59 Seconds: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of 59 Seconds containing key details about the book.

What is 59 Seconds About?

59 Seconds is filled with tips and tricks that come straight from the latest scientific journals and the author's own original research. The book outlines the new science of "rapid change" and describes with clarity how these quirky, sometimes counterintuitive techniques can be effortlessly incorporated into our everyday life.

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Who is the Author of 59 Seconds?

Richard Wiseman is Britain's only professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology and has an international reputation for his research into unusual areas including deception, luck, humor, and the paranormal. He is the psychologist most frequently quoted by the British media and his research has been featured on over 150 television programs in the UK.

What are key takeaways from 59 Seconds?

Takeaway #1: The benefit of sharing your weaknesses with other people is that they will like you more.

Contrary to popular opinion, relevant work experience and possessing the right job qualifications may not be the biggest determinants for being offered the job. As it turns out, being ‘likeable,’ plays a huge role. This begs the question: how do you become likeable, or know if you are, already? Interestingly, there are a number of ways you can actually increase your chances of being liked by others. In the 1970’s, Duke University conducted a study where they observed participants’ reactions to a recording of a man telling his personal life story. There were two versions of the man’s story: one where he shared a personal weakness early on, and the other, where he waited until the end to mention this shortcoming. The results of the study showed that the participants developed a more positive attitude, or found the man more likeable, when he spoke of his weakness early in the recording. What we can glean from this is that people are drawn to others when they open up, and are honest about who they are; weaknesses included. Simply put, being relatable and honest with other people, is a known way of being more likeable.

Takeaway #2: Strive to be honest in your relationships with others, not perfect.

Being likable is critical for all interpersonal relationships, not just job interviews. if you’re not an enjoyable person to be around, people won’t want to be around you. With that said, traits that many people assume would attract others, like coming across as ‘perfect’, can be misleading, and could have the opposite effect. Consider President Kennedy, during the Bay of Pigs Invasion: though the Bay of Pigs was a disaster, the American consensus still showed a positive increase in their attitude and feelings towards him. President Kennedy took full accountability for what happened during the aftermath of the invasion, and he did not try to mislead the American population into thinking otherwise. More evidence exists that points to people’s attraction to vulnerability and relatability, rather than perfection. To gather more evidence, a researcher observed the reactions of audience members towards two versions of the same infomercial, which was about a blender: in the first, the actress performed perfectly, was knowledgeable and polished; in the second, the actress stumbles, the lid falls off, and she spills on her shirt. The audience members unanimously expressed an endearment towards the second actress, whereas with the first actress they said they couldn’t relate. Another way to be liked by others is to avoid gossip, and speak positively of others.

Takeaway #3: Visualization is not enough to achieve your goals

​​The concept of visualization has picked up a lot of momentum within the self-help sector. The idea being that if you visualize your goals, it will actually help you to achieve them. Contrary to popular belief, research has been done on the concept of visualization, and it may not be as beneficial as it’s been claimed to be. The University of California conducted a study where they asked students to visualize each day that they had received good grades; whereas a separate group of students were not asked to visualize receiving good grades. After recording the number of hours studied by the two groups, they found that the group that had not practiced visualization studied harder, and got higher grades. Research has found that people who spend too much time visualizing fail to prepare for setbacks that they face along the way. Rather than visualize, creating a plan to achieve your goals is the most effective way of initiating change. A study was done where 5,000 participants, each with different goals, were observed. Those that had a concrete plan to achieve their goals ended up being the most successful, by a long run.

Takeaway #4: Calming your mind and focusing on other things can help you be more creative.

