#mayArtOfMemory – Week2

Hi all! Welcome to the summary of #mayArtOfMemory – Week2.

In Week1 we covered a 10,000 feet overview of what is considered memory and how it works. This time, we go hands-on training and things get fun. We’ll cover two mnemonic techniques, an inspiring story, and memory gadgets. “In the first place”1, let’s review the Memory Palace.

Memory Techniques

Memory Palace

This technique is based upon the Method of Loci that has been used for a few thousand years. There’s a famous story between the Mnemonists about ancient Greece and how Simonides de Cero created this technique.2

In just a few words, a Memory Palace is a mental representation of a place that you know by heart and that you’ll use to store any memory that you consider relevant.3

How do we create a memory palace?

  1. In your apartment/house, stand at the entrance the living-room.
  2. Choose 5 items that are easy to remember. Let’s say the couch, a tea table, a lamp, a picture on the wall and lastly a shelf. Once you designate the locations, make sure that the order of them will not change in your mind.
  3. Place images of whatever it is that you want to remember on each of the locations previously designated. The more vivid, bizarre or funny the images are, the better because it will be easier for your mind to recall them.
  4. Repeat step 1 in the next available room.

Let’s say you need to need to remember dates for your History test, you can imagine the French Revolutionaries using your couch pillows as weapons4. Then you can visualize Neil Armstrong leaving the Apollo 115 and landing on your tea table and so on.

Once the Memory Palace is not needed anymore, let the memories fade away and you can re-use it again. #rinse&repeat.

To clear any doubt, check out this video explaining the Memory Palace by Ron White – former US Memory Champion.

PAO – People/Action/Objects

This is a technique to remember long random numbers and decks of playing cards.6. For example, you could use it to remember phone numbers, dates or PIN Numbers (Yes, I know you write your PIN Numbers down on post-its. #notSafe).

How do we create a PAO list?

1. You need to assign consonants and vowels to numbers, from 0 to 97. For example:

Number Consonant/Vowel Number Consonant/Vowel
1 A 6 S
2 B 7 G
3 C 8 H
4 D 9 N
5 E 0 O

Assignation Table

2. Now it comes the difficult part (trust me, it will pay off). After every number was assigned to a consonant/vowel, we pair them creating a list from 01 to 99. For each one of this 99 items, we’ll use the combination of letters to recall someone memorable to us. This is the Person. After that, we’ll assign an Action to this person. Lastly, we’ll designate an Object. For example:

Pair Combination Person Action Object
16 AS Arnold Schwarzenegger Lifting Weights
42 DB David Beckham Kicking Soccer Ball
63 DB Sarah Connor Shooting Robots
86 HS Homer Simpson Eating doughnuts

PAO Table

3. This is the fun part. In order to remember groups of 6 numbers, we’ll combine Person, Action and Object. From the table above, let’s say that we want to remember the number 421686. Now you figured it out. You are visualizing David Beckham Lifting Doughnuts! (after so much success, he can do whatever he wants, right?)

If you ever played Cards Against Humanity, I bet you may remember some bizarre combinations created during the game that got still stuck in your mind. Well, they are not forgotten yet because they were M-E-M-O-R-A-B-L-E. The same principle applies to the PAO System.

Once you get your PAO Table finished, you can remember 6 digits and if you combine them with the Memory Palace technique, you’re on your way to remember very long numbers!


Joshua Foer‘s story is worth remembering (#punIntended), not only because he worked out his memory from an average level to the top of a contest, but mostly because he is a living proof that curiosity takes us to places we never imagined we would arrive to.

Want to get inspired by his story? Here it is his official TED Talk:

Memory Training Apps

A boring app to train our brains won’t get any downloads at all, that’s the reason most of the memory training apps are actually games. That’s great because this way training our memory is done from our phones in spare time and while having fun!

Even though these apps claim to improve your mind, I couldn’t find official proof of that. Nevertheless, trying them out is worth the time compared to mind-numbing social media checking 🙂 .

Some of the Apps that I tried over the week and like are:

  • Elevate. Chosen as the Best App in 2014 by iTunes8, Elevate will not only help train your memory, but also your writing, reading and math skills.
  • Lumosity Scientists and Game Designers worked together to deliver 50+ cognitive games. So far, very fun to use and go the extra mile using memory. #noComplaints
  • Brain Games. 9. They took the term “Brain Fitness” seriously. Funny icons of brains sweating in a gym and a good selection of games are its main characteristics.


