This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Recently, I talked about Richard Wiseman and his book The Luck Factor. Well, Richard has written other books on psychology and how to get the most out of life. One of them, a fascinating one, is called 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot.

He gives quick and very simple ways of drawing success towards us and he explains the psychology behind each. And if we think that success is at least partly about luck, then he shows that we make our own success and luck. Which is what Jack thinks in Wasted, though for different reasons.

I want to tell you one of the fascinating bits in 59 Seconds. It suggests that if you smile, the world smiles with you. In other words, people are more likely to help you, like you and respond well to you if you smile. Actually, that's not what Wiseman says - he says put a picture of a cute, smiley baby in your wallet if you want your wallet returned to you when it's lost!

Let me explain about the baby and the wallet.

Wiseman wanted to discover the best way to ensure that a lost wallet was returned. What would be the best thing to put inside it? He bought 240 wallets and "filled them with the same set of everyday items, including raffle tickets, discount vouchers and fake membership cards."

He also added one of four photos to some wallets. Forty wallets got a photo of a smiling baby, forty got a puppy, forty a happy family and forty a contented elderly couple. Forty more wallets got a card saying the owener had contributed to charity. And forty got no extra item. All the wallets were then randomly dropped in public places around Edinburgh .

A week later, 52 wallets had been returned. And these were the results:
  • no extra item - 6%
  • charity card - 8%
  • elderly couple photo - 11%
  • puppy - 19%
  • happy family - 21%
  • smiling baby - 35%
So, smile like a baby and people will help you?? Well, OK, not quite as simple as that. But it does suggest something about luck, because surely having your wallet returned when you've dropped it is a matter of luck? That's what you'd say, isn't it? "Yay, I was lucky to have my purse returned."

The thing is that we think of luck as being something we can't affect. But luck is often about whether other people choose to help us and what we do can make a difference to how people treat us. Being endearing, smiling and unthreatening, could make people more likely to be on your side.

Obviously, I'm not suggesting you go round sucking your thumb or making cooing baby noises, but we can still think about ways to make our faces soft, open, friendly, and happy, when we want to influence people in our direction.

My problem is with photos - I CANNOT smile nicely in photos.

Meanwhile, I recommend 59 Seconds to you and suggest you follow Richard on Twitter - he is @RichardWiseman  Oh, and tell him I sent you.  

THE WASTED BLOG TOUR - WHERE AM I TODAY?  Over with Claire Marriot at The View From My Garret. Join us there. She did a fab review of Wasted, too.

In real life, I'm at George Watson's College doing a school event for some S1 pupils (Year 8 if you're English). I will report!!


catdownunder said...

Who says you cannot smile nicely?!!
There is more to smiling than moving your mouth - plenty of people 'smile' with their mouth and fail to smile at all because they do not smile with their eyes.
Go and look at yourself Ms Morgan - there are lots of people around who photograph worse than you. (Me for instance - I tend to blink at the wrong millisecond but then I am a cat...sigh.)

Anonymous said...

I hate having my photo taken and go to great lengths to avoid it (including hiding behind people) - my smile always seems to come out very wierd (and I seem to look like a ghost for some reason).

59 seconds sounds interesting *goes off to check it out*

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

"I CANNOT smile nicely in photos."

Oh God, me neither. I used to consider myself a minor acting talent, but the way I behave in front of a camera gives the lie to that. As soon as someone points a lens at me, my face goes into a grimace. The more I try and rectify it, the worse it gets. Ugh. Horrid.