Book: 59 Seconds

  • Read: April 2012
  • Rating: 7.5/10

59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman is a different take on psychology, self-help, and productivity-type books. Rather than saying “you’re wrong, you should be doing X,” Richard shows through actual scientific studies what the best things to do for a variety of things. Imagine that- using science rather than just making up stuff. Additionally, Richard gives the reader actual things that they can implement in order to take the information to heart. This is definitely worth the read if you’re into this kind of stuff.

My Notes


Happiness doesn’t just flow from success; it actually causes it

Expressing gratitude, thinking about a perfect future, and affection writing have been scientifically proven to work (improve happiness)

Buy experiences, not goods



Excessive rewards can even have a detrimental effect on tasks that people don’t enjoy

Those offered a carrot tend not to perform as well as those who don’t expect to receive anything

Job interviews => did the candidate appear to be a pleasant person?

Presenting weaknesses can be seen as a sign of openness, but say them earlier, not later

Be generous with your time, resources, and skills

Spontaneous trait transference = when you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you

Bystander effect = the more people who around when a person is apparently in need of assistance, the lower the likelihood that any one person will actually help


Fantasizing your perfect world may make you feel better (happiness, see above), but it is unlikely to help you transform your dreams into reality

Having the perfect plan, knowing how to beat procrastination, and employing a strange form of double think will help (motivate)

Break goals into subgoals, with step-by-step processes

  • Remove Fear and hesitation

Subgoals should be:

  • Concrete
  • Measurable
  • Time-based

Tell your friends, family, and colleagues about your goals

Remind yourself frequently of the benefits associated with achieving your goals

Issue yourself a reward for being successful in your goals (and subgoals)

  • Ensure the reward doesn’t conflict with the goal itself (no cake when dieting successfully, for example)

Express goals, plans, benefits, and rewards in writing

Chronic procrastinators (me!) causes:

  • Fear of failure
  • Perfectionism
  • Low levels of self-control
  • Tendency to see projects as a whole rather than breaking them into smaller parts
  • Being prone to boredom
  • Feeling that life is too short to worry about seemingly unimportant tasks
  • Inability to accurately estimate how long it takes to do things

Starting an activity causes your mind to experience a kind of psychic anxiety (to finish the activity)

Visualize the process of doing a task


  1. Think about something you want to achieve
  2. Spend a few moments thinking about reaching the goal and the top two benefits of the achievement
  3. Same, with top two barriers and problems
  4. Doublethink: reflect on the first benefit
  5. Immediately think of biggest hurdle to success and what you can do if you encounter the hurdle
  6. Same with second benefit

Think about how much you will regret not accomplishing your goal


Work alone, not in groups

Think about your problem, then jump to a different hard, analytic task (Sudoku, etc), then go back to list possible solutions to your problem

Add flowers and plants (real ones!) to your office

Visually prime yourself


How much we desire and treasure an object depends, in part, on how easy it is to obtain

If you want to get someone to help you out, try the briefest of touches on the upper arm

Want bigger tips? Repeat the order back to your customers


Activities associated with early courtship can help rekindle past passions

Do novel and exciting joint activities

Cover her eyes and lead her to a lovely surprise; whisk her away somewhere exciting for the weekend

“A woman’s flattery may inflate a man’s head a little, but her criticism goes straight to his heart, and contracts it so that it can never again hold quite so much love for her” - Helen Rowland

Positive comments have to outweight negative remarks by five to one

Surround yourself with objects that remind you of your partner


The venting of anger does not extinguish the flame

Behave in a way that is incompatible with being angry

Benefit finding = focus on the benefits that flowed from the experience

Pray for others

Get out in the Sun

Get a dog

Decision Making

Being in a group exaggerates people’s opinions, causing them to make a more extreme decision than they would on their own

When being marketed to, or while marketing, remember “that’s not all…” (+free)

Get your foot in the door (start small and build up)

People who are shown the options but then kept busy working on a difficult mental activity make better decisions than others do

Containing regret (of a missed opportunity):

  • Adapt a will do attitude
  • Remedy the situation (if possible)
  • Use the regret as a wake-up call
  • Think about the negative things that could have happened if you did the activity (or didn’t) and focus on the positives that came from the missed opportunity

Lying isn’t like it is in the movies. Instead, look for:

  • not moving arms and legs
  • cutting down of gestures
  • repeating the same phrases
  • short and less detailed answers
  • taking longer to answer
  • pauses and hesitation
  • more uses of him and her, and less of I, me, and mine


Listening to Mozart won’t make your kid smarter long-term

Self-discipline and thinking through music lessons will (help with intelligence)

Watch out for naming your kid with letters C or D, which are correlated to lower grades than those named with A or B

Children told they were intelligent are less likely to do challenging activities, and perform worst Instead, praise your children on their effort and how hard they try


The big five (OCEAN):

  1. Openness
  • Appreciates new, interesting, and unusual experiences
  1. Conscientiousness
  • Organization, persistence, and self-discipline to achieve goals
  1. Extroversion
  • Need for stimulation from the outside world and other people
  1. Agreeableness
  • Degree to which a person cares about others
  1. Neuroticism
  • Emotionally stability and ability to cope with potentially stressful situations

Ten techniques in 59 seconds:

  1. Develop the gratitude attitude
  2. Be a giver
  3. Hang a mirror in your kitchen
  4. Buy a potted plant for the office
  5. Touch people lightly on th upper arm
  6. Write about your relationship
  7. Deal with potential liars by closing your eyes and asking for an email
  8. Praise children’s effort over their ability
  9. Visualize yourself doing, not achieving
  10. Consider your legacy