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Larry Hagner on the 5 Dimensions of Fatherhood

By July 24, 2019 July 31st, 2019 No Comments

“My emotional maturity really started – I think – when I started sacrificing my ego.” – Larry Hagner

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Larry Hagner (@gooddadprojct) is best known as the man behind “The Good Dad Project,” and the host of the podcast “The Dad Edge.” He is also the author of “The Dad’s Edge: 9 Simple Ways to Have: Unlimited Patience, Improved Relationships, and Positive Lasting Memories.” Today he is talking with Mark about fatherhood and the impact that Unbeatable Mind had on him.

Learn how:

  • You need to be authentically yourself so that you can be good to your kids
  • You need to learn to recognize and avoid the “drift,” when you forget your core values, and just let “life” take over
  • As a father, you need to consider 5 factors – financial, health, marriage, connection with kids, and leadership

Listen to this podcast to hear more practical guidance on fatherhood, and how you can tap into other resources to learn more.

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Transcript

Start

04:02

Hey folks. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for being here today. I certainly appreciate it. I know there’s a lot vying for your attention, and the fact that you’re here means a lot to me. So thanks very much.

I mentioned the last few times because my producer Allison has asked me to. But if you listen to this podcast on one of our other platforms it helps to rate it. We have 500 five-star ratings on iTunes, but we’re now available in Google Play, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Pandora, iheartradio… I’m missing one or two. Our website… Spotify… That’s it. It’s actually Spotify, yeah.

So of course there’s not many ratings there and people won’t be able to find it unless someone who’s listening goes and rates it. So I appreciate that.

Also a little challenge for you. So today anytime someone makes a request of you or asks you to do something, or to join their project – just say “let me think about it.” how about that?

And then see how it works. And then I encourage you to extend that to tomorrow… Another day… Until it becomes your new normal. I can’t tell you – I wish I had learned this 30 years ago Larry, you know? It’s better than saying “no,” because you’re not giving someone a firm… It’s hard to say “no” to someone. It’s really easy to say “yes.” we’re taught to say “yes.” and then we get ourselves caught in all these entanglements, and distractions, and we say “why did we ever say yes to that?”

And it could be super simple things or it could be like really complicated things. Like “hey, you want to look at starting this business?” or “you want to invest in this?” or whatever.

Say “let me think about it.” and then you can think about it, and if it’s real solid “yeah, this is definitely in,” then get back to them. And if it’s a “no,” forget about it. You know? You’re under no obligation to go back to that individual and say “I thought about it and my answer is no.” how’s that?

Larry Hagner: That’s good. I think it was actually at Unbeatable Mind, when my wife and I were there in 2015, the Unbeatable Mind retreat – and you did a segment on greatly simplifying your life. And “let me think about it,” or “let me check my calendar,” versus say yes right away.

Because especially men, you know where we want to say “yes” so quickly.

Mark: For sure and we’re taught that. Our culture teaches us that, and it’s a big codependent thing in my life.

So now my mantra is look for “no” in service to the bigger “yes.” but it’s uncomfortable to say “no.” and also, quite rightly, there might be times where you’re like “maybe this is a ‘yes.'” or you’re like “I definitely want to do this.”

But still say “let me think about it,” right? Because if it doesn’t pass the FITS test – which is one of our models in Unbeatable Mind – does it fit your personality, your character, your unique offer? Is it important? Is the timing right? And is it simple enough?

You might come back later and put it through that little filter and be like “you know, the timings not right I do want to do this, but it’s just not right.”

Larry: Right.

Mark: Anyways we’re talking to Larry Hagner of “The Dad Edge.” Larry, we’ve done a podcast with him. But it’s been like three or four years, right? Long time ago.

Larry: Yeah, it was 2015 the first time I came on your podcast.

Mark: No kidding. And you were just kind of spooling up then and you’ve made so much progress. Really impressed with what you’ve accomplished, both as a husband, parent, Dad, but also as a leader of now a thriving community in “The Dad’s Edge.”

So well I don’t need to give you any more background on that. Let’s just talk. And let’s talk about what it means to be a man who is also a father. Yeah, both of us are fathers.

And how to be a good person in the world and live a life of purpose. And to pick yourself up when you get kicked in the balls. With a smile on your face. Because that happens quite a bit.

Larry: Daily.

Mark: Yeah, it’s funny, this morning I went to the YMCA… Swimming and then I took a sauna afterwards. And there was this 27 year old kid in there. And we were just talking… He just finished the Boston Marathon. And somehow he sparked a little philosophical conversation…imagine that sitting in the sauna with Mark Divine… I said, “Listen kid, I pretty much think the meaning of life is to just get kicked in the balls every day and to learn a lesson from it. Right? So you just get wiser and wiser. Until eventually you’re like “where is it gonna come today?” and then you anticipate the kick. And you can dodge it. That’s mastery.

Larry: I agree and that seems to happen daily, I think, with fathers. I mean, especially with the flood of things that come into our inboxes, come into our lives… You know, every day is new when you’re raising a child and when you have a family.

Mark: (laughing) One day, one lifetime.

Larry: Exactly. I think I heard that somewhere.

Mark: Somewhere. Every day is new. Right, exactly. Well, you’re showing up new. Your kid’s showing up new. It’s almost like when you wake up in the morning it’s like “hello, I’m the guy who was your father yesterday. Can I be him today? Let me earn that right.”

Kid doesn’t have to earn the right. You do.

Larry: And I think kids really look to you as more or less like we know what we’re doing every day. You know?

Mark: (laughing) right. Biggest illusion ever. Like we’re freaking magicians. “Hey Dad, you got this all figured out.”

“Yes I do.” wink, wink. You keep thinking that son.

Larry: When I look back on it, I’ll have figured out…

Mark: Wow. So what was your experience of having a Dad like?

Larry: So my experience was definitely not the norm. I was born in 1975. My mom and Dad were married in 1971 – they were married for about four years then they got divorced when I was about nine months old.

