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Today’s guest is Allen Carter.
We go deep today talking about:
- The amazing legacy project Allen created by writing monthly letters to his children, and how you can do the same to share wisdom and lessons
- Finding ways to be more intentional and present with our kids
- The absolutely essential role we fill as fathers and the massive impact we have
- The catastrophic outcomes of what happens when dads aren’t engaged and when families fall apart
- How a regular letter-writing process to our children gives us a chance to amend previous thinking and grow in humility
- Masculinity, marriage, and leadership
- The power of selflessness and sacrificial love as a father
Allen Carter is a husband, father, and author of the book Letters from a Father. Allen’s book is a publication of many of the monthly letters he wrote his children over their teenage years in which he shares lessons, insights, and guidance to lead his family intentionally.
Find Allen online at:
Unknown Speaker 0:00
You are the foundation of your family, you are the firm footing. They build their lives on. You carry a glorious burden and you never dream of laying it down. You carry it with joy and gratitude. You show up, even when you don't feel like it. You lead, serve, love and protect. You are a father. This is the Dad.Work podcast where men are forged into elite husbands and fathers by learning what it takes to become harder to kill, easier to love and equipped to lead. Get ready to start building the only legacy that truly matters, your family
Curt Storring 0:59
welcome back to the downward podcast. This is Curt Storring, your host and the founder of dad work. Today I am joined by Ellen Carter Ellen is a husband father. He's the author of the book letters from a father. Guys, this is such a cool book. It's the publication of many of the monthly letters, he wrote his kids over their teenage years reshares lessons, insights and guidance to lead them with intentionality. In this episode, we go deep talking about the amazing legacy project Allen created by writing these monthly letters to his kids, and how you can do the same to share wisdom and lessons, finding ways to be more intentional and present with our kids. The absolutely essential role we feel as fathers and the massive impact we have the catastrophic outcomes of what happens when dads aren't engaged. And when families fall apart. How a regular letter writing process to our children gives us a chance to amend previous thinking and grow in humility, masculinity, marriage and leadership and the power of selflessness and sacrificial love as a father, you can find the book letters from a father on Amazon, you can find Elon on social media at Elon in Chicago, I think there is at least an Instagram account, maybe some more. But that is where you can find them definitely recommend picking up this book, as I read through it, it was very useful. And in fact, I will be stealing so much of what he puts in there in terms of the categories in terms of what he wants to teach his kids because the lessons are so good and so fundamental, that I'm just going to use them to base my own letters on for my children. We've talked to Blake brewer in the last couple of weeks, who runs a legacy letter challenge. This is very similar guys. But it's slightly different than that it's more regular, it's more of a cadence that allows you to talk about a broader array of things. It's not quite so much of this legacy letter as it is guiding your children along the way during the actual parenting experience. So really appreciate it. This is a fantastic episode, Elena was a great guest, I think you guys are going to ton it, it is useful for me, especially because his kids are launched, they're in their 20s now and I could learn a lot from his experience. I hope you guys do too. So without further ado, we're gonna hop into this, my only request is that you give us a review or rating if this has been useful for you in any way. If you've been blessed by this, if it has helped you in any way, if you've learned something, we should just take five seconds, hit pause, go to Apple or Spotify, leave a review on Amazon or rating on Spotify. I would appreciate that so much. And guys, don't forget, we've got a free training at Dad.Work slash training if you want to learn how to be an elite man husband, father. Anyway, that's a lot of stuff. I know you guys are gonna crush it. Let's go into this episode with Alan Carter. Here we go. Alright guys, I'm here with Alan Carter, thank you for joining me and I'm really excited to talk to you because your book letters from a father is one of the things that I want to do with my children. I think it's just such a brilliant idea. And we recently had Blake Brewer on from Legacy letter challenge. And it was a similar sort of thing. But yours is even more expensive if I can say that. So first of all, welcome. Thank you so much for coming on. How's everything going? As we approach Christmas in your life? Are you excited? Is your family around? What are you guys gonna get up to?
Allen Carter 3:45
Oh, Kurt, thank you so much for having me what a delight to spare. Spend some time with you this morning. And just so grateful for what you're doing for dads, you know, I think as a society, we do such a good job with moms, right businesses do maternity leave, and we nurture them and support them and dads are sort of left to the wind and the community you're building and the tools you're bringing to bear I think is super helpful. So thanks again for that. And for this time. Thank you. And yeah, this book, is it gonna be it's pretty fun to talk about and thrilled to hear another guest on your podcast. It's sort of dipped your toe in the waters here. It's been a wonderful thing for our family. And I'm hopeful at the end of that a lot of dads who are listening will also take this up, right because I think it create a great tradition and a lot of other families as well.
Curt Storring 4:38
Yeah, and I think that will be one of the greatest things from this book. And that was one of the questions I was going to get to eventually is, you know, what was the motivation? I think perhaps that was just it. So why don't I start there is the motivation for this book just to inspire more dads are what led you to write this in the first
Allen Carter 4:52
place? Well, it's interesting, you know, I had no intention of these letters going anywhere other than just staying within the bounds of our family. So it just became my habit Curt to write roughly a monthly letter to our kids during their teenage years. Now we have three kids, our eldest, now Claire is 28, we've got a 26 year old son, and our youngest, Emma is now 20. So if you think about it, that was a lot of letters that I wrote over a lot of years. And a way back in the day, my mom and dad got a hold of some of these letters. And they called me one day in tears and said, Son, you got to share this stuff. This is, you know, bigger than just your family. And, you know, we think it'd be helpful if other families could see what you're doing, and maybe get some ideas from it and take it to their own family. So I was surprised at the time curve, but I'll tell you, my dad went even further got a literary agent, the next thing, you know, this book has been published, and it's just a curated batch of letters from that body of work. And it's been fun to see how much it's resonating out in the community with families. So that's kind of where it started. And so I am an unintentional author, I call myself that.
