Our guest this week is Jeff Wickersham of Royersford, PA, who is a high performance coach, founder of the Warrior Dad Experience and father of two.
Jeff and his wife, Heather, have been married for 17 years and are the proud parents of two boys: Jackson (15) and Carter (13), who has Crohn’s Disease.
Occupationally, Jeff is a sought-after mental toughness and peak performance coach who specializes in helping clients intentionally step into the best version of themselves personally and professionally, guiding his clients to install habits and systems that set them up for success.
Vocationally, Jeff has been called to create the Warrior Dad Experience. Inspired by the likes of David Goggins, Jeff strives to help dads be the best version of themselves.
Jeff is also the author of Rise, Fight, Love Repeat.
Jeff’s enthusiasm, passion for life and serving others is contageous. That’s all on this episode of the SFN Dad to Dad Podcast.
Email – email@example.com
Mobile – (610) 564-2107
Website – https://www.thewarriordad.com
Book – Rise, Fight, Love Repeat – https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fight-Love-Repeat-Morning/dp/B08FP9P4J5/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3B2DJXKS4XLZS&keywords=Rise+Fight+Love+repeat+wickersham&qid=1697488553&s=audible&sprefix=rise+fight+love+repeat+wickersham%2Caudible%2C92&sr=1-1
A Mothers Wish Foundation – https://amotherswishfoundation.org
Tom Couch: [00:00:00] Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics’ mission at HorizonTherapeutics. com.
Jeff Wickersham: It’s all about that growth journey, and I think, as dads, that’s one of the most tremendous gifts we can give ourselves and our kids. Is to say, hey, I’m going to get a little bit better today than I was yesterday. And I always instill that in my two sons, 15 and 13, is listen, we’re never a finished product. We can always get a little bit better. It’s a North star, it’s not a destination. I eat, sleep and breathe personal development and learning new strategies and tools and tactics. And I feel like one of my strengths is taking that, making it really basic and sharing it so people can take action from it.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Jeff Wickersham, high performance coach, founder of the Warrior Dad Experience and [00:01:00] father of two, including Carter, 13, who has Crohn’s disease. Jeff strives to help dads be the best version of themselves. His is an amazing story, and we’ll hear it on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Now, say hello to the founder of the Special Fathers Network, and the host of the Dad to Dad Podcast, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, presented by the Special Fathers Network, a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs.
The Special Fathers Network Mastermind Group Experience is the most comprehensive program the 21st Century Dads Foundation offers. Dads raising children with special needs meet virtually on a weekly basis and form meaningful relationships while sharing weekly wins, discussing books, and sharing heartfelt challenges. One of the highlights of the year is attending an in person weekend retreat. We’re launching 10 new SFN Mastermind Groups in January 2024 with 10 dads per group. That means [00:02:00] we’re only looking for 10 like-minded dads in each of the following locations. Anchorage, Alaska; Bellevue, Nebraska; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; London, England; Nashville, Tennessee; and Reykjavik, Iceland. If you’re a dad raising a child with special needs in one of these cities, we hope you’ll join the local SFN Mastermind Group and make the investment to become the best version of yourself. For more information, please see the show notes or simply go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
Tom Couch: Now let’s hear this intriguing conversation between Jeff Wickersham and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Jeff Wickersham of Royersford, Pennsylvania, who is a high performance coach, founder of the Warrior Dad Experience and father of two. Jeff, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Jeff Wickersham: David, thanks for having me.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Heather, have been married for 17 years and are the proud parents of two boys: Jackson, 15, and [00:03:00] Cutter, 13, who has Crohn’s disease. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, so I was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Lived there till I was five, and then moved over to Worcester, Pennsylvania, and had a pretty traditional upbringing. I’m the oldest of three. Younger brother three years younger, younger sister six years younger. And had that great family foundation to build off of. My parents were very actively engaged. Dad coached my baseball team, mom always would encourage me with positive notes, affirmations in my lunchbox or on my mirror. But it still didn’t stop me from going through trials and tribulations later in life. But yeah really look fondly to those years of growing up as a family.
