him one time, he was the doorman at The Trainwreck Bar in Westport and I was there on a date and I saw him there, it was really weird but that was the last time I saw him and it only lasted a few minutes.

Meeting his biological dad

Larry: But I started asking other questions about my biological father and then I had an opportunity to meet him when I was 12. And that whole thing was pretty cool, we had this relationship for a very short period of time, unfortunately. It was cut short, I don’t think it was a good time really for him or either one of us. He was married at the time, he had a two-year old son, another one on the way and I just think that the timing was really bad. Fast forward to I was 30, so last year, no.

Larry: So, 13 years ago I’m in a Starbucks here in St. Louis; he walks in, we saw each other, we had a conversation and here we are, 13 years later have a relationship and I have two younger half-brothers, he’s still married to the same woman. My kids know him as grandma and grandpa and here we are. So but for me, I mean, I became a father for the first time when I was 30 as well and so half of my childhood was spent without a father figure, and the other half was spent with someone my mom was dating, she was married a total of three times and then she dated in between which was sort of reckless and toxic and that kind of thing.

Larry: So, half of my childhood was spent without a father figure; the other half was with something toxic, so when I became a father myself, I was like, “Okay, I know what not to do, like I’m not going to beat my children or hit them and call their names or drink too much, or all this other stuff.”

Starting The Good Dad Project

Starting The Good Dad Project
Photographer: Caroline Hernandez | Source: Unsplash

Larry: So, the Good Dad Project really came in 2012 when I had this really dark moment where I spanked my four-year-old son at the time, I was upset at something he did and I looked and I saw how upset he was and how upset I was in myself and I had no patience at the time. Just like a bunch of other guys out there. So I just went in my office and had what I like to call, I guess a Jerry Maguire moment where the words Good Dad Project just came out when I was on Facebook and I created a group and I was like, you know what, I think at that moment what I did was I really just surrendered my ego.

Larry: I’m like, I don’t have this figured out and every answer to every question when people ask me how life is, good and fine, fine and good. None of it’s true like I’m having a very hard time with all of us, I was having a hard time with my marriage and I was like, “I just need to figure this out.” So, I decided I’m just going to be a student of this. I’m going to go out and post something every day, learn something every day. That turned into a blog in 2013, 2015 it turned into a podcast and then I wrote my first book The Dad Edge.

The Dad Edge Podcast

Larry: I wrote that book as if I was having a conversation with my best friend, just more conversational, I came in the trenches with you like I’ve learned a couple things to make things easier. And then here we are in 2019 we’ve been doing, I mean the podcast has absolutely exploded we’ve just been really, really blessed. It’s downloaded in 180 countries with millions of downloads and we have a thriving mastermind community, we have a thriving audience and we’re just a group of imperfect fathers just trying to help each other with our own experiences and we bypass that whole short conversation of how is life, how is the weekend, how is work?

Larry: We get right to like, “Hey, man, how’s your marriage?” How are things with your kids? How’s your temperament, how’s your patience?” Those are the conversations we have.

Jason: Man, as you were sharing that introductory story, I got the goosebumps like five times and I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where my healthy dad was present working a lot, but he was there and I saw what a father figure really was all about. What I loved on your website, that you mentioned was when we all walk into this thing called fatherhood, no one has given us an instruction manual. So it’s confusing, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to walk in the same shoes that your father did in situations like myself.

From pain to changing people’s lives

Jason: But to take an element of pain that you experienced in your youth and then transform that and now see that millions of people’s lives are actually being changed for the better because of what you experienced. I mean, that’s the walk of life that we’re all on, I think it’s amazing. That’s a cool, cool story.

Larry: Thank you. It’s been a blessing especially even selfishly when I have bad moments, which is all the time still. You think of what you guys do as doctors of chiropractic; you think of the training that you guys go through. What would a day in your life be like professionally, had you not gone to school, had you not adjusted anybody and every day was completely different and you just sort of winged it. It would be so frustrating, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much because when a patient comes into see you guys, you’re like, “Okay, you’re presented with this, I know the regimen, I know the treatment, I have a really good feeling it will most likely work,” and you do it.