This week gets summarized in:

That’s it for this week. There’s a huge amount of information about this topic; therefore I’m trying to condense and extract key points of it to get you motivated to train your memory. Comments, questions, and critique are always welcome!

Keep on learning!

#mayArtOfMemory – Week 1

What is Memory?

In few words: Memory is the faculty of the mind by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved10.

Memory stages


Brain Machine by aytuguluturk.

Memory, as we know it, is made out of three stages: Sensory Memory, Working/Short-Term Memory, and Long-Term Memory.

1st. Sensory Memory (SM) stores any stimuli perceived by any of our five senses long enough to be transferred to Working/Short-Term Memory.

  • Attention plays an important role here because unconsciously we focus only on a small percentage of all the input provided by our senses at any moment. Without that skill, our brains would be overloaded with millions of input streams from our senses leaving a small room for thinking to happen.

2nd. Any stimuli that is worth retaining, will be transferred to Working/Short-Term Memory (W/STM). Let’s say you start a conversation with another person; in order to keep up with the topic discussed, the words spoken by your counterpart – sound stimuli –  are transferred to your W/STM, thus it allows you to follow along with the topic.

3rd. Any stimuli from the W/STM that is relevant will be moved to the Long-Term Memory (LTM).

  • Caveat: our brains don’t know what is considered exactly “relevant”. They will store in LTM anything with a strong emotional charge. Therefore, not being mindful of this detail can lead to remembering even trivial stuff like the day you got embarrassed in class in 3rd grade. Maybe that is the source of trauma!

Retrieving memories

There are three ways to access memory: Recall, Relearning, and Recognition.

Based on the ways just mentioned above, it’s understandable that multiple choice, fill in the blanks, and historic dates are the bread and butter of school tests to assess memory about topics. If that’s the case, then there’s a tiny problem with them: it seems that educational systems are not testing how much we know about a topic or its practicality, but instead how good our memory is about it. #academicFail :/

Want to learn more about remembering and forgetting memories? Check out these Crash Course videos 🙂

Memory Competitions


World Memory Championships Logo

As you read it: Memory COMPETITIONS! National teams, months of practice prior to the competition, hours of mental workout each day and all sort of memory techniques and disciplines like “Names and Faces”, “Binary Digits” and “Cards”, just to name a few, are part of these contests.

When you feel curious, remember to check out the World Memory Championships Official Website. #punIntended.


People that train their memories are called “mnemonists”. Some of them even reach the title of “Grand Masters of Memory”. This is a title given by the World Memory Sports Council2 once they proved they achieve specific memory feats in their careers.

During Week 1, I ran into two of them that are worth following on social media:

Training our memory sounds fun but is useless if it’s not applied to daily life scenarios. Therefore, I chose one of them for this week.

How to remember names?

Yes, admit it. You and I have been in the awkward situation where after a couple of seconds a person introduced himself, we completely forgot the person’s name. Or even worse, when you meet randomly with someone that knows your name and you don’t! #epicMemoryFail.

Wouldn’t it be a nicer situation if we could remember the person’s name instantly? Check out this short video on a technique to make that happen.

Well, this is what I’ve been practicing lately at social events over Week 1 and even though it is mentally taxing, the effort is well paid off. Especially when you reencounter people and call them by their names. The smiles on their face are priceless ;).

Needless to say that without memory as one of our cognitive strengths, we’re not very different from the rest of other animals. Seriously, without memory and proper usage of it, we humans would still be one of the underdogs of the food chain on the planet, as Yuval Noah Harari proposes in Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind. Our capacity to store and retrieve key information is what allowed our early Homo Sapiens cousins to get together in tribes, pass on knowledge and stories from generation to generation and work as a huge collective mind until we ruled the place. #memoryRocks

That’s it for #mayArtOfMemory – Week 1.

What do you think about the content? Please let me know if this is useful.

REMEMBER: Keep on learning.

