Jon Armstrong for Doug French kicks off the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas, February 1, 2013.

Dad 2.0 Summit 2013 Recap: Leprechaun in the Hood

UPDATE: for a comprehensive list of 2013 Dad 2.0 Summit recaps, hit this page.

I’ve already mentioned my flight to Houston. As I was waiting at the airport to return on Sunday, I got an email survey from Delta asking me to provide feedback about my recent SLC – IAH flight. I didn’t see a question about the flirty quotient of flight attendants anywhere. Too bad. “8.5 – would flirt again!!!”

This is a super long post and it has taken far too long to finish, but here is my full recap of the 2013 Dad 2.0 Summit.

* * *

Friday morning, Jeff Pulver was the keynote and he had great things to say about taking chances and being entrepreneurial. A lot of what he said tapped my inner nerd on the shoulder. Takeaway: “If you take a chance, amazing things happen.”

Friday afternoon was my panel, “Writing a Wrong: Authentic Blogging Through A Major Life Change.” Brad Lawless moderated me, Kristen Howerton and Black Hockey Jesus (yes the Black Hockey Jesus). The panel went better than I could have possibly hoped. Well moderated, well attended and the conversation between the panel and the audience was one of the best I’ve ever been privileged to take part. Thank you to Brad Lawless for suggesting the panel and thanks to Doug French for including me. I was buzzing pretty hard after the panel. It felt good to share, to hear other perspectives from the panel and audience and how they approach writing through difficulty and life changes. That buzz would not leave me. I still feel amazing.

Session Notes

I have to disclaim something here. There have been hundreds of millions of divorces. I’m only special in that I have lived very publicly and have a website where I’ve shared my experiences. I make no claim that I’m somehow suffering more or less than anybody else. My fellow panelists have endured their trials. They made no claim of suffering greater than anybody else.

The most surprising thing is to hear the voice of a writer you’ve never met read their work. Black Hockey Jesus is no exception. More surprising than his voice was his energy and his approach. I was really honored to be on this panel.

One of the evolving elements of this form of writing is the societal boundary on how much we share and don’t share. What was driven home for me in the session was that when we are in the middle of heavy emotions or a heavy experience and we feel we should write it down, maybe that’s not the best time to push that heaviness out into the world. I shared that I had used a journal for the private things that I didn’t want to share on Blurbomat. I also mentioned that I was trying to be respectful of all parties during an intense time of crisis and change. It bears repeating: don’t say anything online that you couldn’t say to someone in person. Those boundaries helped me push my writing in new directions. I’m no Black Hockey Jesus, but that push was needed and welcome. Maybe one day I’ll write less literally and more lyrically or more poetically. I have tried to be more open within the boundaries, which sounds contradictory at first. I have tried to direct my writing more from the perspective of the person I’m trying to become. I have felt a new kind of love in the openness. Self-love, to be sure. But a love for the work of others and for this medium. I know I’ve straddled maudlin lines at times. This paragraph might very well be taking a maudlin swim. I know that I have at times sounded less the middle aged man than someone much younger with less life experience. And that is precisely the point. Separation, ending a marriage and creating a new life as a single father is all new. Seeing my role, my faults and missteps in the failure of a marriage while trying to keep the kid’s needs front and center has held a torment that I’ve never known before. Some of that pain has been shared here, primarily to push myself in more tangible, real life ways. If I share it publicly, that puts a higher price on failure. But there’s a lot I haven’t shared.

There was a conversation during the session where trolls and haters got brought up. I get riled up about this because we as creators grant them so much power. Their dialogue is ruled by the negative. Creative people can get bogged down by that single voice finding and pushing the exact button that forces the creator to question their ability. What struck me during the session is that there are more people trying to create something good than there are damaged people trying to tear down under the false guise of “criticism”. Real, constructive criticism is one of the best things a creator can hear, if that creator is open to making their work better, open to change and growth. People speculating and name calling isn’t criticism. It’s emotional damage surfacing in unhealthy and negative ways. So in the session, I said that we needed to drown the hate with a tidal wave of awesome. By that I meant that the volume of work that builds up rather than tears down, the work that creators share on the internet is far more prevalent and good than the number of sickly hate sites. These sites will come and go. That segment of the population is one of the downsides of publishing. It always has been. However, the more open and honest we are as imperfect creators, attempting every day to increase the tidal wave of good, the less impact those damaged anonymous will have.