Mark: Wow. Probably don’t remember that day.

Larry: I don’t. He left, he was out of my life. My mom got remarried… He was a nice guy but he was also sort of a toxic individual with some alcohol issues. They got divorced when I was ten…

Mark: Does he know my father, I wonder?

Larry: Might have hung out of the bar. But I had this very interesting thing happen when I was 12. I started asking a lot of questions about my biological father, because I didn’t know him…

Mark: Wait a minute. You just skipped from 9 months to 12. Did anything happen in between there?

Larry: (laughing) Yeah, I didn’t want to draw the story out too much…

Mark: Yeah, I was born at a very young age and then I was 36. Wait a minute…

Larry: So yeah, what happened was my mom got remarried when I was four, that man adopted me. He was actually a very nice guy – taught me a lot about manners, he was former military…

Mark: Did you feel like he was your father?

Larry: I actually didn’t know any different. I didn’t even really realize he adopted me until I was about eight years old…

Mark: Oh really? You just assumed he was your biological father?

Larry: I did.

Mark: And your mom didn’t say anything?

Larry: Well see I skipped over that story too. So I didn’t want to draw it… But when I was in preschool, when I was four, I remember men coming to preschool to pick up their kids. I knew what a Dad was. But at that point in my life like literally I remember it… I thought the moms just go out and find a Dad. Like I thought that was the job.

Mark: Some do.

Larry: Some do. Right. So the first time my mom brought this man home to have dinner with us… I’ll never forget, I mean this was 1979… He came in with a handlebar mustache, he had the three-piece suit on he had the briefcase – because there was no iPads or anything like that – trench coat and I was like “oh my gosh. This is it. She found us a Dad.”

So like I literally shook this guy’s hand. True story. I took his hand and I just big smile is like “are you gonna be my Dad?”

And I think you just felt like the air in the room like go completely out. But lo and behold, a year later they got married. I mean, I was at the wedding and they had a pretty good marriage for the first couple years. And then I just remember there was there was a lot of alcohol that was involved.

And then fast forward eight, nine, ten… And then they got divorced when I was 10. But it became a really, really toxic environment to where he was drinking more than he was sober. When he was sober he was great. When he was drinking, it was extremely toxic.

And then he was gone. I have not seen him since.

I actually had a knock on the door about a year ago and this lady said I’m from such-and-such courthouse in St. Louis Missouri – I was like “oh my gosh.” that’s the knock you don’t… Like “what did I do? I paid for that ticket.”

But she said “I just wanted to let you know your father died. And he left you with this home. You’re his only living heir…” but I had not seen him for thirty plus years. So that’s how I found out he had passed away.

Mark: Have you been back to the house?

Larry: I did. I actually just… I didn’t want to deal with it. It was a really broken down horrible home.

Mark: Did you sell it? You didn’t like look for some hidden suitcase with a million bucks in it or something like that?

Larry: Yeah, we didn’t find that. (laughing) So we broke apart the foundation of the home.

Mark: Thanks Dad.

Larry: But the interesting thing that happened – so when he left I think I was really eager to find a Dad. You know I became really curious cause I understood…

Mark: At this point you still didn’t know that you had a biological father.

Larry: I started asking questions…

Mark: I mean most people figure that out, right? You have to come from somewhere. The stork didn’t just bring you.

Larry: Right. I mean that’s what happens when you’re watching cartoons at that age.

But yeah, so I started asking questions. And my mom told me she’s like “yeah, actually I was married once before. You do have a father.”

And lo and behold – when I was 12 I had the opportunity to meet him. And he had already been remarried. Had a two-year-old son, another one on the way. And we had a relationship for a couple months.

And what happened was at the age of 12 we had a conversation. It just became… It was cool at first, but then I remember the relationship just feeling strained on his part. Like it just felt like it was distancing. And I remember we had a conversation of like “hey, I just feel like something’s wrong here. Is there something going on?”

He’s like “well, my life is kind of complicated. I’m trying to start over.” and that was his way of basically saying like “hey I need to…”

Mark: “I can’t be here for you.”

Larry: Right. Right.

Mark: Wow. So you really didn’t grow up with a Dad in your life period.

Larry: My mom was married the three times. So there was always men who were in and out.

Mark: But no real father figure who connected with you at a heart level or anything.

Larry: Nope.

Mark: This is a question. You don’t have to have the answer – because there probably isn’t one, but do you think it’s better to grow up without a father figure in life – which essentially you did – or with a seriously dysfunctional father?

Larry: I grew up with both. Because I always say this on another shows that half my life was spent without one. And then the other half was spent with usually… Because my mom always attracted these men with some sort of addiction issues…

Mark: That typically happens.

Larry: Right.

Mark: Which means she grew up in a family that had that kind of dysfunctional alcoholism. So she was dealing with that yeah at her level – at a codependent level. So she attracted… Trying to fill that gap or that wound.

Larry: Mm-hmm.

Mark: Interesting.

Larry: But to answer your question…

Mark: Have you done any therapy around any of this?

Larry: (laughing) a lot.

Mark: Good for you. Emotional coaching. That’s the right word for it. Good. Yeah, so have I.

I haven’t done therapy around your problems, therapy around my own. I just want to make that clear.

Larry: I have done a lot of therapy. For a long time I lived in that that sort of bitter headspace. And victim mentality headspace.

And now I can definitely say that I’m thankful for that upbringing, because it showed me… There were some great lessons there. I mean, there really was. There were great lessons there.

Mark: You know what? I’m glad you said that, because it’s easy to think “woe is me and I’m a victim,” and “I wish I had had an idyllic life like so and so… And of course, nobody has an idyllic life. But some people – let’s just say some people do – and that’s great but it’s possible that there’s no sense of what the other side is like. And so that’s why so many people get into personal development and start podcasts who had fucked up childhoods because they have to do a lot of work. A lot of work.

