How Recording One Second Every Day Could Change Your Life

When Cesar Kuriyama started selecting one second of video to represent each day, it changed his life. Now he’s building an app he hopes will change yours.

How Recording One Second Every Day Could Change Your Life

Two days after launching a Kickstarter project, Cesar Kuriyama found himself bombarded with questions and requests. It was tempting to work around the clock. But at 6 p.m., he got up from his desk and went for a bike ride. Because he needed to find a moment worth recording.


Kuriyama is fundraising for an app that makes it easy for anyone to record one second each day of their lives. It’s based on an experiment he has been conducting on his own life since February 20, 2011, when after saving for years, he quit his job to take a year off from work. To chronicle what he assumed would be the most adventurous year of his life, he started selecting one second of video footage from each day. His plan was to compile the moments into a six-minute memento. Soon, however, he found the project was doing more than documenting his life–it was changing the decisions he made about how to spend time.

“[The project has] made me realize I need to do one interesting thing to make today count,” he says. “It’s been an incalculably positive influence on my life. The reason that I’ve really decided to stop everything and try to build this thing is that I genuinely think it can have that same influence for others.” Here’s how he believes chronicling a life in one-second chunks can change it.

Remembering The Good Times

Initially, Kuriyama started his one-second-a-day project in order to chronicle the adventure of his year off. Others have put the method to similar use. Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, for instance, recorded one second each day during his two-month vacation in Asia in order to create the 90-second video above.

Remembering The Bad Times

During Kuriyama’s year off, his sister-in-law became severely ill, and many of the moments in his video for that year (above) document the two months she spent in the hospital.


“It was horrible to record those seconds,” he says. “I hated doing it. It made me miserable. But looking back on it I’m glad I forced myself to record those hard times… In order to appreciate the good times, you have to be aware of the bad times. We always want to take our cameras out and record awesome moments. But we don’t even remotely think about doing that when there’s a bad day, obviously.”

Even if the day is gloomy for reasons less severe than the life-threatening sickness of a loved one, having a documentation of it can provide some perspective in the long run. “You realize those days are far less often than the good ones,” Kuriyama says. “And I think that’s really good information to have on your own life.

Detecting And Correcting Patterns

Before taking off on a 95-day road trip, Kuriyama spent the first weeks of his year off working on freelance projects. When many of the most representative moments of his days involved sitting in front of the computer, he noticed.

“It’s really difficult for me to just close my eyes and say, what has your past year been like,” he says. “Up until now, that was extraordinarily difficult to do. Now, all the sudden it’s like, wow, if I just take this one moment every day to record something that signifies what the day has been like and be able to easily replay that, I see the patterns in my life. You can say, oh, how much time am I spending at work? And you can see how many times you decided that work was the most meaningful moment of that day.”

Not everyone approaches the one-second-a-day project the same way. The woman in the video above, who recorded her life in 2011, set the video to music, and it has an artistic quality to it. Another woman records a self-portrait every day. But the opportunity for reflection is constant.


Putting Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

In partnership with development studio Alchemy50, Kuriyama plans to release a $1 iPhone app within the coming months. The app will remind users to record video clips every day and make it easy to stitch them together into a movie like the one created by David Chen above. But Kuriyama’s ultimate goal for the app goes a step further.

In addition to allowing users to look back at their own lives, he wants to give them some capability to look into others’ lives as well.

“I think what I’m building is a way to give basically access to anyone who might be interested in what life is like at any particular place at any particular time,” he says. “To be able to see 500 lives in 500 seconds I think would be really interesting and potentially have some really good outcomes.”

[Image: Flickr user Woodleywonderworks]

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.