Lessons From Famous Dads

June 16, 2019 Updated: February 1, 2020

What do Henry Winkler, Tim Allen, Mark Cuban, and Shaquille O’Neal all have in common? They’re all dads who’ve shared their hard-earned dad wisdom. They are just a few of the dads who dispense fatherly advice in Jon Finkel and Art Eddy’s new book, “The Life of Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood from Today’s Leaders, Icons, and Legendary Dads.”

Finkel and Eddy, who founded “The Life of Dad Show” podcast, spent a good six years conducting interviews with famous dads about fatherhood. Hailing from the fields of business, the military, sports, entertainment, and more, all these dads offer advice about how to teach kids to be good, happy people; how to handle the challenges of fatherhood, from work-life balance to health; and on the lighter side, how to have fun with kids, from perfecting that jump shot to trying new foods.

I caught up with Finkel and Eddy to talk about fatherhood and their journey on “The Life of Dad Show.”

The Epoch Times: Was there anything that surprised you as you interviewed all these famous dads?

Art Eddy: In the beginning of “The Life of Dad Show” I was a bit surprised at how much these guys would open up about fatherhood. Then I realized that this is a topic that all guys like to talk about. It is almost like back in the day when fathers would carry photos of their family in their wallet. They would love to show off their family to the world. “The Life of Dad Show” is a form of that photo collection, but in podcast form. I am thankful to all of our guests taking the time out of their busy day to sit down with us and talk about fatherhood. 

Jon Finkel: The level of enthusiasm that all of these men had, from top to bottom, to talk about their kids was off the charts. Maybe some of it was that after doing hundreds of interviews, the guys got to “The Life of Dad Show” podcast and were happy to talk about their families and life as a dad rather than their work or their projects or their sport … But every time we interviewed someone we’d have an awesome conversation going to start with, and then when the topic of kids came around, their energy went up another level. It was palpable and we loved it. You can almost hear the enthusiasm in the book from guys like Tim Allen and Sterling K. Brown.

The Epoch Times: What is it about your podcast that you think has drawn so many dads to share their stories and advice?

Mr. Finkel: To borrow a line from Will Ferrell in “Old School,” we like to think of “The Life of Dad Show” as a “tree of trust” for our fellow dads. We’re just a bunch of dudes talking fatherhood and we’re not out to break news or start controversy or do anything other than share our experiences as dads and pick up some great stories and wisdom and insight and laugh a lot along the way.

Mr. Eddy: One of the main reasons that these guys like to jump on “The Life of Dad Show” comes down to one word. Pride! All of these guys have been kind enough to share with us a part of their lives that makes them swell up with pride. As dads we share a brotherhood in fatherhood. We all have had to sing the same song like “Baby Shark” or “Let It Go” over and over, but deep down we could think of nothing better to do with our kids. I love the fact that “The Life of Dad Show” has brought all views on fatherhood in one place. I know I am grateful to chat with these guys. It makes me a better dad and I hope our guests can say the same thing after our time together.

The Epoch Times: What does being a dad mean to you both? What’s given you the most happiness, and what’s been most challenging?

Mr. Eddy: To me being a dad means everything. My children and my wife give me meaning and a purpose in life. Yes, I would still have an identity even if I wasn’t married with kids, but my wife and my daughters mean the world to me and I try to show them how much I love them each day. I can remember the days that they were born like it was yesterday. Those two wonderful days will always stay with me.

The happiest moments for me are when I see my daughters accomplish something that was meaningful to them. From riding a bike to being brave after a broken bone or seeing them be there for each other warms my heart. On the flip side the most challenging thing is knowing that time never stops. There are days where I could be doing more with them, but other things might take up my time. We would love more time in the day, but I know that there will be a time where my daughters will leave the house to start a new chapter in their lives. I need to make sure I make most of the time I have with them now before they leave the nest. 

Mr. Finkel: For me, fatherhood has meant truly learning to put my kids’ lives and happiness before my own. I lived with my brother on the beach in LA for most of my 20s and could do almost anything on a whim that I wanted to. I loved that time in my life. Now, that time is dedicated to doing cool stuff with my wife and kids, whether it’s shooting hoops or coaching soccer or fishing or crafts or going to movies or watching WWE, and I truly look at it as a different chapter in my life. And I love this chapter too. There are, of course, so many challenges that go along with being a parent. My daughter had night terrors when she was little and it kept my wife and me up almost hourly for months and it was brutal. Our kids had colic, which can be a form of audio torture. But each phase passes and now all of a sudden you’re in the backyard throwing a football around and there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing.

The Epoch Times: Through 100+ interviews over the course of more than six years, was there a dad you interviewed who made a particularly strong impression on you?

Mr. Finkel: Two dads stand out to me, and one of them I knew before we interviewed him and the other I didn’t. The one I knew was Adam Carolla, who was my boss many years ago when I was a production assistant on “The Man Show” and he was the star.