David Hirsch: That’s great. Thank you. What did your dad do for a living?
Jeff Wickersham: He was in kind of supply chain manufacturing, manufacturing operations, so he did travel from time to time. But that was sporadic depending on what company he was working for.
David Hirsch: Gotcha. And did I also remember you telling me [00:04:00] that he’s been a volunteer fireman for like forever?
Jeff Wickersham: Yes, for 43 years. He’s 77 years young now. He just passed the physical fitness test for the fire department and he still drives a ladder truck to this day.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. He’s like my new idol.
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, he’s mine too. And to be able to do that still at his age, we just actually saw it. We drove past him this past week when he was driving the truck. I said, was that pop that just passed us as a family? And sure enough, it was him.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. So how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Jeff Wickersham: Closer than it’s ever been. And I think that is, on both sides, being vulnerable with what’s going on in our lives. And he’s supported me through some dark times that I’ve gone through. And then the passing of my mother nine years ago and helping support him in that difficult time as well.
David Hirsch: You’ve raised a red flag when you said through some dark times. So you’re going to have to give us a little backstory.
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, after my mom passed, I was forced out of corporate America and decided to open up a gym on my own. I was always into [00:05:00] physical fitness. And my late mother was a school teacher, but also taught step aerobics in the eighties. Ended up opening up a gym. Not many entrepreneurial skills. That venture caused me to find myself in front of a bankruptcy attorney and just facing some really hard decisions about where I had taken my family financially.
David Hirsch: Gotcha. Thank you for your transparency about that. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been, not only losing your mom, but being forced out of a career or a job and then coming to grips with the fact that it wasn’t a successful venture, too. Holy cow.
So when you think about your relationship with your dad are there some important takeaways, characteristics that you’ve tried to incorporate into your own parenting perhaps?
Jeff Wickersham: Positive energy. My dad’s first name is Paul and they call him Positive Paul. And my mom was sick on and off for 17 years with breast cancer and he was there and was that positive force. I think I’ve definitely taken that baton from him and been a positive force in my life for [00:06:00] my boys, everyone around me. I think that would be number one. And just always be encouraging. Encouraging to be your best and do your best. I think those would be two things that kind of stand out that I’ve taken from him.
David Hirsch: Yeah, your dad sounds like a glass half full type of person.
Jeff Wickersham: He definitely is. It’s a powerful place and a powerful lens to come from. My wife laughs all the time. There’s this… I don’t know if it was a Disney or Pixar movie, and they talk about the emotions, and I’m the one that’s always, “Oh my God, it’s a breathtaking day out!” And she’s you’re like living with this person. And I’m like, but it is, right? I have literally watched my mom take her last breath in front of me. When you have that happen to you, the fragility of life two-by-four just smacks you upside the head and everything we get is truly a gift. And David, I’ll tell you, the reason why I wear a pink wristband on my right arm is to always keep that top of mind. If I am falling into that victim mentality, if I’m falling into woe is me or life’s pushing [00:07:00] against me and I don’t feel like I have enough energy to push back, I always call back to my mom. My mom would give anything to have one more day with her three kids and her seven grandchildren. It’s time to get up and it’s time to be on my toes and it’s time to keep fighting that good fight.
David Hirsch: So my recollection was that you took a degree in business management from University of Delaware and I’m wondering where did your career take you?
Jeff Wickersham: So I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated college. I really struggled with it. I went into the insurance industry for three years. And then from there went into the supply chain consulting world, and then finished my corporate career with a fortune 500 company. American Express. Was there for nearly 10 years.
And then, like I said, I started that entrepreneurial journey where I owned a gym. We did that for about three and a half years. COVID happened and everything changed overnight. And then now moving into what truly lights up my soul and heart is the Warrior Dad Experience and helping other dads step into the best version [00:08:00] of themselves.