Curt Storring 6:09
Oh, okay. Wow, that is exceptional. And I love that it's a naturally occurring sort of thing. And we should just back up a moment for the guys listening, and just go into what this book is. It's called Letters from a father. And like you said, it's a collection of these letters, but I want to get into what letters they are like, what is the process here? Why did you dive into this? What are you sharing in this book? Exactly? And then we can get into a little bit more of the specifics that I'm interested in?
Allen Carter 6:37
No, thanks, Kurt. Well, we'll do I'll just say that, you know, a lot of times as dads, we, there's so much on our mind, right, we have so many things that we're responsible for in life goes so quickly. And with kids your age, you know, it's a mile a minute. And sometimes we just blow right by opportunities to dig in on something. So we share an experience with our children. And the next thing, you know, it's two days later, and we sort of lose track of what that was. So the letter started for me as an opportunity for a redo, where I really wanted to focus on a shared experience, or maybe extract something that I thought might be a teaching moment for our kids. So I'd stop and create a letter about that shared experience where I thought I could communicate some value. So that's sort of how the letters started. And I also thought to, as most dads do is like, just looking for different levers, and opportunities I could pull on to be more intentional and connected with my kids. You know, we all sort of seek that time, right? That time at dinner or around meals, or driving the kids to and from school or taking them to practice where we're, we just want to be present for them. And this was sort of next step for me. Right? I thought, Well, hey, a letter to my teenagers, you know, sort of thinking about maybe ruminating on a shared experience would be just another tool to create that connection. So that's a little bit about the how, and the what. And it's been fascinating to Kurt to see how that's played out. Now, my kids are older now. But I can tell you unequivocal Bay, it's been really impactful for our family.
Curt Storring 8:18
Yeah, that was one of the other things I was going to get into is, where are your kids now? Like, let's just fact check it here. Are they successful, quote, unquote? Did they tell you any feedback from this letter writing experience? Because I'd love to hear how it's impacted them?
Allen Carter 8:35
No, that's, that's great. And I get this question a fair bit. And remember, I was writing these letters to teenagers. And for those of your audience who have teenagers, man, that can be a tough, tough age, there's so much going on. For those kids. There's oceans of peer pressure. With social media, there's school commitments, there's peer commitments, there's typically sports and extracurricular activities, and the poll for their time can be intense. So I remember distinctly on a lot of occasions, you know, spending a lot of time crafting this letter, and, you know, praying over it, and then sending it out to them via email. And you can guess a lot of times what I would get back, and that was, of course, crickets, you know, just dead silence sort of no feedback temporarily. But I will tell you that importantly, you know, I think two things. One is, sometimes years later, I would get something back or, you know, randomly the kids would say, Hey, Dad, you remember that letter, and I knew that they were hitting home, and I knew that they were resonating. So that's hugely important. The second thing I think about and that's really important, as well for dads is to know that look, you know, it's not about being perfect. It's not about the content you generate. It's more that the kids that your parenting know that you really care, and that you're really trying to connect with them and that you're doing everything you can to be present and to be focused and to be a part of their lives. So I knew that this method or this tool that I was using with the ladders was reaching them, even if not directly in the content. Absolutely. They were seeing and feeling that effort at a time in their life. That is hugely developmental.
Curt Storring 10:30
Yeah, that's fantastic. And I love the idea of this. And I almost, when I was talking to Blake Brewer, who has this legacy letter challenge, and it's, it's helping dads write one significant, at least one significant letter to their children, giving them sort of the One and done in a way, lessons, advice, all that kind of stuff. And this seems, at least for me, like an easier path to get into that which might then be able to be taken down into one letter if you distilled it all down. But what was your process for writing this? Because when I think about this, I'm going like, oh, man, it will take me a year to get off everything I want to teach them because I'm looking at it, like, make sure you have this mixture. Here you have these values. Here's where I learned, like, I want to get it all to my kids. So when you sat down, you're writing one of these a month to your children. When you sat down, what is the process for actually writing? I know, you said you shared experiences and try to make a lesson out of that. But how did that evolve it all into a way that guys can sort of dial into immediately if they want to get on this track?
Allen Carter 11:33
Oh, 100%. And look, Blake's it Blake is exactly right. I mean, one of the things that we don't get is another chance, we have one shot at this life and one shot at parenthood. And so the legacy aspect of writing letters to our kids is huge. And you know, one step further on what he was suggesting, which is great is this book of letters, this, this is a legacy, this is me and my relationship with our children permanently inscribed for our family, for generations. And that's a huge thing. It's really huge. And, you know, to your question about process, I encourage that not to overthink this, you know, you go through your day with your kids, and you see and touch and hear and feel so many things, each one of those experiences together is a thread that you can pull on. And you know, the observations that you make, and whether it's in vacation or whether something happens that might be negative or positive, you can use that as the basis for a letter that can be really huge. And you can pour into them, the things that you feel are important. You know, for me, it was timeless values, I'm looking for opportunities to talk about the benefits of perseverance, the benefits of hard work and determination, you know, the benefits of stick to itiveness, you know, all the things that we want to give to our kids, that wisdom is all around us. It's just a matter of observing it. And then again, pulling on that thread and talking about it in a letter. So these things don't have to be, you know, works of art. They can be almost back of the napkin like, Hey, son, daughter, you remember, Yesterday, we saw this, you know, I was thinking about it. And you know, here's a few thoughts that I've got. And those types of things I think can make it easier for dads and moms sometimes to just lean into that and create that extra touch point for our children.
