In 1938 the medical director at Harvard University, Arlie Bock, conceived of a project that he hoped would move medicine beyond the realm of treating sickness and into understanding how to live well.

He persuaded a wealthy patron, W. T. Grant to fund a research programme, and in the early 1940’s started tracking two cohorts of young men: the first, undergraduates at Harvard, the second, young men coming from the some of the poorest areas locally in Boston. He had high hopes for his study, but tracking people over decades is complex and the study nearly ground to a halt many times.

Yet somehow it survived and it has steadily uncovered deep truths and insights into the human condition. In this TED talk delivered by the current director of the programme, Robert Waldinger delivers the messages from 75 years of study with warmth and a calm wisdom.

In an era of Big Data and immediate satisfaction, open yourself to what humanity has learned about itself by persevering and staying open-minded to the reality of how human lives unfold across the decades.

Robert Waldinger website.

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