And they realize that’s actually one of most beautiful things about life experience is actually doing that archaeology work on your past. And not just your life, but your parents and even the generations. And see how that unfolds.

And if you had the perception that you had the idyllic childhood -like I said, maybe you do – my experience is that that’s pretty rare. But you may never be driven to do that kind of deep depth work. Whether you call it depth psychology or yoga… Because it can come from different ways, different tools.

But that’s profound transformative work.

Larry: It definitely was. One part of the story that I didn’t share just yet was when I was thirty. So last year.

I’m kidding. Thirteen years ago.

Mark: I was going to say, you don’t look a day over 31. Maybe.

Larry: But thirteen years ago, I was in a coffee shop in St. Louis. And I was there with a friend of mine and my biological father came walking in the door. And knew it was him. It had been almost 20 years. He hadn’t changed much.

Mark: Cause you’ve met him first when you were 12. For month or so.

Larry: It was a few months.

Mark: Ok. And then you didn’t see him again ’til you were 30. Did he look the same?

Larry: He looked pretty much the same – just, you know, 20 years older and just a little rounder. But that was really about it.

Mark: Yeah. Did he recognize you?

Larry: He did. And we ended up having a conversation. And here we are 13 years later, we have a relationship. It’s more of a friendship I think at this point. But he’s been married to the same woman for 40 years. My kids know him as “grandpa.”

Mark: Really? And has he healed or gone through some healing? Is he healthier?

Larry: He’s definitely healthier. He came from a pretty broken childhood himself… But definitely he’s done a lot of work himself. And I think that the decision that he and I have made is… We’ve only had one or two conversations about the past and we’ve decided life is short. We don’t know how much time we have left. He’s 70 years old. He’s still in great shape though. And we’ve just decided “hey, we’re just gonna move forward and we’re just gonna enjoy the time that we have.” and that’s the decision we’ve made.

Mark: Yeah.

Five Dimensions of Fatherhood

20:08

Mark: So, Larry, you’ve got now a community and a mastermind… You’re working with a lot of men and men who are fathers. What are the biggest challenges that you see them having in today’s world? What keeps coming up again and again?

Larry: Oh boy. So what we’ve really narrowed it down to is these five dimensions of being a father, husband, provider… And one is finances…

Mark: People struggle with finances. I get that. It’s a big one.

Larry: I mean none of us are really top personal…

Mark: Do you help them with that? I mean do you refer them out to financial planners and stuff?

Larry: We have some financial coaches in the community that help our men with that. We actually have… So in our mastermind we have break out call teams, and we have specific call teams strictly for finance to help men with budgeting and whatnot…

Mark: Do you loan them money?

Larry: (laughing) we do. And we call uncle Vinnie when they don’t pay us back. Knocks on their door.

So finances is one…. health is a big one and under the subset of health there’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual… And men are just notorious for…

Mark: Just refer them to Unbeatable Mind for that.

Larry: Exactly. We talk about your stuff all the time. We’re huge fans of it there.

But yeah, men will always sidestep their own personal self-care – their spiritual being physical, mental, emotional beings for the sake of others.

And one thing that I really learned from you was – you have to make sure that you’re taking that time for yourself, so you can then selflessly serve…

Mark: Right. Self-mastery before service. Until they come hand-in-hand and rise simultaneously. Most people, like you said, haven’t figured out the mastery part. And whether that’s physical, mental, emotional, intuitional or spiritual. And so they can’t bring their whole selves in service to others. So they’re actually hurting both.

Larry: Exactly. Yeah, and I think most men just really don’t understand that.

So health is one. Marriage yeah… So you want to hear some scary statistics?

Mark: Yeah, absolutely.

Larry: So obviously we know that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. But the other 50% that stay together – a third of those are unhappy and are on their way to divorce. Another one-third are like “yeah, I’m happy enough. I don’t want to break up and will not to get divorced just for the sake of the kids.”

And then 15% of all marriages – just 15% – can actually deem themselves as happy and thriving.so only 15 percent of marriages are actually in that bracket.

Mark: Wow. How do they know the second half? Like the divorce part I could see – that’s easy to just check divorce records. But how do they know that another 30 percent are unhappy?

Larry: Well I just heard another statistic that eighty percent of people that quote statistics just make them up.

Mark: (laughing) I think 50 percent of what you just said was false. But the thirty percent part of it rings kind of a half true.

Larry: So those statistics actually came from obviously you know Hal Elrod, right?

Mark: Who?

Larry: Hal Elrod. “The Miracle Morning.”

Mark: I don’t have a clue who that is.

Larry: Hal Elrod. He wrote the book “The Miracle Morning.” he just came out with another book called “Miracle Morning for Couples,”

Mark: We need to get him on the podcast. Make a note of that.

Larry: He’s great. So he just came out with that book and he quoted those statistics in that book.

Mark: (laughing) okay. So it’s gotta be true.

Larry: Yeah. Right. Has to be.

Mark: That’s pretty scary though. It’s hard to make a marriage work, for sure. It is. It is.

And then another one is the connection with kids. And then leadership. So leading the family, leading ourselves, leading our businesses – those are the five areas we see men either optimize or struggle in.

Mark: Right. And of course every one of those – at the root of it is just learning how to be more whole, more complete, more aware. Everything we teach I’ve been teaching for years is basically… Everything in your life will be a reflection of your core essence and ability to project that into the world. And most people are completely cut off from it.

They’re not connected with themselves, so they can’t connect with others. They don’t connect with themselves, so they can’t connect to their unique purpose in the world.

And so they’re doing things that they’re not passionate about, because they’re not aligned with something that’s their calling, right?

And because they’re connected with their calling, and they’re not connected with themselves and they can’t connect with others, then they can’t connect with their team. So they suck at leadership. And they have to rely on a bunch of strategies and tactics, as opposed to being authentic and real. And vulnerable.

