Brian J. Packer is an award-winning public relations professional with Flowers Communications Group (FCG) in Chicago. In his role he manages media relations, influencer/celebrity engagement, event sponsorships, social media and strategic marketing initiatives for brands like AT&T, McDonald’s, MillerCoors and Jack Daniel’s. With more than a decade of expertise, Brian’s professional background includes a mix of marketing communications for consumer goods, non-profits, educational institutions and sports & entertainment properties. Brian received his B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Morehouse College and a M.A. in Media and Communication from DePaul University. He also is a 2018 fellow in the IMPACT Leadership Development Program with the Chicago Urban League and University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In his spare time, Brian is a dedicated father to his daughter, Clarke Brianna. He enjoys traveling, watching films and attending sporting events and concerts. Brian is a member of the Black Public Relations Society and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated and actively volunteers as a mentor with Urban Prep Academies and sits on the alumni board of High Jump Chicago.
What legacy are you leaving for your children and the children of your community?
The legacy that I want to leave for my child(ren) is that of someone who worked hard, never settled, but also valued relationships over materials. A person who was not perfect, but learned from their faults and was genuine with people when it mattered. I want my children and the children in my community to love their culture unashamedly. I want them to be unapologetic about their blackness but worldly enough to value and learn from the cultures of others. I want my legacy to be both guardian and grio of the global culture we have created as Black people.
How would you describe your Fatherhood culture?
As a long distance dad, my fatherhood culture is a little more unique than your average parent. Parenting from 700 miles away can be a challenge and I’ve had to work hard to make sure I am consistently involved in my child’s life. My fatherhood culture is primarily built on being a spiritual and emotional presence when I cannot always have a physical presence. Regular phone conversations, writing letters, video chat, staying connected to my kid’s school are all things I do daily to stay “in the know.” Real parenting can take place over Facetime. And then Facetime becomes real time, you have to cherish every moment and make them count.
From a father’s perspective, what two books would you recommend every child read?
The first book I would recommend to a child is any book by Dr. Seuss because a child’s imagination should be cultivated and celebrated. As a child, Dr. Seuss for me was always whimsical and enjoyable. As an adult, I can appreciate the subtlety of the lessons that are taught through rhyme and characters with fantastical origins and human emotions.
Why is it important to expose children to education and valuable skills?
Education was always paramount in my upbringing and it has opened several doors for me. I want my children to open their own doors and it starts with a solid education. From there, they can also utilize the networks that educational institutions provide to bridge connections to help them achieve their dreams. There is nothing more valuable than the ability to champion your own destiny and make your mark on the world. I wholeheartedly believe that exposing children to all forms of education both in the classroom and in the community is essential to help them successfully navigate the modern society.
As a father and a life coach, describe your playbook.
I feel like as a younger father, my playbook is still being written. I’ve been at the fatherhood game for 9 years but there is still so much to learn and experience. Like any good coach, I try to find the balance between telling the players (my child) what to do and also trusting in their own instincts and skills to do the right thing.
Which fatherhood experiences have taught you the most about yourself?
I was laid off from my job two months after my daughter was born. I felt helpless and afraid because I had no clue how I would provide for her. I gave myself two days to sulk in my shame and then I kicked myself into high gear to find the next opportunity. I used every resource I had available to make sure that my child would not feel the impact of what I saw as a failure. It was literally the hardest and most focused I had ever worked in life. Two months after being hired I landed a great new job, but I’ve kept that fire about being a provider ever since. It drives me to go the extra mile at everything I do. Until that point, I don’t think I had a real concept of my own potential. The desire to be better for my daughter showed me how deep I can dig when others are depending on me.
What insightful advice would you suggest about building a network?
The best advice I could give about building a network of Dads (or parents) is to find people who share the beliefs in how you want to raise your children. Connect with people who value raising well-rounded and compassionate children. Also, stay close to people who are willing to be vulnerable about their parenting struggles. Parenting is more of an art than a science and art is subjective.