Curt Storring 13:36
How often, I think once a month, if I recall correctly, but when first of all, is that correct? And second of all, how are you ensuring that this is in your schedule? Because I know for me, if it's not in my schedule, it's probably going to get skipped. And even though this has that massive legacy aspect, and I'm very good at doing that. I know for sure this would be the thing in my day that I go. I'll just do it tomorrow. You know, so how did you stay so consistent? And and was this like, every single month?
Allen Carter 14:06
I would say it was roughly once a month? You know, I didn't want to beat myself up about it or for something that wasn't there, Kurt? So yeah, I would I would suggest that dads kind of relax a little bit about and I hear you, man, I'm a very list oriented person. And I certainly know how busy dads are with balancing all the responsibilities of marriage of work life of fatherhood. So I think if you force it, it becomes a little daunting. But little reminders maybe once a week, just to for me it was hey, look for opportunities to share with the kids and write about. That's the way I sort of came about it. And invariably if you're looking for it, these opportunities present themselves. You probably have heard Tony Robbins speak you know the massive motivational speaker, he tells a story about brown cars. And he'll pause and look at someone and said, Hey, how many brown cars have you seen today? And people will say, Well, I haven't seen any. Well, he says, I want you to go look for brown cars. And the next thing, you know, and the person will come back and say, Well, I saw five of them, well, nothing changed, other than that person was looking for it, right. And it's the old adage is what we seek, we will find, and this falls into the same bucket, Kurt. So I just full circle back to you, you know, just encourage yourself, give yourself that prompt to look for those opportunities to pull on together through a letter,
Curt Storring 15:42
man. And you know, that as I'm thinking about this, this is yes, it's a legacy project. Yes, it's this letter. It's the physical thing itself. It's the words and it's of the lessons in it. And yet, what you just said is like, it's actually probably one of the best ways to just become a more intentional, good father. Because you're seeking these opportunities out, you're reflecting on them. And now you're just sitting in that space of awareness, where you're always just going to be like, oh, man, that's a great way to write a letter. Here's the thing that I wanted to teach them. So maybe my question on this is other than just the observation is, what did you get out of this experience as a father?
Allen Carter 16:18
That is a really great question. I think, more than anything, it forced me to be present and thoughtful about my children and my relationship with them. And to just you just said, I mean, that's something that sometimes we can blow, right by, right. And kids, I think, more than anything, and I mentioned it briefly before, they don't want perfection, nor do they expect perfection from us. They know we're all flawed, and that we're all going to make mistakes, and they're all doing the best we can. But the most important thing is that effort, right? They see that we're really we really care about doing the best we can they see us trying to be present, and trying to be that word intentional that you use right now. And that's huge for them. That's where they learn. That's when they feel our love the most is in those moments. So yeah, thank you for pulling on that. Because that's a big, big thing.
Curt Storring 17:21
Yeah, okay, so I'm just in my mind here, I'm trying to think about all the things I wanted to do here for this episode, I want to figure out the why want to figure out the what and the how. And now, I think we're, I think we're good. So you've got the sort of monthly letter based on some value or even just some thing you want to share to each one of your children through their teenage years until they hit 20. I read in the book that sort of when you stopped, and then you just send them to them. And you send them by email, you said, Sure, you could do it, you know, paper form as well. But I want to just talk speaking of pulling on threads at the beginning of the book, and I'm just going to quote here, talk to you a little bit about it says, quote, statistics clearly show how kids can get challenged quickly when there's no father figure engaged in their lives. Incarceration and crime are worst case scenarios. But what about the more common outcomes? Here I'm referring to kids who grow up directionless lives lived with quiet frustration, dreams left unfulfilled, or unperceived people dying with the music still inside of them. We as fathers can change all that. The power we have is almost immeasurable. Through our love, focus, encouragement and guidance, we can impart to our children gifts beyond description we can instill in their lives, beliefs and values that will allow them to be who they want to be and become who they want to become. And quote, I love that. Because it just really drives home, how important our roles are. And I talk to guys about this all the time. And I'm like, if you are not an elite father right now, why are you not going all in? There could be nothing more important than your role as father because of what I just read. You have so much influence to change the directory of your child's life. And if you are not all in on becoming the best father you can be, I can't imagine what your priorities could be. So I'm curious if you want to just play on that a little bit. The importance of fatherhood, and what you've seen in your life and your just your experience growing up the absolutely essential role that we can fill and why we must not let fatherhood and masculinity be fallen by the wayside.
