Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Success, Happiness, and the Mysterious Whims of Fortune

David Brooks of the NYTimes writes today about the Grant Study, a 70-year longitudinal study into success and happiness. The study tracked 268 of America's most promising young men. It recruited them from the top ranks of Harvard's sophomore class. These were the most well-adjusted, most gifted, most ambitious young men the researches could find. Our expectations would be that they would live up to the promise as their lives unfolded.
Their lives played out in ways that would defy any imagination save Dostoyevsky’s. A third of the men would suffer at least one bout of mental illness. Alcoholism would be a running plague. The most mundane personalities often produced the most solid success. One man couldn’t admit to himself that he was gay until he was in his late 70s. (source)

One of the most gifted of the bunch fell apart in his 30s. One became a major advocate for gay rights after coming out of the closet late in life, only to die at age 64.

Yet some connections to begin to emerge:
The men were able to cope with problems better as they aged. The ones who suffered from depression by 50 were much more likely to die by 63. The men with close relationships with their siblings were much healthier in old age than those without them. (source)

Another thing that emerges is that happiness much less to do with success than it does with relationship. "Happiness is love. Full Stop," he says in this remarkable video:

There is a lot of wisdom is this.


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