David Hirsch: Yeah. You cannot connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking backwards. And it seems like you have found your passion. And when you match your passion with the experiences you’ve had, that’s a pretty potent combination.
Jeff Wickersham: Whenever I have self-doubt or I coach dads in there and they might be doubting themselves, I say, just take that first step because it is going to connect when you look back. And that’s such a powerful thought process to get into and remember.
David Hirsch: Absolutely. So I’m curious to know, how did you and Heather meet?
Jeff Wickersham: So we went to the same high school but she was three years younger, in my brother’s grade. We didn’t meet in high school, so we met out of high school. I remember we met once and she was leaving to go to San Francisco, and I thought, boy, that was a great phone conversation I had with this girl. And as fate would have it, she came back to visit her grandmom who was sick over a Thanksgiving weekend, and we re-met a couple years later.
David Hirsch: Excellent. And did I remember that you mentioned that she’s an autistic support teacher?
Jeff Wickersham: She is. She’s done that for 17 years.
David Hirsch: Okay. [00:09:00] So she would really have a clear insight into working with individuals, young people with special needs, autism in particular.
Jeff Wickersham: She definitely does, and she’s amazing at what she does. I actually just went recently to see her classroom and the different things that she’s set up, and she shares a lot of stories with me. And yeah, it’s amazing what she does.
David Hirsch: Let’s talk about your family on a personal basis, and then we’ll talk about the work that you do and inspiring other dads. And I’m curious to know, before Carter’s diagnosis, did you and Heather have any direct connections to the world of disability or special needs?
Jeff Wickersham: Not really, we didn’t. And then when Carter was five, probably four and a half, I think the mother’s intuition kicked in. Something was going on. Went to the pediatrician and next thing you know, it was a long line of tests and trying to figure things out.
And geez, that was right after my mom had passed and they thought he was anemic. So next thing you know, he’s in the hospital and [00:10:00] in the treatment area getting iron IV treatments. But there’s kids with cancer and it was just… It was tough because of what my mom had gone through. So yeah nothing up until he was diagnosed.
David Hirsch: So what is his diagnosis and how did it come about then?
Jeff Wickersham: He was diagnosed right after that. They did the iron infusions, did an upper scope, lower scope. Figured out he had Crohn’s disease. Obviously, anytime you get that news, very difficult to digest. He was on medication up until this past summer. He’s 13 years old now, but we were weaning him off. He was growing, but we weren’t increasing the medication. So it was weaning off and he was hitting the marks, what the GI doctors wanted to do. So he is off of medication right now.
So he’s in remission. He still has the disease, but there’s no active signs of it. And it was an amazing journey. I credit my wife a lot because she went to the grocery store and we talked about nutrition and how nutrition can be very healing. And [00:11:00] here she was in the grocery store reading food labels and almost in tears multiple times because there’s just so much out there that’s toxic that we put in our bodies. But he’s doing pretty darn good right now.
David Hirsch: So out of curiosity, what was it that changed? Was it his diet or the whole family’s diet to support him?
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, it was the whole family’s diet. So we went all that holistic approach to support him, right? Because we’re a family unit and I think that’s so important as dads think about leading the unit. It’s so important to be connected. And I still remember we went and we started eating healthy. And I had a hoagie from a sandwich shop and I felt terrible afterwards. And I said, wow, the difference of where we went and how we’re eating clean to going back and eating something. It was amazing difference. So we’re all in and supporting him and we’re all connected from that perspective.
David Hirsch: Were there any outside organizations or any individuals in particular that played a instrumental role in Carter’s situation?
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, so there’s a local [00:12:00] group called A Mother’s Wish Foundation and that helps support local families with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. My wife connected with them. My wife actually served on the board for years. We’ve done some 5k races actually at the park right next to my dad’s firehouse. So the fire company was helping support. So it’s been pretty cool to give back and help support other families that are going through it.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So I’m wondering if there’s anything else that you can share about the experience that you’ve had raising a son with Crohn’s disease that might be informative.
