Getting Our Priorities As Husbands and Fathers Right with Larry Hagner

Jul 12, 2022

Larry Hagner joins us today to teach us how to take our skills as husbands and fathers to the next level; with our guest's help, we'll learn how to build epic relationships with our wives and kids. 

Larry is the CEO and Founder of The Dad Edge and host of The Dad Edge podcast. Since he started his podcast 7 years ago, Larry has interviewed over 700 experts on parenting, mindset, patience, communication, intimacy, optimizing health, and the power of community. He has been married for the last 18 years to his soul mate, Jessica, and is the loving father of four boys.

Motivated by his relationship with his dad and a situation he lived with one of his kids, Larry started unpretentiously pilling up his fatherhood experiences on a Facebook page. With time, the following grew, the page turned into a blog, and as the following kept growing, the blog gave birth to The Dad Edge podcast.  

Throughout our conversation, we travel back to Larry's childhood, what he thought of fatherhood as a child and the several stages of his relationship with his father. We talk about "The good dad project," the Facebook page that turned into his podcast, what led to the creation of that page, and how it evolved to what it is today. 

We also talk about his latest book, "The pursuit of legendary fatherhood," all it has to offer, and how it can help us be better husbands and fathers. In addition, Larry shares three questions to build epic relationships with our kids, how to make our wives feel seen, heard, and safe, and many other golden nuggets on parenting and marriage. 

Some Questions I Ask:

  • I would love for people to hear your unique story. Could you share it with our audience? (1:48)
  • One of the things that I love that you talk about is building an epic connection with your kids. Could you elaborate a bit on that? (20:09)

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Larry shares bits of his childhood and his relationship with this father (2:01)
  • Larry talks about the moment he realized he needed to change something on how he was approaching parenting (11:48)
  • Larry talks about his latest book, The pursuit of legendary fatherhood (17:51)
  • Larry talks about creating an environment where kids feel safe and ready to share what's happening in their lives with us (22:39)
  • Larry talks about men's tendency to be harsh with themselves (36:49)
  • Larry talks about how to build an epic relationship with our wives (41:23)

Resources:

Connect with Larry:

Let's Connect!

Transcript: 

Clint Hoopes: Building that epic connection needs to happen, once again, with us with our children, then with us. And then when they get older, the same thing. What are they going to reciprocate? What are they going to emulate is what they learned growing up. And I love that. They're going to do the same thing with their own kids and with their own wives and all other people in their life like you're saying. It's a powerful thing to learn to communicate and genuinely care about the people in your life.

Clint Hoopes: Welcome to the Unrivaled Man podcast. So excited to have you here once again today. Very excited also to have my guest for today, Larry Hagner. Over the last six years, Larry has interviewed over 700 experts on his Dad Edge podcast. It's all about parenting, mindset, patience, communication, intimacy, optimizing health, and the power of community. He is the proud father of four energetic boys; the husband of his soulmate, Jessica, for over the past 18 years. And Larry is just one amazing man, husband, and father. So excited to have you on the show, Larry.

Larry Hagner: What's going on, Clint. Good to be here, my man.

Clint Hoopes: Thank you. I've listened to your show over the years, and just got a lot of wonderful insights from the people you've interviewed and from your own story. And really, as we get started today, I would love for people to hear your unique story.

Larry Hagner: Thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate it. My story, I guess it's a little different; when I've told it, a lot of people are like, “Yeah, that's definitely not the norm.” I grew up. My mom and biological father were married for I think four years. They got married when they were kids. They had me in 1975. And then after a four-year marriage and have being parents for just under a year, they decided to split and get divorced. And from what I understand, I don't know much about it, but I understand that the divorce was pretty bitter; a lot of drama; a lot of craziness. They were just kids, they weren't ready to be married. And it was a really bitter ending. So, my dad, I don't know all the details, but he was really just not a part of my life at all. I think he tried to be, but the relationship dynamics at the time, it was difficult. And my mom also had moved from California to St. Louis. So, I have no recollection of my dad. And I remember, from being as little as I can remember to four years old, that it was just me and my mom. I knew what a dad was because I saw dads come and pick up their kids at preschool, the one preschool that I attended. So, I knew what a dad was and we didn't have one, but it didn't bother me. There was no pity party or anything like that. My interpretation of dads at the time was moms go out and find dads – like kids miraculously appear out of nowhere and moms then go out and find a dad. And my mom hadn't found my dad yet, which was fine. And I'll never forget the first time she brought a guy home. This guy walked through the door. She said that she wanted to introduce me to a friend of hers that she had been kind of dating, and I guess it was that time that she wanted to introduce him to me. And I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” That was my first click. I was like, “Man, I wonder if she found my dad. I wonder if this guy is the guy.” This guy came walking in my house – I'll never forget this because it was the first time a real male figure came walking in my house – and he was wearing a three-piece suit, a trench coat, he had a briefcase, 1979. He had a handlebar mustache. He was a white-collar data software engineer. So, he came walking in the house and he shook my hand. And literally, the very first question I asked this guy was, “Are you going to be my dad?” I shook his hand and that was the first thing that came out of my mouth. I just remember it being very awkward and my mom laughed, I laughed, he laughed. But I think my mom took that as a sign and she did end up marrying him, I think it was like six or nine months later. I think she really kind of took that as a sign. 

Clint Hoopes: Like he's already accepted it. 

Larry Hagner: It’s kind of like the Jerry Maguire moment where the kid hugs Jerry Maguire, and all of a sudden she's like, “Oh, my God! Look at that.” They stayed married for six years. And what I can tell you is that he was very polite, well-mannered guy. He was ex-military. If anyone ever asked you about him, they would be like, “Oh, my gosh, that's one of the nicest guys in the world. His manners and how he treats people is just off the chart with just kindness.” And he was like that until he drank, and he did drink quite a bit. And on the times he did drink and my mom drank, fights got really, really intense. There was physical abuse. There was emotional and mental abuse. There were all kinds of things like. I could tell you stories, but I won't. But it wasn't uncommon for my mom and him to be in shouting matches or hitting matches, or there were times where I woke up in the middle of night and I would find my mom pinned down on her bed so they would stop fighting. Cops were called to my house a few times by our neighbors. And it was pretty chaotic growing up like that. And every year they were married, that just got worse and worse. And I remember being 10, and they finally split up. It was a really dark year for my dad. He adopted me, so I just viewed him as my dad. He lost his job. He lived downstairs in our basement and slept on the cold towel floor on our patio furniture cushions. And there were times that I would go downstairs in the middle of the day, I’d go down there 2-4 times a day and just put my hands on him and check on him to make sure he’s still alive because I was worried he's going to die down there. I remember that was my thinking. And they ended up splitting up, getting divorced, he moved out. And I really never saw him since I was 10. 

Larry Hagner: So, it really started to get curious about, “Well, where did I come from? I don't understand this.” And my mom told me at that point, “Well, I was married before him. And you actually have a real father.” I'm like, “I'm sorry. What?” She showed me the wedding album and I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” The first time I actually saw my dad in photos and I was like, “Wow! This is crazy. I kind of look like him a little bit.” So, I became really curious about him. Well, a couple of years passed by, I'm 12 years old, and I go up to our local rec center to play basketball with a friend of mine, where I actually ran into my father – well, I ran into his wife, actually, which is kind of a really interesting story. I usually just say “father” just to cut the time out of it. But I ran into his wife and I didn't even know that was his wife until I heard one of the employees at the rec center say her name, and I knew what my dad's full name was, and he said her first and last name. And I was like, “Wow! It's kind of odd. What are the chances?” So, I just walked up to this lady, being a bold 12-year-old, and I'm like, “Hey, what's your name?” And she told me. And I was like, “Are you married to a guy named Larry? Because that's my name, too.” And she's like, “Yeah, I am.” And I was like, “Huh.” I was like, “This sounds kind of weird, but I think your husband might be my dad.” And I just saw it click for her right away. She looks at me and she goes, “Are you Larry?” Because she had obviously heard about me. And I'm like, “Yeah, I am.” And she goes, “Would you like to talk to your dad?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, I would love to.” So, we went around the corner, she put a quarter in the payphone, she like, “Hey, I'm up here at the rec center. I ran into your 12-year-old son, he'd like to talk to you.” She just handed the phone right over. And I talked to him and it was very surreal. I don't remember what we said. I just remember the tone in his voice was shocked, just like, “Oh, my gosh!” He didn't know what to say, and neither did I. But we decided after that, she's like, “Hey, would you like to meet him face to face?” I'm like, “Yeah, I would.” I went home, told my mom, she wasn't happy about it but she let me meet him. 

Larry Hagner: So, he was remarried at the time to this woman. He had a two-year-old son and another one on the way. And we had this relationship for about six months. I was so excited. I was calling him Dad right out of the gate. Spending time with your biological father, he’d come to my little league games, all this stuff. And I would spend the night at their house. They only lived three miles from where we lived, so it was kind of cool. It was probably right around month five – the last month that we started hanging out – I noticed there was a lot of stress and heaviness with my dad, but I couldn't pinpoint it. I mean, you're 12 years old, you feel it but you don't know how to talk about it. The best way I can describe it is think of a woman that you've dated in the past and she's not into you anymore, but she hasn't told you yet, but you know it's coming; that's about the feeling it was. And I remember picking up the phone one day and I called him, and I was like, “Hey, man, I haven't heard from you in a while. I just kind of get this feeling something's not right. Is everything okay?” Well, that turned into a conversation where we then ended the relationship. And I don't remember why, to be honest. I think that there was a lot of strain, a lot of tension, and a lot of stress that he was experiencing trying to balance both things going on. I think it was a lot for him. So, we ended things and it did not sit well with me. And ended up gaining a lot of weight. My mom ended up dating a bunch of different dudes. She got married again. She got married a total of three times by the time I was 18. And she dated just these complete and total crazy men. They were the same typical guys that she was always with; they were partiers, they were drinkers, they were abusive, they had anger issues. So, that was my world, that's how I experienced fatherhood was half of it was spent without a father figure and the other half was spent with these dudes who were just going in and out of this revolving door. 

Larry Hagner: So, I fell in this really deep depression. I failed the eighth grade, I had to do eighth grade twice. Ended up getting into a really good high school, the second go around. Went away to college, graduated college, started my career. Well, fast forward till I'm 30, and this is where the story ends and begins just definitely a big chapter. So, I'm in a Starbucks here in St. Louis, I'm there for a business meeting. At the time, I was in medical device sales, and I had a Monday morning business team meeting, every Monday morning at Starbucks. And I'm sitting there with my team and I look over, and who came walking in first-morning coffee was my father. My dad is a very successful business owner, entrepreneur in the electrical business, and came in to get his morning coffee, and I still remember what he was wearing. He was wearing this yellow collared shirt with these khakis and just came walking in, and I was like, “Oh, my God! That's my dad. I know exactly who that is.” Well, one of the women that we were with was also a good friend of mine, and she's like, “Are you still here? Hello, we're meeting.” And I'm like, “Yeah. Sorry. My just walked in.” She's like, “I'm sorry, what?” I was like, “My dad just walked in for, I guess, his coffee.” And she's like, “Like your dad? Like your ‘dad’ dad?” And she and I'd been friends so she knew the story, and she's like, “Like the guy from when you were 12?” I'm like, “Yeah, that's him.” She goes, “Where is he?” And I said, “He's right there.” She's like, “What are you even gonna say?” I was like, “Nothing. There's nothing really to say. I'm 30 years old.”