I don’t like that word vulnerable, I choose to use word “authentic,” instead. Cause SEALs don’t like being vulnerable.

Larry: Right. I think that’s a tough word for a lot of men.

Mark: Yes so I’m gonna flat out deny the use of that word. We’ll let Brené Brown hold that space. I say, “Guys you don’t have to be vulnerable. Just be authentic. Just be real.”

Heart/mind, Kokoro – means to connect with your heart, and then you use your heart in your decision-making. So you have to merge your heart and your mind.

And then you take action. Forceful, bold action. Standing your ground.

How do you connect with heart, though? That’s the question. That’s not easy. You know, just the intention to be a good person and to be a good father and husband is the first step. I think.

Larry: I think that’s the biggest key right there, is the intention. We say this all the time that so many men are on what we call “the drift.” you know, it’s the wash, rinse, repeat. Get up, go to work, go to a job that they hate. Come home.

Mark: Groundhog Day.

Larry: Yeah, exactly. Groundhog Day.

Mark: They wake up 30 years into that routine and they’re like “Holy shit. What have I done? This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.”

Larry: (laughing) We should just turn this into a song.

Mark: Of course I have no clue how to sing or play an instrument. Except for the ukulele. And I suck at that. Future projects. (laughing)

Larry: (laughing) Future lessons.

But there was a quote and Napoleon Hill’s book “Outwitting the Devil,” that the definition of Hell is meeting the man that you could have been, when you’re on your deathbed…

Mark: Yeah. By the way -most people don’t know about that book – I read that or I listened to it actually recently.

It wasn’t published.

Larry: Right.

Mark: The family refused to publish it after his death. But it is the last book he wrote, right? Because they were very conservative, Christian – and they thought he hadn’t lost his mind with that one I think. (laughing) It’s actually a really good book. “Outwitting the Devil.” Check it out.

Let’s do a podcast on Napoleon Hill. You think he’ll come back from the grave for that? Wouldn’t that be cool? We should just have someone like channel him you know and pretend it’s Napoleon. I bet we could get pretty close to what he would say.

Larry: You could probably get somebody to do that.

Mark: I could probably channel – I read his book like ten times. I listened to his audio tapes. It’s a great stuff. He’s the original. Master.

What were you talking about?

Larry “the drift.” we just drifted. We’re talking about the drift…

Mark: All over the place…

Larry: Yeah, I think most men just struggle with that drift. And I think what a lot of men struggle with is intentionality… Is being purposeful with it with their time, their mentality, spirituality. And just being their authentic selves. Is where a lot of us are on the drift, and we want so badly to live that life of intention and purpose.

We just… So many men are confused about like “well, how do I do that? And how do I take the first step to do that?”

Mark: Do you think it’s because our culture is just so wishy-washy and materialistic that – I mean, this is my experience – to get drawn into that rat race. Need to identify with the financial success, and the white picket fence, and having everything be perfect on the outside.

But there’s no path to learn about your internal domain, right? The things that you’re talking about. A spiritual center, what’s important to you those things.

We try to draw people back and do both. Yourself and with your community and we do it in Unbeatable Mind.

I just answered my own question. But what do you think?

Larry: I think if you ask most men “how’s life?” “Fine.” “How’s work?” “Good.” “How are the kids?” “Fine.”

Mark: You know what “fine” means – it’s an acronym.

Larry: What is it?

Mark: Fucked up, insecure, neurotic and extremely agitated.

Larry: (laughing) That explains a lot then.

Mark: Anytime you hear someone say “fine,” just think yeah you’re fucked up, neurotic and extremely agitated.

Larry: That actually explains a lot.

No but, I think most men they get to that point where they are living life in their mid-30s and 40s. And they’re kind of like “this is not the way I thought it was gonna be. And now I’m in this…” like you said the rat race. Where “I’ve got my wife, my kids, all these people depend on me now so maybe it’s just too late for me to live that life. I now have to live this life for others.”

Mark: People get entrenched in their patterns. They get entrenched in their systems. And they feel trapped.

But it’s never too late to do a do-over is it?

Larry: No, it’s not.

Mark: So how does one start? Like, if someone comes in they’re just like “I’m completely clueless about where to go.” and they join your mastermind or your coaching program whatever.

Where do you start them? How do they begin the process of transformation and the do-over?

Larry: So what we have them do is what’s called the core value exercise. Where so many of us unconsciously we know what those core values are. Like we probably have dated a woman and you’re like “I don’t know what it is about this girl, but I’m not feeling it. I should, cause on the outside and like she’s beautiful. She’s this, she’s that.”

“But I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right.”

Mark: And wouldn’t it be nice if most people were able to pay attention to that little voice? Usually they wait until after they say “I do.” then they’re like “what have I done?”

Larry: Right and 50%. There it is right there.

Mark: “what did I do when I said ‘I do?’”

Larry: Right, right. But we have them do this core value exercise where they go through a list of 150 core values, and they eliminate down to 5-7, and then we have them write what’s called a “being statement.”

And what we see with most men is that one exercise will create so much clarity for them, because then they’ll look back on some of the decisions they’ve made and they’re like “wow, no wonder I made the decisions that I did.”

And then once they write that being statement, it’s a mission statement of how they’re going to live their life. And what we encourage the men to do is “you need to read this. Every day. And then act in accordance with that.”

And then we’re big on morning routines as well. You’ve got to start your day with that core value exercise – what you’re gonna do and how you’re going to live intentionally, outside that drift.

And we see men like literally step out of that drift and then start to live that intentional life.

Mark: How long does that usually take?

Larry: I mean, we have them do that right away. But in the mastermind… The core being of the mastermind is every single month we tackle those five dimensions that I mentioned. So we don’t really believe in balance. We believe in optimization. So optimizing those five dimensions as best you can and sharing best demonstrated practices within that mastermind.

