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  • What’s up, Daddy Two-Point-Oh? The Dad 2.020 Summit

What’s up, Daddy Two-Point-Oh? The Dad 2.020 Summit


Photo via Dad 2.0


The Dad 2.0 Summit is an open conversation about the commercial power of dads online, and an opportunity to learn the tools and tactics used by influential bloggers to create high-quality content, build personal brands, and develop business ideas.

That’s how the folks at XY Media bill their event. Yet, talk with anyone who attended the event and you’ll hear much, much more than talk of the business and power of Dads and brands.

The Dad 2.0 Summit is the cool kids’ tree fort where all kids are welcome. Dad 2.0 is a big tent where all are welcomed with open arms. Yes, we are men and we hug. A lot.

All colors, all faiths, all beliefs: If you believe in the power of Dads to change the world, then you understand the power of today’s Dads. Generous, hilarious, creative, persistent, serious, vulnerable, strong; today’s Dad is all these. We work together to create a remarkable legacy. That is Dad 2.0.

It is a gathering of the tribe. Our shared blood runs deep. We are all bloggers, vloggers, Instagrammers. Through our social media channels, we share life’s triumphs and disasters and everything in-between. Behind the scenes, we belong to a variety of groups where we are able to share even more deeply. We are truly online friends. Dad 2.0 is where we may see each other in real life here, and no where else.

This year’s event was luxe. Grand luxe, even. Held at the Mandarin Oriental in “Our Nation’s Capital,” we were a well-struck 3 iron away from many of Our Nation’s hallowed monuments. For three nights, I watched the sun set over the Jefferson Memorial.  When I woke, I glimpsed the Washington Monument. It gives one pause.

I mentioned luxe. For snacks at the opening night party, sponsored by Responsibility.org, a group dedicated to responsible drinking, I parked myself next to a platter of prosciutto and speck that was about half the size of pig suitable for a luau. The fat from those air-dried meats melted in the mouth like a Hershey’s kiss of porcine love. I should also mention that the half wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the other side of the platter was the perfect accompaniment. That, and a draft or two of Guinness. It was a lovely way to meet with old friends and make plenty of new friends.

I was heartened as I looked around the room at the crowd. New faces everywhere. Many were white. Many were Black. Many were Hispanic. It made me happy. All men should be invested in a new version of fatherhood. Experience told me that with so many more men of color in the room, the message will be delivered across the spectrum. Fatherhood; it’s a big tent and it can shelter us all.

New friends. That was one of my goals for the event. Somehow, I’ve turned into one of the OG Dadbloggers. My brand has never been especially large, but I’ve been at this since 2012. As a result, I felt a responsibility to meet as many new faces as I could. Warm and welcoming, that’s me. I went to the event with about an inch and a half thick stack of my business cards. I returned home with ¾ of an inch worth.

I mentioned luxe. There was no bacon at breakfast. What there was, was enough lox for every Bar Mitzvah held that weekend on the East Coast. Bagels, four kinds of cream cheese, more capers than you could shake a stick at, yogurt, extraordinary croissants; the perfect cure for a slight Guinness headache is to take a glob of cream cheese, smash a bunch of capers into it, wrap a slice of lox around, and then roll the whole thing up like a mini-cannoli. Repeat as needed.

Mood shift. One of the first speakers was Greg Williams, courtesy of @GSK Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Williams is an advocate for vaccination against bacterial meningitis. Tragically, he has transformed himself into a lay expert. Greg lost his son to the disease several years ago. I heard Greg speak at a prior Dad 2.0 Summit and again, found myself in tears. I thought of my son, now 27, and how fortunate we were that Aaron’s mom, a pharmacist, and my wife, a nurse, insisted that Aaron be vaccinated before he left for college. Depending on the strain, death rates average 21% with a peak of 30% (The Hospitalist, 2006) Bacterial meningitis is rare, yet it is deadly.

Mood shift again. Famed operatic bass Kenneth Kellogg delivered the Keynote. As I am a baritone with more enthusiasm than talent, I’ve admired Kellogg’s verve and tone for ten years. He is an imposing yet friendly figure. At 6’6” he towered over the podium. His bass voice, even in speaking, did not require much amplification. Yet what he said resonated with many in the audience. He raged against “the talk” that Black men have to give their sons.

“I’m preparing my son for the world. Maybe I should work harder to prepare the world for my son.”

One day soon, I pray, Mr. Kellogg. Soon.

BTW- do your ears and soul a favor. Listen to some of his work on YouTube. His talent is far greater than his considerable height.

Dad 2.0 is organized not just for inspiration but for practical, tactical insight on the growth and marketing of one’s brand. I fell in love with Jason Falls . He is a marketing genius who is an original thinker par excellence. We’ve all heard the phrase “Influencer.”

Many see “influencer” as a ticket to easy money. Get a bunch of companies to give you stuff and cash. In return, you’ll pimp their stuff all over your channels. Maybe that works. But in general, it doesn’t last. What does work, says Jason, is influence.

Instead of striving to be an influencer, build your audience so that they trust you. When a company does provide you with product you believe in and a certified check, PayPal, or Venmo, you can recommend their product to your audience authentically. Your audience will be moved to action. Company sells their stuff, and you are the reason why. Ergo, the company will return to you with more offers.

Influence, not influencers. Brilliant.

Our military needs our help. No one who serves comes back the same. The trauma of war changes every man and every woman who takes the oath. Sadly, we don’t do nearly enough for our veterans. I attended a luncheon sponsored by Responsibility.org that was a conversation about the military, substance abuse, and the transition to civilian life. Heavy drinking is a fact of life in the military. One survey showed that over 24% of all military personnel drink heavily at least one day per week. One-third of all homeless are returned military personnel. One-half of that group have substance abuse issues.

