175 | Patterns of Healthy Dads (Matt Norman)
Jeff Zaugg [00:01:20] What’s up, guys? Welcome back to DadAWESOME. My name is Jeff Zaugg. And this is episode one hundred and seventy five and I’ve got two invitations for you before we jump into the conversation with Matt Norman, two invitations. The first is we have a new text message platform. So we then we used to have DadAWESOME daily, a daily text message to help your prayers, Bible verses, words of life, to speak of your kids, a little nudge, a little nudge in your dad life. It’s not daily anymore because we couldn’t afford as we grew and added hundreds of dads to DadAWESOME daily. It just didn’t make sense that text message platforms. So we have a new text message platform to give you just a nudge to be an intentional dad. And simply and this is going to let us the new platform of segment. So we’ve got rookie dads. It’s their first year or two. You can be a part of just specific dad life nudges for rookie dads. Then there’s single dads and there’s going to be specific nudges for. So it allows us to segment with specific communication. You can always reply to that text message with stop. So. So I’m asking you, would you opt in? Would you send a text message, text the word “dad” to the number 651-370-8618. OK, one more time, 651-370-8618. Put the word “DAD.” Now, if you’re interested in fathers for the fatherless, put the word “BIKE”. If you’re interested in the podcast, you want updates in the podcast, put the word “PODCAST” and we’ll coach we will respond with options for keywords, but it allows you again to opt into a fatherhood nudge. Becoming DadAWESOME is going to it’s going to be a tool right to your phone and we’re not going to overwhelm you. And you can always type “STOP” later. But I would just ask you would you guys all join this text message thread so we can be a part of the journey with you sending you text messages around areas of dad life that will help you become a DadAWESOME. The second invitation is Save the date. Save the date. June 21st is DadAWESOME day. Now, I’m not going to share anything more than the fact that Father’s Day is June 20th and Father’s Day is a head nod to being a dad. The next day, though, DadAWESOME day is a declaration day. It’s a day saying I’m going to be DadAWESOME I’m going to choose a path of growing and in my intentionality, growing in a marriage this flourishing, I’m going to choose to take an intentional step. This year will be a year of for progress in the dad life. So more to come. But I just want you to save the date. And again, it’s going be a digital option and physical options here in the Twin Cities if you happen to be in Minnesota. But DadAWESOME day is June 21st. All right. Let’s jump to my interview this week, episode 175. Matt Norman joins me for a conversation about, man, I want to be a dad who is healthy. I want to be a dad who is growing. I don’t want to be a dad who is stuck. And he he is both professionally and personally walked out a journey of choosing to not stay in that valley moment, choosing not to stay in that area of disappointment. But I’m going to move forward. I’m going to do it in brotherhood. So you guys are going to love this conversation. Episode 175, my friend Matt Norman.
Matt Norman [00:04:25] As you mentioned, we’ve got 13 year old twin boys and we’ve got a six year old daughter. We had challenges with fertility and miscarriages. And so that process of of having kids was just challenging for us. So that’s part of our story. And then my wife, Carrie and I, and, yeah, we’re we’re living here in the Twin Cities and glad to be part of this.
Jeff Zaugg [00:04:51] Now give me a story recently that you were like, man, I love being a dad. So a moment that maybe cause your eyes to shine a little bit and you’re like, man, it is so great being a dad. Can you share a recent story like that?
Matt Norman [00:05:01] with 13 year old boys? We are perpetually struggling with screen time limits and it often feels to our our boys as though that the limits are too heavy, like there’s too many constraints, they’re always comparing. It’s tempting for them to compare to anybody who has less or fewer limits. And we just turned it around a few weeks ago and said, OK, here’s the deal. You’re going forward, have unlimited screen time, but you have to earn it. So you get 30 minutes of screen time for every 30 minutes of one of the following 10 activities. And they were all edifying, productive activities. And I tell you what, it’s so fun to see them. First of all, I overheard them say to their friends, we have unlimited screen time. We could do as much screen time as we want. And so they’re so empowered and they’re engaging in all these other productive activities. Not that screen time is this bad thing, but just to balance it out. Like my son has started playing the guitar over the last three weeks. He’s walking the dog more often and he’s taking care of his younger sister. So it’s just really fun to see as they get older, like moving from the stick to the carrot or moving from compliance to cooperation. It’s just really gratifying.