The thought of a few cowards hindering or stopping people from sharing their work, sharing the profane, the profound, the deliciously funny and the beautiful infuriates me. We need to share. Boundaries are good. But so are those people willing to push against the boundaries. I’m certain everything negative that’s been said or will be said about me I’ve already said to myself and yet I still pushed the “Publish” button. I already worked through all the noise and this random stranger just found the perfect way to tweak whatever it took me to push the button to share. This isn’t about confidence as much as it is the nature of public creation. I don’t know a single creative person who hasn’t questioned their work, questioned sharing it or had times when the traumatized haters won out. And in their way, the haters leave a wake of their trauma like a toxic spill spreads in the ocean.

So yes, drown the haters with a tidal wave of awesome. Top of my list for 2013.

Steven Soderberg’s Oscar acceptance speech when he won best director for Traffic is one of the best I’ve ever heard. His speech starts around 1:09, but the crowd reaction shots are good when he’s announced as the winner, because there appears to be an exuberance from the cast that an auteur like Soderbergh would win that year against some heavy hitters, even though Soderbergh was a double Best Director that year for Traffic as well as Erin Brokovich.

Best line: “I want to thank anyone that spends part of their day creating.”

If you are generating hate, I don’t thank you. I want you to get the help you need. We are all still learning about boundaries and what sharing our lives on the internet looks like. We need criticism to force us to look at our motivations, look at our creations and determine ways and methods to a better society. The exercise is worthwhile. Hate has no place in that exercise.

I walked out of the session with the renewed personal resolve to continue to share, continue to create and continue to push myself via the work I do on this site. It’s been a long time since I felt so good about what I want to do. My hope for anybody reading this is that you don’t let hate have power over you.

* * *

Dad 2.0 2013 was very well-programmed. Excellent keynotes and only one breakout session with four panels each day. The breakouts were all intriguing and I wished I could have attended every single one of them. I was struck by the difference compared to last year. Differences in tone, the level of speakers and a stronger emphasis not just on the sponsors, but lots of conversation dealing with how dad bloggers can go pro or not. I’m not sure the same money is there for dads going pro that there has been in the space for moms. That may be changing. I loved the blogger spotlights that were interspersed throughout both days. That these great writers held their own with people like Mr. Pullver, David Eagleman and Brené Brown. Ms. Brown’s keynote resonated so well with what I’ve been doing the past year or so: opening up, being vulnerable and trying to connect. Here’s her TEDx talk that contained some of her Dad 2.0 keynote:

If you can’t see the video, the link to the host page is here.

I loved what she said about how women want men to be vulnerable and then despise them when they show it. This other video on also has some of what she shared with us in Houston:

If you can’t see the video above, you can try to see it here. The last 10 minutes are superb. Who am I kidding? It’s all superb. But if you are a man, there’s some especially powerful things to be heard.

Brown has a book out called Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Affiliate link).

Researching for this post, I found this promo page on YouTube with a great Theodore Roosevelt quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
—Theodore Roosevelt

Hell of a way to start a Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, I attended the panel “How to Turn Your Social Media Expertise into a Full-Time Job,” which featured inspirational people Jason Avant, Liz Gumbinner, Jessica Kirkwood and Diane Lang moderated by Craig Heimbuch. The panelists had great things to share and I walked out of this session with a bunch of great ideas on a personal level in terms of work going forward, a business idea that needs to be pitched and a way to think about myself and my skills that I hadn’t previously recognized. Sidebar: If you want to get a quick picture of how marketers are viewing bloggers, Heimbuch’s post, A Call to Action for Bloggers from the Tarmac Leaving Dad 2.0 is a must-read.

As if that wasn’t enough brain/soul food, the final keynote from David Eagleman, shared a scientific perspective about how parenthood affects the brain, melted my own. Here’s a Eagleman from an appearance on The Colbert Report:

* * *

I wanted to mention all the people I met, spent time with and link to as many wrap up posts as I could find. I feared I would forget somebody, so I decided to instead simply say thanks to everybody. Fantastic conference. Thank you.