Jeff Wickersham: One of the things I loved to do when he was younger was breathe and meditate with him and give him those positive thoughts of your body’s healing itself. And I think there’s such a powerful mind-body connection that we just don’t tap into enough. He has meditated for quite some time. He exercises, he gets good sleep. It’s all those modalities, all those fundamentals, that quite honestly we all should have but [00:13:00] fall short sometimes. In unison with nutrition, those all combine to help him battle the disease, be in remission, and be where he’s at today.
David Hirsch: Excellent. And not to focus on the negative, but what were some of the bigger challenges along the way?
Jeff Wickersham: Just the realization of everything’s changed, right? And he was five and the pills were pretty darn big that he had to swallow. So having him do that and staying diligent, disciplined about doing that was a challenge, as well as just getting the program at school of having things there in case he needs to eat throughout the day. Because typically when you have Crohn’s disease, you’re going through your food and you’re not absorbing the nutrients. So having snacks and having the ability to do those sort of things. And then just making it aware with the sports teams he plays with that people need to know that hey, if he’s got to go to the bathroom, he’s got to go to the bathroom. Those were some of the challenges.
David Hirsch: So let’s talk about the Warrior Dad Experience. What’s the backstory and how did that come about?
Jeff Wickersham: So David, I was doing a deep dive the beginning part of [00:14:00] this year of where do I truly want to make an impact? I had two things that happened. I have a good friend that I run with. He just finished a 103 ultra race. I crewed him the last 23 miles, but he had a friend that committed suicide. Dad of three kids. My sister knew somebody, again, a dad. Beginning part of this year, committed suicide as well. And I said, okay, something’s telling me that this needs to be the direction I need to go. And when I told my wife, I said, you know what? I’m going to focus on coaching dads. And she lit up and I lit up, soul, heart-focused. And it was like stringing that string. And I was like, okay, this is where I need to be because I feel like as dads, as leaders, standing up and being the best version of ourselves for our family, our kids need it. And they need both sides. The mom, the female side, but they also need to have the male side. So that’s where I landed with it. And now it’s been amazing and so humbling to just be the guide on these dad’s journey and see them transform themselves, but also [00:15:00] transform their families and plant these seeds for future growth in their children.
David Hirsch: Is this an extension of your Morning Fire coaching or something completely different?
Jeff Wickersham: It is, it is. The foundation that I always have, the bookends, PM and AM bookend, that’s consistent, right? And there’s, we always stray away from the fundamentals, but the fundamentals and foundation are always a piece. This is, one, dads together. And I think that’s so powerful when family-focused, growth-minded dads can be in a group together. But then, yes, dialing in the bookends. That’s the foundation for success. Getting a great night’s sleep, stacking wins right in the morning. You do that, you have some semblance of control in an otherwise chaotic world, right? So dialing those in and that’s the stability, that’s the foundation to leap off from.
David Hirsch: So if somebody is interested in learning more about the work that you do, how do you go about developing your clientele, the dads that you work with?
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, so I post a ton of content out on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook. And it’s having conversations. [00:16:00] I think nothing replaces connecting with other people, and I think that lights us up as human beings. So I put a ton of content out there. Thewarriordad.com where dads can go out, check testimonial videos of dads that have gone through the experience, and then dads grab a time and we sit and we talk.
Number one, we’ve got to like each other. If we don’t like each other, there’s no reason in talking about the experience. But if we do, then many times we talk about the experience, they jump in and then they start getting those results pretty darn quick.
David Hirsch: So just to be crystal clear if somebody reads some of your content, they’re drawn to the message of the type of work you do. You do a phone consultation with them. What does the relationship look like? Is it like a month-to-month? Is it a one-year type of deal? How is it that somebody would consume your services?