Clint Hoopes: Well, in your mind, you’d already made it pretty clear years ago, it's like, “It's done.”

Larry Hagner: Yeah, it's done. So, she took it upon herself. She just get up and go sit next to him. She didn't even say a word about it. She didn't even was like, “Hey, I'm gonna go talk to him for you.” Nothing like that. She just got up and went over to him. I was like, “Oh, my God, what is she doing?” Sat down next to him. They're about 50 feet away, I couldn't hear them but I could read his lips. And I saw him say, “Where is he?” And he started looking around, our eyes met, and he just came over, shook my hand, and I was just like, “What is about to happen?” And he's like, “Hey, how are you doing?” And I'm like, “Fine. How are you?” I wasn't nice, but I wasn't a total jerk, either. I was right in the middle. And we talked for a few minutes. He's like, “We should really get together for coffee or something.” And I'm like, “Here's my card if you want to contact me.” And the next day, I got this email that was really long, basically pouring his heart out. We ended up meeting for breakfast, which turned into dinner with me, my wife, and his wife. And then that turned into lunch with me, my wife, his wife, and then my two younger half brothers. And now it's been 17 years and we've got a great relationship. I have a great relationship, especially with my youngest brother. A great relationship with my dad. He's still married to the same woman, 40 plus years. We've just decided that the past was the past, and that was it. But here's where Dad Edge really got started, Dad Edge got started about six years later because, at the time, I was raising a six-year-old and a four-year-old, and I was your typical guy that we help now. I was just struggling with patience. I was pouring a lot of my time into my career. I had a mediocre marriage; I really wanted to connect with Jessica on a high level, I just didn't know how to do it. I didn't know how to connect with my kids. I thought all these things like, “Okay, here's a laundry list of what not to do, and I know all these things because I experienced them.” But what I realized quickly was that that's about as effective as you going to Lowe's, buying a brand new barbeque pit, and then opening up the instruction manual, and it says, “Here's 100 ways not to put this together, figure out the rest.” 

Larry Hagner: So, Dad Edge really got started because I had this super-dark moment with my four-year-old, who's 14 now, where he stepped out of line and I spanked him. And I always swore to myself – because I was raised with a very heavy hand, a lot of abusive guys – I'm never going to put my hands on my kids in anger, and I did. And unfortunately, I did it, I hit him so hard that he hit the ground, and I didn't mean to do that, and it was awful. So, I go to pick him up because I realized right away what I just did, and he looked at me in absolute terror. He shuttered actually when I went to help him up and I was like, “Oh, my God, what am I doing?” And it was in that moment, I went into my office and I felt like I was destroyed. It was probably one of the darkest, lowest points I've ever been. And I just remember going on social media, on Facebook, because I didn't want to think about what I did so I just wanted to distract myself. And I'm a big believer in God and faith and divine intervention, and I feel like sometimes God gives you a nudge. And I saw this button in the lower left-hand corner that said “Create a page.” I had never created a page but I clicked that button and the thing came up, “What do you want to name your page?” And I don't know what it was, tears in my eyes and everything, “The Good Dad Project” and just clicked it. And I never did that for a following; in fact, I was The Good Dad Project. I was like if, “I need to figure this out, I need to learn just like anything else.” So, I created that page only because I wanted a record of what I was learning. And I was like, “I'm gonna go out and learn one new thing every day, I'm gonna post it here and just keep a record of it for myself.” That turned into a following, and then being asked to speak, which blew my mind because I was like, “What do you want me to speak about? I'm an idiot.” And then that turned into a blog. In 2013 and 2015, I started the podcast. And here we are, seven years later. And if you would have told me that this is what it was going to turn into, I would have laughed, I would have thought you were joking. But that is what it’s turned into.

Clint Hoopes: You’re like, “Who am I to do this?”

Larry Hagner: Still I think that. But it's been such a great learning. It's been the best education that I could possibly imagine. And I have a fantastic marriage now and I have for years. My wife and I are getting ready to celebrate 19 years. I have four great boys. Not every day is sunshine and rainbows, but it is good. And it is a lot better than what the alternative was. I guarantee you, I was headed for divorce. I guarantee you, I'd have two boys instead of four. I'd be seeing my boys 50% of the time and they’d probably wouldn't like me. I probably would have a wife or an ex-wife that didn't like me at all. I’d probably be on to my next second or third marriage at this point. It would have been disastrous. So, it's helped a tonne, I can tell you that.

Clint Hoopes: Like you said, it sounds like you are a believer in God and I am as well, and that we are led to those type of things. And it feels like Good Dad project, and now Dad Edge, was God leading you along the way to do this for yourself and for so many other men out there. That's an incredible story.

Larry Hagner: Thank you. Yeah, he's definitely a forgiving God, that's for sure.

Clint Hoopes: And I appreciate you bringing that up, being a forgiving God, because I know that there are people listening right now that they think that where they're at with their children or with their family that there's no way to turn back or to fix it, wherever they're at. And God is there for us and he'll help us, and help lead us, and help us know what we need to do in our world. And perhaps your story will help give someone that little motivation knowing, “Okay, I could be my own project, take the next step.” What a wonderful story. Well, what else is getting you excited right now in your business and life?

Larry Hagner: So, the most exciting thing, I think, that is coming is it's a book that I wrote called “The Pursuit of Legendary Fatherhood.” And I've been working on it for a year. And the launch date is supposed to be September 20th. Although the publisher that I was going with filed bankruptcy, so unfortunately, that put it on hold. 

Clint Hoopes: Life always throws you curveballs. 

Larry Hagner: It does. Actually, I had another publisher, literally swoop right in and they said, “Hey, we want it.” And I'm supposed to get an offer either today or tomorrow. I think the launch day is still going to be in September. This will be my fourth book. I wrote a couple of children's books for dads to read to their kids. One is on how a dad will always love and protect their kid no matter what the kid even does. It's a great story to read to your kids especially when they're little. Another one I wrote is “Screen Time: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Basically, I've had a lot of experts come on the podcast and talk about the effects of mental and emotional things that happen to kids when there's too much screen time, and basically, different and better ways you can spend your time. But also balancing screens as well by being very aware of what they do. And then I wrote “The Data’s Edge.” I wrote that one in 2015, that was my first book. It was like 27,000 words and it was nine chapters long. It basically just gives you bare elementary basics of the things that I was learning at the time. But “Pursuit of Legendary Fatherhood,” this is the big one. It's divided up into four parts. It's got current state, like what men face it, everything to be the husband you want to be. So, if you want more intimacy, communication, connection, sex, all those things within your marriage, I teach all that stuff in the book. Everything is we've learned from experts over the past seven years. It's also divided up into being a father. So, raising kids with patients, with grace, connecting with them, making memories with them, raising strong daughters, raising strong young men, rites of passage, how to build confidence, how to build self-esteem. All these things about raising kids. And then the fourth one is leader. And there are 10 different tenants in there of leadership and how to lead yourself but also teach your kids how to be the next generation of strong leaders that we're going to have.

Clint Hoopes: I love that. Being able to help your kids do the same thing, that's the real measure of a man. There are so many different things that we can do, but we and our wives together can help have those strong kids go out and be successful. And when I say “successful,” I’m saying, have families of their own right, children of their own. And also they can have success in the world as well, with business and all of that. We want all of it. And that's what's so fun; the only way to do that is by connecting with our kids. And I love one of the things you say as I've seen some of your stuff over time. One of the things that I love that you talk about is building an epic connection with your kids. I love the word “epic.” I love it, but “building.” So, there are two things there. Epic connection, meaning just so huge, something that just can't be ignored, they're amazing part of their lives. And then the building part, that you have to build it. So, elaborate a little bit on that for me, why you have built an epic connection with your kids is what are your major things you teach?

Larry Hagner: So, “epic” has been a word that we use a lot in the brand because we don't want mediocre. We want awesome. We want it to be epic. And quite frankly, we don't have the skills or the know-how to build that connection with our kids. We have no clue how to do it. And that's not a dig on men. Because here's what I can tell you, the good news about men is we're seeing a generation of fathers right now that are raising their hands being like, “I want this, and I want it bad, and I'm all in.” I just don't know exactly what it looks like because my dad raised me this way, and his dad raised him this way. And that's fine. But what I can tell you is generations past fathers did the best they could with what they had and they were providers, that was their identity. Did they make memories? Sure, some did. And they did the best they could. But a lot of them just viewed themselves as like, “Well, I'm the provider and that's my job.” Well, men of this generation are like, “Yeah, that's a part of my job. But a bigger part of my job is building this relationship, this connection, spending time with them.” You see men today more hungry to hang out with their kids than I think ever before – like they really want it. The problem, like I said, is what does that look like? Especially if I've never done this, and I don't have training around it, and I don't even know the skill sets. Like here's one skill set that we talk about all the time: Create an environment of psychological safety with your kids so they tell you anything. And guys are like, “That sounds amazing, but how does that work?” I was like, “Well, there are actually all kinds of different things you can do.” So, for instance, if you want to build an epic connection with your kids, ask them three questions every day. Now, I'm happy to tell you what they are and give you the meaning behind all three, but what it does is it's such a simple but yet foundational thing. 

Larry Hagner: So, the first question is, “What was a high-point moment for you today? Or what was something fantastic that happened to you today? What was something that you're grateful for today? Or what's something that brought you joy today?” What that question does is when your kids get home from school, usually ask, “How was school? Do you have homework? How was your day?” Terrible questions because you'll get one-word answers: Good, fine, busy, I don't want to talk about it. But when you ask, “Tell me about a high-point moment of your day, something that brought you a tonne of joy.” What you're doing is your kid now has to go think about “What happened in my day today? What was something that was really cool?” You're actually putting them in a state of gratitude, and they're sharing this gratitude with you. The best thing you can do when someone shares gratitude with you is to validate those feelings. So, for instance, your kid might be like, “Dad, I got a B on that science test. Man, I studied so hard for it. I can't believe I got a B. It was so amazing. I thought I was gonna fail it, but I got a B.” I was like, “Dude, that's amazing! Heck, yeah! And you put in a lot of work, you studied a tonne. Yeah, good job!” Validating those feelings. Now, the kid is like, “Oh, this is a good conversation.” 

