Book:  59 Seconds

Author:  Richard Wiseman

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Wiseman, R. (2011). 59 seconds : change your life in under a minute. New York: Anchor Books.

Big Takeaways & Key Ideas

  • When people can afford the necessities in life, an increase in income does not result in a significantly happier life. Why should this be the case? Part of the reason is that we all get used to what we have very quickly. Buying a new care or a bigger house provides a short-term feel-good boost, but we quickly become accustomed to it and sink back to our pre-purchase level of joy. Thanks to our capacity to adapt to even greater fame and fortune, yesterday's luxuries can soon become today's necessities and tomorrow's relics. (pg. 15)

  • In terms of short- and long-term happiness, buying experiences made people feel better than buying products. Why? Our memory experiences easily become distorted over time (you edit out the terrible trip on the airplane and just remember those blissful moments relaxing on the beach). Our goods, however, tend to lose their appeal by becoming old, worn-out, and outdated. Also, experiences promote one of the most effective happiness-inducing behaviors - spending time with others. Sociability might be part of the experience itself, or it might happen when you tell people about the occasion afterward. (pg. 26)

  • A research team explored why interviewers choose candidates for a job, discovering a surprising reality. It was one important factor - did the candidate appear to be a pleasant person? Those who have managed to flatter the interview team were very likely to be offered a position, and they charmed their way to success in several different ways. In order to get your dream job, going out of your way to be pleasant is more important than qualifications and past work experience. (pg. 45)

  • Three tips for interviews: 1) Likeability is more important than academic achievement or work experience 2) Give your credibility a boost by getting major weaknesses out in the open early 3) If you make a major mistake, don't overreact; chances are they won't notice. (pg. 49)

  • There is considerable evidence that a gentle touch is perceived as a sign of high status. For example, ask people to look at photographs of one person touching another, and they consistently rate the "toucher" as far more dominant than the "touchee." This is especially true of that all-important male-to-female touch on the upper arm. Most women don't consciously register the touch, but unconsciously it makes them think more highly of their potential beau. (pg. 142)

  • Negative events and experiences are far more noticeable and have a greater impact on the way we think and behave than their positive counterparts. Put people in a bad mood, and they can easily remember negative life events, such as the end of a relationship or being laid off, but cheer them up , and they find it harder to recall their first kiss or their best vacation. A single act of lying or dishonestly often has a disproportionate effect on a person's reputation and can quickly undo the years of hard work that have gone into building up a positive image. (pg. 175)

  • Gottman was able to figure out the ratio of positive to negative comments that predicted the downfall of a partnership. His findings make fascinating reading and firmly endorse the thoughts of Dale Carnegie. For a relationship to succeed, the frequency of positive comments has to outweigh negative remarks by about five to one. In other words, it takes five instances of agreement and support to undo the harm caused by a single criticism. (pg. 176)

  • People are reluctant to lie in emails because their words are recorded and what they say can come back to haunt them. So if you want to minimize the risk of a lie, ask others to email you. (pg. 236)

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