"59 Seconds", Done.

59 Seconds

I’ve finished the book finally (I skipped the chapter on Parenting). Provided you’re willing to be suspicious of each individual recommendation (because psychological studies are often designed and interpreted in a sloppy manner), it’s extremely useful and entertaining.


A 5 factor model of personality explains pretty well how people describe themselves (it’s ridiculous to think that this captures all of how people really vary, but it’s a start).

It’s hard not to think of high or low levels of some of these as being desirable (for more happiness or success).

Openness represents the degree to which a person seeks and appreciates new, interesting, and unusual experiences.

Conscientiousness reflects the degree of organization, persistence, and self-discipline to achieve goals.
Extroversion reflects the need for stimulation from the outside world and other people.
perhaps the only reason I won’t say high=good is because I’ve been low-extrovert in the past. probably high=good. maybe some types of creative art or intellectual accomplishment are most accessible to low-extroverts.
Agreeableness is the degree to which a person cares about others. High scorers are trustworthy, altruistic, kind, affectionate …
high=good. although low=>conned less often
Neuroticism … High scorers are far more prone to worry, have low self-esteem, set unrealistic aspirations, and frequently experience a range of negative emotions, including distress, hostility, and envy.

Of course, there are some great things that have been accomplished by tortured, unhappy people. So we may benefit from people who aren’t in what I called the “good” direction.

Brain scans have revealed that people scoring low on extroversion have a high pre-set level of arousal. As a result, they avoid situations that further arouse their stimulated brains and are most comfortable when they are engaged in quiet, predictable activities. The exact opposite is true of those who score high on extroversion. Their brains have a much lower pre-set level of arousal, so they have a need for continuous stimulation. Because of this, they enjoy being with other people, risk taking, and impulsive behavior.
“as a result” - questionable. But, cool correlation.

levels of openness are determined, at least to some extent, by birth order.5 According to Sulloway’s theory, because younger children haven’t developed the abilities and skills that their older siblings have, they explore novel ways to get their parents’ love and attention, and this, in turn, causes them to develop into more open, creative, unconventional, adventurous, and rebellious people.
He studied biographies of famous people to “prove” his idea - confirmation bias abounds. I’m the oldest and was quite rebellious and creative. But it seems reasonable to me.

hold your right palm up in front of you and look at where your first finger joins the palm of your hand
(index finger)

There will be several creases at that point. Place the zero mark of the ruler on the middle of the bottom crease and measure to the tip of your finger (not your nail) in millimeters. Now repeat exactly the same procedure for your right third finger.
(ring finger)

Wikipedia has a picture that’s be more instructive than the text above.
To find the 2D:4D ratio, divide the length of your first finger by the length of your third finger. Research shows that the average male ratio is about .98, and a ratio of about .94 would be regarded as especially masculine, while a ratio of 1.00 would be viewed as more feminine. For women, the average ratio is about 1.00, and a score of about .98 would be regarded as more masculine …
I had a ratio of .94 in each hand; a female friend had a ratio of 1.02 in her left hand and 0.98 in her right. Different ratios across hands is relatively unusual, but it’s characteristic of (a small sample of) famous comedians (although the trend is in the direction of a larger ratio for the right hand, not the left).

People describe their pets as having similar personalities to themselves. On average, people who owned fish self-described as happiest, dog owners as the most fun to be with (obviously they experience the joy of using their dog as an attention magic in public), cat owners as the most dependable and emotionally sensitive (most cat owners are female?), and reptile owners the most independent (?).

People with bumper stickers are aggressive tailgaters and likely road ragers.

If you lace your fingers together then put one thumb over the other, if your dominant hand’s thumb goes on top, you’re probably left-brain (verbal/analytical) dominant. (I normally am, although I happened to have the other thumb on top at the time I read this).