Larry Hagner: The second question is, “Tell me something that you failed at today. Tell me something that was a challenge. Tell me something that was a low point, how did you get through it?” So, this is one way to create psychological safety. When you have to tell someone about a very authentic or vulnerable part of your day, or a point in your day where you’re like, “Yeah, this sucked for me today. I failed at this part of my day.” That takes courage, number one; number two, it could also be a growth-mindset moment and a way to create psychological safety, and it's all in how we respond. So, let's just say your kid comes home and it's the opposite: “Dad, I got a B on that science test.” “Oh, okay. Well, tell me more about that.” Now, in my dad-mind, I'm sitting here already thinking, “I told you to study for a test.” 

Clint Hoopes: “What were you doing?” 

Larry Hagner: “I saw you on your phone last night. You were supposed to be studying. What did you not understand?” There's that part of me. But instead, I’m like, “Oh, tell me more about that.” Notice I didn't use the word “why”. “Why” will put somebody on the defense. Just take that three-letter word out of your vocabulary, and instead, “Tell me more.” They'll give you the same reasonings, but they're going to feel really good about it. “Yeah, you know, I don't know, Dad, there was a few questions on the test that I wasn't really prepared for. I thought I knew it, but I guess I didn't.” “Okay. Well, let me ask you this. If you were to do the test over again and study for everything, is there anything you’d do different? And if so, what would it be?” “Yeah, I probably would have studied. I studied chapters, one, two, and three, but not four, five, and six very well. I probably should have put in more time.” It's like, “Okay, cool. Great lesson, great thing to learn. So, when's your next test?” “Well, it's actually next Friday.” “Okay, great. So, based on the information that you shared with me and some of the things you learned, what would you do different?” “Well, I’d probably studied a little more. I would definitely study all the material, not just half of it.” “Man, I think that's great. Great job. So, how can I support you with that? How can we make sure that that happens? What do you need me to do to help you?” And they might be like, “You know what? I'm good. Or just check in with me on Thursday night. Or can you help me study?” Something like that. But that's a way where your kid didn't get blasted by you. I didn't have to lecture. All I had to do is ask questions. And by asking questions, he articulated the beautiful answers. Our connection and our relationship was actually elevated, it did not degenerate because of that. Now, if I would have blasted at him and just came in like a bull and been like, “Dude, I told you a study, man. You’re on your phone. What the heck. Come on. Get with the programme. Get your head right or I'll give you a kick in the rear.” Now, your kid is like, “Okay, great. Noted. I'm not telling you anything anymore. Thanks.” 

Clint Hoopes: Because he already knows what he failed at. I mean, he knows exactly what he should have done. He knew he was on his phone. They can make those connections.

Larry Hagner: And the third question is, “What are you most excited about tomorrow?” And that is where you get your kid back into gratitude. But I call that question the “Netflix to be continued” question because then you get a really good glimpse into their day tomorrow. Right now I'm watching the offer, which is a fantastic show. It's all about how the Godfather was made and how hard it was to actually make the movie and get it done and all that. It's fantastic. But they leave you hanging at the end of every episode, so you go watch the next episode. Well, that question is that episode, it is that hook point. Because if you ask, “Hey, what are you most excited about tomorrow?” “Dad, I got my fitness test tomorrow. And you know I've been running the mile for a while. I'm really excited about this. I think I'm gonna run this mile faster than I ever have before.” “Man, that's amazing.” So, what do you think I'm gonna ask him about when I've seen him the very next day? It’s that Netflix hook point, to-be-continued. “Hey, man, how did the run go?” Now, what you're doing with that question, not only is it a great conversation started, but you're sending a really powerful message to your kid that I’ve listened to you, I'm in your life, I know what's important to you, and I'm just as excited to hear about it as you're excited to tell me. Those three questions will create, believe it or not, an environment of psychological safety, where suddenly your kid is just like, “I don't know what is it about dad but I feel really good talking to him.” All my kids, I'm bad at a lot, communication is not one of them though. And my kids will all tell you, “I love talking to my dad.” My 16-year-old, his favorite two words, every night, no matter how tired I am is, “Let's talk.” He loves to still talk, which blows my mind. So, I'm like, “You're a teenager, and you're supposed to not want anything to do with me.” But I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've been doing those questions and been talking to him like that for years. So, epic connection, that's just one way to do it. I talk about it in the book, but I just wanted to make sure your listeners had something. So, if you wanted those three questions, go use those, they’re gold.

Clint Hoopes: Yeah, those questions are powerful. And I love that they won't get stagnant either because we love talking to our dads, we love connecting. Everyone loves to connect. And I love how you were saying, you could switch them up in different ways and use them. And the beauty of it is your kids have probably heard you talk about this kind of stuff. They probably know exactly what you're doing, but it doesn't matter because the connection is still made, right?

Larry Hagner: They know exactly what those are. I mean, the funny thing is when your kids get old enough, they start asking you those questions. It's not uncommon, even my eight-year-old, “What was the best part of your day?” I'm like, “You little ninja.” That’s so funny.

Clint Hoopes: And basically, they’re reciprocating and building the connection back because they feel the love and they want to know and they care, actually care. 

Larry Hagner: One other things, too, is best lessons in life are caught not taught. And I have an app on my two older boys phones called Bark. Bark is an app that runs in the background of their phone, and it detects keywords around suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, drug use, medically concerning content, adults searches on the internet, all these things. And it'll send me an alert. Now, I don’t monitor text messages and web searches and all that stuff. But what I paid a lot of attention to the text messages between my boys and their friends or the girls that they date. And it's fascinating to me because I'll see these girls, like, “Oh, my gosh, I had such a horrible day today and it was so stressful.” And my boys will be like, “Tell me more.” I'm like, “Holy crap! I can't believe my kids are communicating like this.” And I'll point it out to them and be like, “Hey, I got a Bark alert. I saw this conversation. I just want to really acknowledge and appreciate something about you. You used the invite of ‘tell me more’ to get more information. You didn't try to fix our problem. You weren't like her counsellor. Through this text message, you used these words that you are listening, that you are engaged, and that you're just creating space for her. And that's so meaningful to a woman – don't solve her problems unless she wants you to, listen to her. And you do such a great job of that.” It's a great learning moment for them. 

Clint Hoopes: That's so powerful. Like you said, building that epic connection needs to happen, once again, with us with our children, then with us. And then when they get older, the same thing. What are they going to reciprocate? What are they going to emulate is what they learned growing up. And I love that. They're going to do the same thing with their own kids and with their own wives and all other people in their life like you're saying. It's a powerful thing to learn to communicate and genuinely care about the people in your life. These are great things. So, your kids, how old is your oldest, you said, again?

Larry Hagner: 16, and then 14, eight, and six. All boys. It's like the fraternity party you never leave.

Clint Hoopes: It's always happening. So, I grew up in a house, I was the third of four boys. And then at the very end, my parents had my little sister. So, there's one girl at the end. So, four boys and then one girl who keep us online. She had many protectors. So, any boy that came by the house, as she was getting older, it's like, “You don't mess with my sister.”

Larry Hagner: What’s so funny and kind of serendipitous is my son that came in and said hello to us before we started hit and record, he's my third born. He's you in the mix. He's the third boy.

Clint Hoopes: He must be pretty amazing. 

Larry Hagner: He is my heart and soul. I mean, they all are. I mean, when your kids are eight, it's like this beautiful, sweet spot of an age, at least that's the way I've experienced it with my boys. They're just old enough to where they interact and play and they really know what's going on. And they're like their own little bitty person. And then he's insanely affectionate. My wife calls him “The Daddy's Boy.” He always wants me. And he just loves to hang out and talk and play video games and play catch. And he's that age. And to be honest, now that I have two older ones, I embrace the heck out of that because these days are fleeting. And there are some days, man, where I can't even keep my eyes open. Two nights ago, I didn't tell you this before we hit record, but I was in the ER with my 14-year-old until 4 am, and only slept two hours the night before last. I was just absolutely smoked yesterday. So tired, I didn't eden know what to do with myself. And my eight-year-old, my six-year-old love to brush teeth together. And this sounds super stupid. I mean, even as I say it, it's just dumb, but this is why I'm still the student, not the guru. So, I'm helping them get ready last night. I am dragging like I'm a zombie. It's 10 o'clock at night, the 4th of July. I'm like, “How am I gonna asleep tonight with fireworks and everything else?” And they come in and I'm already in bed, which is kind of abnormal, I always put them in bed but my wife did it last night. And they're like, “Hey, Dad, can we brush teeth with you?” “Buddy, I already brushed my teeth. Dad's in bed. I'm gonna go to bed.” And he just looked like I kicked him in the rear end as he walked out. And he was like, “Okay.” And then he turned around, put his head down, I’m like, “You know what? I could always brush my teeth again, go grab your toothbrush. We'll do it.” So, he came back in and we brushed our teeth. And my wife goes, “God bless! You are such a sucker.” I was like, “This could be the last time he ever asked me to brush teeth with him. I know this very well. This could be the night where I never get this invite again, so you just gotta do it.”

Clint Hoopes: There are all these little moments. It's funny you say that this might be the last time because my oldest, she's almost 14. I have six kids: three boys and three girls. 

Larry Hagner: They’re so calm. 

Clint Hoopes: So, it's funny, whenever I'm recording a podcast, I always have to go warn everybody, “Okay, everybody, recording a podcast.” And I used to say, “Hey, try and be quiet.” Something to that effect. But now we just say, “Go outside.” Everyone has to go outside because there is no quiet. But I love it, that's life, that's what it's all about. And my oldest, as I was saying, I just look sometimes and I think, “How did she get so old?” And there are some of these little things; reading stories, wants to be tucked in at night and read stories or do this thing or that thing. And I just keep thinking, “When did she stop asking for that?” I didn't even realize it. And luckily, that's the benefit of having so many kids is I get lots of chances. I've messed it up plenty of times, not appreciated as much as I could. And now it's like, “Okay, let's appreciate it more and more.”

Larry Hagner: Yeah, you gotta. First of all, I would have never thought I’d have four myself. Here's the funny thing. I don't know if you ever do this but feel free to steal this because it's just funny. So, you meet somebody new, they'd be like, “Oh, how many kids you guys have?” And when I say four, I say “wow” the same time they do. And then they're like, “Boys, girls?” And then I go, “All boys.” And then I do it again, “Wow!” Because they both like, “Wow!” I've been dealing with the wow’s for all these years. I have one guy who used to work for me. This is a long time. He's a very, very blunt dude from Michigan. And I told him how many kids I had, and he's like, “Why?” It wasn't a “wow,” it was a “why,” which is really funny. But the funny thing is that I get it. When I had two boys, I was like, “Yeah, we're done. I ain’t having any more kids. This is craziness.” Now, I wouldn't have it any other way. And I wouldn't have it any other way because of the exact same reason you just said. Because what I've noticed, my two older boys, they notice that I'm a bit more of a softie with the younger ones, and they're like, “God bless! Dad, you were never.” I was like, “I know. Sorry, you guys are the crash test.”

Clint Hoopes: Exactly. Guinea pigs will take it. 