Jeff Zaugg [00:06:26] That is that’s a unique approach for sure, because it’s the same with my little seven year old as there’s definitely a desire to want to. I want to watch something or I want to get screens and to say there’s a pathway for that. But it’s going to be through one of these things that we’ve created that’s that’s super practical. When you think about your story, you already mentioned part of it with waiting to get pregnant in the timeline being different than you anticipated. So maybe it’s you go deeper into that or another story of hardship and pain. I think Valley moments cause us to be more introspective. And I believe we change as dads when we walk through a valley. Can you think of a story like this was hard. But, man, we you changed as a dad because of it.
Matt Norman [00:07:08] Yeah, definitely. That period of grieving and processing loss and frustration was really hard because my wife and I processed it very differently. And I grew up in in an environment where positivity, harmony and approval were very much central to what people aspire to. And my wife grew up in an environment where honesty, being direct and entering into hard things was more valued. And so she was very able to and wanted to. Go into those hard places when I was more reluctant to do that, and that was hard on our marriage, that was hard on me in terms of my own ego and identity. And it took me to some really dark places. And I grew a lot I grew a lot as a dad because a lot of that happened prior to our twins being born and after a seven year gap between our twins and our six year old. And a lot of growth happened in that seven year gap.
Jeff Zaugg [00:08:24] Now, when you say like and it took you to a dark, dark place, what were some of the things that pulled you just to kind of process out some of the things that helped you take steps out of that that place to a place of more life? What were some of those factors?
Matt Norman [00:08:42] So working with a marriage counselor was a key factor. Top of mind, because I haven’t talked to him and I don’t know, five plus years. But last night I emailed him because I wanted to connect him to a friend. And in corresponding with him last night, I just was reminded of how much life he breathed into us because number one, he helped us increase our self awareness. I think so much of the dark place was coming from a space of being defensive, trying to protect my idealized self. At that stage as a dad, like I had this idealized image of the dad that I wanted to be and thought I was. And he, in a very gentle, gracious way, helped me to open my eyes. I compared it to in The Matrix when when Neo is offered the blue or the red pill. And I can’t remember which one is which they take, you know, deep down into the rabbit hole. But he takes that pill into the rabbit hole and he starts to see things in the Matrix that he wasn’t aware of. And that’s that took me out of a lot of out of the darkness because I realized how much I was contributing to the darkness. And so I think that’s one thing. And then certainly during that period, with the help of our pastor and other friends, I’m part of a men’s group that, you know, has been a very important part of my life. And it’s been sitting around with those men in a non fixing, non rescuing, non minimizing environment. We had we literally had one guy who was kind of the torchbearer for that culture and our guys group. And he he has had to continuously remind us that we are not here to fix each other. If we’re not here to give each other advice on how to rescue each other, we’re not here to minimize each other. Oh, that’s not so bad. Oh, you know what? You’re you’re a great dad. You’re doing awesome. You know, I mean, that kind of minimizing, rescuing, fixing is so tempting, I think, for us as guys, especially when there’s six or seven of us are sitting around. And he just kept preaching that message of let’s just be here to to listen and invite the Holy Spirit. And I tell you what, it’s been life saving for me.
Jeff Zaugg [00:11:13] Wow. I when I was reading your book. So I’m going to talk a little bit about the four patterns of healthy people. But you you mentioned grow past your rooted behaviors. And even as you’re talking right there about and, it takes the Holy Spirit, it takes brotherhood, it takes your pastor, your counselor, like there was some serious intentionality to get past. I just pulled out a hedge in my backyard last year and it was there for 13 years, this hedge. And we we axed it. I mean, bloody hands, axing, shoveling, prying to get that hedge because of the roots. Right? Like it took tons of effort. But now we have a little basketball hoop back there and we can actually, like, have so much fun where that hedge you really can find the play and the delights that I’m having with my daughters. But I guess I want to go a little further into like there are dads listening right now that are not taking the step, don’t have that circle of brotherhood. They don’t they’re not talking to their pastor. They’re not meeting with a marriage counselor. They’re there maybe in maybe the Holy Spirit, they’re not even they’re not even sensing clear direction. How do how do we take as dad’s a harder look at those roots that are maybe holding us in an unhealthy place.