#aprilDrawing – Summary

Trying to summarize art would be naive. Nevertheless, naiveté is what ignites our curiosity. Therefore, let me try to do my best explaining what drawing is and some keys to get you started with it 🙂

Month: April 2018

Theme: Learn to draw

Mission: Acquire drawing fundamental concepts and train the basic skills to draw from observation of daily life.

You can follow the progress of each week here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3. You can also follow daily updates on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the tag #aprilDrawing.


Drawing is a visual art in which the artist uses different instruments (graphite, charcoal, pen, ink, etc) to mark a two-dimensional medium (paper, canvas, leather, etc).

IMG_9903.jpgDid you say an artist? Yes, “from the moment you sketch your first line, you become an artist” – as the famous South American painter Mamani Mamani mentioned in a lunch we shared in 2017.

Drawing is considered the basis of all visual arts because it’s widely used – especially as a preliminary sketch – to help the artist to visualize the essential lines, forms or shapes and therefore the emotions that will later be conveyed through painting or sculpture, just to mention a few art forms.

Tools & Techniques 

After 30 days of learning how to draw using mainly online resources and in-person feedback from more experienced people (#thankYouArtists!), I realized that between all the techniques that any drawing class will provide, you mainly need:

  • Practice, practice, practice… E-v-e-r-y D-a-y!
    • It doesn’t matter if you only draw stick figures. Sit down, get paper and pencil and try to copy any simple object for at least 10 minutes. #discipline
  • Tools
    • Minimally you need any paper, any pencil and an eraser. If you want to take the next baby-step, then you will need:
      • Pencils. I would recommend 3 different ones: an HB pencil – the one you use daily, a 2B pencil for darker strokes, and a 2H pencil to achieve softer values. You can find more info about the differences in this video.
      • Erasers. You can go with either a plastic or gum eraser, but you must not forget a kneaded eraser to shape to work those difficult spots in the drawing. More on erasers here.
      • SketchbookIt will become your drawing journal and you will be proud of its content.
      • RulerYou will need it to help achieve One, Two or Three Points perspective effects.
  • Techniques

    Simple shapes used to represent the human body

    • Shading: Hatching & Cross-hatching. These are two of the most used shading techniques. Not commontly used for finished work, but for sketching they will work great. Watch Mark Crilley demoing them here.
    • Grid method. When you want to copy from photographs, this method will provide you guidance on the structure and placement of your reference. See how you can use this method here.
    • Use shapes. From the beginning, represent any object using simple shapes.

Drawing 101

Understanding and applying the fundamental concepts will make your drawings more mature. Likewise, when you’re learning from more experienced artists, these concepts will help you communicate fluidly, thus you’ll have more “Aha” moments.

This is a great blog post that will provide the definitions of Lines, Form, Shapes, Values, Perspective, Shading and Composition.

Besides the concepts just mentioned above, learning how nature and anatomy works is the most effective way to level up the quality and realism of your artwork, whether it’s copying from a reference or drawing straight out of your imagination.


People you want to follow

Even though Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and Normal Rockwell didn’t leave YouTube channels behind (yes, I researched to make sure), you can study their work and techniques.

A handful of artists with social media presence that you may like to follow based on your drawing style preferences are: Mark Crilley, Eliza IvanovaDraw with JazzaHayao Miyazaki. Leonardo Perez Nieto.

How to apply this knowledge?

  • “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Especially when you want to convey messages/emotions unequivocally. Use words and things will go wrong sooner or later, but use images or sketches and you’ll minimize misunderstanding.
    • Real Life Use Case: When working inside of a Team (especially distributed/remote teams), sketch your ideas on paper or a whiteboard for your colleagues and it will help to create effective brainstorms.
    • That you don’t need to draw at all? Sure! (#sarcasm). Then, why do you use emojis when you text message?
  • IMG_0197.jpg

    Cartoon character – first try

    Drawing as a meditation. When you stop self-criticism of your initial sketches, drawing turns into a very relaxing activity. Realizing that you’re one pencil and a paper way from becoming a creator has a soothing effect.

  • Increased observation. Because drawing requires a deeper observation of your references, the way you perceive the everyday places and faces changes for good. Go for a walk in nature and your eyes will be delighted with the different shapes and values in trees, leaves, mountains, and overall landscape. Have a conversation with a person, and you will notice characteristics of his/her face that you never noticed before. In other words, you connect with your “references” in deeper levels.

