Tuesday, February 9, 2016

#RootsTech: Bruce Feiler – Understand the Desert

Author Bruce Feiler addresses RootsTech 2016“You can’t understand the Biblical story, I’ve come to realize, without understanding the desert,” said Bruce Feiler. Bruce was one of the Thursday morning keynote presenters at RootsTech 2016. Bruce Feiler is a New York Times best-selling author, columnist, and frequent contributor to NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. His most recent book is The Secrets of Happy Families.

“The greatest breakthroughs [of people in the Bible] occur, not when they are comfortable, not in the best of times, but when they are in the wilderness, in the worst of times,” he said. The writers of the Bible elected to include the stories of hard times and we should do the same.

Bruce said that “the one secret ingredient that high functioning families have in common is: they talk—a lot. … They talk about what it means to be part of a family.”

Tell your family history to your children. Bruce wrote about that in the New York Times story titled “The Stories that Bind Us.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html : 15 March 2013.)

The article told about researchers at Emory University—Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush—who gave children a series of tests. They asked them questions like: “Do you know where your grandparents were born? Do you know an aunt or uncle who had an illness they overcame? Do you know where your parents went to high school? What was happening in your parents’ lives around the time that you were born?”

They found that doing well on this test “was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being and the belief that they could affect the world around them. It was the number one predictor of a child’s happiness.”

Marshall Duke told Bruce that “these children have a sense that they are part of an intergenerational self, a narrative that goes back deep in time, so that when they have difficulties, they know that someone in their family also had difficulties.”

Bruce characterized family stories into three types. Ascending: He came to America with nothing, worked hard, and became successful. Descending: He was well off, the stock market crashed, and he lost everything. Oscillating: Things were good. They went bad. She overcame and things were good again.

“The children who understand that they come from an oscillating narrative know that when they hit hardships—and they will hit hardships—they know that they can get through them, that they can push through—not because of what they saw in a movie or a book—because of people in their own family.”

It made me think of a two minute video from RootsTech 2014. Watch it with Bruce’s words in mind.

Click to watch "Every Family Has A Story, Discover Yours"


  1. I loved "The Stories that Bind Us" article and used in my 2014 BYU Family History conference sessions. Thanks for posting his talk at RT. I missed it.


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