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57: Warrior Dad- Jeff Wickersham

Updated: Jan 7



In this episode, Jeff Wickersham, author and host of the Warrior Dad podcast, discusses the importance of dads taking care of themselves and leading their families. He emphasizes the need for dads to ask for help and change the narrative that seeking help is a weakness. Jeff also highlights the significance of answering every bid for attention from their children and controlling the bookends of their day. He encourages dads to start small, celebrate their wins, and be transparent and vulnerable with their kids. Jeff's mission is to help dads change their family tree and leave a lasting legacy. In this conversation, Jeff Wickerham discusses the importance of discipline and non-negotiables in his daily life. He emphasizes the need for standards and living by them, as well as sharing them with his children. Jeff also advises dads who are in a dark place to have the courage to seek out someone in their network to have a conversation with, as they are not alone in their struggles. He shares the importance of asking for help and how it can lead to hope and transformation. Jeff highlights the need to prevent suicides among dads and the impact it has on their children. He also discusses the regret of pushing away support and the importance of leaning on each other and finding a community for support. Jeff offers his help and support to those who need it and shares where people can find him, including his podcast, book, and website. Takeaways Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Answer every bid for attention from your children. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Start small, celebrate your wins, and be consistent in your actions. Be transparent and vulnerable with your kids, and share your journey with them. Focus on leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Discipline and non-negotiables are essential for stability and control in daily life. Having the courage to seek help and have conversations with others is crucial for overcoming dark times. Preventing suicides among dads is important for the well-being of their children. Regretting pushing away support and realizing the importance of leaning on others for help. Finding a community and support system is vital for finding hope and getting through difficult times. Chapters 00:00 Introduction and Mission 03:18 The Importance of Asking for Help 08:48 How Dads Can Start Leading 11:20 Answering Bids for Attention 14:00 The Importance of Spending Time with Kids 17:25 Taking Care of Yourself 23:33 The Power of Physical Fitness 28:18 Starting Small and Celebrating Wins 31:12 Being Transparent and Vulnerable with Kids 37:26 Introduction to the Book 'Rise, Fight, Love, Repeat' 42:31 The Importance of Action and Legacy 44:27 What Grounds You 45:00 Importance of Discipline and Non-Negotiables 45:37 Seeking Help and Support 47:02 Preventing Suicides and Being There for Kids 48:02 Regretting Pushing Away Support 48:32 Importance of Community and Finding Support 49:27 Offering Help and Support 50:06 Where to Find Jeff Wickerham Transcript Jey (00:11.066)

Alright huge thank you to our live in studio audience They are the best in the business and welcome in to another week of the young dad podcast I'm Jay and joining me today is Jeff Wickersham. Jeff. How are you today, man?

Jeff Wickerham (00:25.294)

Jay, I am fantastic. Thanks for having me.

Jey (00:27.954)

Of course, I'm so excited for you to be here. It's great to have you. Jeff, a little bit about you for the listeners. If they skipped over the intro, I know I'm guilty of skipping over podcast intros just to get to the good stuff. But Jeff, you're a dad of two sons, Jackson's 15, Carter's 13. You started your fatherhood, daddying journey when you were 33. Correct? You're an author. You're the host of the Warrior Dad podcast.

And you have a pretty cool, unique mission that you're trying to help lead and guide a million dads to change their family tree forever by January 1st, 2053. So over the next 30 years, with that, tell us, you know, a little bit about you, how your podcast got started, how your mission developed and how it all got started.

Jeff Wickerham (01:22.378)

Yeah, Jay, I appreciate that intro and really the mission got started. I just did a deep dive at the beginning of this year and said, who do I truly want to want to help? And it was me five years ago, right? Going through some dark, deep, depressing, isolated, dark times in my life. And I know I would have been out of those holes, out of those deep, dark times quicker.

if I saw asking for help as a strength versus a weakness. And I think that's ingrained in us as males and dads that when we ask for help, it's actually a weakness. And it's so not true, it's actually a strength. So when I went through that deep dive, I said, I wanna help dads. And I said, how do we change society? Because Jay, I'm not satisfied where society's at, polarization, anger, hatred, all these things going on. And I feel like the family structure at its root, at its core,

has just been eroded away. It's like a wave washing away the sand on an ocean over time. And that's what's happened in society. And dads aren't leading as the warrior for their family, as the warrior for themselves, as their warrior for their kids. And how do we change society? We do it in the family and we do it ourselves first, taking action ourselves first, and then sharing our journey with our kids. And I've seen the change.

in my two boys and what they're doing in life. And it's so incredibly powerful. And I wanna help other dads, like I said, in that 30 year time horizon, dedicating my next 30 years of my life, that's my North Star, to them changing themselves. But it only takes one dad to change a family tree forever. And that's how we need to think about our impact and what we can do in this life. And it's so, so incredible to be on that journey and be that guide for the warrior dads that...

choose to step up and have that courage to lead.