Allen Carter 19:30
Oh, my gosh. Yes. And, look, what we're talking about now is core to what the work you're doing in your ministry. And that's part of the reason I'm just so grateful for this because I don't think we can talk too much about this. And I don't think we can remind dads this too frequently. And I just I will back up a bit and maybe we can just touch quickly on the other side of the coin, which is what happens when dads aren't engaged in what happened. is when the family is broken apart. And look, we can look at history. I mean, look at the times where society in history has specifically targeted and broken down families for their own purposes. Nazi Germany comes to mind with the Hitler Youth. So this was a targeted attack on families to see if they could separate fathers from their children. And the results were more than catastrophic. This happened in the Soviet Union. And no, look, I can't draw a parallel to what's happening now in the United States to those terrible times and histories. But I will say that, you know, we can see the damage done to kids when there isn't that engaged father, and I touched on it in that quote, you read at the beginning of this book, man, it's, it can be terrible, terrible, terrible results for children when we're not there. And we're not to your point, all in. So, you know, foundationally, what we do is dads couldn't be more important. Now, the good news is, you mentioned it to the opposite is true. Man, I tell you, if we are all in his dads can imagine the outcomes that we're providing for our children. I mean, it's staggering the the change we can do, and we're not just changing the lives of our kids, we're changing generations with that engagement. And what greater purpose do we have on this planet than that? And look, I get it. And I hear this all the time. And you do too. And we chatted briefly about it already curve. But there's so much pressure on dads right now. I mean, there really is there are demands for our time, there are jobs to fill, there are bills to pay, there are marriages to save. There are demanding bosses, there are injuries, there are catastrophes and family, there are tragedies that subvert our time. But I would just suggest to dads that we've got to keep that in the proper perspective. And we put our marriages and our families as first and let everything else fall, second, or third or fourth, or fifth. That's the best thing and the only thing we should be doing. And, you know, I'll just, I just want to circle back to and, and I'll tell you that I've got some regrets, man, and you'll see it if you read this book, or if you've read it, I look back and there was a period of my life where I justified time away from my kids because of my career. And so we justify things as fathers, we say, you know, the best way I can serve my family is by providing for them financially. And the best thing I can do is give them a secure home. And that takes a lot of time away from them. Yes. But that's what I need to do. And man, that's a false flag. It is. Because yes, while it will give us some perhaps temporary, perhaps financial security, that's secondary to the real power as fathers we have, which is that direct, constant and loving engagement and time.
Curt Storring 23:18
Yes, absolutely. Well said, Thank you for that. And that's one of the things that comes up so often is, how are you able to in the moment, figure out? Am I doing this for the kids? Or am I doing this? Because actually, I'm quite ego driven. And I need to have this money. Right. And so one of the questions I asked myself, is what am I optimizing for? And that's helped me significantly. And I also try to make decisions judged against a list of my five core values does this hit this, this, this and this, but in hindsight now, from your perspective, were there ways that you could have made better decisions in the moment about work or and spending time away from the kids so as to not get that regret? Or was it just one of those things that had to happen? And now you're sort of living with it? Were there were there more indications that you might not be making the right choice?
Allen Carter 24:11
I think so. Look, we we as humans have this fantastic ability to justify and rationalize things. And I love the way you described, that you you have a core set of values that you sort of match everything against. And I think we've got to be disciplined around that. I think that is a fabulous practice. And I wish I had that same practice back when my kids were younger, because I would have limited the regrets I carry with me today if I had had that. So I encourage all your listeners to emulate you and what you're doing. I think I would have been better off for it. Now. Look, I'm not saying that I've failed miserably. I think this letter concept that I had in our family was really helpful for us right? And it helped reflect and teach things that we felt his parents were important for to impart to our children. So yeah, I just I've got to be sort of methodical in terms of how I parse it a little bit. But yeah, all those things are kind of going through my mind, as I reflect back also say to is, and just with this theme of reflection, when you have a series of letters, it gives you the opportunity to amend previous thinking, sometimes as dads and as men, right? We are, we think we're right. And we want to be right. And that's more important sometimes than anything, but we can always through this series of letters, we can grow with our family, we can be honest with them, you know, we can say, Hey, I know we saw this, and I was thinking this a few years back, but you know, I've rethought it. And here's how I've grown and learned. And, you know, what do you think about that now, and that's super important to give that sort of level of conversation with our families, it creates a sense of honesty, and accountability. And it strips down sometimes our view as men that we have to be important and impenetrable, we have to be bulletproof. We have to be right all the time. And we can never be vulnerable, right? That vulnerability that I think you're showing, and that these letters can show as they grow. And as we as we confess to our kids, or apologize to them. That's super important, as well.
Curt Storring 26:35
I love that little aspect of it, where you can make amends. And, man, there's so many times like I talked to a lot of dads and I've had to practice this, which is the only reason I'm any good at accepted practices a lot, which is apologizing my kids, you know, I have screwed up a lot. And I have always gone back to repair the rupture. And I know that a lot of dads I work with, they're like, Well, you know, a day went by I didn't say it, I don't think I can say it anymore. And so they don't say anything. And that you know, call it a wound call it whatever is forever etched on the child's heart. And yet here is such like men that say the side benefits of this process are immense. Like as you're saying all this I'm going like okay, legacy, that's awesome. Yes, teachings, a teaching lessons, you know, breathe into my kids edify my kids lives. And then there's like this intentionality. And then there's like noticing things that you can teach. And then there's, like everything that we just talked about repairing, after the fact when you know, you're wrong. And that teaches so much. It's like this humility, that you are just a human and that you also make mistakes, which in my experience, gives your kids permission to do the same in their lives. Actually, that brings up a question just about like your own life that you lived and how that seeped into these letters. I think that my kids do as I do more than they they do, as I say. So did you think about that, in pairing these letters with the man that you were showing them? That you were? And and maybe that just ties into the fact that you're using, you know, memories and actions to draw on? But what did you think along the way of doing as I do? And as I'm trying to say, here?