Mark: How do you get individuals with your program to eliminate distractions and begin to tamp down the overwhelm that everyone feels?

Larry: Boundaries. So for instance, being so intentional with your time – we encourage the men even to write their schedules – their journals, that kind of thing because otherwise… I think I even heard this on one of your podcasts, or I read in your book… If you’re open to everybody else’s agenda, you’ll never get to your own.

So like, your inbox, your text messages – if you’re not intentional there, those things are going to take your time.

So what we tell men to do is “look at your day and literally schedule in everything.” so, like for instance a good boundary is “put your phone away from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Be intentional with your family. Get away from work.”

And even though like a lot of what we do is on social media – we have a Facebook group for what we do – we tell men “be on there for 10 minutes. Don’t get lost down the rabbit hole and waste your time and get on the drift. Be there for 10 minutes, and then get off.”

If you want to be intentional with your time, what we do beyond our mastermind calls – we have we have 18 of them a week – and then every Sunday we go screen-free. We encourage the men to completely disconnect from your devices, and just be with your family.

Mark: Mm-hmm. I like that. I think I need to work on that one, actually.

Larry: I think we all do.

Mark: What’s your morning ritual like?

Larry: My morning ritual is so I get up before the family, and then I get to my journal, and then I write three things that I’m grateful for. I write three things that I’m excited about. I write one affirmation. What I’m going to do for exercise.

And then I write down three personal objectives that I… Three personal goals that I want to take care of that day. Three professional goals of that day.

Mark: That you’re going to work on.

Larry: That I’m gonna work on, or that I’m going to achieve. I pencil the things in that I’m going to do at that time. Shut all distractions off when I’m doing certain activities. And then at the end of the day, I always do an after-action review.

Mark: Nice.

Larry: So how did I do? Did I do the things that I said? So it’s a two-page journal – did I do the things that I said I was going to do? And if I didn’t you know I need to gut-check…

Mark: (laughing) Thousand lashes.

Larry: Thousand lashes by my eleven-year-old.

Do you consider yourself emotionally mature?

Larry: So that’s… I consider myself more emotionally mature than I was when I first started this five years ago. But I’m a lifelong student.

Mark: And how have you personally worked to try to connect at a deeper level with your feelings, and understand your emotional patterns?

Larry: So I don’t know if you expected the show to go in this way, but…

Mark: I don’t have any expectations. My friend Christine Hassler says expectations will give you an “expectation hangover,” because they never meet your original vision of what’s gonna happen, so…

Larry: You know in my… Up until 2014, I was doing a lot of work. A lot of mindset work. A lot of personal growth. I was seeing a counselor. I really wanted to kind of get over my childhood and move on and be a better father. And I really just couldn’t figure out like “well what the x-factor here? What am I missing here?”

And then I found your book. And then I found “Unbeatable Mind.”

Mark: Did you find it like on a street corner, somewhere?

Larry: I did. This homeless guy was “I’ll sell this to you for a dollar.” “All right, I’ll take it.”

I was on Amazon – and I’ll never forget this – I was on Amazon and I was buying… I don’t even remember what book I was there for… But I remember seeing “Unbeatable Mind.” I remember seeing the cover – and I was just like “wow, what is this?”

And then I grabbed the book. I read the book. And then I bought it on audio. And then I listened to it relentlessly. Like I listened to it – I think it was 12 times…

Mark: Really?

Larry: Yeah, cause I listen to it constantly.

Mark: I haven’t listened to it once. Maybe I should. Is it any good?

Larry: (laughing) Yeah. But that book… I mean, I remember mowing my grass with my earbuds in. And I remember you talking about in the audio version of it – I remember the fear wolf and the courage wolf. And I was like – that was it for me. I was like my emotional maturity, my self growth, my… Everything that I’m doing I’ve been feeding this fear wolf like a raw T-bone steak.

It was very hungry. Sometimes it was a porterhouse, just depending.

Mark: And it’s not uncommon, by the way. Most people have that negative programming and they’re just clueless to it, because it’s their bias. It’s what I call BOO – background of obviousness. They’re inside the label – or inside the bottle, they can’t read the label. And the label is negative. So you keep feeding it that T-bone, every day. Making it worse.

Larry: You do, you do. And that was such an “a-ha” moment for me. I was like “oh my gosh. Well that’s what I’ve been doing.” and I think it really… My emotional maturity really started I think when I started sacrificing my ego. And I was like “you know what? I don’t know anything. I just need to like literally wipe the slate clean.”

Mark: That’s your wake-up moment, when you realize that everything that you had been living and the story that you identified with was wrong. And negative. And needed to be either thrown out or completely rewritten.

Larry: Exactly.

Mark: And that brings great humility.

Larry: It does. And that’s still… So when you ask about emotional maturity, I go back to that. I’m still such a student of it. Like, I’m hungry for that information, and that practice and always trying to be that 1% better every day.

But it really boils down to “hey, I’m a lifelong student. And I’m always evolving.”

Mark: Yeah. Agree. Well said.

And I think men in particular have a really tough time with the emotional development. We’re just not taught. We’re not even taught that it’s important, let alone how to do it. So this is one of the… I mean my mission is to change the dialogue. So third Mountain of Unbeatable Mind is emotional development.

And a lot of people get stuck right at the base of that mountain. Cause it’s scary. It’s a very steep climb. It’s kind of like the free ascent guy, you have to go up it without any ropes.

And if you fall off, you have this feeling like you’re gonna die, because some of those emotions are really hard to deal with.

Especially if you grew up in a family that had serious dysfunction in it. Because here’s the thing – first five years – I’ve said this before – first 36 months you’re completely undifferentiated. There is no sense of self. You’re completely identified with your mom.

If your mom is dealing with abuse, alcoholism, codependence… Whatever. Name the dysfunction.

You got it. You got it. You cannot not have it. Because it’s part of your psychosomatic being that is forged at that undifferentiated stage.

