Improving memory

I attended an interesting training course about memory recently. I note down my takeaways before my memories fade away.

Good memory does not equal to intelligent. I can learn and practise some methods to maximise my memory, but I probably need to experience, learn and reflect a lot to become intelligent. I often think people who have good memories are intelligent. They may be, but let’s do not be judgemental.

Don’t rely on logic. Improving memory by thinking differently. I recall in 2000 I bought a game box as a gift for my 3 years old nephew. Actually I was captivated by the game when I glanced it at the first time. I started to play it, and my little nephew quietly stood on the table to watch how I was trying to change directions of different parts to fit them in the grid. Soon I finished an easy game. I let my nephew to play afterwards and I went to do something else. When I came back, he had finished it. I couldn’t believe he could finish it so quickly. So I started a difficult game. It took me longer to finish. Then I ask him to try. I thought he wouldn’t be able to finish this one as it is an advanced-level game. I looked at my little nephew calmly put parts in the right position. I couldn’t believe he did it. How come? He giggled and told me actually he just remembered the colours, the shapes and the positions of some parts. Aha, as an adult, I used logic; my 3 years old nephew used short memory! What a game! Linking back to my training session, Kathryn suggested us to be like a 6 years old and do not be too clear when coming to remember things.

Don’t forget our sensory plays a key role when we learn new things. Visual, auditory, tasty, smell and haptic perceptions help us to remember the information. True, we use eyes the most and forget other senses. I immediately remembered the proverb – “Once bitten, twice shy”.

Linking new information to familiar things. I used to link the person who I met the first time to some cartoon characters a lot. Then I described the character to people, they quickly knew who I was referring to. Before the training course, I didn’t realise I had already applied this technique. Unfortunately, since I started working in the UK, I didn’t use the technique as before. Why? This was related to two important things. The one was the English culture/literature barriers. Many cartoon characters I know were in Chinese Without being familiar with their English names and original stories, it’s hard for me to express it to other people even though I could visually see and link the new to what my knew. The another is in workplace we need to be careful when it’s related to diversity (e.g., age, race, gender, religion). It challenges our own prejudice and bias. I didn’t want to unconsciously offend anybody due to I used the technique of linking a person to a cartoon character to help my memory. The technique would be fine if I just use and keep it for myself.

Repeat allows us to revisit our short memory and helps consolidate the information as long term memory. Yes, we all know this technique. When I was a kid, I used it a lot. In school, I repeated reading the same article or was asked to recite the article in order to memorise new vocabularies. I repeated the nine-nine multiplication table to learn arithmetic, which benefited me until today. Nowadays I feel I don’t use this technique a lot like previously. I wonder whether this is one of the main reasons why we often forget things because we get new information constantly but we are too busy to repeat old information.

Exercise and regular practise our memories. If I don’t use it, I forget it. Today technologies help us to some extent, for instance, email alert, reminder apps, and smart speakers. However, to maintain our memories and to strengthen our brain function, doing novelty and challenge exercises is essential and helpful. We can try things like driving home via a different route; learning a new language, trying things we never did before, or anything new that requires to use our senses.



2018 review

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun …

John Lennon – So This Is Christmas

This is an unavoidable song over Christmas each year. I often felt happy to summarise the things I had done at the end of the year, but this year I feel I didn’t achieve as much as I expected even though I kept doing slowly. It’s hard to answer if I have tried hard enough. Like this situation, I remind myself what Steve Jobs said in the Stanford Commencement speech (June 2005):

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

So what have I done in 2018?