Matt Norman [00:12:22] Yeah. Yeah, it’s that. So thanks for referencing the book. The book is filled with self assessments and questions that we can ask ourselves to try to do some of that inner work certainly recommend that even if nothing’s “broken,” that we would still consider working with a counselor, a therapist. You know, it’s my view that to some degree or another, we all have addictions. And I’ve talked to many guys who have gone to AA even who to to process other addictions that they have addictions to screens, addictions to coffee, addictions to work and environments like AA, a real authentic guys group, a real authentic small group, a pastor relationship, a spiritual director. I mean, I, I just I can’t emphasize enough for myself and other people that I’ve journeyed with the value of finding authentic people that are willing to tell the truth and have grace and love in that. And then some of the, as I mentioned, assessments or questions that are provided or that people could look at other books as well that I know have been helpful to me, which I’d be happy to reference that help us to process some of that. Beyond that, I think it’s important that we look at. Where are we often stuck? What’s not working for us in our relationships or where are we triggered? So to summarize again, those three questions are where are we often stuck? In other words, what’s what’s an impasse that we often find ourselves in? Something at work, a situation at work or out? And finally, I just keep bumping up against this wall. And I’m not so much talking about like a wall of like how to put the right formula in an Excel spreadsheet wall, but more like a wall of like whenever I am in performance reviews, I find that I’m not direct enough or whatever conflict comes up at work, I just find that I shrink back from it. And I never like it. Or whenever this opportunity is presented to speak up in meetings I tend to like not take the opportunity. So that’s what I mean by getting stuck. And so I think we can do some self analysis. And this is again where some of the assessments and questions in the book come in is like, where am I getting stuck? Where am I shrinking back that or what’s not working for me and some of my relationships with my wife and me, we often found that we had recurring patterns of the same. We were recycling the same arguments and we started to wonder why we’ve had the same frustrating conversation twenty five times with just different details. And so why do we continue to have that? So what are the things that are not working, perhaps in an important relationships or sometimes we ruminate on certain thoughts that aren’t working for us? Right. Like, why do I get so fearful? Why do I get so nervous? And then finally, where am I getting triggered? Like where what happens? Where do I get set off? You know, when someone says something to me, my wife says something to me about how she had asked me to do something I hadn’t followed through on it, or she mentioned something about my mom. And as soon as she starts talking about my mom, I just get upset, I get defensive, I start defending my mom, I start getting frustrated with my wife. And so for us to look internally, I think those are all signals from the Holy Spirit to say you’re stuck again, you’re recycling again or you are triggered it again. And so it’s those things that I think we have to realize are probably like that hedge that you’re talking about. Those roots need to come up and we say maybe there’s something deep rooted that I need to take care of.
Jeff Zaugg [00:16:03] And we’re not going to through internalizing. In fact, that actually draws me to a quote out of your book. You mentioned your most powerful work is overcoming the mistakes, flaws and wounds you have internalized through your whole life. Like that, that idea of, am I just internalizing and processing and weighing myself down or am I able to do that most powerful work? And it’s not even all things that I’ve done right or the dads that are listening have done. It’s maybe things that someone has done to us. And we’re carrying a wound forward I think my mind jumps to Hebrews 12:1-2, that we can we can strip off those things that hinder us and we can run and fix our eyes on Jesus. So talk a little bit more, though, about the the it’s powerful work, as you mentioned. But why why should a dad take the step in and do that do that internal self reflective work?