Allen Carter 28:19
Yeah. Look, we you're opening up such great lines of communication, I hope, I hope we don't bore your listeners to death. I'm enjoying this conversation with you so much. But yeah, I think, you know, the experiences that we have as men, especially what we share with our families, there's just endless opportunities. I'll give you a few examples. Before I go there, I just wanted to reinforce what you're saying about vulnerability as a dad, man, that's important. It just is it's so urgent for us as men to let our guards down. And sometimes it's counterintuitive. It comes from generations and generations of being that hunter gatherer provider, where we can't show weakness, and we, you know, can't do anything wrong. And that's fine when we're hunting for our food in the stone age. But it's a terrible idea, I think, as it relates to our modern life. So yeah, I think we have to as dads be super mindful of that and be able to have that vulnerability with our children and be able to immediately say, I'm so sorry, I screwed that up in a terrible way. And then back to what you were saying, Kurt? Yeah, I look. Sometimes we say one thing and do another. And we've got to own that immediately. And we've got to fess up and again, bring it full circle and say, Hey, I'm sorry. I messed that up. Can you forgive me and move on? But yeah, back to a deeper answer your question, maybe I'll just give a few examples about sort of the things that I tried to impart, which will give you a sense for my life and may be some of the things that I was thinking about when I wrote these letters. I'll just pick one because you live in Vancouver right on the on the water there. It's a beautiful sailing town. I've sailed my whole life. And I've done a ton of racing sailing. We live, as you know, on Lake Michigan and Chicago, which is small potatoes, compared to the Pacific Ocean. But for us, the Lake Michigan is a big and violent body of water, it's about 65 miles across, it's more than 400 miles long. And it can get very rough indeed. And I'll give you one example. I was bringing a racing sailboat across the lake from the Michigan side to the Illinois side, and it was the first week of May, water temperature in Lake Michigan that first week of May is about 36 degrees. And we had a massive storm on forecast to kick up gale winds, 12 foot seas and chop, and we're in the middle of this lake and the water is frigid, the air temperatures below freezing. And yeah, I mean, things get you start thinking hard about things. But I just remember going below and we're starting to write a letter because I knew that we had a beautiful navigation system. We had a great autohelm We had a great crew and that boat was tracking perfectly. Despite this terrible storm, these terrible waves, it was tracking perfectly to the destination, we select it. And it was moving forward. Yes, we were getting bounced around. But we are making progress that was relentless. And it was absolutely no question that we were going to arrive at our destination. So you know, that letter was all about, you know, surviving the buffeting that life brings us to that was all about having a goal and relentlessly moving towards it no matter what's happening in your life, or what circumstances are telling you, or what fears are buzzing around in your stomach. So there's a timeless lesson I think we all want to impart to our children, you know, those those virtues and that, that, you know, those those values of determination and those values of heading relentlessly towards a goal and ignoring the buffeting of life and life's events? So that's a long answer your question, but I hope it kind of gives you a sense for not only what I was thinking about, but how I would weave in something that I was doing, to pull on into a part a lesson to those kids.
Curt Storring 32:41
That's so good. And you know what, that just, you have to be a man of action to have things to write about like this, right? And so, in everything that you're talking about, I think the underlying principle is probably action. You know, you don't become successful, you don't become a guy who's got like, however many letters, there's a ton in the book, without taking action. And that particular example that you just gave is one of action, you're going out to do something you're in the wilderness, you're well, you know, you know what I mean? You're you're out there in life experiencing things, so that you can then pass those lessons on. And I wonder if that is a theme in your life is taking action and pushing forward towards that goal, regardless of the choppy seas around you?
Allen Carter 33:26
100%? Yes. And look, so much has been written on both sides of the equation about masculinity, right? There's one's one side that says, hey, look, we as men, you know, we got to take off our claws and, you know, not sharpened our teeth and, you know, conform to a society that really doesn't need those masculine skills anymore. Now, the other side of that is, look, God built us to be hunters and providers and protectors, you can't strip that out of our DNA. And in my view, and it sounds like yours, that is crucial to fatherhood. That idea that we are protectors and providers and that we are courageous, you know, those values are deep and timeless. And I believe and it sounds like you do our kids have to see that. They have to feel that they have to feel that hey, man, we are men of action, that we are out in it, that we are able and willing and excited to do hard things. They have to feel that almost feral excitement from us, that teaches a ton in itself, in my view. So yeah, the things that you'll see in this book and I dare say your listeners, the dads that listen to your podcasts are going to be wired the same way. And I got to share that those experiences and learn and teach from Have those experiences because that will resonate more than just an intellectual conversation?
Curt Storring 35:06
Yes, absolutely man that is. So my my thing, if you will, I tried forever to find out a an interesting way to say balance between what you're saying, which is, you know, the intellectual side and the doing side. And I finally came up with what I think is, for me grounded mature masculinity. And that is being hard to kill, which is the sort of savage warrior aggression side, easy to love. Because you also have to have that softer side where there's a space for the intellect, there's a space for the heart to be gentle with your wife, and kids. And in the middle, that's where you are then equipped to lead, being able to access either side of that spectrum, hard to kill, easy to love, and that grounding in the middle with discernment, knowing which side to act on in each moment, I think in my life, has been the space where I felt most like a man. And so I love what you're saying there about having to be in that without just declining ourselves. Because I think like you said, that is probably another aspect of the family issues that we're seeing where men are taken out of the home where fatherhood is being attacked, all those kinds of things, we need to make sure that we are guarded against the decline of our own masculinity against the world society, all the rest of that. So thank you for sharing that because I am 100% in agreeance. And I would like to ask one final question about the sort of the, just the outskirts before we dive into more of the principles, I think, and I'm curious if your wife had anything to do or say with this process, and it could be barking up a sort of an empty tree here. But I'm just curious if anything comes up on that.
Allen Carter 36:48
No, I think, look, my wife, we were celebrating our 30th year of marriage in May of 2023. So super excited for that. And beautiful, she couldn't get any more encouraging. I think she recognizes that. You know, in a great family, it takes that masculine man, and it takes that feminine woman. And while we have to blur the lines, sometimes with both different roles, I think she's all on board with how you described it. And so, in along those lines, Kurt, we it's really important, I think that men recognize that our kids are watching us as it relates to how we interact with our spouses. And this is a huge thing. I mean, I think sons especially will learn from their fathers, how to treat women. And look, I'm an old school guy, and I'm unapologetic about it. I just believe that I'm a protector, and I'm a provider, and that my wife would even though she's a lot smarter than me, and she has a lot more intuition, and a lot more frankly, ability in almost every level. God put me here to protect her and provide for her and care for her and love her to the very best of my ability. And if someone wants to take umbrage with that, that's great. I'm happy to have that debate. But that's my belief. And that's our family. And I recognize that all families are different. But to that, you know, Mary, I thought, believe that this letter writing program that I had with my kids was awesome. And it frankly gave us another conversation point around the table for our family together.
