How to be Happy
by Bret Starr (reprinted with permission)
Steps 1 – 832: Have Friends
Music to read by: Do you Realize? (Song), The Flaming Lips (Band)
Ever heard of the Grant Study? It’s a long-ass research project (nearly 70 years) that has followed 268 Harvard college sophomores (classes of 1939-1944) and a second cohort of 332 disadvantaged (but non-delinquent) inner city kids from Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945 (think Goodwill Hunting, but back in the day – basically good kids but with few breaks).
The two cohorts have been participating in questionnaires at least every 2 years (and a battery of medical and psychological exams on a less frequent basis). The list of subjects includes 4 would-be senators, one presidential cabinet member and even John F. Kennedy.
The study was architected by George Vaillant, and was named for the department store Magnate W.T. Grant who funded the initial research. The goal of the study was to identify factors contributing to the “good life” – or happiness.
So what did Vaillant (and other stewards of the Grant Study) find out? What is the secret to happiness? The key to the good life? Here is what Vaillant himself said in an interview with the Atlantic (quoted here from a book by John Medina):
“The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
According to Medina in Brain Rules: “After nearly 75 years, the only consistent finding comes right out of It’s a Wonderful Life. Successful friendships, the messy bridges that connect friends and family, are what predict people’s happiness as they hurtle through life. Friendships are a better predictor than any other single variable. By the time a person reaches middle age, they are the only predictor.”
Dan’s been my friend since college. Now he’s my business partner, too.
What about money? According to Medina (a really happy guy and a developmental molecular biologist to boot), “Money doesn’t make the cut. People who make more than $5 million a year are not appreciably happier than those who make $100,000 a year, The Journal of Happiness found. Money increases happiness only when it lifts people out of poverty to about the mid-five figures. Past $50,000 per year in income, wealth and happiness part ways.”
So do you have any work friends? Or did you step on their backs to make more money? Use some logic here. If friends are more important than money when it comes to happiness, and if we spend most of our time at work, isn’t it logical that we’ll be happier if we work harder to develop meaningful relationships at work than we do trying to screw everyone on our way to the corner office? Or don’t you want to be happy?