How much time & money was invested in this project?

Time invested: 53 hours.

  • Weekday Avg: 1 hour 35 minutes.
  • Weekend Avg: 2 hours 15 minutes.

Drawing requires patience and dedication. Spending that many hours in the Udemy class, practicing myself and reading drawing theory were definitely paid off.

Money invested:

Items Cost
Sketchbook, pencils, erasers, sharpener, and ruler 14$
Udemy Drawing class 10$

Final thoughts


Human face sketch – first try

April 2018 was amazing. After almost two decades without drawing, it feels great to go back to do what you loved doing as a kid. The difference is that this time, the childish curiosity is paired with discipline, focus, and Google.

I will dedicate a new month for drawing in the short future for sure! The next levels – hyperrealism and digital are – are beckoning me.

Thank you for following me in #aprilDrawing. I hope that this project is motivating you to take on your personal learning path. I’m still far away from being a master blogger, so feedback is immensely appreciated. See you in #mayMnemonics.

Keep on learning!

Drawing – Week #3

#aprilDrawing is getting way more fun in Week #3. Learning to draw from photographs and shading are the covered areas this time.

Don’t miss the progress of April’s challenge in Week #1 and Week #2.

Drawing from photographs

Do you remember last week when I said that drawing still life was the most challenging thing that I have done?…well, I was wrong. Drawing from photographs is the new most challenging one (ha!).

I used the Grid Method in this drawing (find a useful tool to create grids here). In this method, you draw a very light grid on the reference photo that you want to copy. Let’s say that you end up with a grid that is 10×10 squares. Then, in your sketchbook, you replicate the same grid. This way, the grid in your reference will be the guide to follow for your drawing.

The technique helped a lot. The tricky part was drawing the feathers!!! After practicing for several hours on a different sheet, I came up with different alternatives from which I applied the one displayed in the pictures above. I’m still not convinced that I got it right, though. #thoughtfulFace.

Shading Techniques

Shading constitutes one of the most important resources in order to make your drawings look realistic. That means display texture, depth (3D appearance) and perspective.

The following photos demonstrate how playing with the different types of shadows makes a plain drawing stand out and have personality.

Do you remember the 60% Rule from Week #2? That’s what was used for this drawing to get a realistic perspective. You can see that the drawing is in the center of the page and it respects the box created by the thin lines. That box represents the 60% of the distance between the 2 Perspective Points used in the drawing.

The Illustrator’s Path

Kiri Østergaard Leonard‘s journey to become an Illustrator is something that really moved me over the week. She summarizes the ups and downs of any passionate person that devotes his/her time to a calling. Whether people like her are tagged entrepreneurs or artists, it doesn’t matter. “Be true to your work and your work will be true to you” is what matters.


Do you need 30 Day Drawing Challenge inspiration?


Max Deutsch self-portrait

It’s inspiring to find like-minded people that challenge themselves with similar approaches and subjects. That’s how I found, Max Deustch and his personal challenge to draw realistic portraits in 30 days in December 2016.

Well done, Max!!! #respect



That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for the final summary of #aprilDrawing!

In the meantime, keep on drawing & learning.





Drawing – Week #2

Hi all!

The second week of the #aprilDrawing challenge was more exciting!!!. Perspective and still life are the main areas covered in it, and if you need extra motivation, the YouTube Channels that I follow will do the trick.

(This is the link to Week #1, in case you missed it.)


What’s the whole point of Perspective? Simply put: Perspective will help you to represent three-dimensional images (real life) on a two-dimensional plane (your sketchbook).

A key concept related to Perspective that must be understood is Vanishing Point. This is the spot on the horizon line that helps to create the three-dimensional effect because this is the point where apparently parallel lines in the drawing will converge.

Three perspective types  were covered over the week:

  • One Point Perspective: The simplest way to represent perspective because it uses one single Vanishing Point. In the example above, the house and the barn are drawn using lines that if extended, reach the single Vanishing Point.
  • Two Point Perspective: In this case, two Vanishing Points are used on the horizon line. The further they are from each other, the better. Personally, I liked this one more than the previous one because it’s more realistic, but at the same time, it’s a little more complex to represent, especially when shadowing is mandatory (that’s most of the time if you want to become good at drawing).
  • Three Point Perspective: This one uses two Vanishing Points as in the previous type, and a third point above or below of the horizon line. This is the perspective that you get when you stand at the front gate of a building and look up. I learned that you can use it to exaggerate objects, for example, a haunted-house entrance.

Even though I exercised the three of them, it feels like I need to practice more to master perspective. #mentalReminder.

Perspective Tip: Rule of 60%

The Rule of 60% is something that I learned in my Udemy Drawing class and that is extremely important to follow in order to make your drawing more realistic.

It says: measure the distance between your two horizontal Vanishing Points and calculate what’s 60% of that measurement (let’s say that the distance is 10 inches, therefore, the 60% is 6in). Then, find the middle between those two points and mark what represents half of your 60% to the left and the other half to the right (considering 6in your 60%, that would be 3in each side). Do the same above and below your horizontal line and you’ll have defined a rectangle (or square). That’s where you want to draw your objects to make them feel proportionate to the perspective. Otherwise, they may look less realistic.

Still Life

Drawing from real life? Now we’re talking! 🙂

The best tip to get good at Still Life drawing that I’m finding every day of this month: Practice, practice, ….and practice a little more. Needless to say that this kind of drawing will force you to improve your shadows and that will affect the perception of texture and three-dimensional nature of your objects.

This is the most challenging thing I’ve done so are, but many people, mainly Pro Illustrators suggest to do it as frequently as possible and that makes complete sense. Only through real-life observation can we understand the true nature of objects and convey it through our drawings.

Fun Fact.  “Il Maestro Leonardo Da Vinci” was probably one of the few people in history that took observation to the next level. It’s said that he used to study corpses to understand how to express the human body in his art. Hundreds of years later, his most famous creation – La Mona Lisa – led to love affairs and even suicides inspired by the realism of the masterpiece.

YouTube Drawing Channels

  • Draw with Jazza. I love this channel, Jazza is so funny and at the same time, his talent will motivate you to keep drawing and to try different approaches.
  • Fine Art-Tips. Leonardo will show you how hyperrealism is not a far distant goal to achieve.
  • Mark Crilley. His illustrations and use of different techniques will definitely motivate you to copy his style in many ways!

That’s it for this week! I hope you’re learning as much as I am every day.

Keep on learning!!

Drawing – Week #1

The first week of #aprilDrawing was intense! I decided to grab the bull by the horns and enrolled in an online class to draw from the very beginning.

Drawing Course

The class chosen was “The Ultimate Drawing Course – Beginner to Advanced” on Udemy. At the time of this post, the course has 150K students enrolled and a members-only Facebook Group where you can post your progress and get feedback from the community. Pretty impressive!

The first assignment was actually an assessment of my drawing skills. This is the Assessment Drawing on a notepad sheet on #day1 and on drawing paper on #day2.











You need a pencil, paper, and an eraser. Voilà! Now, let’s take the next step. I decided to get me a set of 4 Prismacolor Scholar pencils, a sketchbook, and a 12-inch ruler. Combine that with the sharpener and eraser found at home and you’re good to go to become an illustrator.

Drawing 101

  • Basic Concepts
    • Lines are the fundamental units.
    • Lines create Shapes.
      • The Basic Shapes are triangle, square, trapezoid and circle.  
      • Shapes will help you to visualize the final end. For example this:

Armadillo made out of Shapes


Armadillo – Source: cap10k.com

    • Form is the three-dimensional part of drawing.  Form is create out of simple Shapes or using random line patterns. 


      Three Forms made out of Shapes (left) and two out of random lines (right).

  • Shadowing
    • Always define a light source before drawing, therefore you will know where the shadow exists.
    • Shadow Types: Hight light, Midtone, Core Shadow, Cast Shadow.


      Shadow Types. The difference is the Value applied to each one of them.

    • Another drawing concept – Value – is how light or dark something is. You can see the Value differences in the Midtone, Core and Cast shadows in the image above.
    • Perspective is the lines that makeup shapes in a three-dimensional world.
  • Tricks
    • Never work only in one area of your drawing and neglect the other ones. Always jump between areas. It’s an iterative process and every part needs to be worded gradually.
    • Your pencil must be sharpened always!
    • Don’t push the pencil too hard. Start sketching with soft lines until you picture where your drawing is going.
    • Before you start any draw remember that everything is created out of simple Shapes.