And then you go into the next stage – up to five is where you start to develop some ego structures, but you’re still not separated from the mom. And so you kind of have this ”me-she” kind of thing developing. And so you’re getting a little bit more structure, but you’re still taking on all that dysfunction.

And so here’s what I’m talking about earlier – it’s like then your brain starts to develop and now we start to get cognitively strong. And we don’t recognize it during that first five years, if we’ve had dysfunction or lack of emotional connection or attachment issues. Something happens to our brain that basically shuts down the feeling or the emotional sector. And so when we get into this stage where we’re gonna really fully develop emotionally – we don’t.

And then we go right into the neurological development. And that overrides the emotional. And then you have no ability, no capacity to feel your emotions.

Why do I know that? Because I’ve studied that ad nauseam. And I’m actually going to a ten day seminar coming up called the Hoffmann process which goes deep on that. They call it “the negative love syndrome.” It’s fascinating stuff.

So here’s the deal. I’m not saying everyone has that issue, but there’s some version of that that happens. And furthermore, men are wired you know differently. Men are wired to go out and hunt, and kill and to not feel as a result of that.

Or look at the Navy SEALs. If Navy SEALs were all gooey, we wouldn’t be able to do our job. And so there’s a very good reason for all that.

But then all of a sudden you try to grow as a human being. Let’s say Navy SEAL Mark Divine has this wake up moment and all of a sudden he’s like “I’m committed to growing.” like I had to get out of the SEALs, because I was growing beyond the capacity of the organization to hold the space for me.

And all the work, Larry, was in the emotional mountain. All the work I had to do. And I couldn’t grow spiritually, without the emotional development. I tried like hell. I’ve been studying Zen since I was 20.

And you can only go so far. It’s like my yoga teacher Gary – I’ve said this before – he said “if you’re an asshole and you meditate for 20 years, you’ll be a more focused asshole.”

Larry: That makes sense.

Mark: I know. I didn’t mean to go off on this like preachy rabbit-hole. It just sparked the thoughts. Like it’s really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hard for men to do emotional development. But as equally – as many “reallys” – important.

Emotional Coach

44:23

Larry: I have a question for you that I think would really help serve men is… Where I see men get stuck, and I’m sure you do too, is okay “I’m at the base of the emotional mountain. Where do I even start?”

Mark: Get yourself a coach. Because we need someone to hold a mirror up to us we can’t see it – like I said – it’s really impossible to see. Because the shadow… All those aspects of your emotional self even just shutting down your entire emotional apparatus or ability to feel emotions is hidden from our view. We don’t know how to expose it.

And so if you can’t expose something, then you pretty much are identified with it. It’s just who you are.

And so a good therapist/emotional coach can basically say “okay, this is what I see Larry: This is your experience. Let’s take it out and hold it in front of you almost like an object. Now you’ve objectified it, instead of subjectivefied it, meaning you’re not identified with it anymore. It’s something you can work with.

And so awareness is the first step of the issue. And then you shed the light and the awareness, and the light will essentially, eventually, flush out the darkness. And that’s a metaphorical way of saying it.

You want to work at each issue one layer at a time. It’s like peeling an onion and you’re never at the center of the onion. You just keep on peeling.

But every layer that you peel off or you penetrate into your core essential self, you get more and more aware. And you feel more and more light. And you also feel more and more love.

And it’s that love which then is the emotional side. And anything that contradicts that is painful or feels off, right? And so like a breach in a love bond between you and your wife feels horrible. In your heart region. It’s because you’ve just cut love off.

And so then that’s a signal to… That’s where empathic communication of the heart – the heart/mind is like “holy shit. I just created a little problem here. I can fix it.”

Anyways so you need a coach… You need someone to hold the mirror up to yourself and say “you know what? This is what it looks like from my perspective. Someone who’s trained to see that and help you with that.

That’s my first thought, you know?

But one other thing I’ll say is that’s hard for a lot of guys, because we’re taught in our society that you go to a therapist when you break down. “I’m having a breakdown.”

Nobody wants to be associated with an emotional breakdown. Or weakness or something like that. And I’m here to say that it’s strength… It brings strength.

So the old model, the American model is the man is like the mighty oak. But guess what? That’s the first thing to go when the flood hits. Or the storm. Or the fire. It goes.

I’d rather be the bamboo or the reed that is supple and can bend. And is strong through its suppleness. Strong through its flexibility and authenticity. And can rebound and grow back really quickly.

So emotional development brings that suppleness. And you still have this strength. In fact, you have more strength, because you’re more durable, you’re more flexible, you’re more compassionate. You’re more self-aware. And you’re more humble.

And all these are great qualities for leaders and for parenting.

Larry: That makes a lot of sense. That’s a great visual.

I wanted to ask you one other question too. I know this is…

Mark: (laughing) We’re on “The Good Dad podcast” here.

Larry: But just one quick side note, because I think it would help serve – why is it so hard for men to ask for help?

Mark: Because it’s seen as a sign of weakness. And they have no modeling in it. You know, I never saw my Dad ask for help. Nor did I ever hear him say “I love you,” or hug me. It was hard, right?

And nor did his father, and nor did his father’s father – so these things are passed down. I’ve heard it said that it takes like… First thing, epigenetics, stuff is passed down seven generations.

And then it’s literally one person in every two or three generations? I don’t know… Someone can correct me on this. One individual out of a family will break free like every generation or something like that… Maybe that’s it…

So you broke free. You’re the one who’s ascending and growth mindset. But growth – it’s not just mindset – but really accelerating your development. Full spectrum development.

I’m the one in my family.

Larry: That makes sense.

Mark: Everyone listening to this is probably the one in their family. Unless you came from one of those perfect families.

Larry: Right, right.