Finally, as a “dad” event, some people got weird about women being present. I had the best time, learned the most and took away so many great things because women were there. In this space, moms have lead the way. There’s a lot that dads can learn, and this event was made better because we had their perspectives. It also made the casino party less Donkey Island (Pleasure Island in Pinocchio) and more civil.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more revitalized, energized or happy to speak at a conference. Evidence is in the photo of Charlie Capen, me and Doug French on this post at Mom 101. I felt so great. I feel so great.

For reading this monstrosity, a gift from Marlo:

Real King from blurb on Vimeo.

  • Kristan

    Lol oh Marlo. Definitely a treat. Confession: That was the only video I watched from this post. However, I absolutely adored your recap, especially the first section about your panel and boundaries and personal growth and the tidal wave of awesome.

  • americanrecluse

    It took me forever to read this because of all the links that I just had to click, many of which also had links that I had to click, and in this way I discovered that you are #11 on the 2012 list of Top Dad Blogs. Dude! You didn’t even tell us! Wait, did I just spoil your next post? Edit this out.

    This post has such great energy and enthusiasm. Each time you said something along the lines of “When I walked out of that panel, I…” I expected the sentence to end something like “…realized my feet were utterly failing to touch the ground.” Levitation is nice.

    The Soderbergh speech is really the best ever. I remember watching it at the time, at a party full of writers and filmmakers, and there was much joyful fistpumping.

    And Marlo is adorable, but you knew that already.

  • Whit Honea

    I came home tired and inspired. I’m still feeling both. Well said all around.

    • blurb

      Tired and inspired. Perfect.

  • rageagainsttheminivan

    It really was a great buzz, huh? So cathartic to dialogue about that stuff. And I said it to you in person but it bears repeating: I’ve got mad respect for the boundaries you have with your writing for the sake of your daughters.

    P.S. That video? Pure, uninhibited childhood joy right there. Love it.

    • blurb

      Thanks so much! It was great to meet you and your man.

  • blurb

    Wow, thanks, Mike. I was lucky to be there, too.

  • Manda Hohmann

    I find it fascinating reading ‘dad’ bloggers, because there really aren’t that many (in comparison to the irritating term of ‘mommy bloggers’ anyway). The whole thing really is a social experiment because it’s the first sphere that has emerged where women are dominant, and have been so since the beginning. Maybe that’s why some of the men at the conference felt uncomfortable with women being there… it’s the dominance thing. It’s so far from the norm (like those women-only gyms). I can see how they would have wanted a ‘safe space’. But I’m glad we’re breaking down those walls and those categories within blogging especially. I stopped writing when I had kids because I REALLY don’t want to be seen as a ‘mommy blogger’, which inevitably is how we define women with kids who blog, no?

    Sorry – my comment turned into a rambling post of my own. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences!

    (and I wish I could have watched the Marlo video, but it wouldn’t work for me).

    • blurb

      That’s why I wanted to bring up women at a dad conference. I’m not threatened and don’t feel that the dominance of women in the space is a bad thing at all. I can see how some guys might end up in that place, but I think the sooner we move past that, the better. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Jill Krause

    I am really happy I had a chance to sit in on your panel, Jon. I came away from that with so much. Your thoughts on how to handle the negativity in this space were good for my soul to hear. And this re-cap and reinforcement of the importance of creating positive was a great final stamp on all of it. Thank you!

    • blurb

      You’re welcome and thank you so much for your kind words. That panel was good for me to hear other perpectives. I feel renewed by some very talented people.

  • Beth Rich George

    wonderful post. Lovely to see you all as you go through transition. Thank you for sharing what you do.

  • Jason

    Thanks for writing this recap. I too was feeling a rush after the conference and I didn’t even speak. Your panel was very interesting to listen as I struggle with what I should post so I usually hold back hitting the send button. I learned a lot through the panel and it brought some questions that I had to ask myself. After reading this post, I also wished that I hadn’t walked away from sitting with you the last night to take some Asprin and then got side-tracked.

    • blurb

      Thanks! Next time we will drink and talk.

  • Dean Wylo

    Best. Post. Ever.

%d bloggers like this: