Brain and memory

I listened to a very informative and inspirational podcast recently called Listen Hunnay with Jeannie Mai interviewing Jim Kwik. Kwik founded Kwik Learning and essentially shares really good advice on adult learning theory, as well as life. This is quite a long post, but was saying such great phrases and quotes I had to write it down so I could remember it all. And here it is:

Emotions and memory

The podcast dived straight in and explained that information tied to emotion can become long term memory and unforgettable. Kwik referred to a Maya Angelou quote here: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Kwik went on to say that no amount of love from the external world can be enough to give your soul what it needs from you. His whole philosophy is that it’s not what you learn but how you learn. I love Kwik’s way of speaking, everything has a mnemonic or is connected to something really memorable or relatable.

A particularly memorable phrase was his three H’s: head, hands, heart. “You can have a thought, goal, or vision in your head, but if you procrastinate or delay acting on it with your hands, check in with your heart.” How brilliant. This is essentially linking the what (head), how (hands), and why (heart). If you feel motivated then you are more likely to go out and do it.

Another great phrase Kwik said on the podcast was that “the same level of thinking that caused your problem won’t fix your problem.” That really got me thinking about how external neutral third parties sometimes see the bigger picture quicker and better than those living with the problem.


The podcast went on to discuss trauma. There is such a thing called post traumatic growth, essentially growth after trauma. You go through adversity or a challenge and then come out of it and find something valuable through it. You wouldn’t change a lot of what you went through as you found purpose, strength, or a mission from it. You can’t learn this from a book, you have to experience it. Difficult times can diminish, define, or develop us.

Let go of the weight associated with the trauma, not what you went through, in order to get that power to make you who you are today. You regain power when you let something go, and if you can’t let something go then that has power over you.

Kwik then got back to his main agenda of learning. Passion is what lights you up, like learning. Purpose is what lights other people up, like teaching others to learn. The crux of the matter is purpose: what’s important to me and why do I do the difficult things? This really resonated with me, especially now during quarantine where everything is stagnated. And to be honest, I couldn’t answer Kwik’s rhetorical question here. Maybe that will be for another blog post.


Another brilliant phrase of Kwik: “Happiness is the C between the B and the D. B being Birth, D being Death, and C being Choice.” I was impressed by that! Yes, we have choices in life. But the cynical me would say that we only have a limited choice from the cards we are dealt with in life. I suppose we can always try to gain a better hand, but if time is of the essence, then your only choice is to select from those same cards.

Another great phrase, I seriously love the way this guy speaks: “Be a thermostat not a thermometer.” Kwik explained that a thermometer reacts to the environment or the economy or how someone treats us. A thermostat sets the environment and temperature rises to meet the thermostat – this is the happiest people. Got to try and be a thermostat now!

Kwik moved on to say that the first step to happiness is to owning it: “people make mistakes, make them OLD:”

  • Own the mistake;
  • Learn from the mistake; and
  • Don’t repeat the mistake.

Own the mistake by taking responsibility and accountability. Apologise if you hurt someone, if you can fix it then do so, and don’t blame others. Learn from the mistake. It’s not failure, only a failure to learn. Only get feedback (which he called the breakfast of superheroes), people think mistakes make you but it should be how to overcome the mistake that makes you. This is inspirational. And I really do wish that this was true.

One phrase that I have heard of is the one about insanity, though Kwik referred to this as bad memory: “doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.” Such as always inviting people to events even though they never show up or always dating the same kinds of people even though they treat you badly. If you remember the result then you won’t repeat it.

This I feel is definitely true and I feel is easier remembered physically than mentally. For instance when you were younger and touched a hot pan it hurt so you always remember not to touch hot pans. Somehow when we grow older we don’t remember this works mentally too. Trauma becomes memory and memory stimulates trauma and the circle goes round.

Algorithm of the mind

The brain tries to keep information out as there is so much stimuli in the world. To keep the information in: ask questions. Similar to the whole, you think about buying a yellow car then you see yellow cars everywhere. Where were these yellow cars before? They were always there, your brain just filtered that stimulus out.

Lots of people will read something and forget what they just read as they don’t have questions. If they have questions then they would see answers in what they read and remember. These questions determine what’s in our filter. Like Instagram or Facebook algorithms, the brain has an algorithm we can control. When we have questions that are positive or negative then we will come up with the evidence.

The Reticular Activating System (“RAS”) is the Instagram algorithm and the questions are the clicks. Questions (clicks or likes) are the tool we have to show the RAS (Instagram or Facebook algorithm) what we want. So we have to clean up and control the question we’re going to ask.

There are negative disempowered questions like do people like me? Am I enough? Why can’t I lose weight? And we can come up with answers to these questions that make us feel bad, we find the evidence that fits these questions.

Then there are positive questions like how do I have energy and enjoy the process? Then different things will come up in your life (Instagram or Facebook feed) to answer and be the evidence that fits. Optimists achieve more and get more done as they are focused on possible things.

Social and neurological networks

We have to look after both the software and the hardware. The software can be things like how to read faster or how to remember names. The hardware is the brain itself. We have to make sure the brain is fit and healthy, such as getting enough sleep and nutrients and reducing stress. Essentially, have a good brain diet.

This good brain diet also comes from the people we spend time with. There are people who are positive, encouraging, cheerleading, and supporting – your brain loves that and thrives. But then there are energy vampires, people who are negative or critical. Kwik says of these people that they may have good intentions and be sincere but they can be sincerely wrong. This really resonated with me in all aspects of my life.

We have to be able to audit that, as social networks are just as important as neurological networks. Kwik went on to state that who we spend time with is who we become, going further to say if you spend time with 9 broke people you will be number 10. Your brain is constantly adapting to the talk of people around you: we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. This then got me thinking about who the top 5 people were in my life that I spend the most time with. This then reminded me of another saying (I don’t remember from who): don’t judge a book by its cover, but do judge the library that book is in.


Similar to when you’re fasting or eating really clean you don’t feel like eating junk food as much. And similar to when you don’t want to gossip: you’re at a party and you are looking forward to going home rather than staying and gossiping in a corner. You gravitate towards what makes you happy and not what weighs you down or what you used to be like.

Control the environment externally and then you can control the internal environment of your brain. Essentially, “what you nourish flourishes.”

Resetting the RAS is like changing a habit. You create habit (meditating, journaling, exercising) then habits create you back. Habits are unconscious too as the brain wants to keep things static. Beauty is in the butterfly but growth is in the cocoon, and with struggle comes strength.


The treasure we seek is hidden in daily routine.” To end the podcast, host Jeannie Mai asked Kwik for any routines that we could put into our days to improve our brain and memory. One of these was to remember dreams. Apparently the periodic table was created in a dream and Paul McCartney’s song Yesterday was also created in a dream. So remembering dreams could help us in real life.

Another routine is to make the bed. The brain loves a clean environment, and the external world reflects the internal world. Another great phrase: “how you do anything in life is how you do everything in life.” I love that and I’m going to try and live by that going forward.

Another routine is to brush your teeth with the opposite hand. I’ve heard of this one before, how little things like eating with the opposite hand stimulates the brain. What I didn’t know was that this forces you to be present. This is an exercise of presence and what you’re doing regularly is what you’re getting better at.

Another routine is to not touch your phone in the first hour of the day. When you wake up in the morning you’re in a relaxed state and are very suggestible so you may be re-wiring the brain for distraction and reaction. Distraction because every like, share, and video creates a dopamine flood and trains the brain to be distracted in the day. Reaction because one bad text or not getting as many likes as you wanted hijacks the brain. Kwik nipped it in the bud saying: “your inbox is nothing but a convenient organisation system for other people’s agenda for your life”. You can go from thermostat to thermometer as soon as you go on your phone. I am guilty of that, for sure. So my phone will (hopefully) not be touched till after breakfast is eaten – actual breakfast, not the breakfast of superheroes.

Another routine is to aim for priority management, not time management. “The most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.” Kwik expanded on this saying that so many people are good at doing things that don’t matter, whatever you’re doing on a regular basis is what you’re good at right now. This really got me thinking about my job actually – a very thought-provoking podcast for sure.

Another routine is this thought experiment: fast forward to the end of the day and imagine someone asks “how was your day”. To be able to respond with “crushed it”, what had to happen for you to feel that way, to have that champagne moment. It can be getting three things done personally and three things done professionally that day, no matter how small, and then you can say you crushed it.

My thoughts

Just an amazing podcast and such a brilliant interview. Very thought-provoking and eye opening. Also really inspirational, I really do plan on trying to do some of these things or repeat some of these awesome phrases as intentions for my day. It really did get me thinking about my life: who really are the 5 people I spend the most time with? What is the most important thing to me? Why do I do the difficult things?

One thought on “Brain and memory

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