What gives people a long and happy life?
That idea is at the core of this blog—Probaway – Life Hacks ~ Many helpful hints on living your life more successfully. Eight and a half years after beginning this blog, I am reviewing this new take on the Lewis Terman study of people born about the year 1910. All of those people are now dead, and this new study is based on the date of their deaths and comparing their observed and documented patterns of life with their longevity. The book ends with a few simple suggestions for improving your life even if you are now old, young, or in between. This book reminded me of longitudinal strategies for life that I have discussed earlier, The Grant Study of the Harvard class of 1939 by George Vaillant, business strategy by Jim Collins, The English 1946 study The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of 70,000 Ordinary Lives, and The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) test,
In a strange way this book validates the value of the scientific method, because by modern standards Terman would have many negative epithets like racist attached to his memory, because of his early 20th-century biases. However, he collected data in an objective scientific way that permitted later scientists to interpret those subjects’ behaviors using more modern and more objective mathematical techniques. Thus, the data has been modernized and useful nearly a hundred years later.
In the epilogue of this book the authors complain that emphasizing direct approaches to health, happiness and longevity hasn’t worked. “Oversimplified recommendations may have made things worse.” … “Even when the recommendations are well-founded, lists of recommendations often fail to have their intended effect.” p. 220
“It was not good cheer or being popular and outgoing that made the difference. It was also not those who took life easy, played it safe, or avoided stress who lived the longest. Rather, it was those who—through an often-complex pattern of persistence, prudence, hard work, and close involvement with friends and communities—headed down meaningful, interesting life paths and, as we have illustrated, found their way back to these healthy paths each time they were pushed off the road.”
The essence of this book was right, and it is well written, but it won’t enter the public consciousness, because there are too many people making a monetary profit selling things that are counter to the arguments presented in this book. It’s the same complaint I have of Vaillant’s book. Remember the massive efforts it took to slow down tobacco consumption, and the simple reason was that vast fortunes were being made selling the poisonous stuff. People who quit smoking added some dozen years to their lives, and similar life expectancies could be added on top of those years or improved health if the ideas shown in the The Longevity Project by were practiced.
Isn’t it obvious that living your life helping others live meaningful lives will bring longer and happier lives to both you and your companions?