Mark: Yeah, you’re just not taught. I think that’s changing quickly – you know, I’ve seen a big shift even in the last ten years. When I first started teaching navy SEALs what I called “SEALfit yoga,” it’s not Kokoro yoga, there was a lot of crossed eyes and like hemming and hawing and so I just stopped calling it yoga and just…

A lot of the drills from Unbeatable Mind came out of that era. And so they’re “drills.” Navy SEALs love drills.

Now the SEALs are using these drills.

Larry: Right.

Mark: And the SEALs don’t know it’s yoga either. Because they would never… Even though the military… They’re using it for recovery and they’re bringing mindfulness in… Well mindfulness is yoga. Yoga just means “whole.” Reunion with yourself. And there’s many different tools and methods and strategies for developing that wholeness.

I can’t imagine any man out there not wanting to be whole. If they really understood what that meant. Because just the experience of life is so much more refined. So much more joyful, peaceful, blissful.

And everyone says they want things like peace of mind, but that’s just a concept to them. Peace of mind is a felt, embodied, lived experience. Its wholeness. Contentment is wholeness.

Someone… We were talking today and this kid I was talking to earlier I mentioned he’s like “yeah, I went school in Montana.” so we were talking about guns. And he was like “it’s like a badge of honor when you go out and kill your first moose,” or something like that. And I was like “interesting.”

I could see that if you needed to eat. Like for survival go kill a moose. But my experience is the more whole I become, the more peaceful I become, and the less desire I have to injure any sentient being. I would never go kill an animal, willingly. Unless I had to feed my family, and then that’s a different discussion.

And I’m a Navy SEAL. Now if China invaded the United States, would I pick up my rifle and go after them? Heck yeah, because that’s my duty. To protect my country and my family.

But at the highest level the warrior is not one that wants to go take any life. But if it’s your duty, you’ve got to fulfill your duty.

This stuff gets really, really nuanced, but that’s why self-awareness training… Knowing thyself is so important. And you can’t know yourself you don’t know yourself emotionally. It can’t just be a cognitive activity. That’s just part of the equation. It’s the easy part, actually.

Thanks for the questions. This has been a great podcast.

Larry: Brought to you by “The Dad Edge” podcast. Thanks for tuning in.

Mark: Like, literally, the next question I was gonna ask you is “why do guys repress their feelings?” I think we answered that one, didn’t we?

Larry: We did. We sure did.

And we see the same thing. It’s the hardest thing for men to just ask for help. Surrender the ego, and just ask for help. But as you said – we use the term… You feel lighter, more aware when you do surrender the ego and ask for help.

So yeah, we see the same things.

Mark: Now you brought your son Mason. Cool dude. You told me that he wrote a book.

Larry: He did.

Mark: Is it “The Good Kid Project?”

Larry: It’s more like I need a new Dad book.

Mark: No. Hey, Mason, what’s the best thing about your Dad? He’s fun to play with? Oh that’s fun.

Well you know, that’s a great answer. Because when my son was growing up, one of the things that I had always heard about parenting was just to be present with your kids. And like put the iPhone down. Get out of your head.

And so I really tried. It was like a practice. And it led to a lot of playfulness and spontaneity. And he really appreciates it. To this day we’re very playful. He doesn’t want to talk about… Any time the Unbeatable Mind stuff comes out, he just puts his ear buds in. I tried like heck to get him to read “Unbeatable Mind.” in fact, I used it as a bludgeon when he was fixing his car and his engine blew. Needed a new engine.

I was like I’ll pay for the engine after you read Unbeatable Mind. So he finally listened to the audiobook. He’s like, “man, that’s actually pretty good Dad. I learned some things.”

I’m like, “good. I’m glad.”

Larry: Yeah, he wrote the book “Never Give Up, No Matter What.” and we do play together quite a bit.

The funny thing is… If I’m just being totally honest with myself and authentic… Out of those five dimensions that I mentioned finances, health, marriage, connection with kids and leadership – to be honest and my own son’s in the room – the one that is toughest for me is the connection with the kids. And I think it goes back to I’m constantly looking for that blueprint of like well “did my Dad do this with me? Or how did we do this growing up?”

And there was none of that.

Mark: Well, the default pattern for everyone settles in to parenting at the level of their parent’s development. And it’s very hard to grow beyond or to do anything beyond the level of your parent’s development without some serious work.

Larry: True.

Mark: And so if you didn’t have any modeling, then you’re just drawing from a blank slate. Larry: We are. So anything that they want to learn – the funny thing is going back to that setting this ego aside – I think when kids come to their Dad, you always want to be like “oh son, let me show you how to do that.” We’re always up for…

Mark: Oh, I’ve always had that vision, too. But my son never you know showed me how to like string a bow and start a fire in the woods. We knew how to shovel snow and mow the lawn. Pick up sticks. They were useful skills for sure.

Larry: Yeah, they are right. But when it comes to things like “Dad, I really want to learn how to fire a gun.” and I was like “you know, I was never really taught. So let’s go learn together.”

Just things like that. We’ve done a lot of things together. First-time activities… Things we’ve never done – we do them together for the first time. Like “hey, I don’t know. Let’s go learn together.” so that’s more the mentality of that connection.

Mark: What kind of skills are you working on right now?

Larry: So we’re looking into hunting and outdoor – we want to do some sort of outdoor survival… So we want to learn how to be out in the woods and just literally like “hey, how do you filter your own water? How do you build a shelter?

Mark: Now would you do that on your own? Or would you go to a course like BOSS?

Larry: A course.

Mark: Yeah, Boulder Outdoor Survival School is a good one and Tom Brown.

Larry: Okay.

Mark: Yeah. Both are great. And Tom has worked with some team guys. That’s definitely more like a Native American Apache version, and Boulder Outdoor Survival School is more of like a Patagonia you know wearing. (laughing) It’s more of a prepper version probably.

Anyways, well that’s pretty cool.

What’s the hardest thing for you in being a father?

Larry: The hardest thing for me is…

Mark: You may have just described part of it, which is been connected.