Larry: And with fatherhood, it’s like, wow, yeah, my kid just did that, I’m not really sure what to do about that. And it’s always like you’re trying to figure out the next stage and as soon as you have the one stage figured out, they’re onto the next one.

The game is different

Jason: I see your point on that. At the same token is, I know you have multiple kids just like Bryan and I. It’s like you have all the training in the world from a professional standpoint. Yet, the very first patient you ever have, if you’re out there listening, sorry but the truth is, the very first patient, I was nervous. I had no idea what I was doing with you except for what I learned in a book or with someone who volunteered to come in and let me do some treatments on them at a bargain basement price, because they knew they were working with a student.

Jason: The game is different and I think that every child that I have had and I imagine the same thing for both of you men is, yeah, you learn and yet you shift, you move, you adapt. And just like you said, the next one behind them though, even going through the same stage is now an entirely do new set of variables that the first one didn’t have because they got a different personality-

Larry: Totally

Jason: … and a different gender, different values, different psychological wiring and you’re like, holy crap, we’ve figured out what the first one at this stage but now this one is totally different.

Larry: You couldn’t have said it better. So we both have four kids, all four of my boys, I know you have boys and girls, all four of my boys none of them are even remotely close to being the same even my 11 and 13-year-old, totally opposite differences. Even my three-year-old and five-year-old, totally opposite differences like they all have their own set of dynamics without a doubt.

The struggles we deal with fatherhood

Bryan: Let me ask you this, with your experience of bringing a bunch of men together, you certainly have to start seeing patterns of struggle or pain points that a lot of these men deal with in fatherhood, and can you speak to that at all? Do you see people, you’ve mentioned, hitting a child, anger, what happens? Do we get depressed? What are a lot of the inside guys in your organization starting to express that they feel? They’re certainly got to be a pattern of struggle that we all go through.

Larry: There is without a doubt, a pattern. And here’s the other thing, here’s the good news, I don’t like talking about struggle too much. Men don’t know how strong and powerful that they are because we have amnesia when it comes to our strengths but we are very aware, hyper aware of where we need to improve. That is like our focus.

The Five Dimensions Of Manhood

The Five Dimensions Of Manhood
Photographer: Tim Bogdanov | Source: Unsplash

Larry: Sometimes we don’t realize, take the things that you’re already good at and those skills are usually transferable. So let me give you an example.

Larry: In our Mastermind, if you look at every single podcast we do, it always centers around what we call the Five Dimensions. Those are finances, so mastering your finances. By the way, none of us are really top personal finance growing up, so we’re trying to wing that one.

Larry: There’s our health which if you look at what most men do is they out of guilt and time, guilt and time those are the things we hear or money, they will sidestep that and be like, “Well I can’t possibly be selfish and take care of my health, I’ve got all these other people to take care of,” that’s selfish if I go the gym, go for a run, do yoga, whatever men do.

Health (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual)

Larry: So then there’s health but not only physical health, it’s mental, emotional and spiritual health as well. And spiritual, however that shows up for you, that’s for you but emotional and mental like a lot of guys repress so many things and I’m not saying you need to be like sappy sponges, but you need to really understand what it is you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it.

Larry: A lot of men deal with anger, that’s a very real emotion for us, most men don’t realize that anger is a secondary emotion caused by a primary emotion. So if you’re angry, most likely it’s because you’re overwhelmed, you’re frustrated, you’re fearful, there’s something else going on that now you’re angry, now you’re triggered. And a lot of us think, “Oh, I just have anger issues.” “No, you don’t. You need to figure out what the cause is.”

Larry: No, and I think men really need to think about like, “Hey, all those things that you’re regressing,” and again I say this with a caveat of like you don’t have to be a sappy sponge. Like when we talk about what’s going on in our lives, like in our mastermind and whatnot, we do that in a very masculine way. We’re like, “Hey, this is what’s going on in my life, what have y’all got? Like, come on, let’s give me some strategies here.”

Relationship with spouse and children

Larry: Health is one, thriving marriage is one. If you look at the statistics, 50% of marriages end in divorce, a third of marriages that stay together are on their way to getting divorce, another one-third are, “Eh, we’re happy enough not to break up, I guess, we’ll stay together for the kids.” And then only 15% of all marriages actually deem themselves as happy and thriving, which is scary. Connection with our kids, that’s the fourth dimension and then Leadership and how we provide; that’s the fifth.