Jey (03:18.81)

I think that's really interesting all the things you hit on there. It is sad that our society looks at it as a weakness for men to speak up to ask for help. I mean there's a there's a big reason that the suicide rate in the United States is four to one and It's an epidemic, you know, so many men die per day by suicide. Yes

at the same time, more women attempt, but they attempt in less lethal ways. And they can also be talked out of it more. However, men, we, we're going to do, we're going to do it right. You know, we're going to do it right the first time, not to joke about it or make light of it, but I mean, the lethal ways that are used for men are, are lethal. They, they hit this a four to one ratio and it's really sad. And you know, you're also a hundred percent right on kind of where the family is.

You know, there are some, and I'm not saying that in any kind of way to offend anyone, but there are some really good families out there that are LGBTQ plus couples. There's really strong families in those circles as well. There's some real, the kids are loved, they're well taken care of, they're respected, they grow up to be great individuals, great kids, great members of society. But like you said, at the root of it, there's...

50% divorce rate in our country. I was just talking about this not that long ago Where even 13 15 years ago Divorce rate was 25% if that That's 10 15 years ago. That's 2010 2013 That's not that long ago in context you go back to 2000 like 2001

20 years ago, it's about 10, 15%. So in 20 years, it skyrocketed. 40%. Why? How? How did we get here? COVID didn't help at all. That ripped the rug out because people just got decided, we're just tired of each other. I can move on. I can do better. There's been a lot of movements. There's been good side. There's a good side and a bad side to every movement. Good comes out and bad side comes out.

Jey (05:42.742)

But with all these movements have come empowerment that's been damaging to families, to kids, to individuals, to men, to women who really had to struggle going through divorce or divorces plural and it sucks. It's not right. And you know what happened from the divorces with most men? From there after that divorce.

Guess where they turn? Drugs, alcohol, substances, turn the internet.

to all these dark places. And then guess what happens? Then they're not involved in their kid's life. Because guess what? Because they're struggling with addictions and now they only are seeing their kids half the time. If they're blessed and they're lucky, myself, I'm super blessed and lucky to have my kids half the time. But from there, they're struggling with addiction and they're not seeing their kids as much. Our kids are our life. We do everything for them. We love them. We live for them. But we also have to live without them.

That's really hard. And for men, like you said, without having that foundation of a family and being able to lead, because as men we're leaders, we want to lead our family. We want to lead our kids. We want to lead our home. But that's ripped out from under us in today's society because we're almost, we're expected to do it, but we're not allowed to do it at the same time.

which is a really weird double standard. Cause it's like, yes, men, you need to lead women and your home and your family, but also you're not allowed to do it at the same time. You just gotta do it, but also you're not allowed to do it. Because that's not right to feminism and women and all these things. There's a very fine line. It doesn't, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Jey (07:44.882)

And then there's all these trends that continually go around that are just out of proportion. It's an ick when a man opens the door for me. It's an ick when a man asked me what I do for work. I went on a date and this is just an example. I saw a woman said, I went on a date with a guy as soon as he asked me what I do for work. I got turned off and wanted to leave. Like what? Like.

Jeff Wickerham (08:08.506)

Hmm.

Jey (08:13.442)

No one can fully expect to not go into a relationship where both are going to have to contribute to the household in some way income wise, you know, so you're 100% right. It's it's sad but it's true. It's true. So with your mission, you looked in the mirror, you reflected, you're like I gotta help these dads to help change their families, help change

Jey (08:43.306)

How does a dad start that? Where does a dad start? How do they start leading?

Jeff Wickerham (08:48.738)

Yeah, I mean, number one thing for dads, and this is the biggest mistakes I see most dads making, and it can cripple their relationship with their, with their kids. And it's so important. It's probably the number one thing I'm most proud of with my two sons. And it's answering any bid that your kids make for your attention. Right? So if your kids ask you to do something, you say yes, and you always say yes. And after you say yes, you say, Hey, that was an amazing.

thing that we just did, thank you for asking me. Because what happens on the flip side is, and dads are programmed to be providers. They're kind of, hey, I wanna provide, I wanna provide for my family. Son or daughter asks, hey, can we do something? I gotta answer this email, I can't right now. Now it's basically saying that they're not important enough. And I've told my sons from the beginning, I said, anytime you ask me to do something, I will say yes unless I'm on.