Larry Hagner: I always tell my oldest. I was like, “Yeah, you get the worst because I learned everything first with you. So, by the time I get to your next brother and next brother, it's a little easier on them because I've messed up with you. So, sorry for years, I'll put more money in your therapy fund.” We joke about it. He's got a good sense of humor about it.

Clint Hoopes: It's so fun though. That is the fun thing about having kids is kids being able to have siblings, I think, is a very amazing thing. I think about my life and just what a wonderful thing it is to have my brothers and my sister, and just have that connection. It's just one of those things that you can't replace. And it is funny that I'm gonna have to steal your “wow” response because you're right, when I say “six,” they always say the exact same thing. They've been saying it since about four. So, you're right.

Larry Hagner: I want to normalize something here real quick about just fatherhood in general. There are going to be moments and seasons where things feel really great. And there are going to be moments and seasons that are just a complete and utter mess. And one thing I'll tell you is a lot of men, we are our own worst critics. And the loudest voice in our heart and our mind is the voice that we use when we talk to ourselves when no one else is listening. And I was talking about this with a bunch of my guys who are on our leadership team in Dad Edge Alliance Mastermind, that's our mastermind for dads. And we started talking about some of these guys because we have sessions for them just for our leadership team where we feed them and make sure that they're good. We had this conversation about these inner dialogues we have with men and about how we don't give ourselves any grace, we beat ourselves up relentlessly, and the words we use and how we talk to ourselves is terrible sometimes. And I piped up on this leadership call and I was like, “Guys, let me ask you something.” And one guy, in particular, I called out and I was like, “What do you say to yourself?” He's like, “I'm always asking myself, ‘Am I worthy? Am I good enough?’ And just life in general: my jjob, my marriage, being a man, being a father.” And I looked at this man, I said, “Dude, let me ask something.” Christopher, his son, he’s 16. I said, “If Christopher came to you and said, ‘Dad, I don't know if I'm worthy or good enough.’ What would you say to him?” He's like, “Oh, my God! Son, no. I’d give him so much grace. Why would you think? You're amazing, you're this, you’re that. Of course, not.” And I was like, “That's what I was hoping you'd say. Why can't we ever speak that way to ourselves?” 

Larry Hagner: And that was like a conundrum that none of us could really answer; we’re like, “We don't know. That's just the way men are.” But here's what I'll tell you. There are going to be a lot of moments like last night, with the teeth brushing thing. I didn't feel like doing it. I was tired. Besides myself tired, I only slept two hours. I had every reason not to do it, even my wife was like, “Yeah, don't do it, you're in bed.” Whether you feel like doing whatever it is or not is irrelevant. I will tell you one of the normal things to do is a lot of times whatever it is that you have to go do or need to go do with your kids, you may or may not feel like doing it. In fact, you might be like, “God bless! If one more person asks me to do something today, I might shoot them at this point.” But if the answer is like last night, I have zero regrets. Today, God forbid if I were to go to the hospital for a heart attack and the doc said, “You're not going to make it for the next 24 hours.” I would not regret for one second, getting out of bed and brushing teeth with my kid for four minutes. I would be like, “The last thing my kid heard me say was ‘Yes. Let's go do that.’” That's what I want to tell men is that there are going to be a lot of times where you don't feel like brushing teeth, or you don't feel like doing this, or you don't feel like doing that, or “For the love of God, I just can't. I've had a crazy day. I don't want to go play catch.” Or “I don't want to play tea party with my daughter.” But if you do it anyway, what I can tell you is that is going to make all the difference in the world. And a lot of times whatever it is you're about ready to go do, once you're doing it for 20 seconds, you think is great. A lot of times you're not going to feel like doing it, just do it anyway, and just enjoy the results of that.

Clint Hoopes: I love that because it takes me back to when you met your dad again after when you were 30, after yours, and you decided to forget the past and move forward. And what became of that, what came of that now. And what's still coming of that in your relationship. It makes me think the same thing in life. So, if you're one of the dads listening right now and you had a different experience yesterday, where you didn't get out of bed, or you didn't go throw the ball; forget about it, give yourself some grace like Larry says here, and let's start doing it today. Well, Larry, I love this. This is a great conversation. So, as we come to a close here, one thing I love to ask at the end, and you've given so many great action steps already, but I love to ask all my guests, what's your top action step? What would you tell my listeners to do? If there's one thing they can do, what would you have them do?

Larry Hagner: Is it okay if I give a bit of a long answer to this? 

Clint Hoopes: Please do. 

Larry Hagner: We talked about fatherhood, but we didn't talk about marriage. And here's what I’ll tell you, there's a whole section, in my new book, on marriage. We've been doing Dad Edge Alliance now, which is our mastermind community for six years now. And in order to be a part of that group, you have to apply for it. So, we see the applications come through, and one of the questions is what has your attention right now? What is it that you want to create? And there are five sections to that: “I want to optimise my physical, mental, emotional health.” “I want to create a better relationship with my kids.” “I want to be more patient.” “I want to create a legendary marriage.” Eight out of 10 men identify “I want to create a legendary marriage” who want to come to [41:24 inaudible] with us Dad Edge Alliance. So, we know that is on the mind and hearts of most men is “How do I connect with my wife?” So, Jessica and I have known each other for 25 years, we've been married for 19, as of next month. And we're in the best five years we've ever had is the last five years. And you would think, knowing her 20-plus years and sex and intimacy and conversation with somebody would get old over time; it doesn't and it hasn't; it's only gotten better. But it's only gotten better because of the work that we've put in. And what I'll tell men the next right thing is “You are married first and a parent second.” A lot of people get that backward; “I'm a parent first and married second.” That's great if you want to have a disconnected marriage that might end up in divorce. I'm not saying being a parent isn’t noble and it's not necessary, it absolutely is. But you're married first, you’re a parent second. And when I say “parent second,” I mean your kids come like a fraction of a fraction of a priority under your wife. And of course, if somebody needs something urgently, yeah, you're not going to go out on a date night with your wife if your kid needs to go to hospital. 

Larry Hagner: But what I will tell you is that the next right thing, whether it's been one week or if it's been five years since you've taken your wife out on a date night, one of the easiest things to do to elevate your marriage is get in a cadence. And I'm not talking about every once in a while, a cadence of minimum every two weeks, you are taking your wife out on a date, it can be a dinner. I never really encourage things like concerts or movies or anything like that ‘cause you don't interact with each other. Do something, and that's an experience like axe throwing or indoor rock climbing or something like that, or maybe yoga together, or dinner, or happy hour, or whatever. Here's the thing. The next right thing is come to that date as if it's your first date. What I do is, I've been doing coaching for a long time so I've got a long list of what I call generative questions, I gave you three of them already, which we talked about that with kids, but you also can do that with your wife. For instance, what I'll do over dinner is I'll pick out five generative questions that are conversation starters for me and my wife. So, I'll give you an example of one we just did this past weekend: “Tell me about a time when you were a kid and you experienced one of your most fondest memories? Why did you choose that experience? And why was it so meaningful to you?” So, what my wife has to do is she has to think about her time as a kid; “Oh, my gosh, that's such a good question.” When you ask somebody a question of like, “Hey, what does next week look like?” They're just like, “Huh.” But if you put them in a conversation like that where they have to think about something and storytelling – the most important thing is storytelling – and they're sharing it with you, that creates connection, that creates intimacy. 

Larry Hagner: And then how I respond to Jessica is also super important. I've got to be really engaged; “Oh, my gosh! Yeah, I can understand why that hike with your dad, where you guys went on this hike and then you you went fishing together and you had this conversation. And I can understand why you chose that one. That’s super cool. Tell me another one. What's another one?” Being genuinely interested. Because I think a lot of times when we're married, we get kind of lazy and complacent or we're just tired. But go with the relationship like you always had. I love this quote from Tony Robbins that if you treat the relationship like you did in the beginning, it won't have an end. And I think there's some truth to that. My wife and I – I pursue the heck out of her. I date her. I'm purposely affectionate with my wife in front of my kids. I purposely compliment my wife in front of my kids because I want them to see it. I want them to hear it. And when you love somebody and appreciate someone publicly, especially if it's your wife, and in front of your kids, that makes her feel on top of the world. And the cool thing about that is – guys, you’ve got to know this, too – your wife's three basic needs are to feel seen, to feel heard, and to feel safe. When she has those three basic needs fulfilled, she feels really good about the relationship, about her mentality, about you. It's a beautiful thing. And a lot of times, men aren't the best listeners, so we don't hear them. I'm guilty of that as well. A lot of times, the women are doing a lot of things that go unnoticed, maybe it's grocery shopping and they don't feel seen. If my wife goes grocery shopping, “Thank you so much for going to the grocery store. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you grabbing this for me and that for Ethan. And thanks for always doing this. It's just so helpful around here.” And my wife will just perk up and be like, “Wow! Thanks that just made me feel on top of the world.” And all I did was thank her for going grocery shopping. 

Larry Hagner: And safe is the other thing, too. Safe is where if you ask your wife a question and she's venting, you don't have to fix her problem. In fact, you're actually going to make her feel safer if you just listen. If you're just like, “Tell me more about that.” Or you label her emotions, “Yeah, that sounds overwhelming. Who wouldn't be overwhelmed? That's a lot. Tell me more about that. How can I best support you?” Because that's what makes her feel safe. As soon as you dive in and start telling her how and instructing her and advising her and coaching her on how to fix her problems, she doesn't feel so safe, she doesn't feel so seen and heard even anymore; she actually feels quite condescended. So, those are just some simple tweaks that you can make in your marriage that are really going to elevate things. And by the way, the last thing I'll say is this: A lot of people feel really guilty of like, “No, I'm a parent first.” If you're a parent first and not married, then you're missing the mark because what you're doing is you're basically sending a message to the kids, “It's all about you. It's not about your mom. It's not about us.” And they're going to watch a marriage either become stagnant, deteriorate, or not be really connected whatsoever. And what they're going to learn is, “Well, that's just what marriage is.” Luckily, I had all these bad experiences with men in my life, but I have one really good one, one really game-changing and good one, and that was my grandfather. My grandfather lived a mile away from us. I spent a tonne of time at my grandparent’s house ‘cause my mom was in the dating world and all sort of stuff. My grandfather, I think, really took a lot of onus of like, “This young man needs to see good.” My grandfather loved my grandmother so much. He was a blue-collar tough dude, but he was not afraid to show her affection, tell her how much he loved her, tell her how beautiful she was, hug her, kiss her, “This is my queen. This is my lovely lady.” He was un-freaking-believable. And that was an amazing thing to watch growing up because I got to see that. And I do that around my own kids. My own kids, they get grossed out and I'm like, “Good! Mission accomplished.”

Clint Hoopes: Exactly. “You won't forget it.” 

Larry Hagner: But that's what I'll say about marriage in general.

Clint Hoopes: Wonderful actions and things we can do right now, and things that aren't difficult but they're just intentional. Well, Larry, what is the best way for people to connect with you? If they want to hear more about you, what's the best way to connect with you?

