Ben Johnson’s dad hacks: bad ideas so good they just might work

To help prepare for this Father’s Day post, I drew on 11 years of dadding experience. Admittedly, and hopefully relatably, I did not feel like this would be sufficient to carry us through a full blog post. From our professional lives, we all know this creeping feeling of self-doubt and the eroding confidence of imposter syndrome.

In our professional lives, self-doubt can be overcome by building a strong network and team, focusing on learning and development, leaning into what is uncomfortable, practicing what works, and avoiding what does not. Being intentional in how you work helps build confidence in what you do.

As a dad, the process isn’t as straightforward. Sometimes, it feels like the team you built around you (partner, friends, and family) is the quickest to judge you. The learning can feel like a spotlight on your imperfections, flaws, or lack of experience—practicing parenting is easier said than done. 

Every day, being a dad presents unique and new challenges. 

It can feel like a platform update—nothing is announced, the consequences are unknown, and the durability of the change is not clear.

Lean into the dadness

What advice do I give current and future dads on this Father’s Day? Lean into the “dadness.” The greatest dad hack is to embrace the imperfection of being a dad. It is accepted and expected that you will do something dad-ish. 

Our imperfection is alright and allows space for grace. I intend to share what “I know” or feel most confident expressing about being a dad based on my relationship with my daughter Josie (11).

Accept that you are embarrassing

Dadness is 100% accepting that you are embarrassing and boring to your kid(s). This will largely be accomplished through your speech, actions, clothing, conversation, etc. 

This initially seemed counterintuitive to me as our industry is centered on culture, entertainment, and technology. And the work we do is in direct partnership with the top brands, celebrities, influencers, platforms, and events in the world. But—yawn—if you know, you know (Hint: Dad, you don’t know).

Bend the rules

Dadness is bending the rules. The parent’s instinct is to provide safety, protection, and care. And that is right. 

But in the “dad zone,” you allow the initial concern to yield to the benefits of exploring, trying new things, and taking reasonable risks.

For me, it was time to start riding a bike and skateboarding again. It was also a time to shoot bows and arrows and play catch, to stay out past bedtime, to introduce Josie to a world beyond what I can give her with bookstores (comics, records), and encourage her to be loud. 

In our professional lives, we know that some of the best ideas and work come with risk—we trade out something tried and true for something unproven. Dadness helps you foster that in your child’s life and reinforces the benefits for the dad.

Eat like a 5-year-old

Dadness is eating like a 5-year-old. In the “dad zone,” it’s key to introduce your kid to all the amazing bad (as in good) foods. In my dad journey, this started with donuts but has included early discoveries like buffalo wings and ramen and vigorous debates about the best pizza in town.

In our industry, we make deals at well-heeled restaurants, but the connection I would draw is more plain. The cereal box—it is an enduring brand experience and its contents are an absolute pleasure.

I challenge you to name a better activity than sharing a bowl of Fruity PEBBLES or Cap’n Crunch for a pre-dinner snack.

Know you might be ignored

Dadness is knowing you might be ignored. We have more experience, knowledge, and perspective than our children. Yet they often put us in situations where we are uncertain or ask a question that introduces a point of view we had not considered. 

Dadness is having the confidence to know that your experience and guidance can help but will likely be ignored, and in the instance where you truly are stumped—the confidence to know that only you know you are faking it. Remember that even if you knew what to say, your kid would think it was wrong.

Embrace the impermanence

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a poem by Thomas Lux. I don’t know why, but I have always loved how it captures the tension of time and the impermanence of childhood.

A little tooth

by Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It’s all
over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,
your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Embrace the dadness and enjoy the journey.