While brainstorming may work under certain circumstances, research suggests that brainstorming can actually cause us to repress our ideas, rather than help stimulate them. A French engineer did a study where has asked participants to pull a rope individually, and in a group. The study found that the when the participants worked individually, they pulled more weight than they did as a group. This is attributed to the fact that in groups, we share the responsibility of the work; whereas when we work individually, we shoulder the responsibility ourselves. At the University of Kent, researcher Brian Mullen confirmed this intuition, and found that when people work independently, the quality and quantity of ideas produced was greater than in a group setting. Apart from working independently, how else can we incite creative thinking? Salvador Dali, the Spanish surrealist painter, would wait until he was in a dream-like (or hypnogogic state) to create his art. The University of Amsterdam found that people tend to be more creative when their subconscious mind is distracted. When you need to solve a problem or think creatively, try relaxing your mind and focus your attention elsewhere.

Takeaway #5: Simple changes to your environment can make a big difference to your productivity and creativity.

​Priming describes the concept of being shaped and influenced by your environment. In an experiment conducted by Jens Förster at the International University Bremen, he asked two separate groups of participants to picture two types of demographics: the first being punks, or the punk-rock lifestyle; the other being the more conservative profession of engineering. They were subsequently tested on their creativity. The results showed that the group that was asked to consider the punk lifestyle were more creative than the latter group. Another way to boost your mood and creativity is to surround yourself with greenery and nature. Plants and flowers have been known to be mood enhancers; and studies have been done which point to the effectiveness of surrounding yourself with greenery and its connection to productivity. A study at Texas A&M University showed that offices with plants and flowers resulted in a 15% increase in employee’s ability to come up with ideas, and boosted problem-solving skills. This shows how something as simple as your environment can make a noticeable impact on your creativity and ability to be productive.

Takeaway #6: When confronting difficulty, focusing on the silver lining will help you in the long run.

Stress and anxiety are permanent features of our lives, and are a part of being human. How you deal with stress and anxiety is what makes the biggest difference in our ability to cope and handle difficult situations. Next time you feel stressed or anxious, try to find the silver lining in what you are feeling; there is almost always some positive point that you can find under tough situations. The University of Miami did a study where they asked students to think of an incident where they felt hurt. One group of students were asked to explain what had hurt them about the situation, whereas the other group was asked to think of a positive that came from the hardship. The results showed that the group that was asked to focus on a positive were better able to handle the difficult situation than the other group. It’s been shown that maintaining a positive mindset, even in the most difficult of circumstances, increases overall well-being and levels of personal gratitude.

Takeaway #7: Watch your words and Speak to the positives in your relationships

Relationships are difficult to navigate even for the best of us. Nevertheless, there are simple things that we can do to help improve our relationships with others. For starters, refraining from making negative or critical remarks has been known to make a big difference in the health of our relationships with other people. John Gottman conducted research on what makes relationships endure, and found that positive affirmations, forgiveness and understanding were key indicators to the success of healthy relationships. Another way of improving your relationships is by journaling your feelings about the other person. A study at the University of Texas asked two groups of participants to spend 20 minutes to journal each day. The first group was asked to write about their feelings towards their significant other, whereas the second group was asked to simply write about their day. Results showed that after 3 months, 77% of the first group remained together, compared to 52% of the second group. Keep in mind, if you do mention a criticism, try and qualify it with a positive. For example, ‘my wife may be messy, but she is an excellent cook.’ Mentioning a criticism along with a positive helps to remind the person that you appreciate them, despite their flaws.

Takeaway #8: Spotting the liar is not as obvious as you think. It’s often the subtleest of details that reveal the most.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not always the most boisterous person in the room that is embellishing the truth, or being dishonest. At the University of Southampton, researchers observed the pulses of students reporting their grades. Despite that almost 50% had exaggerated their results, they appeared no more stressed than their honest counterparts. Liars are just as able to look you in the eye and tell a lie, as honest people are in speaking the truth. How can you tell if someone is lying? To start, liars tend to have to think harder when answering questions. For example, if you lied to a friend about you did during in the evening, if that friend asks you about it later on, you will most likely have difficulty answering (since you lied about it.) Most likely, if someone is lying, they may avoid answering or try to deflect the question, or they might just have to think harder, since they are coming up with something on the spot.