Curt Storring 38:35
Even more side benefits incredible. Yeah. Okay, let's dive a little bit more into the the principles themselves and I the first one, love, but also like sacrifice was within that love. That is it's so perfect to me, like it is so perfect. And we just start there because I would love to give some of the principles that you parented by that you live by and we don't have to go through all of them. Obviously, I've got a couple here. And then I'm curious more about like how you just parented through teenage and through the launch years. But let's just talk about this idea of love. And this idea of sacrifice within love, because I love how you said that it was putting other people's needs above your own. So can we just, can we just riff on that for a little while? Because I love that?
Allen Carter 39:23
Yes, look, you know, and I know and most dads know that love and it's pure for its purest form is absolutely selfless. And, you know, if you go back to we're all hardwired to partake to take care of ourselves first man and go back, you know, millennia ago, we're sitting in those caves and we're thinking about how do we survive? But real love is 100% not about us. It's about someone else. And that's counter cultural, isn't it? You know, kids these days grow up in this social media. at a landscape that is fraught with images of curated beauty, and it prompts these thoughts of I'm not enough, and how come I don't have? And how is it that and, you know, I can't possibly compare myself to others. But you know, the giving of ourselves selflessly that's at the core of love. So are for able, as men, to put ourselves, put aside our own selfish pursuits, whether they be career related, or whether they be just owning our own time, and pour into others, especially our family, right? That's real love. And everything we do, I think, should be working towards that end. And look, we're never going to get this 100%. Right, it's impossible, be flawless in the space because we're human. And we're broken. That's just the way it is. But if we can strive for that, to put others needs first, before our own, that's going to be felt, and it's going to be felt by our children. And even if it's simple is dads coming home exhausted from work, wanting nothing more than to put on the game and just cocoon because of the miserable dangers they just had. But if they can, instead, turn themselves physically and emotionally, and focus all that heart, into their children into their family. What kind of dividends are paid in that moment? I would suggest that you really even can't count them.
Curt Storring 41:42
Yes, absolutely. That's the investment in relationship that pays off so much. And it has compound interest, I think, in my experience, and just seeing guys as well become investors as fathers. But I wanted to touch on this string a little bit, because, like you said, it is so countercultural, there is so much that I see guys sort of self sabotaging, because they're like, well, I need to have my time I need to watch this, I need to go hang out with my friends. It's like, dude, sacrifice is it. It is like the core of all beauty and earth, in my opinion, like sacrifice is love in so many ways. And that is the burden that we as men can specifically carry we can toil, we can put more burden on our back. And we are the only ones who can do that in our family. And I have been convicted on this regularly. And recently, I even the other day was realizing that there was so much selfishness in me that I was looking after my own interests over those of my children, and it came out the other day. And I had to repent. And I read through John 13, where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and I went, Oh, man, and the servant is not greater than the master. And so what am I doing? You know, where can I start sacrificing more for love, and it just hit me so hard? And maybe that's why I'm bright. Bring it up. And maybe that's why, you know, it was the first very first letter, I think, in the book. So it's just it's hitting me very hard. And I want guys to understand. Sacrifice is beautiful. And it is so important as fathers. So anyway, I don't know if you have anything else to say we can move on. But that just it really spoke to my heart as I read that one. Thank you very appreciative. Yeah,
Allen Carter 43:24
can we just stay on this for one second, I'll just share with you a couple of more thoughts, because this is so important for dads to hear. And I mentioned that look, this takes incredible discipline, right? Because to your point, our tendency is to take care of ourselves and want to carve out some me time and I get all that. But some of the stuff I've done I do a lot of hard stuff like you do, I like to get out in it. And I did some wilderness training with a former Navy SEAL and spent three or four days out in the woods, and a backpack journey. It was a fantastic experience. But you know, as we were out in the middle of wilderness, we got to talking about the SEAL teams and no surprise that this is a really interesting group of men who are former seals and current seals, and they shared that the number one attribute of a seal. In other words, the question was What do fellow seals look for in their teammates? And so we were guessing a lot of things, you know, strength, right? Ability, Courage Under Fire, all these things were being spit balled around and answer this question. And none of that was true. The number one thing that Navy SEALs look for in their teammates is selflessness. So this is exactly what you're talking about. And there are such rewards to selflessness. That yes, there's the obvious rewards to the people who you're being selfless and loving toward words. But what I was hearing and I think what you're touching on as well is we feel those benefits in our souls as well. When we give, it's the old adage coming all the way around that it is better to give than to receive. We receive such unbelievable call it karmic rewards, we feel in our souls, when we give selflessly, this lightness, this power, if you will. So I think to your point, as dads, we have to seek that first, rather than the temporary temporal satisfaction of carving out some time to be with our buddies, or working on our trucks or sitting in front of the TV or whatever it is for us. We may get a temporarily hit temporary hit from that, but man that's gonna leave us empty long term, will will fill us up will give us that karmic reward. Is that active selflessness?
Curt Storring 46:02
Yes. Oh, man, thank you for staying a few extra minutes on that I just, it's in me right now to hammer this home into guys, because it is so fundamental. And yet, as you originally said, so countercultural. I am curious, just switching gears a tiny bit, if you have a favorite letter in this book, whether it was because it was a special moment, if it was because there was a specific value that you shared, Does anything come up? Or is that am I No, I'm putting you on the spot here. But I'm curious if you have a favorite lesson or letter in this book.
