I‘m thrilled that more and more study is being devoted to evaluating the impact of elements such as passion, purpose, meaning and having and expressing an authentic voice in our lives … even if the results often seem like a statement of the obvious. It seems almost self-evident, for example, that people who feel more engaged by their jobs, or believe that their job is important, or matters, show less job stress and perform better in those jobs than people who don’t. (I’ve even written about the importance of believing that what you do matters in previous posts, here and here .) Or even that people who feel that their lives have purpose live longer (the psychiatrist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, came to that conclusion back in the 1940s, after observing concentration camp survivors).

Nevertheless, it’s helpful to have scientific support for some of those ideas. And as scientific research methods and capabilities have expanded, some interesting, and very specific, data has emerged. Take, for example, a recent study by the Rush University Medical Center researchers, quoted in an article in this month’s Atlantic magazine.

To quote the article, “Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found that a third of people whose brains, upon autopsy, display the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s never exhibited memory loss or intellectual impairment. The best predictor of whether someone would escape these symptoms was whether they felt strongly that they had a purpose in life. Those who did were two and a half times as likely to be unafflicted as those who didn’t.” [click to continue…]

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A few posts ago, I discussed a new study that concluded that people who attempt an entrepreneurial venture end up better off financially, regardless of whether the venture succeeds or fails. (The theory being you learn from the experience and return to a salaried job smarter and savvier, even if your self-employment doesn’t pan out.)

Well, here’s another, if more sobering, study that lays out why spending some time in your career forging your own path may have important benefits, even if it’s tough, or doesn’t “succeed” in the end.

Silvia Canetto, a psychology professor at Colorado State University, published a study in November that explores a perplexing phenomenon: namely, that suicide rates are higher among older white men than among any other demographic group–despite the fact that white men tend to have “fewer burdens associated with aging” than other groups. White males are, for example, less likely to experience widowhood and tend to have better physical health and fewer disabilities than older women, while having more economic resources to deal with problems of aging than women or ethnic minority men.

So what accounts for the high depression and suicide rates? Professor Canetto gives two main reasons. The primary cause, she believes, is a “rigidity in coping and sense of self.” White men, she asserts, “may be less psychologically equipped to deal with the normal challenges of aging … likely because of their privilege up until late adulthood.” The second reason–for the higher incidence of suicide as a response to that depression, anyway–is that suicide is seen, culturally, as at least a masculine response to despair, a la Ernest Hemingway. [click to continue…]

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Passion, Resiliency, and Cam Newton’s Super Bowl Performance

by Lane Wallace

Say what you will about the NFL, or professional football, I love the Super Bowl. Every year, the game manages to produce some applicable nugget or insight of leadership, passion, or life. After all, if nothing else, the Super Bowl is unquestionably leadership and passion played out on a high-stress, high-stakes stage, in front of [...]

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An Explorer’s View on the Death of Henry Worsley

by Lane Wallace

I set out, last week, to write a post on the death of Henry Worsley–a 55-year old retired British Army officer who was attempting to be the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided. An ill and exhausted Worsley gave up the quest a mere 30 miles from his goal, after a journey of [...]

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Why Trying an Entrepreneurial Venture May Not Be As Risky As You Think

by Lane Wallace

“Why Doesn’t Everybody…”?
For years, I have joked about this iconic question, usually posed by innocent people who do not have any first-hand experience with the (fill-in-the-blank) topic they’re asking about. Lane’s rule of thumb: If everybody doesn’t do something … whether it’s start their own business, renovate their own house, or own a polished-aluminum airplane [...]

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Are Mid-Life Crises Inevitable?

by Lane Wallace

I began my new year (the 7th one writing this blog!) with the unexpected treat of dinner with two friends I’ve known since I was 12 years old. In truth, they are the only friends I’ve known since I was 12. But I know I’m lucky to still have something in common and keep in [...]

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Intrinsic Gifts in an Imperfect World

by Lane Wallace

The holiday season, as delightful as all the lights and decorations are, can actually be a tough time to feel happy, because we’re bombarded on all sides with images of “perfect” lives and holidays–and we humans, it turns out, depend quite heavily on comparing our lives with others when we decide how happy we are. [...]

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Misunderstanding Passion

by Lane Wallace

Anyone who’s read much of my work knows that I’m a big believer in the power of passion. I’ve even began researching a book on the topic (it’s in the queue, after I finish my current project on the power and importance of voice).
Having said that, I’m also well aware that the word “passion” is [...]

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New Adventure: Underwater Flight

by Lane Wallace

Although I’ve had more than my share of physical adventure in my life, most of my posts and discussions on this blog have to do with bigger life adventure, and the questions, issues, and decisions that influence our professional and personal paths. When the opportunity presents itself, however, I still have a passion for physical [...]

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Jon Stewart’s Lesson for Other Professionals

by Lane Wallace

Last night, Jon Stewart signed off as the host of The Daily Show, his award-winning late-night talk/variety/political satire and critique show, after a run of 16 years and almost 2,600 episodes. For starters, that represents a prolific amount of creative output. (By comparison: the popular television show Cheers produced only 275 original episodes, Friends produced [...]

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