Larry: But as far as men; we see men usually doing pretty well in one or two of those and then the other three have an opportunity to improve. Let me give you an example of what I mean. So I could have like a super-fit guy who comes in, wants to do our mastermind and do life with us or whatever, and they’re saying, “Man, I just can’t figure out my marriage like I’m just not good at marriage.” I’m like, “Oh, really, you seem pretty healthy; what’s going on there?”

Giving the right tools and discipline

Larry: He, “Right, I work out.” I’m like, “Okay, well you obviously have a strength and a discipline. How have you learned that?” “Well, I keep learning it, like I keep myself sharp. I’m always learning about fitness and all sort of stuff.” I’m like, “Okay, so you have the discipline to learn about it, you have the discipline to do it, well guess what; you can also use the same discipline in your marriage, just giving you the right tools, giving you the right discipline you can do those things in your marriage.” All of a sudden they’re like, “Wow, I’m actually not a broken guy, I can literally just take this thing that I’m already good at and just transfer it over here but I just need to figure out what that looks like.”

Larry: So, men don’t really realize, we see the same thing with like, “I’m really unhealthy but I’m really wealthy.” So it’s like, “Well, you did discipline over here to be wealthy, you can do the same disciplines over here to be healthy. But I think men think that those are two different worlds and they’re just not good at something and they’re good over here, not good over here.”

Figuring out where to improve

Jason: That’s well said, I loved how you just put that together. And, as you’re saying that, I also thought about… we’re going to go back a second because you said the anger isn’t really, what you triggered about really isn’t the cause of the problem. So, we create these separate islands, they are not mutually exclusive. What’s causing you to be angry is not really the cause of your anger, and just because the skill sets that you have to create wealth also the same skills that you’ll have to save your marriage and create health.

Jason: So they go hand-in-hand. You and I have talked off-line about this, and I have talked to Bryan many times about this, but I use the statement and Whitney now laughs about it but we were at a spy in our personal marriage where again we were raising four kids, we were go-getters, overachievers, all with the culture wants to create. Yet, at the same time there’s a lot of things, a lot of chinks in our armor that were slowly getting more and more chinks, and we were slowly drifting and I could feel that chasm developing.

Going deeper than the usual

Jason: So it gets to a point where there are certain needs and I will just say it; like I’m okay with being emotional and sappy and I personally think that’s important for men to be able to be in touch with that. There are certain needs that weren’t getting met from an emotional standpoint. So, all of a sudden the dog ran out of the house because no one kept the back door shut and I’m losing my mind but it wasn’t the dog I was really upset with, or the fact that he got out. It was six, seven, eight layers deeper than that.

Jason: And until I finally created enough space and had people in my life that would make me aware of that and got into a culture, much like yours with your men and your coaching, it’s like, you’re not even aware of it because of all the other labels and other things you’re trying to do as a leader, as a provider, trying to figure out this, trying to stay fit.

Jason: All of this stuff, you end up going and going and going and you’re crushing life on some aspects but then in other parts, you’re getting crushed by life. And you don’t think they’re related but they’re 100% absolutely related.

One Of The Hardest Thing To Do As A Man

Bryan: I think that I could speak for myself on this one but I would imagine I’m not alone, but vulnerability or being able to open up and share some of your inner feelings as a man, that’s a hard thing for a lot of us to do like really hard. That’s one probably my most difficult tasks, I can hug all my kids, I can actually go work out and do the things that I am in direct control of for me but when it comes to expressing what I’m really thinking and feeling in a vulnerable way to other people, to be able to bridge that gap and to create the relationship with my wife or with my kids the way that we know it’s intended to be, that’s a hard thing to let the ego die and actually allow.

Larry: It’s one of the hardest things for men to bridge without a doubt and I think men have, what I’ve noticed because I was one of those guys too. I’m like, “Ah, I can’t let anyone know I don’t have a handle on this, like everything’s fine and good; good and fine.” Do you know what FINE actually stands for?

Bryan: No.

