This is the second time that Doug French and John Pacini have marshaled forces to co-host the Dad 2.0 Summit, and the second time I’ve had the pleasure of not just attending, but speaking at the event. And it’s amazing to be at an event with so many men who are passionate about being fathers and about making the world a better place for children and parents both.
There are Dads that blog about cooking, blog about taking babies to the park, blog about the travails of being stay-at-home fathers, and many more, men who have found that their hearts have grown and their lives have attained a deeper, more profound meaning by that tremendous transition from man to father.
The event started with a bang Thursday evening, just minutes after I arrived, with Honda offering rides from the airport to the venue in their spacious — but still very Honda-y — vehicles. Nice. That dropped me off just in time for the ConAgra-sponsored ReadySetEat! cook-off, where four dad chefs were competing for a nice $3000 prize with recipes like chili, spicy spaghetti and bratwurst in Crescent rolls. Much fun, and that was followed by dinner. In fact, in decades of attending shows, I’ve never eaten so well, and had so many chances to snack and eat, as I’ve had at this event. I guess sponsors like Kraft and JambaJuice are a win:win.
The dinner reception also hosted my buddy Bruce Sallan‘s incredibly popular tweetchat “#dadchat“, which had hundreds of people chatting on Twitter about children’s entitlement and addictions. Fascinating, but how Bruce manages to keep track of the dozens of simultaneous discussion threads is beyond my neural capacity to understand. Nice job, Bruce!
The first day of the event opened with a fascinating talk by Jeff Pulver, who shared hilarious stories about the sheer chutzpah that helped him through an extraordinary career journey that included the FCC Chairman coming to one of his parties, him being in the center of the commercialization of VOIP, and even ending up flown out to an OECD meeting. Very impressive. And he’s ridiculously humble about it all. Well, actually, we opened with Houston mayor Annise Parker trying to convince us all to move here. Not so much, though I have to admit that the weather’s been lovely.
Left to right, Pedro Veloso, me, RJ Jaramillo. And again. And again.
Then there were a bunch of men bloggers reading some of their most touching, thoughtful or amusing blog entries from the podium, to general hilarity and some damp eyes, followed by breakout sessions, during which time my brothers-from-other-mothers RJ and Pedro joined me in playing hooky and instead taking a 2013 Honda Accord out for a test drive. That was, um, a bit longer than they perhaps expected, though since I didn’t listen to RJ’s Dukes of Hazzard-inspired driving suggestions, didn’t involve us ultimately leaving the transmission somewhere on the streets of downtown Houston. Nice wheels!
This test drive turns out to be important later, because they were giving away an iPad Mini to one lucky test driver..
Dove Men+Care was such a generous sponsor that I felt like we were but a small step away from being on payroll. From gift boxes of their entire product line mailed to us a few weeks prior to the Summit to an additional bag of care products left in the room (I’ve become rather partial to the moisturizing facial scrub, actually), to sponsoring food, a man cave for the duration of the event, and even a whiskey (well, bourbon) tasting, they were terrific and it’s clear that their commitment to men and men’s care is substantial. Good stuff.
Day two started with a talk that I was pretty skeptical about, author and researcher Brené Brown talking about her book Daring Greatly! but as she continued to explain her research into fear and vulnerability, I was reeled in and thought more than once as she shared her own experiences and what she believes makes a healthy relationship “I wish we’d had that perspective years ago.” At one point she said that she realized that by wanting her husband to be vulnerable then despising him for being weak, she had inadvertently become part of the patriarchy and that we lived in a time when women want it both ways and it just doesn’t work. Hear! Hear!
That afternoon I was privileged to be on a panel with some really cool cats: Phil Lempert, known as the Supermarket Guru and a crazy nice guy, Gerome Sapp, former NFL athlete who was on the Baltimore Ravens for years and had his cute little girl in the audience, waving and making faces at him the whole time, and Richard Yoo, co-founder of Rackspace, now retired and a stay-at-home dad. Our moderator was Alan Weinkrantz, whom I’ve known digitally for eons. We talked about how to turn an idea into a business, and the discussion was terrific. Practical, pragmatic, and amusing. They even made me look savvy, a total win!
The final talk was from neuroscientist David Eagleman who had a fascinating presentation about how the brains of children work and how it’s critically important both that dads are in children’s lives, and that we challenge our children, force them to “think outside of the box” and even come up with multiple possible solutions for a given problem. He’s a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, a PhD, author of multiple best-selling books including the NYT best seller Incognito, and I swear, he’s barely 30. Or looks it. I have been a complete slacker not to have even half his accomplishments with twenty additional years under my belt. (caveat: I have no idea how old he is. He just seems ridiculously young 🙂 ).
After David’s talk Doug and John came on stage to wrap things up, including a drawing from Honda for that iPad Mini I mentioned earlier. RJ went up on stage and pulled out Ben Floyd’s name from the list. But he wasn’t present! So RJ drew again. And drew my name. Awesome! So I got a companion iPad Mini to the one I already own, believe it or not. Oh and we later learned that Ben was up in the room, changing his baby’s diaper. So he’s getting an iPad Mini too. A win:win, again!
When I texted A-, my 16yo daughter, her response was so epic memorable that I have to share it with you, dear readers, as you can see on the side. How can I say no? And really, isn’t she funny? Imagine, “partial ownership”. Is that 10% time? 50%? 99.035%? We might never know…
Overall, I’m tired but had a really terrific time being inspired and moved by the men – and women – who spent a weekend here in Houston talking brands, sharing notes and mostly just being great guys and passionate, loving dads. A great time and great experience, one I’m ready to repeat again next year, when we’ll have Dad 2.0.14, no doubt.