A Father’s 10 Lessons For His Daughters

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Bruce Feiler 200x200
Bruce Feiler, Author

By Bruce Feiler

“What’s the one piece of advice you would give to my daughters?”

I reached out to six close friends from all parts of my life recently and asked them to form a “Council of Dads” to be present in the lives of my young twin daughters.  It was like forming a team of godparents.  Then I asked each dad for one piece of wisdom he would convey to my girls.

Their answers surprised and moved me.  They made me a better dad.

And they inspired me to write the book, The Council of Dads, which contains life lessons from these dads, my own dad, and other father figures in my life. 

Here, with a little help from these men, are Ten Lessons for My Daughters.

  1. Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist – A tourist takes the easy road.  A traveler seeks out the challenging path.  A tourist stays on the bus.  A traveler jumps in the mud. 
  2. Always Pack Your Flip-Flops – In college, a friend and I backpacked across Asia and got kicked out of many locations because he refused to wear anything but tank tops and flip-flops.  Twenty years later he still wears flip-flops!  It became his motto.  Whatever you do, be true to yourself.  Wherever you go, always pack your flip-flops. 
  3. Don’t See the Wall – Dream big.  And when you encounter a wall, find a way to get over it, around it, or under it.  Whatever you do, don’t succumb to it.  Don’t give into the wall. 
  4. Tend Your Tadpoles – When I was a boy I caught tadpoles with a friend.  Like those tadpoles, we grew legs and hopped off into the world.  I had little in common with that friend. Later, when I needed help, my friend was suddenly back.  Tend your tadpoles.  You never know when you might need a pal. 
  5. Live the Questions – Have patience with the unknown.  No matter where you find yourself, if you ask questions, you’ll find your way.  Don’t only seek the answers.  Try to love the questions.
  6. Harvest Miracles – Life is full of everyday miracles.  Sometimes it just takes a bad situation to help appreciate them.  Even when it’s cloudy, keep looking for the rainbow.
  7. Use Your Words – When you were toddlers, we begged you, “Use your words.”  Yet sometimes we forgot to take our own advice.  Even when you’re older, don’t hide behind silence.  When you face a problem, talk it through. 
  8. Always Learn to Juggle on the Side of a Hill – When I was twelve, I learned to juggle on the side of a gravel hill with oranges.  Every time I dropped an orange it would hit the ground, pulpify, and role to the bottom of the incline.  It was fool’s errand.  But it worked!  If you’re going to try something, try it.  Don’t half commit.
  9. Take a Walk with a Turtle – In Paris, years ago, a new type of pedestrian appeared.  He was called a flaneur, one who strolled the arcades.  Flaneurs liked to take turtles for walks and let the reptile set the pace.  I love this ode to slow-moving.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Behold the world in pause. 
  10. Hug the Monster – Pilots learn that when they face a life-defining challenge, they should not run from their fear.  They should embrace it.  Hug the monster.  Wrestle your fear into submission.  Redirect it into a source of resilience and purpose.

Take trips, girls.  Take chances.  Take off.





Watch Bruce talk about his journey at TEDx.

Bruce Feiler is the New York Times bestselling author of nine books, including Walking the Bible, Abraham, and America's Prophet.  He also writes the Family Matters column for The New York Times.  The piece is adapted from The Council of Dads.  For more information, please visit

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  • I just love your mindset, attitude and words of humour and your way of looking at the world. All children need great role models and you certainly have inspired me so I bet you have really inspired your daughters !
    I particularly liked the idea of beholding the world in pause ...... and dreaming big ..... one of my favourite books is "The Magic of Thinking BIG" by David J Schwartz as setting goals aand then exceeding them is truly magical.
    Thanks for an inspiring read

    Posted by sueatkins, 29 June 2010.

  • Thank you for the lessons. I will share them with my twin daughters too who are now 11 years old.

    Posted by What I believe, I am, 25 June 2010.

  • Love the wording! Such a fresh spin rather than saying things like "Be good". Ditto, Here's to hugging monsters!

    Posted by christina123, 17 June 2010.

  • You have two very lucky daughters. And some really great friends. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. This is a list I will revisit -- and the message of taking risks, is one I will sit with. Here's to hugging the monster.

    Posted by meliayates, 16 June 2010.