podcast like this or I'm on a call and my sons are 15 and 13. They still ask me to do things. This whole narrative, this BS narrative that just wait till your kids are teenagers, you won't like them anymore. It's BS. If you pour into your kids, it can be an amazing relationship through your teen years. I would say that would be number one. Answering all those bids for your attention. If you haven't done it in the past, have that conversation today with your son and

I apologize for not answering that bid for attention in the past. Moving forward, I will answer every bid. When you answer the bid, have a great time, put the phone away and then acknowledge and say how grateful you are. And that, that was an amazing time after you do that. So that would be kind of number one on the list. Number two, we got to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. How do we do that? I love to control the bookends, PM and AM bookend. You control those bookends.

You have some semblance of control in an otherwise chaotic world. And so many dads are not getting a great night's sleep, not doing anything that fills them up or lights them up in a positive manner when they wake up in the morning and they're playing defense. And I've coached both my sons in basketball, right? Defense. Knees are bent. Hips are bent. Your quads burn pretty quick. It's exhausting. And that's how so many dads.

Jeff Wickerham (11:08.382)

are playing their life day in and day out. It's why they flop on the couch at the end of the night, they're exhausted, stressed, and they say, how am I gonna do this again tomorrow? So those would be my top two, answer every bit and control your bookends.

Jey (11:20.622)

I think that's so important, especially the attention one. I mean, your kids, this is an old adage, our kids spell love, T-I-M-E. It's all your kids want, it's time. And that's a lot of my mission here, especially with my books that I've created or I'm creating and writing and whatnot, is just to showcase how cool it is to spend time with your kids, how much our kids love these different time events with us.

You know, I've written by the time this podcast will release, I've written a baseball game with dad. I've written a Christmas with dad. I'm working on a couple for the spring and summer, you know, a pool day with dad. I'm working on just other stuff, other simple ideas, stuff our kids love to do with us. I've enjoyed doing with my daughters that we've really had fun doing, but that's.

The whole thing is like, it's so cool to be a dad. It's so cool to be involved. It's so cool to give that time, make those memories and have fun and play silly games and, you know, do the things with them that are important to them, but also fun for you to do as well and put it down and for you to connect and engage with them because it can only, I think it can only get better as your kids get older because they can have better conversations. You can have deeper conversation with them. You can have harder conversations with them.

You know, all these different opportunities for conversation with them as they get older and as they develop, because they're going to go through new things. They're going to experience new things. They're going to learn new things. Maybe those new things aren't going to be good. Maybe that leads to a whole new discussion on something else. Maybe they have a question about something you're really interested in later down the line. You know, fitness or podcasting or coaching or whatever it might be, you're able to have that conversation with them when they're 16. And it's a fun conversation.

You know, so I think that's so important to pour into your kids early and often so then they continue to want you to pour into them because I feel when parents say you're not gonna like them when they're teenagers because as soon as they get to that certain age where they're Independent they can do stuff for themselves. They hop on the bus. They go to school and get themselves out the door That's when parents kind of like i'm done I think that's the whole reason why that whole I think it's a quote I don't know if it's a quote or if it's actual statistic or what it is, but

Jey (13:45.302)

You know, 90% or not, 75% of the time we spend with our kids is going to be before the age of 12. 90% is going to be before the age of 18. And then the other 10% is the rest of their lives. Kind of thing.

Jeff Wickerham (14:00.547)

Yeah, if that doesn't shock you, if that doesn't say, hey, oh my gosh, I've got to spend my time with my kids when they're young and pour into them. I don't know what does. And I heard that same, same number recently. And it's, it's pretty, pretty impactful and powerful.

Jey (14:15.102)

Yeah, it makes you think like, oh my gosh, they're only gonna, I'm only gonna spend 15 more percent of their life with them between the ages of 12 and 18. Like I gotta make those first years count. Especially for me being a parent that sees my kids half the time, like you get, you have to cut that number in half. So I get 37 and a half percent of time with them. And then if I do the math on that, like I'm already at about like 18, 19% with my older daughter because of her age.

Jeff Wickerham (14:26.992)

Yes.

Jey (14:44.23)

And it's like, I'm already almost through my time. You know?

Jeff Wickerham (14:48.738)

Right. And I would, I would argue if you intentionally pour into them early on, those numbers are going to change. Right. With 15, 15 and 13 year old, they still want to go to the Y with me. They still, we spend a couple hours every Saturday and Sunday together, basketball and working out. So you can change that narrative. Those are the, you know, the, the statistics, but man, if you pour into your kids and you show up and you answer every bid, you change that dynamic and.

