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Topgolf executive pens book of real-life stories, dad advice from dozens of fathers

"It's to help dads be better dads, and as a result, help kids live better lives," said Craig Kessler, chief operating officer of Topgolf U.S. Venues.

DALLAS — A successful business executive whose orbit has taken him into close contact with leaders in business, sports and government is also using that network to advance the cause of successful fatherhood.

Craig Kessler was already a resounding business success story. A graduate of Georgetown University and the Harvard Business School, he was chosen at the age of 31 to help lead a new business idea that became Topgolf. The network of multi-tiered, high-tech golf venues now has more than 60 physical locations in four different countries and a large footprint in esports and online games. 

But now, as Chief Operating Officer of Topgolf U.S. Venues and Emerging Concepts, Kessler offered a much different business, and community outreach idea.

"I decided to ask a couple of buddies to write me a letter on how to be a good dad," he explained.

Those two letters became more than 40, and the end result is The Dad Advice Project, a book of real-life stories and dad advice from professional athletes, businessmen, and civic leaders. The book, with a forward by George Tenet, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, includes fatherhood advice from the likes of Shawn Spieth, dad of golfer Jordan Spieth, Dirk Wakeham Chief Executive Officer of ZEGO/PayLease, and Robert Michlewicz, Chief Strategy Officer of TRINTECH.

"In your business life, you want to put on the façade that you've got it all figured out, and I think we extend that into our personal lives with our children," Wakeham explained. "I think it's OK to be vulnerable and throw your hands up and say, 'I don't have an answer here,' and solicit the help of others."

Wakeham admitted he saw the need to pivot and become a much more involved dad when he suddenly lost his wife. 

"When you become a single parent, that role has to change. And so I deliberately had to move to the center and become more empathetic, more passionate, more available, emotionally, for my kids," he continued. "Prior to that, I tended to be more of a disciplinarian father figure, and it forced me to re-evaluate that."

Michlewicz agreed.

"For me in my life there is no bigger role, no bigger title that I will ever hold more valuable to me than husband and father. And each and every day, I try to ensure that my actions and my words don't ever take either one of those for granted," he said.

Kessler said it was exploring that relationship between father and children that sparked the project to begin with.

"I haven't had a very close relationship with my dad over the last several years," Kessler admitted. "The project in many ways helped fill that void."

The book will also financially benefit the Boys and Girls Club. Kessler said he hopes that in his book, any and every dad will find a story - a piece of advice - that benefits them, too.

"The idea behind this book is, what if you could get advice from people who were new fathers and very experienced fathers and try to get ahead of some of those challenges and learn from their experiences," he said. 

"It's to help dads be better dads, and as a result help kids live better lives," he added. "I think if others read the project and walk away feeling inspired, we will have hopefully done some good work here."

Good work from hard-charging executives who want effective and caring fatherhood to be included in their success stories too.

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