Summary of 59 Seconds by Richard Wiesman

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of 59 Seconds by Richard Wiesman

We live in a modern world that has made great advances in both psychological research and technology. Even though we may not be experts in everything, we can benefit from the experience of others. Therefore, we must come to realise that there are simple solutions to most things, we just need to know where to look. 

Does it sound too good to be true? You need not be so sceptical. The simple truth is we can often make a change in under a minute. All you have to do is follow some easy psychological tricks to get ahead. Knowledge is indeed powerful, so let’s get started!

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • How to be more likeable
  • Getting motivated the right way
  • How to stimulate and inspire creativity
  • Finding the silver lining 
  • The importance of words in a relationship
  • How to spot a liar

Key lesson one: How to be more likeable

No matter your experience or qualifications, there is surprising one more factor that most interviewers base their decision on – and it is the most important one according to them. It is how likeable the candidate is. As much as it seems that likeability should not be the deciding factor when hiring someone, it does actually make sense that you like the person you hire. After all, you are going to be working with them, right?

A study of university graduates looking for their first jobs found that if they managed to obtain an interviewer’s favour, they were most likely to be hired. They did not do anything spectacular either. They just kept a genuine smile on their face and spoke about themselves, things that they found interesting and the organization they were applying to. These are things that anybody can do easily. Also beneficial in an interview is, to be honest, and note your weaknesses right at the outset, keeping your strengths for the end of the interview. In this way, it comes across more naturally and makes you more likeable. Another thing you should always remember in an interview setting is not to freak out if you make a mistake. Mistakes are usually more evident to you than to the people listening. So, instead of drawing attention to it, just continue.

Likeability is not just an important factor in interviews. It also plays an important role in your social life. Without likeability, you experience difficulty making new friends or starting new relationships. Surprisingly, trying to be perfect makes one less likeable and attractive. People who make mistakes from time to time actually come across as more likeable. That’s because others can identify with them because all humans are flawed. However, this only pertains to occasional mistakes, if you mess up all the time, that’s a different story. The other thing that makes you more likeable is if you don’t indulge in gossiping. Partaking in gossip, whether speaking or listening, makes others perceive you negatively. So, it’s best to avoid it if you want to be seen positively. 

Key lesson two: Getting motivated the right way

We are all familiar with visualization as a motivation technique. It is supposed to be powerful to visualize what it would be like to achieve your goals. But exactly how effective is it? There have been numerous studies that have been conducted to try and determine if it truly helps. Unfortunately, the results were not exactly in favour of visualisation. Research has shown that those who spend their time visualizing fail to prepare for the setbacks they may face along the way. 

The better method to get yourself motivated is to develop a plan. A solid plan broken down into smaller goals makes it easy to follow. It makes it seem much less daunting and easier to achieve. This is far better motivation than just picturing how it would be when it was done. You can further motivate yourself by telling your friends and family about your goals. This makes you far more likely to keep on track with your plan because others are aware of your plan. 

Key lesson three: How to stimulate and inspire creativity

Creativity comes in handy in all walks of life. It is a skill that is greatly valued as well because everyone knows a little creativity goes a long way. This is why many companies try to inspire creativity by introducing brainstorming sessions within teams. It makes sense that people think that more people in a brainstorming session will generate more ideas. However, recent studies have actually proven the opposite to be true. When people work in groups, ideas are sometimes held back and this occurs no matter how receptive the group is to ideas. People who work on their own tend to produce more ideas and those of higher quality as well. 

Another way to stimulate creativity is to try to tap into your subconscious mind. It’s not as easy to achieve as you have to find a way to distract your conscious mind so that your subconscious can work in the background. Salvador Dali used to fall asleep with a spoon in his hand so that when it eventually fell, the sound would wake him up and he could start sketching in his half-awake state. You don’t have to follow his exact method but you could try distracting your mind with a puzzle of some sort whilst your subconscious ponders an idea. 

You can also take priming into consideration. Priming refers to the unconscious manner that our environments influence our reactions. This is why we are encouraged to clean up our workspace or introduce inspiring messages to keep us motivated. Likewise, it can enhance our creativity. Plants have actually been found to be calming and put you in a better mood, thus stimulating your creativity. 

Key lesson four: Finding the silver lining 

Whenever you are in a stressful situation, you can either choose to deal with it or avoid it. However, there is something else you can opt to do that will help rid you of your stress. You can choose to find the silver lining or benefit of the situation. No matter how stressful or hurtful a situation is, there is always a lesson to be learned. If you identify it, it can help you overcome the situation you are in. 

The more you practice this, the better you will become at handling stressful situations that leave you feeling hurt and angry. In short, you become more resilient. Sometimes it may be difficult to see the silver lining right away, but you have to keep looking. Even terminal illness can inspire courage, appreciation and humour. You just have to keep trying.

Key lesson five: The importance of words in a relationship

Relationships can be made or broken by the words that come out of our mouths. This is why we have to be mindful of them. In fact, psychologist John Gottman found that for a relationship to be successful there should be approximately five times more positive comments than negative ones. These positive comments are not just admirations and affirmations but also understanding, forgiveness and agreement. 

Another way to use your words in your relationship is to write them down instead of saying them. Writing down your thoughts and feelings is beneficial in many ways. In fact, it was proven that people who wrote about their relationships daily were more likely to stay together. 

Lastly, when in a relationship aim to use the word but to qualify criticism. What does this mean exactly? Well, you should always aim to smooth out the negative effects of your words. For example, my wife is lazy but she is an excellent cook or my husband is terrible at romance but he is a great father. In this manner, no matter the flaw of your partner, you view their positives.

Key lesson six: How to spot a liar

Have you watched enough television to learn the psychological tricks to spot a liar? No matter what you have seen, it’s often not that simple. Not every liar is anxious or fidgety. In fact, research has shown that a liar is just as likely to look you in the eye as someone telling the truth. 

So, how do you spot a liar? Well, liars tend to think hard for no obvious reason and often try to dodge questions all while using an impersonal tone. This is because they are trying to remember what the other person knows already to avoid any contradictions. Thus liars take a longer time to answer and tend to pause or hesitate more as they speak. They could also avoid words like I, me and mine. Lastly, liars will try to deflect questions with other questions. 

One method to employ if you want to avoid liars is to communicate via email. People tend to be hesitant to lie over email because their words are on record. These are pretty straightforward tendencies that can be easily spotted. So, pay more attention when you speak to others.

The key takeaway from 59 Seconds is:

No matter what you are doing, there are simple ways to improve your life. In fact, some of these changes are so simple they will take you less than a minute to implement. Whether you want to be more likeable, more creative or just simply improve your personal and professional relationships, all you have to do is make small changes. It is amazing what can be achieved if you just know how to approach it. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on making positive changes in your life!

How can I implement the lessons learned in 59 Seconds:

Be more aware of your surroundings. The environment that you are working in has a bigger influence on you than you realise. Start making small changes to see how it affects your productivity. Try introducing plants in your workspace as well to inspire creativity and introduce a bit of calmness if you find yourself quite stressed. And no matter what situation you are in, always look for the silver lining. There is positivity in everything, you just have to find it.

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