Jeff Wickersham: So I do one-on-one, but primarily it’s the Warrior Dad Experience and that’s a 10-week immersive program. And 10 weeks is intentional because everybody’s heard 21 days to create a habit. It’s actually like the bare minimum. [00:17:00] It can be anywhere from 21 to 67 days. So 70 days is intentional to get past that 67-day threshold. It’s why I just talked to Jeff who was the first dad to ever jump into class one. He just hit 200 straight days of running. So these are life-changing habits and foundations that we can put into place.
So it’s 10 weeks. You’re in a group. I have classes that go through and there’s nothing better than bonding with other dads. And the quickest way to get some movement, get some progress, get some momentum in your life is to be a part of a group. Obviously I’m leading with high energy, consistency and accountability, but everybody raises their game and it’s a pretty powerful experience.
David Hirsch: And how many guys would be in each class?
Jeff Wickersham: The limit is 10. Any number over 10, I feel like you get diluted. You don’t know who’s who. So 10 is the max number we’ll have in a class.
David Hirsch: And is it more of a virtual experience, or face-to-face, or a combination?
Jeff Wickersham: So it is virtual, fully virtual. Our coaching is via Zoom. I have a coaching call once a week. [00:18:00] I’ve had dads in the state of Washington, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Italy, Poland. One of the greatest things about COVID is it shrank the world. And I think back six years ago, if you would have told me today, yeah, you just had a class and you had a dad in Poland, a dad in Oklahoma, I would have said you’re crazy, but it’s amazing how we can connect. And it’s the commonality of just being a dad and they want the best for their themselves and their family. So it’s all virtual. We have some different apps and technology we leverage, but I like to say we keep it simple. Keep it straightforward. Keep it so easy it’s almost laughable. And that’s how we get progress. That’s how we get momentum.
David Hirsch: So give me a for instance. What is the topic that guys gravitate to or resonate with the most of the group?
Jeff Wickersham: One is the foundation: the PM and AM bookend. It’s not something that… My wife’s a school teacher, my late mother was, my sister-in-law is. It’s not something that’s really taught in schools. Hey, how do you prepare for success in the AM? How do you get a great night’s sleep? And then how do you stack seven wins real [00:19:00] quick? And I like to say 1 percent of your day, 1 percent of your day is 14 minutes, 40 seconds. When I say 1 percent of your day, a lot of dads, all of a sudden the mind opens up. I can give you 1 percent of your day, right? So we stack those wins. That would be number one.
Number two is defining who they want to be. Identity is so important. And if you ask 100 people, 95 will tell you who they don’t want to be. But they can’t define who they truly want to be. And I like to define it in three areas. Energy: how are you gonna show up as an energetic force today? Work: how are you going to show up in your career? And then love: how are you going to show up as a dad and a husband? When you define those identities, David, even when you don’t feel like it, you move because that’s your identity.
And there are days where I don’t want to get up and work out, where my identity from a love perspective is dad and husband of the year. And I still remember over the summer, my wife and I went for a walk and Carter was shooting hoops outside in our driveway. Came in, it was hot. I was tired. He said, dad, can you rebound [00:20:00] for me? My feelings in that moment, I did not want to do it. My identity stuck in my head. Dad of the year. Would dad of the year rebound? Yep. I got it buddy. And I rebounded for him. The foundation and then defining your identity are two amazing starting points that a lot of dads really see valuable.
Tom Couch: We’ll be back with more of the conversation on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast in just a few moments. But first, this quick message. Please help 21st Century Dads gather research on families raising children with special needs by having them complete the Special Fathers Network Early Intervention Parents Survey. A link to the survey can be found in the show notes. As a token of our appreciation, each person, mom or dad, who completes the survey will receive a Great Dad Coin. Thank you. Now, back to the conversation.
David Hirsch: Yeah, this might be a good way to springboard into talking about your book: Rise, Fight, Love, Repeat. What was it that motivated you to put this in writing?