Matt Norman [00:16:59] Yeah, I was just listening to Brene Brown on a podcast the other day and she was talking about how particularly men, but really everybody puts on armor as we age. And it’s an adaption to our wounds. It’s our it’s our God given default mechanism to self protect. And, you know, I’m not talking about, like, holy armor. We’re talking about like armor that keeps us guarded from more intimate relationship with God and with other people. And if she was saying that often we need to look at our interior world. One of my other favorite thought leaders on this podcast I listen to consistently around these topics is Pete Scazzero. The Emotional Healthy podcast, Emotionally Healthy Leader podcast. And he talks again about this idea of going into our interior life, looking at what are these things that that we may be holding inside that have been an adaption. Because as guys, for the most part, we’re all adapting to this message that you need to be strong. You need to be. I see this with my thirteen year old boys right now with their group of guy friends and just how tough they are with each other in sometimes real hurtful ways. And of course, that continues in just more socially acceptable ways into marriage and the work life, et cetera. And even in our families where we hurt each other, we wound each other. Sometimes we slight each other or wound each other in in intentional ways because we’re hurting ourselves and we want to, you know, make ourselves feel better by hurting someone else. But sometimes we are. It’s just unintentionally, we’re wounded. And so we’re going to put on this armor and I think that armor weighs us down, you know, it it blocks us off from having, again, as I said before, more intimacy with the Holy Spirit, more intimacy with our other important relationships, more more effectiveness in whatever work may be, because as we work with others, we need to let others in and allow ourselves to be seen. I think if we’re going to have, as Patrick Lencioni says, vulnerability based trust in the workplace, as he says, in the five dysfunctions of a team. And so there’s very spiritual, relational and occupational, frankly, I think benefits to identifying what that armor is that we’ve put on to protect ourselves and then do that interior work.
Jeff Zaugg [00:19:35] And a bunch of the themes I think root back around to do. I have a fixed or a growth mindset, and I know that’s also a shared passion of yours and some of the work that’s, I believe, Carol Dweck right in her her mindset. So we’ll we’re going to link everything we’re mentioning here, some of the guys listening while they’re working out. We’re going to link this all in the show now. It’s the reference back to this. But let’s actually jump back a step to your dad or your grandpa. And I think it’s important to sometimes circle back to say, what did I see in intentional fatherhood? What did I see even to some of these themes around? Did it have that growth mindset are fixed mindset that I took forward, that you took forward, met with your with your kids? And then what what areas did you pick a different course when it came to your pathway of being intentional, Dad? Yeah.
Matt Norman [00:20:22] Yeah, you bet. So, you know, my one of my favorite books on leadership, perhaps my favorite is Edwin Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve and what Friedman argues in the book, The late Edwin Friedman, when he argues in the book, is that the most important characteristic of leadership is to be a non anxious presence. And, of course, Jesus being the ultimate non anxious presence. Right. Not detached. He was separated, but still meaning he was with people, but he was able to detach emotionally from people. Right. So he he was still emotional. He got emotional, but he didn’t allow others people’s anxiety or other people’s opinions to change the way he felt about himself. That’s the way my grandfather and my dad have always been. I loved their ability to be a non anxious presence. What’s interesting about my grandfather was I asked him if he’s always been that way when when he was alive. I asked him and he said when he was younger, he does a lot with anxiety, a lot with catastrophic, “what if” thinking and he said he really went on a personal journey. I think along the lines of what we’re talking about here, having a growth mindset to say I don’t need to be an anxious person my whole life. I can do the inner work to be a less anxious person. And so he did a lot of work on worry and fear and being a non-anxious presence. So he really modeled that growth mindset. I think the other thing that he that he and my dad have always modeled in terms of a growth mindset is is being a relationally savvy person and maybe having that the right word. That maybe sounds disingenuous, but, you know, sort of being someone that other people are glad entered the room, you know, and and that other people generally feel better about themselves when they’re around you. And so and they did that primarily by being very others focused. I know my dad and my grandfather, through being a young child until today, have taken a very sincere interest in me, which I always thought was really interesting as a as a child that an adult would take such interest in me. So I think those are the two things that they modeled, having a growth mindset around both being and not anxious presence and being very others or relationally oriented. I think the two things that I try to go a different direction in which to the second part of your question, one is related to what I said earlier, it’s not been a family that has embraced hard things and wanted to talk openly about hard things. You know we’ve embraced positivity. We’ve embraced, you know, kind of emotional resilience and keeping a smile on your face, that type of thing. And so I’ve really wanted to grow in that area. And the second thing I think that, you know, has been a pattern in my life and I’ve seen it in my dad and grandfather to some degree is being defensive. And I think it’s tied to positivity because I think there’s a sense of like, oh, everything’s great. Like everything’s good. We’re just going to have a good relationship and we’re going to get along. And then when someone often our wives give us feedback like I’m angry about this or you’re not doing a job of this, it sort of sends me or has sent me and I think my dad and grandfather in a little bit of a tailspin, like. You mean everything’s not OK? Like, I’m not this positive, great dad that I thought I was being. And so I think it’s about entering into hard things and getting hard feedback without being defensive has been an area where I’ve wanted to have more of a growth mindset.