Larry Hagner: I’m not hard to find. You can find me on social, everywhere. My Instagram is @thedadedge, we have a page, Dad Edge. If you want to find me on Facebook, I'm Larry Hagner on Facebook. Many people in the world with my name, which is a blessing. All of our resources are over at thedataedge.com. I've got one, in particular, kind of like what I just talked about today, it's totally free. But it's called 25 Intimate Conversation Starters, and it's a quick video, instructional, of just me teaching you the psychology of why you need to ask what's called generative questions, intimate questions, and not brainless questions like “How was your day? What's for dinner? How'd you sleep?” Just stay away from those altogether. But if you go to thedadedge.com/25questions, just put in your name and email, you'll get training and you'll get a PDF on 25 conversations that you can go have with your wife.

Clint Hoopes: Excellent. Thanks for sharing so many great resources and sharing your story with us today, Larry. 

Larry Hagner: Well, thank you for having me. This was awesome. 

Clint Hoopes: Well, everybody out there, thank you for joining us today. We'll put links in the shownotes to everything you heard today. And there are some wonderful things that we can act on today. Now, it's your chance to go and be the Unrivaled Man in your life.

Clint Hoopes: Building that epic connection needs to happen, once again, with us with our children, then with us. And then when they get older, the same thing. What are they going to reciprocate? What are they going to emulate is what they learned growing up. And I love that. They're going to do the same thing with their own kids and with their own wives and all other people in their life like you're saying. It's a powerful thing to learn to communicate and genuinely care about the people in your life.

Clint Hoopes: Welcome to the Unrivaled Man podcast. So excited to have you here once again today. Very excited also to have my guest for today, Larry Hagner. Over the last six years, Larry has interviewed over 700 experts on his Dad Edge podcast. It's all about parenting, mindset, patience, communication, intimacy, optimizing health, and the power of community. He is the proud father of four energetic boys; the husband of his soulmate, Jessica, for over the past 18 years. And Larry is just one amazing man, husband, and father. So excited to have you on the show, Larry.

Larry Hagner: What's going on, Clint. Good to be here, my man.

Clint Hoopes: Thank you. I've listened to your show over the years, and just got a lot of wonderful insights from the people you've interviewed and from your own story. And really, as we get started today, I would love for people to hear your unique story.

Larry Hagner: Thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate it. My story, I guess it's a little different; when I've told it, a lot of people are like, “Yeah, that's definitely not the norm.” I grew up. My mom and biological father were married for I think four years. They got married when they were kids. They had me in 1975. And then after a four-year marriage and have being parents for just under a year, they decided to split and get divorced. And from what I understand, I don't know much about it, but I understand that the divorce was pretty bitter; a lot of drama; a lot of craziness. They were just kids, they weren't ready to be married. And it was a really bitter ending. So, my dad, I don't know all the details, but he was really just not a part of my life at all. I think he tried to be, but the relationship dynamics at the time, it was difficult. And my mom also had moved from California to St. Louis. So, I have no recollection of my dad. And I remember, from being as little as I can remember to four years old, that it was just me and my mom. I knew what a dad was because I saw dads come and pick up their kids at preschool, the one preschool that I attended. So, I knew what a dad was and we didn't have one, but it didn't bother me. There was no pity party or anything like that. My interpretation of dads at the time was moms go out and find dads – like kids miraculously appear out of nowhere and moms then go out and find a dad. And my mom hadn't found my dad yet, which was fine. And I'll never forget the first time she brought a guy home. This guy walked through the door. She said that she wanted to introduce me to a friend of hers that she had been kind of dating, and I guess it was that time that she wanted to introduce him to me. And I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” That was my first click. I was like, “Man, I wonder if she found my dad. I wonder if this guy is the guy.” This guy came walking in my house – I'll never forget this because it was the first time a real male figure came walking in my house – and he was wearing a three-piece suit, a trench coat, he had a briefcase, 1979. He had a handlebar mustache. He was a white-collar data software engineer. So, he came walking in the house and he shook my hand. And literally, the very first question I asked this guy was, “Are you going to be my dad?” I shook his hand and that was the first thing that came out of my mouth. I just remember it being very awkward and my mom laughed, I laughed, he laughed. But I think my mom took that as a sign and she did end up marrying him, I think it was like six or nine months later. I think she really kind of took that as a sign. 

Clint Hoopes: Like he's already accepted it. 

Larry Hagner: It’s kind of like the Jerry Maguire moment where the kid hugs Jerry Maguire, and all of a sudden she's like, “Oh, my God! Look at that.” They stayed married for six years. And what I can tell you is that he was very polite, well-mannered guy. He was ex-military. If anyone ever asked you about him, they would be like, “Oh, my gosh, that's one of the nicest guys in the world. His manners and how he treats people is just off the chart with just kindness.” And he was like that until he drank, and he did drink quite a bit. And on the times he did drink and my mom drank, fights got really, really intense. There was physical abuse. There was emotional and mental abuse. There were all kinds of things like. I could tell you stories, but I won't. But it wasn't uncommon for my mom and him to be in shouting matches or hitting matches, or there were times where I woke up in the middle of night and I would find my mom pinned down on her bed so they would stop fighting. Cops were called to my house a few times by our neighbors. And it was pretty chaotic growing up like that. And every year they were married, that just got worse and worse. And I remember being 10, and they finally split up. It was a really dark year for my dad. He adopted me, so I just viewed him as my dad. He lost his job. He lived downstairs in our basement and slept on the cold towel floor on our patio furniture cushions. And there were times that I would go downstairs in the middle of the day, I’d go down there 2-4 times a day and just put my hands on him and check on him to make sure he’s still alive because I was worried he's going to die down there. I remember that was my thinking. And they ended up splitting up, getting divorced, he moved out. And I really never saw him since I was 10. 

Larry Hagner: So, it really started to get curious about, “Well, where did I come from? I don't understand this.” And my mom told me at that point, “Well, I was married before him. And you actually have a real father.” I'm like, “I'm sorry. What?” She showed me the wedding album and I was like, “Oh, my gosh!” The first time I actually saw my dad in photos and I was like, “Wow! This is crazy. I kind of look like him a little bit.” So, I became really curious about him. Well, a couple of years passed by, I'm 12 years old, and I go up to our local rec center to play basketball with a friend of mine, where I actually ran into my father – well, I ran into his wife, actually, which is kind of a really interesting story. I usually just say “father” just to cut the time out of it. But I ran into his wife and I didn't even know that was his wife until I heard one of the employees at the rec center say her name, and I knew what my dad's full name was, and he said her first and last name. And I was like, “Wow! It's kind of odd. What are the chances?” So, I just walked up to this lady, being a bold 12-year-old, and I'm like, “Hey, what's your name?” And she told me. And I was like, “Are you married to a guy named Larry? Because that's my name, too.” And she's like, “Yeah, I am.” And I was like, “Huh.” I was like, “This sounds kind of weird, but I think your husband might be my dad.” And I just saw it click for her right away. She looks at me and she goes, “Are you Larry?” Because she had obviously heard about me. And I'm like, “Yeah, I am.” And she goes, “Would you like to talk to your dad?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, I would love to.” So, we went around the corner, she put a quarter in the payphone, she like, “Hey, I'm up here at the rec center. I ran into your 12-year-old son, he'd like to talk to you.” She just handed the phone right over. And I talked to him and it was very surreal. I don't remember what we said. I just remember the tone in his voice was shocked, just like, “Oh, my gosh!” He didn't know what to say, and neither did I. But we decided after that, she's like, “Hey, would you like to meet him face to face?” I'm like, “Yeah, I would.” I went home, told my mom, she wasn't happy about it but she let me meet him. 

Larry Hagner: So, he was remarried at the time to this woman. He had a two-year-old son and another one on the way. And we had this relationship for about six months. I was so excited. I was calling him Dad right out of the gate. Spending time with your biological father, he’d come to my little league games, all this stuff. And I would spend the night at their house. They only lived three miles from where we lived, so it was kind of cool. It was probably right around month five – the last month that we started hanging out – I noticed there was a lot of stress and heaviness with my dad, but I couldn't pinpoint it. I mean, you're 12 years old, you feel it but you don't know how to talk about it. The best way I can describe it is think of a woman that you've dated in the past and she's not into you anymore, but she hasn't told you yet, but you know it's coming; that's about the feeling it was. And I remember picking up the phone one day and I called him, and I was like, “Hey, man, I haven't heard from you in a while. I just kind of get this feeling something's not right. Is everything okay?” Well, that turned into a conversation where we then ended the relationship. And I don't remember why, to be honest. I think that there was a lot of strain, a lot of tension, and a lot of stress that he was experiencing trying to balance both things going on. I think it was a lot for him. So, we ended things and it did not sit well with me. And ended up gaining a lot of weight. My mom ended up dating a bunch of different dudes. She got married again. She got married a total of three times by the time I was 18. And she dated just these complete and total crazy men. They were the same typical guys that she was always with; they were partiers, they were drinkers, they were abusive, they had anger issues. So, that was my world, that's how I experienced fatherhood was half of it was spent without a father figure and the other half was spent with these dudes who were just going in and out of this revolving door. 

Larry Hagner: So, I fell in this really deep depression. I failed the eighth grade, I had to do eighth grade twice. Ended up getting into a really good high school, the second go around. Went away to college, graduated college, started my career. Well, fast forward till I'm 30, and this is where the story ends and begins just definitely a big chapter. So, I'm in a Starbucks here in St. Louis, I'm there for a business meeting. At the time, I was in medical device sales, and I had a Monday morning business team meeting, every Monday morning at Starbucks. And I'm sitting there with my team and I look over, and who came walking in first-morning coffee was my father. My dad is a very successful business owner, entrepreneur in the electrical business, and came in to get his morning coffee, and I still remember what he was wearing. He was wearing this yellow collared shirt with these khakis and just came walking in, and I was like, “Oh, my God! That's my dad. I know exactly who that is.” Well, one of the women that we were with was also a good friend of mine, and she's like, “Are you still here? Hello, we're meeting.” And I'm like, “Yeah. Sorry. My just walked in.” She's like, “I'm sorry, what?” I was like, “My dad just walked in for, I guess, his coffee.” And she's like, “Like your dad? Like your ‘dad’ dad?” And she and I'd been friends so she knew the story, and she's like, “Like the guy from when you were 12?” I'm like, “Yeah, that's him.” She goes, “Where is he?” And I said, “He's right there.” She's like, “What are you even gonna say?” I was like, “Nothing. There's nothing really to say. I'm 30 years old.”

Clint Hoopes: Well, in your mind, you’d already made it pretty clear years ago, it's like, “It's done.”

