What is your passion?

I appreciate to read the book <<So Good They Can’t Ignore You>>. To me, it’s like an alarm bell rang out. This book has clearly identified the key factors in a successful working life. The most impressive advice for me includes “the rare and valuable skills”, “deliberate practice” (this is more than what we often said to walk out of your comfort zone), and “little bets”. I like the way that the author (Cal Newport) linked real people examples to his findings. Also there are more resources from this book that would be interesting to read.

Steve Martin in a 2007 interview with Charlie Rose said “… ‘be so good they can’t ignore you.’ And I just think that if somebody is thinking, how can I be really good, people are going to come to you….” (52:24)

Florida State University professor Anders Ericsson’s research on skilled performance. For example an article: Deliberate Practice and Acquisition of Expert Performance: A General Overview (2008) 

“Adjacent possible theory” by Steven Johnson, who took the term from Stuart Kauffman, to explain the origin of innovation in his book <<Where Good Ideas Come From>>.

Little bets” from Peter Sims’s book <<Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries>>. This is to suggest a good strategy for exploring productive ways to turn vague ideas into specific successful projects through taking small, achievable, affordable actions that anyone can take to explore ideas.



Rules for changing behaviour and improvement

Have you heard any of these suggestions and practised any? Has it made your life simpler and go towards your desired direction straighter?

The 5 seconds rule – “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Go!” shared by Mel Robbins, who stated that the rule can be used to

  1. change your behaviour
  2. act with everyday courage, and
  3. control your mind.

Have a look at her research below.

21 days or 66 days to form a habit ? – practise a behaviour and turn it to a habit

The 72-hour rule – “states that if you do not take the first step toward applying a new learning and idea within the first 72 hours, the likelihood that you will implement it quickly approaches zero.” by Aviv Shahar.

10,000 hours of practice make you an expert ? – invented by Malcolm Gladwell. This is  probably an oversimplification and has raised debate.

Have a look at the critical views.


English jokes

I saw an article that listed top 10 funniest jokes of all time according to Welsh kids (p.21) in the Cardiff and South Wales Advertiser by chance. As an ESL speaker, this called my attention. I noticed that I had come across 3 jokes previously via the Christmas crackers. I don’t often get the point when I see such jokes. I mean I don’t think it’s funny, it’s just some words game. Why is it funny? So I did a bit research.

The list is from the beano.com website, which looks like a very interesting resource. I wished it has explanations to some extend, but unfortunately there isn’t. Thus I add explanations for people who are like me, find it’s not easy to get it. The hints may be accurate, so please leave a comment if you can help me to understand better.

  1. Why was the sand wet? – Because the sea weed!  (The sea wee ed (peed) on the sand.)
  2. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? – Frostbite!  (Here “to cross” means to mix two things together. Vampire bites people. Now it bites snow? It bites on something cold like frost. Therefore Frostbite. Frostbite is frozen body tissues like the skin or deeper tissue.)
  3. What do you call a blind dinosaur?  – Doyouthinkhesaurus (It’s blind. Do you think he saw us?  –> Do you think he saur us? –> Do you think he saurus?)
  4. Why should you be careful when it’s raining cats and dogs?   – You might step in a poodle!  (Poodle is a type of dog. Puddle is a small pool of liquid, especially of rainwater on the ground. Is it from a confusion between the words “poodle” and “puddle”? Or because “raining cats and dogs” means a heavy downpour of rain, this metaphor could imply it is very dangerous in heavy rain like you step into a poodle’s mouth?)
  5. Doctor, Doctor! Help, I feel like a pair of curtains!   – Pull yourself together then. (It could mean that you feel like you are pulled to one way then another. It is a kind of exaggerated expression. “Pull oneself together” means to become calm and behave normally again; recover control of one’s emotions. This is a humorous way to respond the unlikely scenario of a patient hallucinating about feeling like an inanimate object. )
  6. What did the policeman say to his tummy? Freeze you’re under a vest (A vest is a piece of clothing that people wear on the top half of their body. In the law, is a person is vested, it means that the person is legally entitled to what has been promised and may seek relief in court if the benefit is not given. So the tummy is under the cloth (a vest) analogises the policemen often say something like “… anything you do will be used for or against you…”, which is to give legal right to someone.)
  7. What’s black and white, black and white, black and white?  – A penguin rolling down a hill (I feel this one could be multiple answers. I don’t get it still. Is it because a penguin has black and white colours? Could it be a zebra or a giant panda?)
  8. What’s the best time to go the dentist?  – Two-thirty! (Because you will be tooth hurty when see a dentist –> toothurty –> two-thirty)
  9. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Boo. Boo who?  – No need to cry. It’s only me! (“Boo, Boo who” sounds like someone’s crying? So it responds “No need to cry”. Actually I get the fun in another similar joke: Knock, knock. Who’s there? The Doctor. Doctor who?  – No, no. It’s just the doctor.)
  10. What’s the fastest vegetable?  – A runner bean! (This is a riddle. “Fast” is often used to refer to speed. Runners run fast. A runner bean is a kind of vegetable.)


Tests for learning about yourself

Interestingly I came across a book – Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, which reminded me of my previous study on knowledge sharing and MBTI. I then searched Gallup’s 40-year study and found the helpful website about the 34 CliftonStrengths Themes. I haven’t taken the test yet, but after viewing the descriptions of the 34 themes, I had a rough idea of what are my top 5 strengths.