Allen Carter 46:35
I know I have so many in here, but I'll just send you you know, I'll just give you something that the first thing that came up so our youngest daughter, Emma, she played a sport called squash. So think of it for those of you who aren't familiar with it's just squashes this super intense, indoor racquet sport. So think racquetball but with a ball that hardly bounces, and is just tremendously grueling, from a physical perspective. So it's big in the eastern part of the United States and some of the traditional Ivy League schools, they play it a ton, and it's a little bit on the west coast at Stanford University. And here in the Midwest, it's definitely a niche esport, maybe a little bit like rowing, where it's just a grind, Kurt, it really is. So as a child coming up, I was playing. So she started playing, and she got really serious about it. And she got on this path and soon became one of the top 10 players in the country in this sport. But the reason I'm talking about this is I watched firsthand the pain and the suffering, and the disappointments and the relentless grinding that goes in to be great at anything. And it's just hard for a parent to watch the ceaseless losing, and the ceaseless disappointment, and the ceaseless just just an endless grind. And I'll tell you, she got into the college of her dreams, you know, she got a year and a half ahead of schedule. She has built for herself such unbelievable opportunities because of that. So it always makes me think about what we need to impart to our kids is the value. That's it with that relentless hard work that digging through the coal line with no reward and cite the endless losses, and seemingly just countless knocks that we take and the ability to get back up and keep going. I mean, look, you you know, the old cliche that diamonds are only formed in darkness through pressure, and hardship, and adversity. And I think those are the types of things that we want to pass along to our kids and back to these letters, you know, writing to Emma about that over the years, and you probably saw multiple examples of that, that allowed me to just encourage her to keep fighting, and to keep going. And to recognize that that might not be immediately but that you will get rewarded. And she was with that.
Curt Storring 49:28
That is so good. And the resilience piece. I mean, there are some core values and one of the things I've just written down to remember is like, I honestly I just wish I could read the book here. Because it's so good in terms of like the fundamental foundations of values and hard work and resilience and love. And so like I'm just gonna I was gonna shout it up at the end of the episode, which I will again but guys, pick up the book. It's so good for me, because I'm going okay, there's a million ideas that I have that I don't know how to collect them all I know I just like make it very short term focused in my mind where as I know, it needs to be long term. So letters from a father, as I was reading through it, I was like, I'm just going to copy, like a lot of these ideas to get my own mind going on what I want to share with my kids. So that was a really cool thing. And I encourage you guys to do that, because the letters are so fundamentally foundational, that I think they'll serve you very well. But going back to that piece of resilience, and feel free to jump in anytime, obviously, what sort of things were you doing to help impart that resilience, that hard work that grit? Was it the fact that you are always doing hard things and showing them wasn't that you were continually encouraging them? What allowed that teaching? Because, again, I'm just like, Okay, I could ask you a million different things. Or we could just dive deep on the things that you bring up. So let's go deep on this one and just see, because I think it's it's fundamental.
Allen Carter 50:51
No, it's great. Yeah, thank you. And first of all, I echo what you said, Please, I mean, have your listeners and you plagiarize the heck out of this book? I mean, you take rip just change the name on it right and change the the actors in it and use it for yourself. Because it's been so powerful in our family. I would love for dads to do everything they can to start this tradition in their own families. I just so yeah, please page, plagiarize it, rip it off, copy it, do anything you can to get it going for yourself. And yeah, longer answer. You look grits. Huge, right? We it sounds like you. And I really recognize the power of that. And there are endless opportunities in life that we can draw on to impart that lesson lesson. And, you know, I'll just give you another letter if you don't want mine. I remember one New Year's Day morning, that, you know, my daughter, my eldest daughter, and I was a teenager at the time. And, you know, we got up early on New Year's Day, and we said, hey, let's start off the day, right? Let's we're gonna, we're gonna let's go to the gym, let's hit the gym early together, let's crush the gym. And it will give us a great start on the year. And we know that doing hard things right when no one else is willing to. There's a lot of value to that. So I remember we pull this to Chicago, remember, so we pull in, it's gray. It's dark. It's probably 730 in the morning on New Year's Day. And, you know, the snows blowing, it's freezing cold, we pull into a nearly empty parking lot. And they're climbing in having just left the gym into a beautiful Bentley turbo are, you know, this gorgeous car was this great looking dude, fully showered, he's at his gym bag fully packed, he was done with his workout at 730 in the morning, and he was getting into his beautiful car, and heading off to start his day and his year. And I remember my daughter looked at me and went, Wow, that's unbelievable. Well, that was the basis for a ladder, right? And so there's that value if you want that and not look, I'm not here to tell you that everybody should get a Bentley turbo Archer pursue wealth. But the reality is this, if you want something, you've got to outwork everybody and be fully focused on it and intentional. And despite our efforts to get up at 730, this dude was done and headed off already. So that's what it takes to be uber successful is that true type of drive and that type of pursuit, and that type of determination and that type of work ethic. So again, long answered your question, Kurt, the examples for all these values exist, we almost just have to come back to looking for those brown cars that I was talking about, we just have to look and see because we can find those opportunities to pass along those critical values.
Curt Storring 54:00
Great, great story. I feel like I could have just asked you to tell stories with like little headings, and you would have just filled this whole thing with amazing wisdom. So thank you for that. That was well said. And I know we've got just a couple minutes left here. Are there things is there one or two things that is my I'm going to be super selfish with the time as my sons enter into double digits, my oldest is going to be 10 in a couple months and a month and a half. What would you suggest for me to be the most impactful for my life for his life for all of my family's life to lead him into this teenage years? Which you have spent so much time sort of ruminating on now with these letters? Is there an example a thought wisdom and advice or two that I that I need to know?