Jeff Zaugg [00:24:12] I think about the book Love and Respect and the the crazy cycle when I don’t feel respected, that I don’t love my wife. And and in the same way that defensive like I will jump into a tailspin of thinking, what, like like she’s not intending to disrespect me at all, but I’ll take it that way. And then all of a sudden we’re in that crazy cycle spin and even be able to identify that as something you maybe saw that you want to choose. And we choose this, right. Are we going to be dads who grow and who’s watching us more than anyone else? It’s not our colleagues. It’s not our neighbors. It’s our it’s these little precious kids that are watching. How does Dad respond? And does Dad have, like, they’re not saying it this way, a growth mindset. Right. But I love going forward from that question. So you look back at your dad, Grandpa, looking forward to when you are a grandparent, when you are even potentially a step further, when you are in heaven some day. And what your little daughter who won’t be as little then and your twins, some things you hope they say about dad, when when you’re with Jesus in heaven, what are some of the things you hope they would say at the end of your life?
Matt Norman [00:25:17] Yeah, I hope no one. Of course, no one. I would I would hope they would say that he loved Jesus, loved others, and made us want to do the same, like, you know, central and that that was their identity, not even more than like doing that. That was a that was a being thing like that. They were identified as beloved children of God and they treated other people that way. Going forward into like, how did I act beyond just like, know, loving God and loving others is, I hope that they would say he fostered authentic community. And that applies to what we were talking about earlier with guys groups, it applies to processing miscarriages, that applies to giving and getting feedback at work. So much of the theme that has come through my growth as a dad has been being more and engaging in more authentic community and pursuing relationships, more authentic relationships in that. So I hope they say, like, wow, I’m looking around this funeral and I’m seeing so many guys here, men and women, especially guys who loved Dad, not because he was he was they enjoyed being in his foursome in the men’s golf league, not because he happened to be in the same company and they retired together, but because he was in a super authentic relationship with those guys. I think that would be like the penultimate besides my faith and values. That would be like my my optimal testimony.
Jeff Zaugg [00:27:23] To the legacy question to me always gets me introspective of what am I doing today? And is it is it connected or where have I misstepped in the last six months? That has actually a different direction than what I hope my little girls would say about me one day. So let’s ask that question. The not-so-awesome, you know, we call this show DadAWESOME. But there’s there’s all kinds of not so awesome moments of things that we’ve done that have caused pain directly or indirectly to our kids. Would you share one or two, like, hey, this was a mistake. You learn from it, you’re still learning from it. What are some of those areas for you, Matt?
