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Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More

by Bruce Feiler

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-177873-5
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

New York Times columnist Feiler (Generation Freedom: The Middle East Uprisings and the Remaking of the Modern World, 2011, etc.) explores new ideas on family dynamics.

Impressed by the amount of innovative thinking in the business world about how people work best in small groups and “[t]rend-setting programs from the U.S. military to professional sports” on being resilient in the face of setbacks, the author was also frustrated by the emphasis of psychologists on the happiness of individual family members. For him, this was not just an intellectual pursuit. He and his wife were struggling to balance the needs of their daughters, demanding jobs and elderly parents. Feiler was in search of an answer to the question: “What do happy families do right and how can the rest of us learn to make our families happier?” His quest began in Silicon Valley, where he sat in on a family meeting patterned on agile development, a cutting-edge program popular in the automotive industry that delegates top-down management-authority for getting a job done. Software engineer David Starr had successfully adapted aspects of the program to his own family. Following his lead, Feiler instituted formal weekly meetings and daily quick reviews with his wife and daughters to evaluate how well his family was functioning. Next, they worked on a mission statement for the family (another idea from the corporate world)—“May your first word be adventure and your last word love”—and a celebrity chef suggested making breakfast the family meal. Feiler picked up ideas from many sources, but in the end, he found the secret to a happy family—not in a set of nostrums or procedures, but in flexibility and a willingness to keep trying.

A good addition to the self-help bookshelf.