Allen Carter 54:50
Look, a lot of this stuff is going to be really specific to different families. Right. So families I think though we've talked about some common values, I think families are Gotta want to have their own script here, if you will, you know, for me, I'm a born again, Christian, my faith is massively important to me. And I think that focus on that relationship with God has been just a centerpiece of the things that I think are critical for, for me to pass along for my children. But also to you know, as I thought about my children in their teenage years, I thought about a couple other things. One is, I wanted them to believe, truly believe that they could accomplish whatever it is in life that they wanted to accomplish. And so that was one of the core principles that I wanted to instill into them. So that was super important to me. The second thing, and maybe there's no order to these, but I wanted them not to care too much about what others thought of them. But the value was where they stood with themselves and with their Creator, back to that relationship that I have with God. Right. That was what was really important I view. And so I hopefully I was able to impart those two things. And then third was, of course, this belief that you got to get back up, you've got to dust yourself off, and continue to move forward in life. And then I'll just say, finally, that, you know, the idea that's so I think critical for us to pass along to our children is the one that we've got to be givers, right? We can't just do everything for ourselves or for ourselves. But we've got to love and we've got to seek love. And we've got to give love. And so those are some of the things that you'll find in this book. And that long answer your question, Kurt, the things that I was trying to pass along, and there may be some similarities for dads out there, but I'd come back to you and your five critical values, you could certainly work towards passing those along to your children, especially age 11, when they're just starting this journey where there's they're entering their most formative years, right.
Curt Storring 57:11
Those are all good. And I completely agree that it should be personal. And yet all those things 100%. Like, I totally agree with feel affirmed in thinking those were important hearing from you as well. Was there anything that you guys did last sort of question here to prepare for your kids lunch from the home, but I noticed sort of the letter writing ended at 20, they're probably moving off to college sometime before or near that. Was there anything that you guys did to really intentionally send them off and make sure that they know they're sort of their own person? Now? How did that work in your family?
Allen Carter 57:44
No, that's great. I, you know, I thought about that, I'll actually as a matter of fact, but I feel like, you know, there's no, in a body of 20 years, if you will, or 18 years, or whatever that number that is where you're a parent, you can't in the day, change the course, you just can't. So going back to the sailing analogy, it's that constant course direction that we need to do throughout that children's childhood that the kids childhood, where we can really teach the best the idea that we can come at the end of that time and say, All right, if you just do this, you're gonna be good. That doesn't really resonate. So back to what we were talking about earlier in our conversation together is just the power of engaged fatherhood. Man, that happens minute by minute and week by week and year by year. And that makes it it gives more credence and weight to making great decisions daily as dads and to stave off the desire to hit the sofa instead of engaging with our kid because we are teaching them all the time at every turn at every single moment.
Curt Storring 59:04
That is exactly where we need to leave it that is so good. Oh, man, thank you I feel just so fired up the intention that guys can have that they should have right now in the moment is going to pay off and I know that it's like well when they're old enough when they're bigger when they can do this it's like no man it starts right now. This second is the rest of your life and the rest of their your child's life. So get after it do the work it takes to become an elite man, husband and father right now. Alan, thank you so much. I feel so blessed to have you on here. Could you tell us where to find everything we want to find about you if you're on any socials where to find the book, etc. No,
Allen Carter 59:41
thank you, Kurt. And yeah, I would just invite everybody if they want to get a copy of this. You can pick it up on Amazon or any bookseller. Just search my name and the title letters from a father. I'll say 100% of all revenue and all proceeds I cover expenses goes to a wonderful chair. are a called Chicago Hope Academy here in. In Chicago. It's a great place where 260 really underprivileged kids get a wonderful faith based education that really is changing lives. So we don't keep any of this and we give it all to Chicago hope. So if you if your listeners would love a copy know that they're also doing some good work with the small amount that they may send in, in in trading for the book. So I am on some socials though, with my day job, I don't pay much attention to it as much as I should. And that's just Allen in Chicago. And I welcome any connections on those as well, Kurt, but yeah, just in closing, so grateful for what you're doing, the community that you're building, excited to continue to engage with you and your listening audience and wishing you at the end of 2023. And your listeners an awesome year ahead.
Curt Storring 1:00:57
Thank you so much, Alan, that's so good that you guys are blessing that organization. I think that's amazing. And I feel even better for having picked up the Kindle version myself now. So that is awesome. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for writing this. And thank you for sharing the wisdom with me. And I will put all of those links in the show notes at Dad.Work slash podcast if you guys need them after you listen, make sure you go pick up the book. It's awesome. So Alan, thank you so much for being here, man. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the dad work podcast. That's it for this episode. But if you would like to stay in touch between weekly episodes, why don't you go over to Instagram and follow me there because I drop a number of things throughout the week that are related to what we talked about on this podcast but usually go a little bit deeper provide some tips you can find me on Instagram at dad work dot Kurt. That's da di W O RK dot c u RT. And please, if you have been getting something out of this podcast if it has touched you if it has improved your marriage, your parenting or your life, would you please leave a quick review on Apple or Spotify. leave a rating. If you have a few extra seconds leave a quick review. That's the best way that we can get this work in the hands of more fathers. And I truly believe that we change the world, one father at a time because each father that parents better that loves better raises children who do the same. And in just a couple of generations. I feel like we could be living in a world much better than the one we live in today. Your review will help along that path. I thank you so much for being here. Listen, until next week. We'll see you then.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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