Jey (14:55.006)

Mm-hmm. Oh, 100%.

Jeff Wickerham (15:16.126)

And it's incredibly powerful when you can do that and spend more time with your legacy, right? That's your legacy that's gonna live on past you.

Jey (15:24.235)

Mm-hmm. Because they realize that you're there for them. They realize that you're showing up. That's ultimately what kids want. They want whoever's gonna show up for them. They want... That's who they're gonna grow to. That's who they're gonna gravitate to because they know you're consistent and they know you're gonna be there. They know you're gonna... They know you're gonna be there so they know they have an opportunity to connect with you. But you have to be, there's a part of that though.

when you're answering that bid for their time, you said it very briefly, you have to be present. You have to put the phone down, tablet down, turn the TV off, you have to put it all down, and you have to engage with them. You have to play with them, you have to do things with them, you have to sit outside with them or shoot a basketball with them or take them to the wire, do these different things with them. You have to do the engagement part of it. Because what's the difference is if you're going to go from home and you take them to the park.

But while you're at the park, you're just sitting on your phone on the bench. What's the difference? They, they could have played at home or playing at the park. All you did was change the scenery. What are you doing? The exact same thing. And you're probably grumpy because now it's hot and you're sitting outside on a bench and you're in the sun and now you're in a bad mood. And so you're on your way home. It's going to be a, you're going to be grumpy and disgruntled and.

Jeff Wickerham (16:21.423)

Yeah.

There isn't.

Jey (16:46.358)

Not gonna be very fun, your kids probably aren't gonna ask you to take them to the park again.

Jeff Wickerham (16:49.934)

Right. And I love to change language is just so incredibly powerful. Right. And I love to change have to's to get to's right. And have to sounds, it kind of sounds like a burden. Imagine if you framed it up, I get to take my kid to the park. I get to be in the hot sun. I get to do these things. Then it's a privilege and it's a positive side of things. And then you can step into doing it more. And it becomes, I mean,

Jey (16:57.358)

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Wickerham (17:16.93)

75% by age 12. You are getting to do this. It's not a have to, you get to do this. So I just always love framing up language a little bit differently.

Jey (17:25.106)

100% that's so important. And then you know taking care of yourself. As men we're taught to give, to give, to give, to give, to take care of our family, take care of our kids, take care of all of our commitments, take care of other people, to do all these things and you know taking care of yourself should be number 101 out of 100. Not even an option but what we don't realize is that

Jey (17:54.994)

resentment within your home towards your kids, towards your spouse, towards yourself, towards your job. Then from there, you start to feel depressed, you start to feel anxious, you start to feel these feelings, they creep in and then they snowball. You're snowballing now and before you know it, that snowball is going to crash and burn and then you're either turning to addiction, so you're losing yourself or your family loses you because you just can't take it anymore.

and it's a very simple snowball. It's a very simple effect. I mean there's not many other paths and places it goes except for if you get the intervention and you find a coach or you find a program or you find yourself and you find the motivation or you draw the line in the sand and be like, nope, I'm not snowballing anymore. I'm going to hit that tree halfway down. I'm going to start climbing back up. It's possible. It's not always going to be the snowball. Don't hear that.

But you have to climb back up, you have to take care of yourself. Because if you're not climbing uphill, if you're not pouring into your own cup, how are you going to pour into all the other cups that rely on you to pour into them? You can't. You can't.

Jeff Wickerham (19:09.118)

So, so true. I like to say every single thing impacts every other single thing. And you have two options. You can spiral up kind of like your snowball or you can spiral down. And when you ask yourself your question, hey, is this impacting me positive for helping my spiral up or spiral down? Then you can step in between stimulus and response and actually choose your response and say, no, this isn't helping me spiral up and close that gap between my potential where I'm at right now.

I'm going to choose something different, but yes, you have to take care of yourself. You want to be that leader, that tip of the spear for your family, that masculine energy that is needed in a family dynamic. You've got to take care of yourself. It's why I train in the gym so hard, 48 years young, I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, but then it allows me to play all out consistently day in, day out, and my family feeds off that energy and it's so, so important.

Jey (20:07.178)

Yeah, and that's huge for us men. Like we have to take care of our bodies. Because when we're taking care of our bodies, we're taking care of our minds. Because men, we just have so much more biological energy and muscles and large motor movements are more important to our bodies and to our cognitive ability to be able to be working out, shooting a basketball or running or swimming or something. It's so important to take care of your bodies.