Larry: I did. It is sometimes being connected, not being distracted is hard. The hardest thing about being a father is every day is new. And it’s always gut checking my own ego to be like “hey, I’m not gonna have all the answers.”

And I may or may not do this fatherhood thing the way I really want to do it today.

But the one thing I am proud of though is that when I do mess up, I am the first one to come and be the humble one and apologize.

Mark: That’s such a huge thing, Larry: I totally agree with that. That was one of the things I really actively worked on with Devon.

Because you’re gonna fuck up. And there’s times where I’m like “oh crap.” and then quicker you can go sit with them and say “listen, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that or shouldn’t have done that.”

And he’s like “it’s okay, Dad.”

Larry: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: And then they see that you’re actually willing to change your mind or to grow and they understand that you’re not perfect. That’s such great modeling.

Trying to be perfect as a parent is poison.

Larry: Oh it is. Yeah. It will ruin your journey, right? We have four boys – 5 and 3 are the little ones – 11 and 13 are the older ones. And I am proud to say that there have been humility lessons that I think that they’ve learned. Because when they mess up, I’m always pleasantly surprised. They’ll come to me like “hey Dad. I’m sorry. I did this.”

And we have a rule in our house that if you come and tell us that you did something, you won’t be in trouble and you won’t be grounded. We’ll have a conversation about it, but come and tell us. We’re that safe haven of like “look when you mess up, you can come here.”

Because I think 11 and 13 you have certain problems there and then when you have 15, 16, 17, 18 into your twenties the problems just get more complex and bigger. We’re trying to develop that connection with them now to where like “hey, when you mess up…”

Mark: Does that rule end at 18?

Larry: At 18, then it’s done.

Mark: (laughing) “Hey Dad, I robbed this 7-eleven.” and you know “it’s okay son. You told me about it. It’s all good.

Larry: Yeah. Now you have to go serve some time.

Mark: My Dad had one of those conversations with a judge. You go to jail or join the army. So we’re a military family. (laughing)

Larry: (laughing) “Do I want A or B? All right. I’ll go do the military, yeah.”

Mark: That reminds me of a fun story which is completely random. But I had these interns -so I had his two interns who were like 18 wanting to be Navy SEALs. And they were living at our turn old training center.

And I had this operations officer who apparently was a little slutty – we found out later – because she was sleeping with one of the interns. (laughing) drama at SEALFIT headquarters.

I don’t think I’ve ever told this story before. It’s great.

So anyways, I called these two kids out. Because I knew… The one who was sleeping with her obviously knew he was sleeping with her. And the other one obviously knew that his friend was sleeping with her. And I had to call them both out.

And of course I had to fire her too. About time.

So the kid – who’s now a Navy SEAL – who was sleeping with her, I said “dude, you screwed up. Go pack your bags and go home. I hope to see in the SEAL teams someday.” and the other one – I looked him in the eye, and I said “you knew, didn’t you?”

He goes “yes coach.”

I said “okay, I’ll give you a choice.” said “you can either pack your bags and leave or do 5,000 burpees by Monday morning.” he goes “burpees.” (laughing) It was Friday afternoon. Like he did not even take a breath. I said literally you can do 5,000 burpees by 8 o’clock Monday morning.” He goes “burpees!”

Larry: (laughing) Oh my gosh.

Mark: (laughing) He was doing burpees all weekend long.

Larry: That is unreal. Mason, you hear that? You gotta do burpees this weekend.

Mark: Only 5,000.

All right so your project… Do you still use The Good Dad Project as your primary platform?

So that’s our home – gooddadproject.com. I don’t think we can ever outgrow that name. The podcast is “The Dad Edge.” Mastermind is “The Dad Edge Alliance.”

Mark: Okay.

Larry: But everything’s more Dada edge-ish.

Mark: Yeah that’s a very edgy term. Okay.

And anything interesting coming up that you want to promote? Talk about?

Larry: So we actually are hosting… We host a yearly event called “The Dad Edge Summit.” this is the second year we’re doing it. We do it in June every year.

Mark: Where do you do that?

Larry: We do that in St. Louis. We actually have a couple speakers coming out Robert “Cujo” Teschner – who I believe I introduced you to. He’s a former Top Gun instructor. He’s gonna be speaking he wrote a book called “Debrief to Win.” he’s gonna be out there along with some other speakers that we have.

And then of course our mastermind group is always available and that’s you can always find that at gooddadproject.com/alliance.

Mark: Awesome. Larry, thanks for making your way out here in person with Mason. What fun. What else you’re gonna do while you’re in San Diego?

Larry: So we have actually spent the last three days here.

Mark: Have you? Did you take him to Disneyland?

Larry: We tried out LEGOLAND. And we were there for two hours and left.

Mark: LEGOLAND’s a trip. It’s not for everyone.

Larry: It’s not. So we did the zoo. To be honest, we did a lot of simple things… You know hanging out on the beach, throwing the football, Frisbee… Just enjoying the sights.

After this – we fly home tonight – but I’m taking him downtown so we can see like battleships…

Mark: Should take him over to Coronado and show him the SEAL training base. Just drive by there. Just drive over the bridge and drive down Orange Avenue toward the Strand and you’ll see all the SEAL buildings and everything.

I mean, it doesn’t look like much but you make a stop at the Hotel Del, and go out on the beach, and maybe see some of the class running by or something. Good experience for him.

All right, well thanks again.

Larry: Thank you.

Mark: Good job with all your incredible work.

Larry: Thank you, you as well.

Mark: And we’ll stay in touch.

Larry: Sounds good.

Mark: Hooyah.

All right folks that’s it for the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Go check out Larry’s work at the gooddadproject.com. Summit sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll come some year.

So you know the deal – train hard and do the work – especially the emotional work as you work on yourself so you can be there for other people. Wake up, grow up, clean up your shit, so you can show up with an Unbeatable Mind.

Hooyah.

See you next time.

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