What are the chapters in 59 Seconds?

Happiness - Why positive thinking often fails and how the real route to happiness involves a pencil, keeping the perfect diary, small acts of kindness, and developing the gratitude attitude
Persuasion - Why rewards fail, how to give the flawless interview, improve your social life by making mistakes, never lose your wallet again, and convince anyone of anything by using your pet frog
Motivation - The dark side of visualization, how to achieve absolutely anything by creating the ideal plan, overcoming procrastination, and employing “doublethink”
Creativity - Exploding the myth of brainstorming, how to get in touch with your inner Leonardo merely by glancing at modern art, lying down, and putting a plant on your desk
Attraction - Why you shouldn’t play hard to get, how the subtle art of seduction involves the simplest of touches, roller-coaster rides, and avoiding artificial Christmas trees
Relationships - The perils of “active listening,” why Velcro can help couples stick together, words speak louder than actions, and a single photograph can make all the difference
Stress - Why not to kick and scream, how to reduce resentment in seconds, harness the power of a four-legged friend, and think your way to low blood pressure
Decision Making - Why two heads are no better than one, how never to regret a decision again, protect yourself against hidden persuaders, and tell when someone is lying to you
Parenting - The Mozart myth, how to choose the best name for a baby, instantly divine a child’s destiny using just three marsh-mallows, and effectively praise young minds
Personality - Why not to trust graphology, how to gain an apparently magical insight into other people’s personality from their fingers and thumbs, their pets, and the time they go to bed

Book details

  • Print length: 357 Pages
  • Audiobook: 8 hrs and 18 mins
  • Genre: Self Help, Nonfiction, Psychology

What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • Quick Fixes: The book emphasizes that many self-help techniques can be implemented in less than a minute, challenging the notion that significant change requires long-term commitments.
  • Happiness: Wiseman suggests that activities such as counting your blessings, performing acts of kindness, and writing about positive experiences can boost happiness levels.
  • Decision-Making: The book presents strategies for effective decision-making, such as considering multiple options, stepping back and gaining perspective, and imagining a friend's advice.
  • Motivation: Wiseman discusses techniques to enhance motivation, such as setting specific goals, breaking them into smaller steps, and using rewards to reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Creativity: The book explores methods to boost creativity, including brainstorming, mind mapping, and exposing oneself to diverse perspectives and environments.
  • Persuasion: Wiseman shares insights on persuasion techniques based on psychological research, such as mirroring body language, using humor, and offering subtle rewards.
  • Relationships: The book provides strategies for improving relationships, such as fostering gratitude, engaging in active listening, and displaying empathy.
  • Stress and Relaxation: Techniques for managing stress and promoting relaxation are discussed, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and engaging in enjoyable activities.
  • Productivity: Wiseman offers tips for enhancing productivity, including prioritizing tasks, using visual cues and reminders, and breaking work into manageable chunks.
  • Happiness at Work: The book explores strategies for finding fulfillment and satisfaction in the workplace, such as seeking autonomy, setting challenging goals, and fostering positive relationships with colleagues.

What are good quotes from 59 Seconds?

"Happiness doesn't just flow from success; it actually causes it." (Meaning)

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"materialism is driven mainly by low self-esteem"

"Visualize Yourself Doing, Not Achieving"

"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"

"We do not love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we do them."

"People are more likely to agree with you when they have already said something positive"

"When it comes to happiness, remember, it is experiences that represent really good value for the money."

"..those who do not feel in control of their lives are less successful, and less psychologically and physically healthy, than those who do feel in control."

"..if you want to cheer yourself up, behave like a happy person"

"...talking can add to a sense of confusion, but writing provides a more systematic, solution-based approach.

― Richard Wiseman, 59 Seconds Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: "For all those who are tired of the usual self-help formula—homespun anecdotes, upbeat platitudes, over-the-top promises—Richard Wiseman's 59 Seconds is just what the PhD ordered." — The Wall Street Journal

* The summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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