“Evening people” are more extroverted, noncomforming, intuitive, and impulsive. “Morning people” are more introverted, self-controlled, and eager to please. (as self-identified by when you say you feel best sleeping/waking with no external constraints). I think there are all sorts of confounds (what are you really learning when someone says they would choose to be a morning person? probably that they got used to waking up early for a 8:30-5:30pm job, which tells you a lot about them). In other words, the problems with these questionnaire studies is that you’re learning something about their life, but not necessarily anything fundamental (if their circumstances change, but their fundamental personality doesn’t, their answers will probably change a bit).

Recap of key advice:

Develop the Gratitude Attitude.

Having people list three things that they are grateful for in life or three events that have gone especially well over the past week can significantly increase their level of happiness for about a month. This, in turn, can cause them to be more optimistic about the future and can improve their physical health.

This worked for me.

Be a Giver.

People become much happier after even the smallest acts of kindness. Those who give a few dollars to the needy, buy a small surprise gift for a loved one, donate blood, or help a friend are inclined to experience a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness.

Acting in a way where you feel like you’re taking care of people is rewarding.

Hang a Mirror in Your Kitchen.

Placing a mirror in front of people when they are presented with different food options results in a remarkable 32 percent reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food. Seeing their own reflection makes them more aware of their body and more likely to eat food that is good for them.

Didn’t try this. I don’t have a problem in that area if I don’t buy “pleasure” foods that actually make me feel bad when I overindulge.

Buy a Potted Plant for the Office.

Adding plants to an office results in a 15 percent boost in the number of creative ideas reported by male employees and helps their female counterparts to produce more original solutions to problems. The plants help reduce stress and induce good moods, which, in turn, promote creativity.

I’ve had a plant for ages. I forgot to try adding more.

Touch People Lightly on The Upper Arm.

Lightly touching someone on their upper arm makes them far more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. In one dating study, the touch produced a 20 percent increase in the number of people who accepted an invitation to dance in a nightclub and a 10 percent increase in those who would give their telephone number to a stranger on the street.

I feel good when I do this.

Write About Your Relationship.

Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost the chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such “expressive writing” results in partners’ using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship

If you commit any feelings or thoughts to paper it solidifies them in some way (“I’m the person who said they feel X” will make me feel X more. I’ve become closer to a friend after doing this, but we were already really close.

Deal with Potential Liars by Closing Your Eyes and Asking for an E-mail.

The most reliable cues to lying are in the words that people use, with liars tending to lack detail, use more “ums” and “ahs,” and avoid self-references (“me,” “mine,” “I”). In addition, people are about 20 percent less likely to lie in an e-mail than in a telephone call, because their words are on record and so are more likely to come back and haunt them.

Some people are excellent liars and are quite specific, fast-talking, and confident. I guess this is good for detecting mostly-honest people making an uncharacteristic fib. But I like the tip about email for suspected expert liars.

Praise Children’s Effort over Their Ability.

Praising a child’s effort rather than their ability (“Well done. You must have tried very hard”) encourages them to try regardless of the consequences, therefore sidestepping fear of failure. This, in turn, makes them especially likely to attempt challenging problems, find these problems enjoyable, and try to solve them on their own time.

I didn’t read this chapter (I don’t plan on being a parent any time soon), but that seems smart.

Visualize Yourself Doing, Not Achieving.

People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming 

a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: those who visualize themselves as others see them are about 20 percent more successful than those who adopt a first-person point of view.
Cool. I forgot to try this. My dad says he likes to think of himself as he’s being perceived (physically) when he interacts with people. That’s a special and unusual type of multitasking. Perhaps becoming comfortable with that leads to more confidence. I don’t know whether this really helps with long term goals, but I guess this advice is backed by (sloppy and then loosely interpreted) actual studies.

Consider Your Legacy.

Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals and assess the degree to which they are progressing toward making those goals a reality.

This seems to be about having a relatively satisfied experience of dying slowly of some disease, assuming you haven’t already lost brain function. I’m not sure that’s what I want to optimize for, but I’ll keep it in mind if I can’t otherwise decide.

This reminds me of people reporting that they took some big risk, starting a company, because someone advised them “20 years from now will you look back and regret not taking that risk?” - but consider the downside: “20 years from now will you look back and wonder what you missed out on because you made that risky choice that ended up really costing you?”.