Jeff Wickersham: My mom, my late mother, was a [00:21:00] reading specialist. She loved books. She always gave them out. She gave them to my sons. And I started writing it right when COVID happened. Life slowed down a little bit because we got out of our routines and habits. And I said, all right, I’m putting pen to paper. I’ve gone through the fire. I battle tested these habits, these routines. I love the mantra “rise, fight, love, repeat,” right? You’re rising each day like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, reborn. You got a fresh canvas to paint. You’re going to fight for your physical fitness, mental fitness, spiritual fitness, family. So important. You’re going to love yourself first, then love all those around you. And then the secret sauce is that repetition, right? That consistency is the ultimate force multiplier. So just giving it out, putting it into the world. And when I released it, it was a mixed emotion day. I got to be very transparent because yes, I was excited, but I wished my mother was there. I know she was tap dancing in heaven that I had released my first book, but I know she would have been so super excited if she was there with me.
David Hirsch: Yeah. There is an amazing testimonial to your mom in front of the book [00:22:00] which starts, “Dear Mom, this book is dedicated to you and your legacy…” And I was very touched by that. I’m sure she is looking down on you with great pride. There’s a little post it note in here. What’s that about?
Jeff Wickersham: My mother would send that to anybody that was going through a hard time. And one of my friends that I grew up with, she was attacked and raped, and it was a very difficult time she went through. And after my mother passed, she sent me what she had sent her going through her difficult time. So I just wanted to include that in there related to hope and how powerful hope can be. And since she was giving it out into the universe, I thought what better gift to put it into the book and remind people of the power of hope.
David Hirsch: Just for our listener’s benefit, this is like an image of a post it note that’s at the very beginning of the book. It says, “Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is more powerful as hope. With hope, one can think, one can work, one can dream. If you have hope, you have everything.” Very apropos. Thank you.
This [00:23:00] message is being recorded in a podcast and you have some podcasting experience yourself. What is it that you do with your podcast?
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah. So I have the Warrior Dad Podcast. So that is all things related to being a dad and being a father, right? And how we can actualize our potential. We can be the best version of ourselves, how we can guide our kids based upon experiences and things that I’ve learned.
[ Audio excerpt from the Warrior Dad Podcast]
There’s a voice deep inside every dad calling him to lead. It’s the voice that starts off as a whisper, but then becomes a calling. A calling to be the tip of the spear for your family. A calling to play all out and lead by example for your children. A calling to build a legacy that will go on for generations. A calling to be the warrior dad you were born to be. Dads, our children need us now more than ever to be that beacon of hope, courage, positivity, and strength. It’s time to rise as warrior dads together as a brotherhood. If you felt that twinge in your soul, it’s time for the Warrior Dad Experience.
[End of audio excerpt]
It’s [00:24:00] all about that growth journey, and I think, as dads, that’s one of the most tremendous gifts we can give ourselves and our kids is to say, hey, I’m going to get a little bit better today than I was yesterday. And I always instill that in my two sons, 15 and 13 is listen, we’re never a finished product. We can always get a little bit better. It’s a North star, it’s not a destination. I eat sleep and breathe personal development and learning new strategies and tools and tactics. And I feel like one of my strengths is taking that, making it really basic, and sharing it so people can take action from it.
And that’s the key thing, right? It’s not a lack of knowledge. We have where many people are just librarians in the mind where they learn something, put it in. I’m a warrior of the mind. I want to read it, listen to it, learn it, but then take action upon it. And that’s how you get growth.
David Hirsch: Okay. I know we spoke about this and one of the things that we have in common is that we like to challenge ourselves. And I consider myself athletic, not an athlete. And I think there’s an important distinction there. And I’m wondering, [00:25:00] what is it that you’ve done with this Wickersham Challenge and what’s the back story?