* Webinars, recordings and online resources started to take over most of my reading time. I noticed increasing useful resources online. I become catching up things and have to improve my speed reading techniques and the skills of information retrieval. Roughly I viewed 3-4 work-related videos/recordings per week.
* Read 2 hard-copy books (this is a lot fewer than I would like to).
* Reviewed 2 Journal papers and assessed 2 submissions.
* Visited 5 new places in another country and 8 new places in the UK.
* Helped family members to achieve their goals.
* Helped a stranger about Grounded Theory research (I used the methodology ten years ago).
* Continue volunteering.
* Cycling as commute safely for another year. Rebuilt my confidence after my bike accident in June 2017.
* Slipped away from Facebook (Seems I gradually missed the first news about friends’ life…).
* Started to learn an instrument by following YouTube teaching sessions.
* Since November, got up 30 mins earlier each day to do healthy exercises.

Confirmation bias” is a term I learnt from Alex Edmans’ talk. Regarding to sharing, he says that “… We should ask the following: If it’s a story, is it true? If it’s true, is it backed-up by large-scale evidence? If it is, who is it by, what are their credentials? Is it published? How rigorous is the journal?… If the same study was written by the same authors with the same credentials, but found the opposite results, would you still be willing to believe it and to share it? … Only if it’s true, can it be fact. Only if it’s representative, can it be data. Only if it’s supportive, can it be evidence. And only with evidence, can we move from a post-truth world to a pro-truth world.”  I did not really check all tweets I shared. In 2019, I will be more careful and gain more trustful evidence before I share.

Rhetoric in English and Chinese

In a Christmas visit to a friend, I learnt a bit of rhetoric in English, which I won’t normally notice much. Therefore I note them here.

Often due to an unintentional error in speech (known as misspeaking or a “slip of the tongue”) that interchanges the first letters of some words in a phrase and then creates new words which bring a humorous consequence. In literature, this is used as witty wordplay.


Spoonerism The original phrase
The Lord is a shoving leopard. The Lord is a loving shepherd.
Go and shake a tower. Go and take a shower.
Is the bean dizzy? Is the Dean busy?

In Chinese, it can be translated as “首音误置”, 指的是一种在讲话中由于口误将发音相近的词语重组形成其他词语, 从而形成令人发笑的幽默效果。这种方式被应用为一种诙谐的说话或文字技巧。在中文中,这样的例子并不多。最接近的例子可能是”字位误置”.

  • 把”枫叶红了” 讲成 “红叶疯了”.
  • 把”每況愈下” 讲成 “每下愈況”.
  • 把”深恶痛绝” 讲成 “深痛恶绝”.

Pun (paronomasia)
Refers to a form of intended wordplay where a word is used in a way to suggest two or more possible meanings, which aims for generating an humorous or ironic effect.


Pun Meaning
Seven days without water makes one weak. week
A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tyred. too tired

In Chinese, it can be translated as “双关语” 或 “一语双关”, 指的是用一个词来表达表达两种或更多可能的含意, 多用来形成幽默或讽刺的效果。在中文中这类例子比较多,特别是古诗词中可见, 多运用谐音来隐晦表达,不一定是为形成幽默或讽刺的效果。

  • “日暮乡关何处是”这诗句中的”日暮”既指黄昏, 也暗指人生晚年。
  • “年年有鱼”这句中的”鱼”既指鱼,也指积累富余。

Refers to misusing words by substituting them with similar sounding words that have different, often unconnected meanings, then creating a nonsensical, comic, misunderstanding and amusement effect.


Malapropism Meaning
The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city. evacuate the city
Texas has a lot of electrical votes. electoral votes
Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination. a figment of my imagination

In Chinese, it can be translated as “飞白法”。指的是利用词语的近音、 象形、 异义有意或无意地形成可笑的误用,从而达到诙谐、 讽刺、 仿真的效果。在我们说英语的时候,很有可能会因为记错单词用错单词或发错音而引起这样让人疑惑的”牛头不对马嘴”的效果。中文中例子有:

  • “我们滴祖国是花园~花园滴花朵真现眼~荷兰滴阳光照耀着我们~美国人滴脸上都笑开颜”
  • 玉莲听不懂什么是持久战,她悄悄问金香: “金香,顾县长说的是什么‘战’ 呀?”你真是个笨蛋,连个吃酒战也不知道。” 金香自以为是地说道,”就是喝醉酒打架嘛!喝了酒打架最厉害了…”


Half-day training on the project management framework

We often hear PRINCE2 and Agile in project management. This week I attended the Cardiff University Programme and Project Management Framework Introduction course. It’s the University’s own approach, not a specific certificate course.