Larry: I’m sure this is a clean show, so it’s effed up, insecure, neurotic and emotional. So, the next time, women who are listening, and your man say, “How was your day?” “Fine.” You probably know the real meaning to that. And the same thing with guys talking to guys.

Having A Band Of Brothers

Having A Band Of Brothers
Photographer: Matheus Ferrero | Source: Unsplash

Larry: Here’s the thing, there was a great book and also I had a podcast guest; Stephen Mansfield. New York Times Bestselling Author, he’s written a lot of different books. One was Building a Band of Brothers and what he talks about in that book is exactly what you’re talking about and what all men, even when things hit the fan in my life like I feel like I podcast about this, I blog about this, I facilitate on this, and yet when things hit the fan in my life; when another guy asks me how’s life going, my first, fine and good. Like I don’t really want to let him know some of the things that I’m facing.

Larry: So I’ll share this with you as far as what Stephen Mansfield said about it. He wrote a book called Building a Band of Brothers and he talked about that building that type of relationship with another man is critical, absolutely critical. The most successful men in the world would not have gotten to where they’re at, had they not had a band of brothers, someone that they could go to. Theodore Roosevelt had his band of brothers, Lincoln had his band of brothers. You need men in your life and not the surface level relationships like, “Oh, we coached football together,” or, “Oh, we sit in the stands, watch our kids play football or whatever else.”

Sharing experiences with another man

Larry: You got to be able to go have coffee with another man and be like; “Hey, man, how are things with you and Whitney? How are things with you and Jessica?” Not men who are in your life, but into your life. Because when we share each other’s experiences, when you can hold your life in like a glass ball in front of another man and say, “This is what’s going on, because when you’re in it, you can’t see it the way somebody else outside of you can see it.”

Larry: And sometimes the answers are so freaking simple, we just don’t see them because we’re in it. But when you can hold that up and say, “Hey, my marriage is not going as well as I would like it to be. For some reason there’s tension, there’s strain, we’re not communicating well, there’s very little intimacy lately; I don’t know what’s going on.

Larry: And if I were to share that with Jason and he would just ask me, “Yeah man, I get it, I’ve been there. When was the last time you and Jess were on a date?” And I’m like, “Hm, that’s actually a really good point.” And then just even something that’s so simple, that’s out in front of you, like, “When was the last time you had one-on-one time together? When was the last time you stepped out of being a parent and went back to being a couple?” Something so simple like that, I was like, “That’s a really good point.” It’s been a couple of months that I need to do that, we need to refresh and recharge this relationship but sometimes you just don’t see that.

The need for authentic human connection

Bryan: I think the desperation for authentic human connection is probably the most valuable, where the biggest deficiency in current society right now is the lack of authentic connection, because I love when you’re saying everybody always says, they’re good, they’re fine. That’s just the candid response but truthfully, a lot of people are hurting and not to go into a painful spots but they’re hurting because they don’t have an outlet of being able to authentically connect with a band of brothers like what you just said. And I would think that sisters or females need to be around sisters in the same way, is that a true statement of what you’ve seen?

Larry: And they’re way better at it than us. I mean, they are. I mean, obviously you all have kids, so like if you ever want to just see a really cool social experiment just watch everyone at the next birthday party you go to where there’s couples and then there’s the kids. If you watch the women, their eye contact, they’re like using their hands, they’re in a man, were shoulder to shoulder, I know your audience can’t see us but we usually have a beverage in front of our chest or it could be water, it could be beer, it could be whatever. How’s life? Good. Did you see The Blues play? Yup. What do you do for a living? This. It’s like these very surface, even our body language is incredibly guarded.

Authenticity instead of vulnerability

Larry: Now, I’m not saying you should sit there and have a toe-to-toe, face-to-face because that for a man, especially men who don’t know each other, that’s a subconscious like we need to be on a defense for some reason. It’s actually great to have a conversation like that. But I think when a man hears the word vulnerability, even me, I hate that word. Like there’s a part of me it’s like, “Ah, I don’t like the sound of it.” However, I think you can use the word authentic. When you’re authentic, you guys have been around people and you’re like, “What is it about him or her? I really like that person.”