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, so David Goggins has been a a mentor of mine. Read his books, listened to the audio books multiple times. I actually did his challenge in 2021 and 2022. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s you run four miles every four hours for 48 hours straight. So it’s almost the equivalent of two marathons and you do it at 11 PM, 3 AM, 7, all the way to 7 PM at night on the East Coast where I’m at. So that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Hardest thing I’ve done physically and mentally, I have a Navy SEAL, former Navy SEAL, FBI agent friend who says, listen, do something once, that’s well and good. Once you know the pain that’s involved, you got to do it twice. So I did it twice and I was looking for a new challenge and I don’t really have any interest in running a full marathon. So I said, why don’t I break it up and add in some body weight movements? So this past July 1st, I had my first Wickersham Challenge, which was 26 rounds of [00:26:00] a 1.01 mile run, 50 pull ups, 75 sit ups and a hundred push ups. I started at 7 a. m. And it took me till 1130 PM at night, 16 and a half hours to accomplish the 26.2 miles, 1300 pull ups, 1950 sit ups, and 2600 push ups. And it was so much harder than the Goggins Challenge I’ve ever done. I had tennis elbow. I felt like the last five rounds of doing pull ups, my lat muscles were… I could feel the muscle fibers tearing. But my family was watching. My son, oldest son came down a couple of hours afterwards when I was trying to get some food in. And he said, dad, I’m so proud of you. He said, how many dads could have done that? One in a million? He said, one in 10 million? I said, I don’t know. So it was… I love pushing the physical to unlock the mental strength in us.
David Hirsch: So you said earlier, if you do something once, that’s all well and fine. But you have to do it a second time. So when are you planning on doing that again?
Jeff Wickersham: Next summer. Don’t tell my [00:27:00] wife. I haven’t told her yet, but I have told a few of my closest confidants that I will be doing it again.
David Hirsch: So I’m curious to know what role has spirituality played in your journey?
Jeff Wickersham: So it’s, it’s been a… I pray in the morning, I pray at night. But I will tell you, when my mom passed, I was broken from that perspective, right? Just questioning everything. We say grace at dinner. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
David Hirsch: You had mentioned when your mom passed away it was difficult. Would you call that a crisis of faith?
Jeff Wickersham: I would say a little bit, right? Because I was angry, right? Here’s a woman that took care of herself. She never drank, never smoked, right? To see her go through that pain and go through that fight for 17 years, to have a double mastectomy and have it come back multiple times and then eventually complications take her life. I would say, yeah, it was a difficult time and a time where I questioned a lot of things.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Maybe looking back on it, while it was very difficult for her, it certainly has impacted you and that energy that you took away from [00:28:00] that experience perhaps has helped propel you to do some of the things that you’re doing. And like you said, it’s part of her legacy as well.
Jeff Wickersham: I will say that, David… and we talked about connecting the dots back and I’ll share a story. I don’t share too often, but looking back, I was tested right after her passing. So I’m the oldest of three. I went into reaching out to people. She was on hospice care at that point. It was a Sunday night, late. We got the second hand crew of the funeral service. And I remember being up there as they’re preparing her to leave. And I saw concern in their faces. And this is where I found the test came. I asked one of them, what’s going on? And they said, we don’t know if we can carry her down the steps. And I said, I got it. Let me go talk to my brother. My brother said, I’m in. And we carried my mom down the steps in that dreaded black bag. But that was a test right there. Did I have it in me? And I think when I see it from that lens, yes I did. And that kind of carries me forward.
David Hirsch: Very powerful. Thanks for sharing. So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering what advice you might be able to [00:29:00] offer to a parent, perhaps a dad, who finds himself in a difficult situation. Remember most of our listeners are parents raising children with special needs.