It’s unexpected to know that people feel the fail rate of projects is 70-80%. However I didn’t think the projects I involved in have failed so much. The data is from the book “The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook” (2014). I need to read the book to check if I  misunderstand it.

The University’s Framework is designed for the University projects and only available for the University members. There are many resources online. I found the Charles Sturt University’s short courses on YouTube are very useful.

2017 review

Another year passed, isn’t it fast? Why Life Goes Faster as You Grow Older? No matter what it could be called, I like YanLiZhang’s attitude – At the end of every year, list the people who you admire/like but didn’t live over the age you are (This video is in Chinese. I haven’t found a translation). It’s an interesting way of appreciating our lives.

In 2017, I focused on things that made me feel adding values to my life.

* Webinars and online resources become popular. I therefore had spent increasing time on learning new things through online resources.
* Read 4 hard-copy books.
* Visited 6 new places.
* Reunited with many old friends.
* Took 5 new courses.
* Achieved two certificates.
* Continue volunteering.

Here I embedded one of my favourite talks for my 2018. It is based on the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a 79 years long-running research study.

What is Mental Toughness?

Following the second Springboard work and personal development programme for women session, it’s good to find the Academi Wales website, and read the two useful booklets:

We have an automatic network in our brains for the negative, the ancient parts of our brains evolved over millions of years to respond to threats without thought or delay. We have no similar system for the positive and opportunities in life…

It suggested us to use 3:1 at work, which means to “give three pieces of positive feedback to every piece of negative feedback” based on Losada Ratio. I don’t know how accurate the tip is. But I think we do need to make effort to increase positive communications.

The concept of 7+/-2 was noted by George Miller in Psychological Review in 1956.

The basic formula is:

happiness = set point (50%) + voluntary actions (intentional activities 40%) + conditions(circumstances 10%)

I tried the test to learn my positivity ratio (set point) on the Positivity website owned by Prof Barbara Fredrickson. It actually tests a ratio at that moment you test it. It’s not a general resault.

Four C’s of Cloughs model – Commitment, Control, Challenge and Confidence suggests that Mental Toughness is a combination of resilience and confidence. I found two videos:

A realistic self-assessment

I started my first session of the Springboard work and personal development programme for women. It’s always nice to be away of my daily work and go to do something different, for instance to reflect on me, and meet different people. Another three sessions will come in the next two months, and in between we need to work through this workbook. I’m sure it will be useful even after I finish this programme.

IMG_20171118_123756I’m touched and inspired by Judi Ryns’ personal stories and the guest speaker’s personal stories. I can see it’s never an easy path for people who are at the senior positions. It requires self-motivation and commitment for ‘what you want’ all the way.

Judi said that research findings showed that women work better in a women only environment; and men work better in a mixed gender environment. I wonder in a complicate environment like with LGBT people, if the findings still stand and if women are inborn less flexible than men in work places.

We have been asked some questions in the activities. Two questions I felt difficult to answer, but they are very useful questions.

  • What are you proud of your achievements? {I achieved many things/goals I wanted, but seems I don’t have the proud feeling.}
  • What you like and dislike the most about being women?  {We listed more disliked things than the liked things.}

Another interesting quote is the Paula principle “Most women work below their level of competence” from Tom Schuller. I found the talk on YouTube, which is worth watching. It hits my mindset on the point: “... the 60-20 rule. If men think they can do 60% of the job, that’s it. Fine, I can do it, I will go for it. If women think they cannot do 20% of the job, oh I couldn’t do that, No. I don’t think I’d better go for that. Same is true of promotions and so on… “.