Larry Hagner: Yeah, it's done. So, she took it upon herself. She just get up and go sit next to him. She didn't even say a word about it. She didn't even was like, “Hey, I'm gonna go talk to him for you.” Nothing like that. She just got up and went over to him. I was like, “Oh, my God, what is she doing?” Sat down next to him. They're about 50 feet away, I couldn't hear them but I could read his lips. And I saw him say, “Where is he?” And he started looking around, our eyes met, and he just came over, shook my hand, and I was just like, “What is about to happen?” And he's like, “Hey, how are you doing?” And I'm like, “Fine. How are you?” I wasn't nice, but I wasn't a total jerk, either. I was right in the middle. And we talked for a few minutes. He's like, “We should really get together for coffee or something.” And I'm like, “Here's my card if you want to contact me.” And the next day, I got this email that was really long, basically pouring his heart out. We ended up meeting for breakfast, which turned into dinner with me, my wife, and his wife. And then that turned into lunch with me, my wife, his wife, and then my two younger half brothers. And now it's been 17 years and we've got a great relationship. I have a great relationship, especially with my youngest brother. A great relationship with my dad. He's still married to the same woman, 40 plus years. We've just decided that the past was the past, and that was it. But here's where Dad Edge really got started, Dad Edge got started about six years later because, at the time, I was raising a six-year-old and a four-year-old, and I was your typical guy that we help now. I was just struggling with patience. I was pouring a lot of my time into my career. I had a mediocre marriage; I really wanted to connect with Jessica on a high level, I just didn't know how to do it. I didn't know how to connect with my kids. I thought all these things like, “Okay, here's a laundry list of what not to do, and I know all these things because I experienced them.” But what I realized quickly was that that's about as effective as you going to Lowe's, buying a brand new barbeque pit, and then opening up the instruction manual, and it says, “Here's 100 ways not to put this together, figure out the rest.” 

Larry Hagner: So, Dad Edge really got started because I had this super-dark moment with my four-year-old, who's 14 now, where he stepped out of line and I spanked him. And I always swore to myself – because I was raised with a very heavy hand, a lot of abusive guys – I'm never going to put my hands on my kids in anger, and I did. And unfortunately, I did it, I hit him so hard that he hit the ground, and I didn't mean to do that, and it was awful. So, I go to pick him up because I realized right away what I just did, and he looked at me in absolute terror. He shuttered actually when I went to help him up and I was like, “Oh, my God, what am I doing?” And it was in that moment, I went into my office and I felt like I was destroyed. It was probably one of the darkest, lowest points I've ever been. And I just remember going on social media, on Facebook, because I didn't want to think about what I did so I just wanted to distract myself. And I'm a big believer in God and faith and divine intervention, and I feel like sometimes God gives you a nudge. And I saw this button in the lower left-hand corner that said “Create a page.” I had never created a page but I clicked that button and the thing came up, “What do you want to name your page?” And I don't know what it was, tears in my eyes and everything, “The Good Dad Project” and just clicked it. And I never did that for a following; in fact, I was The Good Dad Project. I was like if, “I need to figure this out, I need to learn just like anything else.” So, I created that page only because I wanted a record of what I was learning. And I was like, “I'm gonna go out and learn one new thing every day, I'm gonna post it here and just keep a record of it for myself.” That turned into a following, and then being asked to speak, which blew my mind because I was like, “What do you want me to speak about? I'm an idiot.” And then that turned into a blog. In 2013 and 2015, I started the podcast. And here we are, seven years later. And if you would have told me that this is what it was going to turn into, I would have laughed, I would have thought you were joking. But that is what it’s turned into.

Clint Hoopes: You’re like, “Who am I to do this?”

Larry Hagner: Still I think that. But it's been such a great learning. It's been the best education that I could possibly imagine. And I have a fantastic marriage now and I have for years. My wife and I are getting ready to celebrate 19 years. I have four great boys. Not every day is sunshine and rainbows, but it is good. And it is a lot better than what the alternative was. I guarantee you, I was headed for divorce. I guarantee you, I'd have two boys instead of four. I'd be seeing my boys 50% of the time and they’d probably wouldn't like me. I probably would have a wife or an ex-wife that didn't like me at all. I’d probably be on to my next second or third marriage at this point. It would have been disastrous. So, it's helped a tonne, I can tell you that.

Clint Hoopes: Like you said, it sounds like you are a believer in God and I am as well, and that we are led to those type of things. And it feels like Good Dad project, and now Dad Edge, was God leading you along the way to do this for yourself and for so many other men out there. That's an incredible story.

Larry Hagner: Thank you. Yeah, he's definitely a forgiving God, that's for sure.

Clint Hoopes: And I appreciate you bringing that up, being a forgiving God, because I know that there are people listening right now that they think that where they're at with their children or with their family that there's no way to turn back or to fix it, wherever they're at. And God is there for us and he'll help us, and help lead us, and help us know what we need to do in our world. And perhaps your story will help give someone that little motivation knowing, “Okay, I could be my own project, take the next step.” What a wonderful story. Well, what else is getting you excited right now in your business and life?

Larry Hagner: So, the most exciting thing, I think, that is coming is it's a book that I wrote called “The Pursuit of Legendary Fatherhood.” And I've been working on it for a year. And the launch date is supposed to be September 20th. Although the publisher that I was going with filed bankruptcy, so unfortunately, that put it on hold. 

Clint Hoopes: Life always throws you curveballs. 

Larry Hagner: It does. Actually, I had another publisher, literally swoop right in and they said, “Hey, we want it.” And I'm supposed to get an offer either today or tomorrow. I think the launch day is still going to be in September. This will be my fourth book. I wrote a couple of children's books for dads to read to their kids. One is on how a dad will always love and protect their kid no matter what the kid even does. It's a great story to read to your kids especially when they're little. Another one I wrote is “Screen Time: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Basically, I've had a lot of experts come on the podcast and talk about the effects of mental and emotional things that happen to kids when there's too much screen time, and basically, different and better ways you can spend your time. But also balancing screens as well by being very aware of what they do. And then I wrote “The Data’s Edge.” I wrote that one in 2015, that was my first book. It was like 27,000 words and it was nine chapters long. It basically just gives you bare elementary basics of the things that I was learning at the time. But “Pursuit of Legendary Fatherhood,” this is the big one. It's divided up into four parts. It's got current state, like what men face it, everything to be the husband you want to be. So, if you want more intimacy, communication, connection, sex, all those things within your marriage, I teach all that stuff in the book. Everything is we've learned from experts over the past seven years. It's also divided up into being a father. So, raising kids with patients, with grace, connecting with them, making memories with them, raising strong daughters, raising strong young men, rites of passage, how to build confidence, how to build self-esteem. All these things about raising kids. And then the fourth one is leader. And there are 10 different tenants in there of leadership and how to lead yourself but also teach your kids how to be the next generation of strong leaders that we're going to have.

Clint Hoopes: I love that. Being able to help your kids do the same thing, that's the real measure of a man. There are so many different things that we can do, but we and our wives together can help have those strong kids go out and be successful. And when I say “successful,” I’m saying, have families of their own right, children of their own. And also they can have success in the world as well, with business and all of that. We want all of it. And that's what's so fun; the only way to do that is by connecting with our kids. And I love one of the things you say as I've seen some of your stuff over time. One of the things that I love that you talk about is building an epic connection with your kids. I love the word “epic.” I love it, but “building.” So, there are two things there. Epic connection, meaning just so huge, something that just can't be ignored, they're amazing part of their lives. And then the building part, that you have to build it. So, elaborate a little bit on that for me, why you have built an epic connection with your kids is what are your major things you teach?

Larry Hagner: So, “epic” has been a word that we use a lot in the brand because we don't want mediocre. We want awesome. We want it to be epic. And quite frankly, we don't have the skills or the know-how to build that connection with our kids. We have no clue how to do it. And that's not a dig on men. Because here's what I can tell you, the good news about men is we're seeing a generation of fathers right now that are raising their hands being like, “I want this, and I want it bad, and I'm all in.” I just don't know exactly what it looks like because my dad raised me this way, and his dad raised him this way. And that's fine. But what I can tell you is generations past fathers did the best they could with what they had and they were providers, that was their identity. Did they make memories? Sure, some did. And they did the best they could. But a lot of them just viewed themselves as like, “Well, I'm the provider and that's my job.” Well, men of this generation are like, “Yeah, that's a part of my job. But a bigger part of my job is building this relationship, this connection, spending time with them.” You see men today more hungry to hang out with their kids than I think ever before – like they really want it. The problem, like I said, is what does that look like? Especially if I've never done this, and I don't have training around it, and I don't even know the skill sets. Like here's one skill set that we talk about all the time: Create an environment of psychological safety with your kids so they tell you anything. And guys are like, “That sounds amazing, but how does that work?” I was like, “Well, there are actually all kinds of different things you can do.” So, for instance, if you want to build an epic connection with your kids, ask them three questions every day. Now, I'm happy to tell you what they are and give you the meaning behind all three, but what it does is it's such a simple but yet foundational thing. 

Larry Hagner: So, the first question is, “What was a high-point moment for you today? Or what was something fantastic that happened to you today? What was something that you're grateful for today? Or what's something that brought you joy today?” What that question does is when your kids get home from school, usually ask, “How was school? Do you have homework? How was your day?” Terrible questions because you'll get one-word answers: Good, fine, busy, I don't want to talk about it. But when you ask, “Tell me about a high-point moment of your day, something that brought you a tonne of joy.” What you're doing is your kid now has to go think about “What happened in my day today? What was something that was really cool?” You're actually putting them in a state of gratitude, and they're sharing this gratitude with you. The best thing you can do when someone shares gratitude with you is to validate those feelings. So, for instance, your kid might be like, “Dad, I got a B on that science test. Man, I studied so hard for it. I can't believe I got a B. It was so amazing. I thought I was gonna fail it, but I got a B.” I was like, “Dude, that's amazing! Heck, yeah! And you put in a lot of work, you studied a tonne. Yeah, good job!” Validating those feelings. Now, the kid is like, “Oh, this is a good conversation.” 

Larry Hagner: The second question is, “Tell me something that you failed at today. Tell me something that was a challenge. Tell me something that was a low point, how did you get through it?” So, this is one way to create psychological safety. When you have to tell someone about a very authentic or vulnerable part of your day, or a point in your day where you’re like, “Yeah, this sucked for me today. I failed at this part of my day.” That takes courage, number one; number two, it could also be a growth-mindset moment and a way to create psychological safety, and it's all in how we respond. So, let's just say your kid comes home and it's the opposite: “Dad, I got a B on that science test.” “Oh, okay. Well, tell me more about that.” Now, in my dad-mind, I'm sitting here already thinking, “I told you to study for a test.” 

Clint Hoopes: “What were you doing?” 