Why should you read every day?
As the old saying goes, “reading is fundamental.” There is so much in the world that we will never know, however there is also a ton we do know. Information is a powerful tool and it’s literally all around us, mostly for free. Daily reading allows us to take advantage of the vast pool of information that allows us to be aware, astute and overall more interesting.
Name one life lesson that no one taught you, but should have.
One of the biggest life lessons that no one taught me is that failure and embarrassment can powerful tools to fuel greatness. Often times, (especially in the age of social media) we only see the successes of others. We live in a society that elevates winners and shuns losers. Jay-Z once said “even in defeat, there’s a powerful lesson learned so it evens it up for me.” I grew up knowing that failure was a part of life, so I had a solid foundation in terms knowing it was natural. What took some time to manifest in adulthood is the understanding that even at your lowest point you can find victory. You don’t have to accept failure and embarrassment is fleeting. The real power is in what you do to course correct and carve your own path out of adversity.
How important is keeping your word?
As my daughter has gotten older, I am amazed by all the information she retains, this includes everything that I ever tell her. If I make a promise or say that I will do something, she holds me accountable. When she was younger, I could say something as fickle as I would buy her ice cream and 3 hours later she may forget. Today, not only does she not forget she gives detailed reminders. Because I know she is so diligent with the small things, it reinforces that I have to make good on the big things. We strive to do this daily among other adults, but it should be no different with our kids. Keeping your word builds trust, respect and love, all things we absolutely need to create healthy relationships within our families.
When it comes to protecting yourself at all times, physically and mentally, what would you tell your children?
I grew up being a victim of bullying and teasing. It hurt me more mentally and emotionally. There were times when I cried about it alone in room. Times when I hated everything about myself. Had it not been for a loving family and village around me that valued my brain and my heart more than body type then I would have never come out on the other side. So when it comes to raising my child, I am protecting her by arming her with the weapons to protect herself in the long run. No one can devalue or take away the knowledge in your head or the love in your spirit.
What advice would you give on being responsible for your own dreams?
Nothing is the world is given. Even when you think it is, there is a debt to be paid for every opportunity. You can’t just chase your dreams, you have to earn your dreams. They belong you solely. Others may not appreciate them or even want to see you achieve them, but every man can be the master of his own fate.
How does following your spiritual values help you in life?
Over the years, whether I was actively attending a church or not, I’ve tried to keep the teachings of Jesus and the tenants of Christianity engrained in how I behave in the world. I’ve tried to behave justly and treat others with the same amount of fairness that I would expect (the Golden Rule). Every day, I pray for balance in my life because I know through balance I am able to find peace and share love which really is the goal of most faith cultures.
Share one of your fondest memories you’ve experienced with your father, grandfather or father figure.
One of my favorite hobbies is shooting pool, it relaxes me and clears my head, especially when I’m stressed. I got into playing the game because of my dad. I remember when I was middle school age, on occasion my dad would take me to a family-friendly billiards hall to play. It did not happen very often, but it was one of the occasions I remember feeling like I was actually hanging out with my dad. It was shared experience versus him taking me the park or an arcade and just watching me play. My dad did a good job of being there after my parents divorced, but shooting pool always felt like a “grown-up” activity that was special, even during the rough times of trying to figure out our relationship post-divorce.
Why is writing down your fatherhood goals for life so important? Share your most valued and treasured fatherhood goal.
If you don’t write down your goals then they can never be real. The written word has the power to manifest itself in the real world. We become so busy with the hustle and bustle of daily life that we can often lose sight of our end goals because we’re so consumed with the distractions. Fatherhood goals can sometimes get lost in “trying to provide.” Men should be providers but it also take equal parts nurturing to raise a child. My fatherhood goal is similar to most people in that I want my children to achieve more than me and be better than me. A lofty goal because I have high expectations of myself. However, my greatest treasure is knowing that I am raising someone who will have an impact on the world for being simply who they are. A person who works hard, never settles and values relationships over materials, just like their father did.