Matt Norman [00:27:55] Yeah, thanks. Yeah, one of my “dadugly” right not dadAWESOME. So, two examples come to mind. One is I came home from work the other day and my wife asked me how was your day? And I said it was awesome. And she said, why? And I said, because I got a lot done. And she stopped me in my tracks by asking, Is that how you measure your day? And I realize that so often, as much as everything we talked about is about relationships and authentic community. I do go through my day very focused on the scoreboard and my checklist. You know, I mean, scoreboard and checklist kind of rule my agenda. And so when I’m not DadAWESOME, it’s when I’m trying to conform my kids to my agenda, meaning like, OK, you need to do whatever you need to get to bed now so that you know, because I really want my time so that I can open up my laptop again and have a glass of wine and check email after you go to bed or like even I’m going to check email. While last night we were playing the board game Life and in the middle of a board game, like I admit, I opened my phone and check the email because playing a board game was not conforming to my scoreboard or my checklist. That’s one thing I think that’s an example. The other thing is what I talked about earlier, which is, you know, there have been countless more times that I’d like to recount examples of where either I’ve gotten defensive in front of my kids toward my wife, or I’ve gotten defensive toward my kids where they’ve confronted me on something. And again, it’s because I have this idealized self. I am like, everything’s good, you know, and let’s be positive. Let’s not criticize each other, this kind of thing. And I just I mean, there have been many moments when I’ve just not it’s been a trigger for me. I’ve not reacted well. And so I want to continue to I have grown I am growing in that. But I want to continue to grow so that they see me as a dad, that when I’m confronted with hard things, is not a dad that shrinks back from that. But I’m like, OK, let’s talk about this, you know, in a non anxious way versus a defensive, anxious way.
Jeff Zaugg [00:30:12] If there’s some common themes threading through this conversation, I’m thankful for you taking this time to kind of be introspective with me around what’s God teaching you and what are some of your hopes and what what’s working, what’s hasn’t worked and what do we still it’s a it’s a direction becoming DadAWESOME is very much a direction, but there’s no arrival point. And I’m so thankful for that because that makes.. I joked the other day that I don’t think I would have started this ministry if it was today with my my girls seven, four, two. And another girl is going to be born in three or four weeks here. I don’t think I would have done today, but because my girls were so little when I started it, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. So I started convening and learning. And it’s just so easy to put all these like all this pressure on our own shoulders be like we’re missing it, we’re missing it where it’s a pathway and we just take steps forward each day. And I think for this time with you, Matt, is there anything else you wanted to share with our DadAWESOME community?
Matt Norman [00:31:07] I just conclude, Jeff, by affirming your courage to take the risk and enter into these types of conversations that I can tell are prompting you to grow, not just those that are listening to the podcast. And I think that’s that’s the challenge I throw down for all of us dads, is that despite all of the ways in which we can rationalize, justify and frankly delude ourselves into thinking like I’m good enough, this is how I am, I’m not going to change. This is the way my dad was. This has worked well enough for me. I don’t have to be better at that. We do all these things to rationalize, justify and excuse ourselves. And yet freedom and joy and connection lies on the other side of growth. And my hope for all of us is that we would grow the way that you’re modeling for all of us. DadAWESOME.
Jeff Zaugg [00:32:00] Oh, thank you. Would you say a short prayer for all of us listening?
Matt Norman [00:32:03] Our God, I am so grateful for Jeff in the Ministry of DadAWESOME and I’m so grateful that we get to grow God. I think that one of the purposes of life that you’ve established for us is to grow. When I was in marriage counseling, my marriage counselor said the purpose of marriage is to grow, that our spouse is a catalyst for our growth. And I pray for all of our dads out there that wherever we are in our season of growth and self-awareness, that we would continue to self confront and grow past the things that hold us back so that we can be more like you, Jesus, and it’s in your name. We pray.
Jeff Zaugg [00:32:49] Guys, thank you so much for joining us today for Episode one hundred and seventy five, Matt Norment, his book for Patterns of Healthy People that’s going to be linked at the show notes again, we do transcripts, show notes, conversation links is going to be linked over here at at DadAWESOME Dagget one seven five. So you get those resources. Also in the show notes is that number. I mentioned the text earlier, the new DadAWESOME text line. Again, we’re going to be nudging you towards a path of becoming DadAWESOME. You just need to text the word dad to the number six five one three seven zero eighty six 18 to be a part of that and then save the date June 21st as a Monday. It’s the first day of the year that we’re saying this is we’re calling it DadAWESOME day that Monday. It’s the first day to a year of becoming DadAWESOME and just save the date. You don’t have to clear your work schedule that day, but save the date. There’s going to be some opportunities locally in the Twin Cities here in Minnesota, and they’ll be digital options to be a part of choosing to take a step and making it DadAWESOME day and declaring plan and action. And I’m going to accept this challenge of becoming DadAWESOME. So. All right. With that, let’s go after it this week. Let’s add some life to the dead life.