Larry Hagner: “I saw you on your phone last night. You were supposed to be studying. What did you not understand?” There's that part of me. But instead, I’m like, “Oh, tell me more about that.” Notice I didn't use the word “why”. “Why” will put somebody on the defense. Just take that three-letter word out of your vocabulary, and instead, “Tell me more.” They'll give you the same reasonings, but they're going to feel really good about it. “Yeah, you know, I don't know, Dad, there was a few questions on the test that I wasn't really prepared for. I thought I knew it, but I guess I didn't.” “Okay. Well, let me ask you this. If you were to do the test over again and study for everything, is there anything you’d do different? And if so, what would it be?” “Yeah, I probably would have studied. I studied chapters, one, two, and three, but not four, five, and six very well. I probably should have put in more time.” It's like, “Okay, cool. Great lesson, great thing to learn. So, when's your next test?” “Well, it's actually next Friday.” “Okay, great. So, based on the information that you shared with me and some of the things you learned, what would you do different?” “Well, I’d probably studied a little more. I would definitely study all the material, not just half of it.” “Man, I think that's great. Great job. So, how can I support you with that? How can we make sure that that happens? What do you need me to do to help you?” And they might be like, “You know what? I'm good. Or just check in with me on Thursday night. Or can you help me study?” Something like that. But that's a way where your kid didn't get blasted by you. I didn't have to lecture. All I had to do is ask questions. And by asking questions, he articulated the beautiful answers. Our connection and our relationship was actually elevated, it did not degenerate because of that. Now, if I would have blasted at him and just came in like a bull and been like, “Dude, I told you a study, man. You’re on your phone. What the heck. Come on. Get with the programme. Get your head right or I'll give you a kick in the rear.” Now, your kid is like, “Okay, great. Noted. I'm not telling you anything anymore. Thanks.” 

Clint Hoopes: Because he already knows what he failed at. I mean, he knows exactly what he should have done. He knew he was on his phone. They can make those connections.

Larry Hagner: And the third question is, “What are you most excited about tomorrow?” And that is where you get your kid back into gratitude. But I call that question the “Netflix to be continued” question because then you get a really good glimpse into their day tomorrow. Right now I'm watching the offer, which is a fantastic show. It's all about how the Godfather was made and how hard it was to actually make the movie and get it done and all that. It's fantastic. But they leave you hanging at the end of every episode, so you go watch the next episode. Well, that question is that episode, it is that hook point. Because if you ask, “Hey, what are you most excited about tomorrow?” “Dad, I got my fitness test tomorrow. And you know I've been running the mile for a while. I'm really excited about this. I think I'm gonna run this mile faster than I ever have before.” “Man, that's amazing.” So, what do you think I'm gonna ask him about when I've seen him the very next day? It’s that Netflix hook point, to-be-continued. “Hey, man, how did the run go?” Now, what you're doing with that question, not only is it a great conversation started, but you're sending a really powerful message to your kid that I’ve listened to you, I'm in your life, I know what's important to you, and I'm just as excited to hear about it as you're excited to tell me. Those three questions will create, believe it or not, an environment of psychological safety, where suddenly your kid is just like, “I don't know what is it about dad but I feel really good talking to him.” All my kids, I'm bad at a lot, communication is not one of them though. And my kids will all tell you, “I love talking to my dad.” My 16-year-old, his favorite two words, every night, no matter how tired I am is, “Let's talk.” He loves to still talk, which blows my mind. So, I'm like, “You're a teenager, and you're supposed to not want anything to do with me.” But I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've been doing those questions and been talking to him like that for years. So, epic connection, that's just one way to do it. I talk about it in the book, but I just wanted to make sure your listeners had something. So, if you wanted those three questions, go use those, they’re gold.

Clint Hoopes: Yeah, those questions are powerful. And I love that they won't get stagnant either because we love talking to our dads, we love connecting. Everyone loves to connect. And I love how you were saying, you could switch them up in different ways and use them. And the beauty of it is your kids have probably heard you talk about this kind of stuff. They probably know exactly what you're doing, but it doesn't matter because the connection is still made, right?

Larry Hagner: They know exactly what those are. I mean, the funny thing is when your kids get old enough, they start asking you those questions. It's not uncommon, even my eight-year-old, “What was the best part of your day?” I'm like, “You little ninja.” That’s so funny.

Clint Hoopes: And basically, they’re reciprocating and building the connection back because they feel the love and they want to know and they care, actually care. 

Larry Hagner: One other things, too, is best lessons in life are caught not taught. And I have an app on my two older boys phones called Bark. Bark is an app that runs in the background of their phone, and it detects keywords around suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, drug use, medically concerning content, adults searches on the internet, all these things. And it'll send me an alert. Now, I don’t monitor text messages and web searches and all that stuff. But what I paid a lot of attention to the text messages between my boys and their friends or the girls that they date. And it's fascinating to me because I'll see these girls, like, “Oh, my gosh, I had such a horrible day today and it was so stressful.” And my boys will be like, “Tell me more.” I'm like, “Holy crap! I can't believe my kids are communicating like this.” And I'll point it out to them and be like, “Hey, I got a Bark alert. I saw this conversation. I just want to really acknowledge and appreciate something about you. You used the invite of ‘tell me more’ to get more information. You didn't try to fix our problem. You weren't like her counsellor. Through this text message, you used these words that you are listening, that you are engaged, and that you're just creating space for her. And that's so meaningful to a woman – don't solve her problems unless she wants you to, listen to her. And you do such a great job of that.” It's a great learning moment for them. 

Clint Hoopes: That's so powerful. Like you said, building that epic connection needs to happen, once again, with us with our children, then with us. And then when they get older, the same thing. What are they going to reciprocate? What are they going to emulate is what they learned growing up. And I love that. They're going to do the same thing with their own kids and with their own wives and all other people in their life like you're saying. It's a powerful thing to learn to communicate and genuinely care about the people in your life. These are great things. So, your kids, how old is your oldest, you said, again?

Larry Hagner: 16, and then 14, eight, and six. All boys. It's like the fraternity party you never leave.

Clint Hoopes: It's always happening. So, I grew up in a house, I was the third of four boys. And then at the very end, my parents had my little sister. So, there's one girl at the end. So, four boys and then one girl who keep us online. She had many protectors. So, any boy that came by the house, as she was getting older, it's like, “You don't mess with my sister.”

Larry Hagner: What’s so funny and kind of serendipitous is my son that came in and said hello to us before we started hit and record, he's my third born. He's you in the mix. He's the third boy.

Clint Hoopes: He must be pretty amazing. 

Larry Hagner: He is my heart and soul. I mean, they all are. I mean, when your kids are eight, it's like this beautiful, sweet spot of an age, at least that's the way I've experienced it with my boys. They're just old enough to where they interact and play and they really know what's going on. And they're like their own little bitty person. And then he's insanely affectionate. My wife calls him “The Daddy's Boy.” He always wants me. And he just loves to hang out and talk and play video games and play catch. And he's that age. And to be honest, now that I have two older ones, I embrace the heck out of that because these days are fleeting. And there are some days, man, where I can't even keep my eyes open. Two nights ago, I didn't tell you this before we hit record, but I was in the ER with my 14-year-old until 4 am, and only slept two hours the night before last. I was just absolutely smoked yesterday. So tired, I didn't eden know what to do with myself. And my eight-year-old, my six-year-old love to brush teeth together. And this sounds super stupid. I mean, even as I say it, it's just dumb, but this is why I'm still the student, not the guru. So, I'm helping them get ready last night. I am dragging like I'm a zombie. It's 10 o'clock at night, the 4th of July. I'm like, “How am I gonna asleep tonight with fireworks and everything else?” And they come in and I'm already in bed, which is kind of abnormal, I always put them in bed but my wife did it last night. And they're like, “Hey, Dad, can we brush teeth with you?” “Buddy, I already brushed my teeth. Dad's in bed. I'm gonna go to bed.” And he just looked like I kicked him in the rear end as he walked out. And he was like, “Okay.” And then he turned around, put his head down, I’m like, “You know what? I could always brush my teeth again, go grab your toothbrush. We'll do it.” So, he came back in and we brushed our teeth. And my wife goes, “God bless! You are such a sucker.” I was like, “This could be the last time he ever asked me to brush teeth with him. I know this very well. This could be the night where I never get this invite again, so you just gotta do it.”

Clint Hoopes: There are all these little moments. It's funny you say that this might be the last time because my oldest, she's almost 14. I have six kids: three boys and three girls. 

Larry Hagner: They’re so calm. 

Clint Hoopes: So, it's funny, whenever I'm recording a podcast, I always have to go warn everybody, “Okay, everybody, recording a podcast.” And I used to say, “Hey, try and be quiet.” Something to that effect. But now we just say, “Go outside.” Everyone has to go outside because there is no quiet. But I love it, that's life, that's what it's all about. And my oldest, as I was saying, I just look sometimes and I think, “How did she get so old?” And there are some of these little things; reading stories, wants to be tucked in at night and read stories or do this thing or that thing. And I just keep thinking, “When did she stop asking for that?” I didn't even realize it. And luckily, that's the benefit of having so many kids is I get lots of chances. I've messed it up plenty of times, not appreciated as much as I could. And now it's like, “Okay, let's appreciate it more and more.”

Larry Hagner: Yeah, you gotta. First of all, I would have never thought I’d have four myself. Here's the funny thing. I don't know if you ever do this but feel free to steal this because it's just funny. So, you meet somebody new, they'd be like, “Oh, how many kids you guys have?” And when I say four, I say “wow” the same time they do. And then they're like, “Boys, girls?” And then I go, “All boys.” And then I do it again, “Wow!” Because they both like, “Wow!” I've been dealing with the wow’s for all these years. I have one guy who used to work for me. This is a long time. He's a very, very blunt dude from Michigan. And I told him how many kids I had, and he's like, “Why?” It wasn't a “wow,” it was a “why,” which is really funny. But the funny thing is that I get it. When I had two boys, I was like, “Yeah, we're done. I ain’t having any more kids. This is craziness.” Now, I wouldn't have it any other way. And I wouldn't have it any other way because of the exact same reason you just said. Because what I've noticed, my two older boys, they notice that I'm a bit more of a softie with the younger ones, and they're like, “God bless! Dad, you were never.” I was like, “I know. Sorry, you guys are the crash test.”

Clint Hoopes: Exactly. Guinea pigs will take it. 

Larry Hagner: I always tell my oldest. I was like, “Yeah, you get the worst because I learned everything first with you. So, by the time I get to your next brother and next brother, it's a little easier on them because I've messed up with you. So, sorry for years, I'll put more money in your therapy fund.” We joke about it. He's got a good sense of humor about it.

Clint Hoopes: It's so fun though. That is the fun thing about having kids is kids being able to have siblings, I think, is a very amazing thing. I think about my life and just what a wonderful thing it is to have my brothers and my sister, and just have that connection. It's just one of those things that you can't replace. And it is funny that I'm gonna have to steal your “wow” response because you're right, when I say “six,” they always say the exact same thing. They've been saying it since about four. So, you're right.