I loved his sense of humor and perspective on things then, before either of us had kids and it was really cool to reconnect all these years later and talk about what it means to be a dad in 2019. His kids are much older than mine, but his thoughts on teaching kids actual carpentry skills and building things that are useful, rather than lame birdhouses nobody wants, was hilarious.

I also love our chapter with Alfonso Ribeiro, who now hosts “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but who I grew up watching as Carlton on “Fresh Prince.” He talked so passionately about teaching his kids the importance of work ethic and teaching them that in real life, only one person will get the job and there’s only one winner in a competition that I’ve never forgotten it. He said something like, “Look, only one person was going to be Carlton. It’s not like they’d make a second show just because I was almost as good as the other actor. There was one part. And I wanted it. There was no role to be given for second best.” I love that mentality.

Mr. Eddy: For me, one that sticks out the most is when Bill Engvall told us to listen to our kids. Just don’t be the one who is talking. It sounds simple, but at times as parents we feel like we know it all. As we all know we don’t know it all. We are still learning as we go through life. Bill wants us to make sure that we have great communication with our kids. There is hearing our kids and listening to our kids. You need to sit down with your kids and make sure you listen to what they are saying, and as you ask questions your kids will feel that you are listening to them. That will make them feel that they can talk to you since you will listen and not just be the one speaking. This builds a strong relationship between you and your kids. 

I feel now more than ever we need to work on our listening skills. A healthy relationship is built on communication. Make sure we take the time to listen to our kids. I am glad Bill brought that up in the interview. It made me look at fatherhood in a different way.

The Epoch Times: How did you score your first interview—with the Fonz, no less?

Mr. Eddy: The incredible interview with Henry Winkler came from our founder here at “Life of Dad,” Tommy Riles. In the interview you get to see another side of the man who made us all want to be cool as the Fonz. Henry opens up about fatherhood and what he treasures the most in this world—his kids.

His last answer in our interview with him was the best. When we asked him, “One hundred years from now, what do you want people to remember you by?” Winkler’s response is, “My children’s children.”

I think we can imagine him pop his collar when he answered that question. 

The following is excerpted from “The Life of Dad” by Jon Finkel and Art Eddy. Copyright 2019 by Jon Finkel and Art Eddy. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hard Work and Character Go Hand-in-Hand

Herman Edwards

Twitter: @HermEdwards
Born: April 27, 1954
Kids: Marcus, Gabrielle, Vivian
Career: NFL Player, NFL Coach, Analyst, College Football Coach

“You play! To win! The game!” This is the most famous “Hermanism” from charismatic former NFL player and head coach Herman Edwards, but it’s far from the only one. Edwards, who has spent the last several years as an analyst for ESPN and is currently the head football coach at Arizona State University, has built an entire personal brand, including a bestselling book that contains homespun sayings, inspirational phrases, and allegories about leadership. Because of this, Edwards is a sought-after motivational speaker and many of his best tales involve his father (a World War II veteran) teaching him lessons about character and hard work.

LOD [Life of Dad]: Your speeches are often focused on leadership, motivation, and positive advice. How do you impart these lessons to your own children?

HE [Herman Edwards]: I would say this: Being a parent is the most powerful form of education. Youngsters need role models more than they need criticism. Too often I think we get caught up in making a living rather than making a difference. I think you have to be a role model and it starts at home. I have said this a lot of times—good character is like good soup. It is made at home. We have to give them hard love. You have to be able to say “no,” but you have to explain why you are saying “no.” You have to educate your children. Children can’t choose their parents. They have no choice.

My father also gave me … a broom. A regular broom, and he gave me chores. He gave me the broom and made me look at it. He asked me what it was, and I said it was a broom. He said it means hard work. He said no matter whatever you accomplish in your life, I hope you become whatever you want to become, but whatever you achieve, don’t forget this broom. It is called hard work, and he was right. When I grew up there was no blower. You didn’t blow the stuff in someone else’s yard. You had to sweep it. Today, as God is my witness, I have a broom and I wear it out. I sweep all the time. It reminds me of my dad. Every time I pick up that broom and sweep I think about my dad.

The Takeaway: You Teach! To Raise! Your Kids!

Which one of the “Hermanisms” Edwards gave in his answer stuck with you the most? Was it “good character is like good soup—it is made at home”? Or was it the broom story? Or was it the phrase about people getting caught up in making a living instead of making a difference?

There is almost too much to unpack from such a short answer, but the idea that character is intertwined with hard work is something many dads should keep in mind. It’s almost impossible to have one without the other. How many people of character do you know who are lazy or undisciplined or who don’t want to put effort into achieving their goals? Not many. Raise your child to be a hard worker and your chances of them understanding the meaning of having character will certainly increase.

Epoch Times Photo