Jeff Wickersham: I think the common thing that I see out there is, and I know I suffered from this as well when I was going through some dark times, is that we feel like we’re alone. And it’s just not the case. There’s so many… And I like to say, hey, if I teed up a golf ball outside my house and took out the driver — although I’m not a very good golfer — and I hit a drive, I’d probably hit five, six, seven houses of dads going through similar struggles. So, you know, having that, that we’re not alone is so incredibly powerful. And you’re not alone. And when I’ve had dark times, David, I didn’t have the courage to ask for help. I thought I could manage it all on my own. I thought that was a strength to manage it all on my own, which quite honestly, it’s a weakness. The strength is saying, you know what? I don’t have it figured out. I need help. Can you help me? And the crazy thing is, so many people will be willing to help you and step in and [00:30:00] give you their time, whatever it is. I think that’s a powerful message.
David Hirsch: Yeah, very important to realize that you’re not alone. Sometimes I think guys… I’ve heard it described as testosterone poisoning. When we’re gonna figure out things on our own. And the old cliche is that we’re the gender that doesn’t pull over and ask for directions when we’re lost. There’s some truth to that, right? I think it’s a positive and a negative. It’s not all of one or none of the other. Trying to figure things out, trying to get the job done, that persistence, that consistency, that ‘I’m not going to give up’ mentality. That’s a really important characteristic. But at some point you have to realize that, hey, maybe I don’t have all the answers, or I don’t have the information I need, and then what do you do? Because if you’re going to try to figure it out on your own, you’re going to come to a dead end or a point where you’re not going to make any more forward progress. I think you realize at a certain point in time that maybe I’m better to be in contact with somebody else or getting some different points of view and I think that’s what I hear you talking about.
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, it’s so powerful. I love to say to my [00:31:00] sons all the time, you can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle. So having an outside perspective and that’s where we’re at. Having somebody just give you an outside perspective can be incredibly freeing. And you’re going to get a different lens that they’re seeing it from, and all of a sudden it opens up that lens for you to see it through.
David Hirsch: That is not a phrase I’ve heard before, but I’m going to make a note of that because I think I want to reuse that.
Jeff Wickersham: Hah hah! You got it!
David Hirsch: You can’t read the label from inside the bottle. You need an outsider’s perspective. I love that. Why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Jeff Wickersham: I love being a dad more than anything in the world. I was a coach in youth sports 20 years ago. So prior to even my boys being born. I know the impact that we can have on kids. I’ve seen it in my boys, right? I’ve coached both their teams in basketball and football. My oldest last spring had his first dance at school. And he said to me, he said, dad, would you mind driving us? And it’s all kids I’ve coached in sports. And one of the moms came in and said, I guess you’re the cool dad. Yeah, I’ve poured into these [00:32:00] boys. Like I’ve been at practice for six hours a week. I’ve been to the games, right? So just, I want to make sure that other dads know the impact that they can have. And I always love to say, it only takes one dad to change a family tree forever and you can be that dad. So that’s a little bit of a little why.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Jeff Wickersham: Just grateful for this opportunity. And one of the things I love to leave people with is, today is a gift that you will never get again. So use it wisely.
David Hirsch: So if somebody wants to learn more about the Warrior Dad Experience or contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Jeff Wickersham: Yeah, I would go out to my website, www.thewarriordad.com to check out the testimonials. I would also say, David, I’ll put my money where my mouth is. If you want to shoot me a text, here’s my personal cell phone number: 610-564- 2107. If you’re going through a dark time and you need to speak to somebody, shoot me a text.
David Hirsch: That’s very generous of you. Thank you for offering. I’ll be sure [00:33:00] to include the information in the show notes, so it’ll make it as easy as possible for somebody to follow up with you.
Jeff, thank you for your time and many insights. As a reminder, Jeff is just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501c3 not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax-deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support. Jeff, thanks again.
Jeff Wickersham: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching [00:34:00] process, new fathers with special needs children match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more, go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to Facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad.” Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David@ 21stCenturyDads.org.
Tom Couch: The special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch.
Thanks again to Horizon Therapeutics, who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics at HorizonTherapeutics.com.