Larry Hagner: I want to normalize something here real quick about just fatherhood in general. There are going to be moments and seasons where things feel really great. And there are going to be moments and seasons that are just a complete and utter mess. And one thing I'll tell you is a lot of men, we are our own worst critics. And the loudest voice in our heart and our mind is the voice that we use when we talk to ourselves when no one else is listening. And I was talking about this with a bunch of my guys who are on our leadership team in Dad Edge Alliance Mastermind, that's our mastermind for dads. And we started talking about some of these guys because we have sessions for them just for our leadership team where we feed them and make sure that they're good. We had this conversation about these inner dialogues we have with men and about how we don't give ourselves any grace, we beat ourselves up relentlessly, and the words we use and how we talk to ourselves is terrible sometimes. And I piped up on this leadership call and I was like, “Guys, let me ask you something.” And one guy, in particular, I called out and I was like, “What do you say to yourself?” He's like, “I'm always asking myself, ‘Am I worthy? Am I good enough?’ And just life in general: my jjob, my marriage, being a man, being a father.” And I looked at this man, I said, “Dude, let me ask something.” Christopher, his son, he’s 16. I said, “If Christopher came to you and said, ‘Dad, I don't know if I'm worthy or good enough.’ What would you say to him?” He's like, “Oh, my God! Son, no. I’d give him so much grace. Why would you think? You're amazing, you're this, you’re that. Of course, not.” And I was like, “That's what I was hoping you'd say. Why can't we ever speak that way to ourselves?” 

Larry Hagner: And that was like a conundrum that none of us could really answer; we’re like, “We don't know. That's just the way men are.” But here's what I'll tell you. There are going to be a lot of moments like last night, with the teeth brushing thing. I didn't feel like doing it. I was tired. Besides myself tired, I only slept two hours. I had every reason not to do it, even my wife was like, “Yeah, don't do it, you're in bed.” Whether you feel like doing whatever it is or not is irrelevant. I will tell you one of the normal things to do is a lot of times whatever it is that you have to go do or need to go do with your kids, you may or may not feel like doing it. In fact, you might be like, “God bless! If one more person asks me to do something today, I might shoot them at this point.” But if the answer is like last night, I have zero regrets. Today, God forbid if I were to go to the hospital for a heart attack and the doc said, “You're not going to make it for the next 24 hours.” I would not regret for one second, getting out of bed and brushing teeth with my kid for four minutes. I would be like, “The last thing my kid heard me say was ‘Yes. Let's go do that.’” That's what I want to tell men is that there are going to be a lot of times where you don't feel like brushing teeth, or you don't feel like doing this, or you don't feel like doing that, or “For the love of God, I just can't. I've had a crazy day. I don't want to go play catch.” Or “I don't want to play tea party with my daughter.” But if you do it anyway, what I can tell you is that is going to make all the difference in the world. And a lot of times whatever it is you're about ready to go do, once you're doing it for 20 seconds, you think is great. A lot of times you're not going to feel like doing it, just do it anyway, and just enjoy the results of that.

Clint Hoopes: I love that because it takes me back to when you met your dad again after when you were 30, after yours, and you decided to forget the past and move forward. And what became of that, what came of that now. And what's still coming of that in your relationship. It makes me think the same thing in life. So, if you're one of the dads listening right now and you had a different experience yesterday, where you didn't get out of bed, or you didn't go throw the ball; forget about it, give yourself some grace like Larry says here, and let's start doing it today. Well, Larry, I love this. This is a great conversation. So, as we come to a close here, one thing I love to ask at the end, and you've given so many great action steps already, but I love to ask all my guests, what's your top action step? What would you tell my listeners to do? If there's one thing they can do, what would you have them do?

Larry Hagner: Is it okay if I give a bit of a long answer to this? 

Clint Hoopes: Please do. 

Larry Hagner: We talked about fatherhood, but we didn't talk about marriage. And here's what I’ll tell you, there's a whole section, in my new book, on marriage. We've been doing Dad Edge Alliance now, which is our mastermind community for six years now. And in order to be a part of that group, you have to apply for it. So, we see the applications come through, and one of the questions is what has your attention right now? What is it that you want to create? And there are five sections to that: “I want to optimise my physical, mental, emotional health.” “I want to create a better relationship with my kids.” “I want to be more patient.” “I want to create a legendary marriage.” Eight out of 10 men identify “I want to create a legendary marriage” who want to come to [41:24 inaudible] with us Dad Edge Alliance. So, we know that is on the mind and hearts of most men is “How do I connect with my wife?” So, Jessica and I have known each other for 25 years, we've been married for 19, as of next month. And we're in the best five years we've ever had is the last five years. And you would think, knowing her 20-plus years and sex and intimacy and conversation with somebody would get old over time; it doesn't and it hasn't; it's only gotten better. But it's only gotten better because of the work that we've put in. And what I'll tell men the next right thing is “You are married first and a parent second.” A lot of people get that backward; “I'm a parent first and married second.” That's great if you want to have a disconnected marriage that might end up in divorce. I'm not saying being a parent isn’t noble and it's not necessary, it absolutely is. But you're married first, you’re a parent second. And when I say “parent second,” I mean your kids come like a fraction of a fraction of a priority under your wife. And of course, if somebody needs something urgently, yeah, you're not going to go out on a date night with your wife if your kid needs to go to hospital. 

Larry Hagner: But what I will tell you is that the next right thing, whether it's been one week or if it's been five years since you've taken your wife out on a date night, one of the easiest things to do to elevate your marriage is get in a cadence. And I'm not talking about every once in a while, a cadence of minimum every two weeks, you are taking your wife out on a date, it can be a dinner. I never really encourage things like concerts or movies or anything like that ‘cause you don't interact with each other. Do something, and that's an experience like axe throwing or indoor rock climbing or something like that, or maybe yoga together, or dinner, or happy hour, or whatever. Here's the thing. The next right thing is come to that date as if it's your first date. What I do is, I've been doing coaching for a long time so I've got a long list of what I call generative questions, I gave you three of them already, which we talked about that with kids, but you also can do that with your wife. For instance, what I'll do over dinner is I'll pick out five generative questions that are conversation starters for me and my wife. So, I'll give you an example of one we just did this past weekend: “Tell me about a time when you were a kid and you experienced one of your most fondest memories? Why did you choose that experience? And why was it so meaningful to you?” So, what my wife has to do is she has to think about her time as a kid; “Oh, my gosh, that's such a good question.” When you ask somebody a question of like, “Hey, what does next week look like?” They're just like, “Huh.” But if you put them in a conversation like that where they have to think about something and storytelling – the most important thing is storytelling – and they're sharing it with you, that creates connection, that creates intimacy. 

Larry Hagner: And then how I respond to Jessica is also super important. I've got to be really engaged; “Oh, my gosh! Yeah, I can understand why that hike with your dad, where you guys went on this hike and then you you went fishing together and you had this conversation. And I can understand why you chose that one. That’s super cool. Tell me another one. What's another one?” Being genuinely interested. Because I think a lot of times when we're married, we get kind of lazy and complacent or we're just tired. But go with the relationship like you always had. I love this quote from Tony Robbins that if you treat the relationship like you did in the beginning, it won't have an end. And I think there's some truth to that. My wife and I – I pursue the heck out of her. I date her. I'm purposely affectionate with my wife in front of my kids. I purposely compliment my wife in front of my kids because I want them to see it. I want them to hear it. And when you love somebody and appreciate someone publicly, especially if it's your wife, and in front of your kids, that makes her feel on top of the world. And the cool thing about that is – guys, you’ve got to know this, too – your wife's three basic needs are to feel seen, to feel heard, and to feel safe. When she has those three basic needs fulfilled, she feels really good about the relationship, about her mentality, about you. It's a beautiful thing. And a lot of times, men aren't the best listeners, so we don't hear them. I'm guilty of that as well. A lot of times, the women are doing a lot of things that go unnoticed, maybe it's grocery shopping and they don't feel seen. If my wife goes grocery shopping, “Thank you so much for going to the grocery store. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you grabbing this for me and that for Ethan. And thanks for always doing this. It's just so helpful around here.” And my wife will just perk up and be like, “Wow! Thanks that just made me feel on top of the world.” And all I did was thank her for going grocery shopping. 

Larry Hagner: And safe is the other thing, too. Safe is where if you ask your wife a question and she's venting, you don't have to fix her problem. In fact, you're actually going to make her feel safer if you just listen. If you're just like, “Tell me more about that.” Or you label her emotions, “Yeah, that sounds overwhelming. Who wouldn't be overwhelmed? That's a lot. Tell me more about that. How can I best support you?” Because that's what makes her feel safe. As soon as you dive in and start telling her how and instructing her and advising her and coaching her on how to fix her problems, she doesn't feel so safe, she doesn't feel so seen and heard even anymore; she actually feels quite condescended. So, those are just some simple tweaks that you can make in your marriage that are really going to elevate things. And by the way, the last thing I'll say is this: A lot of people feel really guilty of like, “No, I'm a parent first.” If you're a parent first and not married, then you're missing the mark because what you're doing is you're basically sending a message to the kids, “It's all about you. It's not about your mom. It's not about us.” And they're going to watch a marriage either become stagnant, deteriorate, or not be really connected whatsoever. And what they're going to learn is, “Well, that's just what marriage is.” Luckily, I had all these bad experiences with men in my life, but I have one really good one, one really game-changing and good one, and that was my grandfather. My grandfather lived a mile away from us. I spent a tonne of time at my grandparent’s house ‘cause my mom was in the dating world and all sort of stuff. My grandfather, I think, really took a lot of onus of like, “This young man needs to see good.” My grandfather loved my grandmother so much. He was a blue-collar tough dude, but he was not afraid to show her affection, tell her how much he loved her, tell her how beautiful she was, hug her, kiss her, “This is my queen. This is my lovely lady.” He was un-freaking-believable. And that was an amazing thing to watch growing up because I got to see that. And I do that around my own kids. My own kids, they get grossed out and I'm like, “Good! Mission accomplished.”

Clint Hoopes: Exactly. “You won't forget it.” 

Larry Hagner: But that's what I'll say about marriage in general.

Clint Hoopes: Wonderful actions and things we can do right now, and things that aren't difficult but they're just intentional. Well, Larry, what is the best way for people to connect with you? If they want to hear more about you, what's the best way to connect with you?

Larry Hagner: I’m not hard to find. You can find me on social, everywhere. My Instagram is @thedadedge, we have a page, Dad Edge. If you want to find me on Facebook, I'm Larry Hagner on Facebook. Many people in the world with my name, which is a blessing. All of our resources are over at thedataedge.com. I've got one, in particular, kind of like what I just talked about today, it's totally free. But it's called 25 Intimate Conversation Starters, and it's a quick video, instructional, of just me teaching you the psychology of why you need to ask what's called generative questions, intimate questions, and not brainless questions like “How was your day? What's for dinner? How'd you sleep?” Just stay away from those altogether. But if you go to thedadedge.com/25questions, just put in your name and email, you'll get training and you'll get a PDF on 25 conversations that you can go have with your wife.

Clint Hoopes: Excellent. Thanks for sharing so many great resources and sharing your story with us today, Larry. 

Larry Hagner: Well, thank you for having me. This was awesome. 

Clint Hoopes: Well, everybody out there, thank you for joining us today. We'll put links in the shownotes to everything you heard today. And there are some wonderful things that we can act on today. Now, it's your chance to go and be the Unrivaled Man in your life.