Like for me personally, like when my divorce happened a couple years ago, I was the heaviest I ever been in my life. I was about 230, 235. Like I was heavy. You know, from the divorce, I went into a pretty hard depression. I went into a pretty dark place. I wasn't eating. I had a really unhealthy relationship with food. But I went from 235 down to about 175.

in the span and I do not recommend this at all. This was not a healthy way to do it but I went down really quickly. It was about four months I dropped all that weight and it was maybe not even four months. It was maybe about three-ish months if I'm being 100% honest because all I was putting in my body was minimal food, maybe one little meal a day, some snacks here and there, and a lot of caffeine. This they keep me going. Now I've

loaded back up from that because that was a really unhealthy weight. It was not sustainable. My protein was low, my vitamins were low. I had a blood panel done. I showed some things that I needed to get my weight back up a little bit. So now I float right now about 190 ish. And I feel really good because I can do all the things I need to do. I can do all the things. I can go to the gym, I can hit a hard workout if I really, really want to, or I can just hit a workout just to keep everything right.

keep everything feeling good. You know, I can play in the pool with my kids. I can hit the basketball court. I'm feeling like running and playing some basketball on a Saturday or something at the gym. Or, you know, I can go and run around. I can coach my daughter's teams. I can engage in their extra curriculars. Like I can do all the things. Before, when I was a lot heavier and wasn't taking care of myself, because I was in that dark place because of the relationship, partially.

Jey (22:29.142)

because of just where I was, not taking care of myself, not allowing myself to have that time. Was I allowed to have it really? That's another story. But I wasn't taking that time for myself, but as soon as I did, man, I feel so good now because I don't worry about is the shirt gonna fit? Am I gonna look okay going out? Are my kids gonna be embarrassed to me because their dad's very obviously.

Overweight and not in good shape and looks unhealthy looks tired looks miserable looks just upset Kind of thing so I don't want that reflection to be on them In any stigma that comes with that so it's so important now that I take care of myself Now I can pour into their cups a lot easier. They want to go outside sure let's go outside you want to go do this Sure, let's go do this kind of thing. It's always a yes I'm not too tired or too lethargic or too

Jeff Wickerham (23:05.755)

Mm-hmm.

Jey (23:23.234)

hard on myself that I don't want to go in public. So it's really important to take care of yourself. And mentally, it does so many good things for you to have the physical outlet.

Jeff Wickerham (23:33.11)

It really does. And they say, I mean, exercise gives you a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin helps with your mood, helps with your focus. And that's something we as dads and men as physical, strong beings can do every single day to give us a boost in our mood and a boost in our folk. Like I, it is so amazing to me how many people just don't move their bodies. As dads don't want to stay in shape, think it's okay for

to have a dad bod and your wife's gonna find you a child. It's not the case. You're fed this lie. We need to be physical. We need to be able to have energy to answer those bids when we're maybe run down a little bit, but we have a little bit left in that emergency tank to be able to play with our kids and answer those bids and show up as the best version of ourselves and look at ourselves in the mirror and be proud of who we are. And that's so important. And

I always like to say when you're starting out, like if you're listening and saying, okay, yeah, that's great. You guys are talking about it. You guys are fit. Make it small, simple, and so easy. It's almost laughable. Don't go hit a 60 minute workout. Go for a one minute walk. Do it all week. Next week, double it. Go two minutes and then you start to build this progress. And that's what we do. You know, in the warrior dad experience, it's simple, easy, almost laughable. And then we get progress and then we get momentum. And then it's all about staying consistent, not

Jey (24:47.767)

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Wickerham (24:58.042)

breaking that streak and that's how we can start to crack that piece off of our potential. We can start to see it and we start seeing it. We start feeling better physically and mentally. All of a sudden the game changes and the craziest thing about it is your family will feel that change and we'll see that change and your kids absorb more from what you're doing versus what you're telling them.

Jey (25:24.21)

100% and I love that because that's a lot of the things I've also put into this whole thing that I call the Well-Balanced Dad Diet and that's one of the things is you have to start, if you're going to start somewhere, start small. Start so small. If you need to start with a one minute, then a two minute, then a fourth, then an eight and whatnot and it grows exponentially like that, that's where you need to start. Definitely don't start and go hit a 60 minute workout. Take that from me. I hurt my lat.

few months ago and I had to end up taking just a few weeks off. I had to just take weeks off because I just every time I would go I would want to keep hitting it building it and I knew if I did if I knew if I just went I wasn't gonna have the self-control to not use that muscle group or surrounding muscle group and it was gonna drive me crazy and I had to take some time off I had to focus on just some cardio and some other movements just to get the energy out but it sucked it was so hard.