Responsibility.org wanted to hear from those who have served, or had a close relationship with, military personnel. Their goal is to partner with the military to create programs to ameliorate these issues for our men and women who choose to serve.

The 20 men and women in the lunch agreed; the military is highly stressful, stress leads to self-medication, and the drug of choice is often alcohol. When those present returned home, there were no programs available to ease that stress, help them manage the post-war traumatic stress, and little help putting their hard-won skills to use in the civilian sector.

          Our military deserves much, much better. Responsibility.org wants to help solve the problem.

The panel on alcohol and substance abuse was triumphant. Five men who I have long considered friends sat at the front of the room and told their stories of a descent into Hell. They told us how their abuse destroyed their families and themselves. They told of how they pulled themselves out of Hades. I’ve never had an alcohol or drug problem, except for a couple months in college. I needed to hear how these things come about. I was heartbroken, but even better, I was inspired by the comeback stories.

Dad 2.0 boasts an open mic night. It’s called Dad Voices. It starts at 9:00pm on Friday evening. Anyone who wants to share a piece they’ve written with the group can step to the mic and share their work with an attentive audience. The works run the gamut; some are hilarious – last year Shannon Carpenter read a piece about his toddler son shouting PENIS!! all the time and everywhere. Some are very deep – Bud Ward spoke of his mother’s death and Ariel Isenberg spoke on his wife’s emergency C-section. Dave Lesser spoke about his new-found sobriety.

Dad Voices. It’s warm. It’s deep. If you don’t show up for Dad Voices at a Dad 2.0 Summit, you’re missing the nexus of the entire event. The entire Fatherhood movement is based upon men sharing their stories of being dads. In Dad Voices, we return to our roots.

Friday evening was also a special moment for several of the Jewish dads present. The founder of the Dadblogger movement was named Oren Miller. As he put it in 2012, “A dadblogger group. So crazy it just might work.” Oren was Jewish. A young man, Oren died several years ago from lung cancer. Six of us decided to get together for a few minutes at sundown to celebrate the start of Shabbat and remember Oren with Kaddish, the prayer we recite for those who have passed. We had wine. We had bread. And we had several visitors. As we gathered, two dads happened to wander past. We invited them in. They accepted.

As we chanted Kiddush, our voices soared in harmony. A voice in my head said, “This is something very special.” I looked around. We were swaying to a 1,000 year old melody. We finished. We looked at each other. We all had a transcendent moment. We didn’t need to speak of it; we knew.

We reached in for a piece of bread. White hands and Black hands, we came together on the Sabbath and broke bread.

Ha-motzi lechem min ha’aretz.

We shared the bread.

We told our visitors about Oren. We explained that Kaddish is the prayer for the dead; a prayer in which death isn’t mentioned, just the goodness of God and the soul.

We chanted. A few eyes welled; mine for my Dad, dead one year, Rob’s for his wife, dead just a few months, others as well as they remembered loved ones past. We hugged. Our new friends and us. Deep, sincere hugs of a shared brotherhood. And a group hug that made us all laugh just a little.

Dad 2.0 is also business. We met with Dove Men+Care. They make great stuff. It works. It smells terrific. My 27 year old son always raids the cabinet for Dove product in our house. Dove is a major mover for paternity leave. Dove has supported Dad 2.0 and a modern version of fatherhood for many years.

Go buy their stuff. Shout them out with photos of you and your kids as you play shaving or spraying deodorant all over your social media channels. Let them know you appreciate the support.

I have a gluten issue: non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Always on the look-out for a better pizza crust, I was darned happy to see Caulipower at the event. A nice crispy crust, made from cauliflower flour. Excellent chicken tenders. A great way to get the kids to eat more vegetables.

Best Buy. Every Dad loves Best Buy. The best toys, a huge assortment of snacks, B2 brought their A game to the show. It didn’t hurt that they provided a $500 gift card giveaway raffle.

Lego. If you don’t love Lego, we can’t be friends. I need say nothing more.

If your child is online, you need to know about Bark. Bark.us is a quiet watchdog for your child’s online protection. It finds keywords you choose in texts and snaps and everything else and alerts you to their presence. They’re a great company, I’ve recommended Bark to many parents, and all have reported that they appreciate the security it provides.

You should also check out Fodada clothing. They provided all attendees with fine t-shirts. It is a very Dad-friendly firm.

          Support those who support us. Thanks.

On Friday, we had 14 hours of programming. On Saturday, we had 10. By Saturday afternoon, everyone was flying high. We fly high with the joy of a shared purpose. We soar with the energy of a Woodstockian crowd. I haven’t been high since the summer of 1980, but on Saturday afternoon, 2:00 pm, I’m cruising at 85,000 feet.

I drag people along with me. I push. I nudge. I want everyone around me to join me on that SR-71 flying at Mach 3. I’m an evangelist for the power of Dad 2.0. As my friend Aaron Sheldon (follow him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/smallstepsaregiantleaps/ – you will smile every day, I promise), said, “I love Saturday afternoon Dave best of all.”

Dad 2.0 is a glorious gathering; the perfect confluence of commerce and purpose and spirit and brotherhood. If there are thousand different fathers, there are a thousand different paths with which to hit the target.

          I was asked why I came to the Summit.

          “Well, we all need each other.”

My friend Vincent Daly of Cute Monster answered the same question, “Joy is contagious.”

          I was asked why I was so enmeshed in the power of this movement.

          I responded, “I cannot save the world, but I can help heal my little corner.”

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