Judi also mentioned 360 degree feedback. In my work, we don’t have it, so I learnt it a bit. Interestingly, I was talking to a colleague about our feedback means, and queried why we don’t have a way to give feedback on senior managers.

Due to the confidentiality, I cannot share the beautiful stories I heard from the session. However, I’d like to jot down things I feel important to remind myself.

  • Life is short. Don’t be annoyed by the things that you cannot control.
  • What make you happy? If you are unhappy, refer to the first point.
  • An experience could be a blessing as well as a curse. This is like the Chinese proverb “塞文失马,焉知祸福“.
  • If you don’t ask, you don’t know you will get or not.

Rethink “Change”

Recently I attended a course about Change and Resilience. It’s good that I had a time to rethink of “change”. Change is not the problem, the poor implementation of any change process is the problem that threatens us. Change is not the problem, resistance to change is the problem.

The robertsoncooper (is founded by Sir Cary Cooper and Professor Ivan Robertson) provides i-resilience report for individuals to build resilience skills. The website also provides leadership, management and well-being support resources.

As I didn’t think about “winners/losers” in a change too much, when the presenter talked about it, I kind of questioned myself “Is there always winners/losers in an organisational change?” “Who are the losers? Who are the winners?” “Are the winners are leading the change towards a right direction?”

The presenter drew a diagram which basically shows people’s reactions in a change. Top 10% are champions who are happy to see the change and are keen on making the change. Bottom 10% are traitors who have negative views of almost everything, and those who disagree the change strongly as it’s against their beliefs. A large number of people are not sure. It’s suggested to focus on understanding and influencing the 80% people, rather than on persuading and influencing the bottom 10% people.

I remember the diagram immediately though I can’t say it presents people’s attitudes in the change very correctly. The diagram can be useful for me to reflect on my views and position in a change. For example, I can ask myself

  • “Am I in the top 10% group of people who have insight, foresee the impact of the change, believe in it and are keen on to make the change happen?”
  • “Am I one of the middle 80% group of people who are not sure and wait-and-see?” I think people who are open-minded and keep critical thinking in this group are those people can help the change and influence others.
  • “Am I one of the 10% group of people who are often have a negative view of any change?” “Do I really agree that this change has a good impact?”

2016 review

2016 flies fast. I don’t feel I have achieved as many as I expected in work. However, I learned the complexity of working process. Life isn’t only about work, but about living. I’m glad that at least I have achieved a goal that I was working on for a few years.

* Although I read a lot online nowadays, I still read hard-copy books. This year 3 non-academic books as I can recall.
* Visited 8 new places in the UK and 15 new places abroad.
* Achieved 1 thing that has been on my to-do list for years.

A poem for my 2016 and George Bernard Shaw’s quote for my 2017:

Letting go 
by author unknown (from this website)

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off,
it is the realisation I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,
which means that the outcome is not in my hands.

To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another,
it is to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for,
but to care about.

To “let go” is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To “let go” is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle, arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies,

To “let go” is not to be protective,
but to permit another to face reality.

To “let go” is not to deny,
but to accept.

To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take every day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To “let go” is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To “let go” is to fear less and love more.


Understanding unconscious bias

The university runs a self-study course about unconscious bias. I’m glad that I studied it at the weekend.

For me, the most interesting one is the “hollow mask”. Professor Richard Gregory of the University of Bristol explains how our brains are tricked into seeing an inverted hollow mask as sticking out.

It’s always useful to remind myself:

  • We are all biased.
  • We all have unconscious biases.
  • It is far easier to spot biased behaviours in others than it is seen in ourselves.
  • Egocentric bias means we believe we are fairer than others around us.
  • Unconscious biases affect our ability to make good decisions.
  • Cognitive illusions shows us that even when we understand what we are seeing, the brain still wants us to see what it understands. The illusion persists.