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Finding Joy in the Midst of Transition: Bruce Feiler (ep. 596)

Bruce Feiler

Seven-time New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler joins John O’Leary on the Live Inspired Podcast to share his timeless wisdom and timely knowledge to allow each of us to live with more meaning, passion, and joy.

For more than two decades, Bruce Feiler has explored the intersection of families, relationships, health, and happiness, and is one of America’s most thoughtful voices on contemporary life. He is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers, including Life is in the Transitions, The Secrets of Happy Families, and Council of Dads. His three TED Talks have been viewed more than four million times.

Known for living the experiences he writes about, Bruce shares his timeless wisdom and timely knowledge to allow each of us to live with more meaning, passion, and joy.

My friends, today’s conversation truly has something for everyone, no matter where you are on the wave of constant change.

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  • Bruce enjoys going, immersing, learning by doing and calls himself an “explain-aholic”, a term Isaac Asimov coined.
  • Going OG viral: While in Japan in his 20s, Bruce wrote letters home on crinkly airmail paper that his mother and grandmother Xeroxed and then passed them around his town.
  • Finding life stories as an incredibly powerful way to connect with other people, Bruce regrets not paying closer attention to the stories his grandfather shared.
  • “Be a traveler, not a tourist.”
  • Council of Dads: When diagnosed with cancer, Bruce reached out to six extraordinary men who helped shape him and asked them to be present in the lives of his daughters. These men would offer wisdom, humor, and guidance on how to live, how to love, how to question, how to dream if he wasn’t around.
  • When his father was struggling with Parkinson’s disease, Bruce began collecting his dad’s life stories which ultimately prolonged his life.
  • Lifequakes: Bruce’s first book Life is in the Transitions is about how we navigate our nonlinear lives, which are characterized by these events I call lifequakes.  Lifequakes are huge, massive bursts of change that lead to life transitions. Bruce shares we go through three to five life quakes in the course of our lives.
  • Don’t climb… dig. “If I’ve learned one thing is that the people who are happiest and most fulfilled in what they do and who have the greatest meaning in their life, they don’t climb, they dig. They go personal archeology, digging through their lives, saying, “Who am I? What is the story I have been trying to tell my entire life? And what can I do right now to get myself closer to telling the story that I want?”
  • Through the Italian phrase, “lupus in fabula,” Bruce reminds us that whatever the wolf is that disrupts your story, here are ways to emerge as the hero.
  • Learn more about Bruce Feiler here.

Did you enjoy today’s episode?

You’ll love my conversation with Dr. John Delony. Armed with not one, but two PhDs and more two decades of experience in counseling and crisis response, John’s goal is to help others navigate tough decisions, improve relationships, and remind others they’re worthy of being well. You’ll love as John unpacks what we can learn by honestly embracing our past and the practical steps in order to take a proactive role in finding freedom in new beginnings. Listen to Dr. John Delony on ep. 456.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Fearlessness.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. First, a menorah that was saved from the Holocaust, then the kitchen table that my wife had the Council of Dad's carve into.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. There's a stone bench in my family's plot at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia where I could look out at my father and my grandfather, , and some other members of my family. I'd be seated next to Moses.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. Dr. John Healy said, "everybody dies but not everybody lives."
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. I did 20 okay. I went to the other side of the world. I did something risky. I wrote those letters and it changed my life. Not that different from what I say now: Take the trip. If you've got the time and the money and the health, take the trip.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. This bridge will take you only halfway there.