Keeping it real and using science to explain

The Long and Short of It is: L-O-V-E


All you need is love, love.  

Love is all you need.

The Beatles Said It

John Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love” was sung by the Beatles during the sixties to send the world the message that love is everything. It was inspired by a word that everyone could easily understand: “L-O-V-E”.

Cultural critic Mark Hertsgaard has called it the Beatles’ most political song up to that point, reflecting the utopian vibe of the world’s youth during the 1960s peace movement.

The song’s sentiment, broadcast to 24 nations on June 25, 1967, in the first global TV show “Our World”, was much more than a “groovy” feeling.

Paul McCartney told writer Patrick Cadogan, “So we had one message for the world – Love. We need more love in the world.”

Lennon, in a bit of a statement in 1971, explained:

“I think if you get down to basics, whatever the problem is, it’s usually to do with love… Love is not just something that you stick on posters or on the back of your car, or on the back of your jacket or on a badge… Love is allowing somebody to be themselves and that’s what we do need.”

Science Agrees

A certain 75-year study proves Lennon’s theory.

In 1938, scientists began to track 268 male Harvard sophomores over a trajectory now nearing an 80-year span, in what is known as the Harvard Grant Study. The researchers studied the subject’s accomplishments and failures in both relationships and careers, in hopes of discovering not only life lessons learned but the secrets that lead to a healthy and happy life.

It wasn’t genetics, money or fame that made people happy. Connections were what mattered the most. It was the quality of the attachments to others that was the best determinant of a long and happy life, the study revealed.

According to Robert Waldinger, current director of the study, “The surprising finding is that relationships and how happy we are IN our relationships have a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care, too. That is the revelation.”

 Happiness is Only the Cart; Love is the Horse

… or at least so says psychiatry professor George Eman Vaillant, lead researcher who directed the Grant Study starting in 1972. He has highlighted five lessons from it in his book, “Triumphs of Experience:”

Connection – social ties and strong relationships in as many areas of life as possible – are crucial: “Joy is connection.”

Money and power – career success and material achievement play little part in a full life and later contentment.

You can become happier by coping with challenges – “The journey from immaturity to maturity is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection, and a big part of this shift has to do with how we deal with challenges.”

People can gain great happiness over their lifetime, even if their childhood begins with hardship.

“The Short Answer is L-O-V-E” – without loving and supportive relationships, few can be happy.

Love, and “finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away,” are Vaillants two secrets to a life that can ripen into happiness and fulfillment.


As the Beatles sang over fifty years ago, “All you need is love.” In your later years, the warmth of your relationships will be everything. Wealth, status, and other superficial gains are no match for the power of love.

George Vaillant’s takeaway: “Happiness is love. Full stop.”


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