My question is how accurate it reflects the real you as this type of tests often relies on how you feel about yourself at the moment and how much you have known about yourself?

Here is a list of 6 Best Free Strengths Test Sites recommended by Stephen Borgman. I’d like to add two more into this list – The VIA Classification of Strengths (24 characters) and the High 5 Test.

I tried the Colour Test and found it’s about 95% accurate in relation to my current situation and thoughts. A bit surprise about this result. What’s the trick behind colours? I also tried the High 5 Test and my result is below. I have realised the four strengths (focus expert, time keeper, problem solver, and deliverer) and I don’t particularly think they are helping me a lot, but for sure these make me a good employee or a reliable friend. The ‘Strategist’ strength is unexpected. Recalling my experience, this could be why I often suggested to do things that people may not think needed right now; it could be why I had so many things though my mind when people just say they’d do something.




Training on Project Management

From April 2018 to January 2019, I have attended 6 training courses about Project Management. I wrote a post after the first course. Now it’s the time to reflect on what I have learnt from the training as a whole.

  • Project Development Framework Introduction
  • Project Controls
  • Benefits Management
  • Risk and Issue Management
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Planning and Scheduling

First, what’s the difference between a project and daily business-as-usual work? The key project characteristics are:

  • It introduces change that has bigger impact on the business
  • It is temporary that have a set lifecycle
  • It is unique that each project is different
  • It is uncertain and with risks that need to be managed effectively.

As a project introduces change, what are the benefits of doing it? What considerations and activities are need to be undertaken in ensuring that benefits are effectively realised? Here we need to clarify three terms: output, outcome and benefits.

  • Output is any of the project’s products.
  • Outcome is the result of the change derived from using one or more of the project’s completed products. Outcomes are always achieved after outputs.
  • Benefits is measurable improvement resulting from an outcome that is perceived to be advantageous.

I used diagrams below as an example to help understand and remember the differences between the three terms. So in this example, I cook cheesecakes (output) to help kids grow, be happier and healthier (outcome). How do I know whether the kids would be impacted after having cheesecakes. I need to identify, analyse, track, and optimise of the kid’s changes, which could something like the kids become enjoy attending outdoor activities 1 hour per day more than they did before (benefits). (NB: images are from Ann-Murray Brown’s presentation, see reference below.)


Second, all project objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). What do we want to achieve? What do we need to do to ensure that the change a project intends to deliver is achieved on time, within budget and meet the business requirement? This comes to the project management controls that manage six project management constraints – scope, time, cost, quality, resources, risk. Otherwise the project is going to be risky.

Why define the scope is important? Because it clarify what will be delivered, what will not, and what stakeholders can expect. When define the project scope, we need to ensure the requirement is well-specified by following these rules:

  • uniquely identifiable: it addresses only one core requirement;
  • current: it is up to date and relevant to the business need;
  • consistent: it does not contradict any other requirement;
  • understandable: concisely stated and not open to different interpretations;
  • verifiable: compliance can be verified through inspection, demonstration, test or analysis;
  • traceable: the requirement can be traced from the originating need, through the plan, to what is delivered;
  • prioritised: its relative importance is understood. We can use the MoSCoW analysis to prioritise requirements.

Third, having a clear plan and schedule with the project breakdown structure and the work breakdown structure will make the actual “build”/”conduct” stage much easier and manageable as we can see which part of the plan has a problem. Do not forget to apply the RACI model when assigning responsibilities. I really had a visual and hands-on experience in the training session about planning and scheduling which has helped me to understand how these work.

  • Responsible: The person who does the work to achieve the task. As a rule this is one person; examples might be a business analyst, application developer or technical architect.
  • Accountable: The person who is accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the task. This must be one person and is often the project executive or project sponsor. This is the role that responsible is accountable to and approves their work.
  • Consulted: The people who provide information for the project and with whom there is two-way communication. This is usually several people, often subject matter experts.
  • Informed: The people kept informed of progress and with whom there is one-way communication. These are people that are affected by the outcome of the tasks, so need to be kept up-to-date.

Fourth, one important work to prevent project failure is to engage stakeholders. Stakeholders are anyone who are interested in the project, who can be affected, may be affected, and potentially would be affected by the project. Using a stakeholder map will help us to classify our stakeholders in relation to their power and their interest in what we are doing. In the activities of engagement, it requires many soft skills such as emotional intelligence, active listening skills, negotiation skills, and seeking for win-win ground.


Fifth, as a project is new, uncertain, and unique, it cannot be without risks. What we need to clarify specifically here is two things: risk and issue. We can use risk identification techniques such as risk workshops, stakeholder interviews, checklist/lessons from earlier projects and prompt lists. I particularly like (1) the Fish-bone diagram that helps us to work out potential causes of a change and (2) the Probability Impact Grid which helps us to analysis risks and focus on the risks that matter a lot.

  • risk is an uncertain event which may have an impact on the achievement of project objectives should it occur. It means the possible consequences. It could be either a threat or an opportunity.
  • issue is an event that has occurred which is having an impact on the achievement of project objectives.

Last but not least, the new terms are listed here.

Project complexity assessment (Define stage) – It aims to assess the level of assurance and control that will need to be put in place for the project via answering questions like strategic context, business impact, delivery capacity and technical factors.

Float – time by which an activity may be delayed or extended without affecting the total project duration.

Critical path – The route through the project along which there is the least amount of float.

Scope creep – Adding features and facilities without addressing the impact to a project’s  time, cost, and resources or without the customer’s approval.


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.