Larry: Usually it’s because they’re authentic, they’re real. They’re a real person with real things going on. So like for instance, if I say, “Hey, Jay, how’s life?” “Oh, fine, good, good, fine.” She’s acting out, I’m trying to do this; trying to do that. All of the sudden, I just like you more, now.” She’s like, “Oh this guy is like a real person with like, yeah, there’s some good things but he’s got some things going on.” That automatically makes me feel a heck lot easier to be like, “It’s funny you say that. I have some issues with connection with my 11-year-old. I don’t know if it’s a stage or what. What are you doing to help that out?”

Larry: And he can share with me and he can share back and all of a sudden we’re better together. We’re complementing the relationship and I think that’s what a lot of men miss out on.

Larry’s Book “The Dad Edge”

Jason: You mentioned earlier back on this conversation you wrote a book that you got inspired to write a book through this journey that you’ve been on. Can you talk to us about what the book is called? Where somebody could possibly get it? Is it a Father’s Day type of gift? Is it just for men? Talk to us about you wrote.

Larry: The book is called The Dad Edge and it’s nine chapters long and I wrote that book just literally as if I was have a conversation with my best friend. I wrote it four years ago. It probably needs to be updated at this point because I’ve learned a lot more. But it’s really just doing little things when it comes to your marriage; when it comes to relationship with your kids that will help patience, that will help anger, that will help you really understand. And it will give you like this very simple marching orders of what to do just to create better memories, to create more patience, to create a better connection with your wife and all those things.

Jason: So awesome, we will certainly have a link on our podcast here on how people can connect with you. This particular podcast episode will live on thewellnessconnection.com/e24 and we’ll have a link directly to the Good Dad Project and all that Larry is doing because a lot of people can value the benefit from what you’re doing.

Bryan: I just want to say, I appreciate you very much. I love what you’re doing, I’m glad our paths crossed, you’re a good man.

Closing Thoughts: Be A Healthy Dad

Larry: Okay, so I just want to really encourage men to take care of their health without going too deep, you can go search some of my podcasts I was very open about what happened to me two years ago. I hit a snag with my sleep, I didn’t sleep for about 33 days, I slept hour and a half, two hours a night, sometimes three if I was lucky. It literally just wrecked my health. And I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that put me in the shoes and the first person experience of trying to show up as a father mentally, emotionally, physically and I couldn’t do it because of my health.

Larry: I’m proud to say I bounced back but I started coming to you guys, it was right after that episode, got my health more in order, I’m proud to say I’ve been sleeping great for the past year and a half, almost two.

Bryan: Very, very much appreciated. I think it’s often time that people aren’t selfish enough in taking care of themselves. If your purpose is to serve and help other people like you’re doing right now, if you are not in the best spot mentally, physically and just emotionally then it’s really hard to actually trickle that energy out in a good way to the rest of the people that you love. So we’re thrilled that we get the opportunity to help you in any way we can, and just like you are making a big impact, that is the goal of why we’re doing what we do on a daily basis. So, thanks so much for joining us today on this podcast and… Till the next time, we’ll see you soon.

About Larry Hagner

About Larry Hagner
About Larry Hagner

Our children are not born with manuals and the Journey of Fatherhood doesn’t necessarily come with a “map.” There are challenges, twists, and turns along the way.

As much as we truly enjoy our children and being a father, we tend to internalize our struggles. When we do that, we get distracted and stressed out. As a result, we do not enjoy the Journey of being a healthy dad as much as we would really like to.

I am not a psychologist. I am not a counselor in family dynamics. I don’t have any accolades behind my name.

I am like you.

I have an awesome wife and 4 amazing boys (Ethan-12, Mason-10, Lawson-4, and Colton-2).

I am an everyday dad trying to do the best job I can. I just want to be the best version of myself so I can guide my kids to be the best version of themselves.

My story and passion for being a father is a bit unique.

I grew up virtually in “fatherless environment” for most of my life. In fact, I didn’t meet my real father until I was 30 years old. As fate would have it, our paths crossed when he walked into a coffee shop eight years ago. I am happy to say we have a great relationship now and spend a great deal of time together.

It was really through my own childhood struggles that I realized my true passion for being a healthy dad.

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