That’s it! that’s all that you need to evolve from doodles to fancier drawings. Stay tuned for more updates of #aprilDrawing!

Mass Production Machines

An average human is right now producing:

The point is, even if we are at rest, our default state is that one of a Mass Waste Production Machine.

What about what we produce with our minds?

Our mental production depends on what are we feeding them with, but most importantly it depends on how conscious we are about our Production Strategy – that is, our decision to produce positive or negative thoughts.

If our default human condition is to be physical and mental waste machines, the challenge resides in accepting our physical condition and taking full ownership of our mind’s production to impact positively our surroundings. More on this topic will be covered in the next post.

Keep on Producing and Learning.


Disciplined to Change

Discipline is one of the ingredients for success but, it can also be the cause of failure.

Once we incorporate a new habit in our repertoire, we feel solid. It helps us to perform actions quickly and effectively. For example:

  • Meditation after waking up, every morning.
  • Lunch at 12:30pm, every noon.
  • A nightcap before going to sleep, every night.

If performing them accomplishes the goals – a clear mind, good digestion, relaxation, etc. – then, that’s great!!!

But, …what happens if, after years of performing them, we realize that meditation doesn’t clear the mind anymore, lunch at the same time turns social instead of based on our metabolic needs or the praised nightcap interrupts the quality of our sleep???

Repeating the same useless actions over and over (even when clearly the actions don’t have the expected outcomes), is not a sign of discipline but a sign of myopia.

When I was a kid and I used to send hand-written letters every week to my grandparents by mail since phone calls between cities were expensive. Nowadays, I could definitely continue doing that and wait days to get a reply, or I can use WhatsApp, Skype, or a simple call. The point is, knowing how they are IS the goal, the medium is irrelevant and up to my choice.

The second ingredient of success is adaptability – the capacity to change according to new conditions. 

Even challenging, analyzing our actions in hindsight and performing necessary tweaks will increase our chances to improve our lives. In other words, being disciplined to constantly change is what guarantees our evolution.

Keep on learning…





{We Code}

Yes… You – the least techy person reading this – You Code.

Here are some examples of common scenarios where we all code:

  • When a couple listens to a song and makes it theirs, they are unconsciously programming themselves to later associate that song with the love they feel for each other.
  • When you kindly (and repeatedly) ask your kid to look both ways before crossing the road, you are programming him/her to keep her safe when you’re not there.
  • When mom cooks my favorite meal. Anytime that I smell or order that dish in a restaurant, who do you think comes to mind?
  • When you press snooze on your alarm every morning, your programming your body to procrastinate. (On the other hand, getting out of bed immediately programs your body to get ready for a new round!)
  • When you program yourself to score every time you catch the ball, like Jerry Rice – the greatest wide receiver in NFL history – did. (Bo Eason explains how/why Jerry did that in minute 20:10 of this video).
  • Last but not least, when you listen to/see a notification on your phone and you react reading to it immediately. …well, let me introduce you to Ivan Pavlov and his cute dogs to explain what is called Classical Conditioning – another type of programming.

As with technology, we always have the chance to refactor the process – to restructure our initial behavior and responses to certain triggers.

Keep on Learning…..and Refactoring.


Image Source



Human Resumé

When we apply for a job, the potential employer asks how many years of expertise do we have…. and, like any human applying for his/her first job, the answer is Zero.

…. if that’s tresume-2445060_1280he answer, then what have we been doing with our lives before that moment?

The moment we leave our mom’s belly, we start adding time to our “human expertise counter”. Whether we wanted to or not, breathing was the most difficult task at hand at that moment and we succeeded (or you wouldn’t be reading this).

From that moment on, every second count. It would be foolish to say that we have no expertise in living. …Yeah, anyone can do that, right?!?!…but, does that mean that every that everyone is good at it??

That made me think if I’m making good use of my human skills and time so far. And so, I ask you: besides your “job experience”, what could you say that is your expertise area as a human?

Keep on learning…