This week was graduation week for another 10 dads who have completed their 9-month Abba Project journey.
Year after year these men inspire and amaze me as I witness their willingness to accept the challenge to intentionally and consistently pursue their daughter’s hearts over the course of an entire school year. And they all testify to the fact that while their COMPETENCE increases, in equal proportion so does their CONFIDENCE.
I wish that every one of you could come sit with us during one of our group sessions. You would witness dads supporting each other in amazing ways while sharing a similar passion and end goal, that of connecting more with their daughters. For some of them it’s a continuation of a pursuit that already has a well-established foundation set during her childhood, while for others it’s more of an exhausting workout to win back her heart.
These guys are my heroes and they are literally changing the landscape of our country, one dad at a time, as they “kick it up a notch” with their daughters. They come hungry to learn how to do everything from lead richer conversations to that of enhancing their active listening skills, all while tending to the heart space of their girls. It’s absolutely incredible to witness the growth in these dads in only nine months! [And any of you can join the ranks of these Abba Project dads by reading my book and then doing the dad-daughter dates/activities listed in the back. Write and tell me how it goes!]
I often refer to myself as a “planet-hopper,” and by that I mean I travel from Venus (my planet) to Mars (your planet)--as author John Grey delineates in his book Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. So I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some things I’ve observed over the course of time. These insights aren’t meant to be all-inclusive, they are simply things I’ve come to appreciate and discover, things I’ve learned first-hand from my expeditions that have led to greater understanding and deeper admiration for fathers.
1. Dads are deeply motivated when a particular cause profoundly touches their hearts.
When I started The Abba Project people were shocked that men would add more to their already full plates. Yet they came. Why? “Because we love our daughters,” they’ve said. Dads make the time to do those things they deem worthy of the sacrifice of their time and will move heaven and earth to make something happen if they believe in it.
2. Dads are willing to be taught when the things they're learning resonate with their minds and hearts.
I’ll share with you a secret: When this whole thing with dads got started, I hadn’t expected that men would want to learn from someone who wasn’t a father, especially me. Yet they are rock stars in my eyes, every one of them, because they get out there, sometimes under the bright lights of scrutiny (from their families or friends who hear they’re doing this dad-daughter group thing), all the while coming with a teachable spirit that enriches the learning process. Yes, the world watches with enthusiasm when a dad invests in his kids!
3. Dads are readily open to expressing thoughts and feelings when in the safety of other men.
I’ll be honest----this one caught me by surprise. I hadn’t expected men to talk as much as they do and to tear up when talking about their daughters. I’ve told them how I’m continually blown away at how much they talk, to which they’ve said, “It’s because we’re not competing with women to be heard.” I realize that might sound a bit brutal, but it’s what they’ve said. And when they hear each other, they feel less alone and more supported…and then they talk more!
4. Dads are willing to risk being vulnerable when they know that those around them stand in solidarity.
This is a powerful thing to observe in action. When one dad starts to cry, either because his heart is breaking or perhaps because he’s deeply grateful for a positive breakthrough with his girl, he doesn’t often know what to do when his emotion is so visible. I love when tears start to flow because it says that this is a courageous dad who has activated his heart. And it shows that he is willing to let his authentic self be seen by other men who are also in it to win it.
5. Dads are fiercely loyal to one another when they're on the same team or on the same side of the battlefield.
These guys literally bond as a “band of brothers” through this process of becoming more engaged, dialed-in dads. They champion each other when the chips are down, and when they mess up or are rejected by their girls. And then they celebrate with each other when the wind changes direction and the sun breaks through the clouds. I can often literally feel the support in the room as they rally together around each other. It’s a beautiful thing.
6. Dads thrive when their efforts yield positive results in the lives of the people they love, especially their daughters, thus inspiring them to invest even more.
I believe that it can be harder for men than women to press in relationally, especially when things are moving in a negative direction, away from harmony. Yet I’ve seen that as dads gain tools for enhancing relationships with their daughters, they transfer those skills to all their relationships, and as a result they are inspired to stay the course and keep doing what works.
7. Dads of all ages really do want the same thing: to get it right as fathers, to do it better than the generation before them, and to be the best dad they can be.
Though I know there are “deadbeat dads” out there, as well as dads who perpetuate the darkness that was modeled to them by their fathers, I stand aligned with those who want to change things for the better as they seek to set a new direction. That’s what my dad did and you can, too. I believe that you will leave a rich legacy as you work to be a great dad, a dialed-in dad, and one who impacts the course of history by positively investing in your children.
Wrapping things up, here are my final thoughts. I’ll call this my 8-word final manifesto for dads:
There is transformative power in a dad’s love. [CLICK to TWEET]
When you listen and affirm, love and care, believe in and express, pursue and invest, you give your daughter a key to changing her world, which she can then use to change the world around her.
That’s what I’ve learned from my six years of traveling to Mars.