29-year-old Dương Anh Vũ from the central province of Bình Thuận currently holds four memory world records.
These records have been recognised by the Research Foundation Assist World Records, the High Range Book of World Records and the Incredible Book of Records. He speaks about his journey to conquer the titles and the secret behind his prodigious memory.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us how good your memory is?
I can memorise over 300,000 statistical tables of chemicals; political, historical, economics and geography facts, the content of which can be noted down on 500,000 A4-sized papers; 20,000 digits of pi; all large world maps in English, which I can re-draw from memory; 10,000 historical, scientific and arts events, including time and content, of both Vietnamese and the world; information of over 1,000 classic Vietnamese and international literary works and their author, and more.
Inner Sanctum: When and how did you discover this special ability?
Since my memory is not my innate ability, I cannot tell the exact moment. I started to train my memory in 2010, but before that I had applied Mindmap (a diagram used to visually organise information) to regain and re-systemise my knowledge since I was attending a continuing education class. After I had embarked on training, I spent months struggling with the methods that I used to think were unsuitable to me. When I was about to give up, I realised that if someone wanted to become transcendent, they could not follow anyone else's method but had to create their own. Since then, by following the appropriate method, I have been able to memorise more.
Inner Sanctum: You did not perform very well at school. Can you share something about those days?
I used to be very bad at studies at school. I was born into a family of five children and I was the fourth. I still remember when I was small, whenever my family had dinner together, my dad used to look at me and joke, "We are very sorry for giving birth to an error like you."
I used to be weak when I was a second-grader. Then, I was a repeater when I was a third-grader, and it took me nearly six years to finish primary school education. After that, I attended a semi-public school and was a weak student for years. I was not accepted by any high schools.
As usual, my dad would punish me as soon as he learnt about my examination results, but not this time, and this difference changed my life totally.
Instead, he said to me, "You had better stop learning at school and learn a trade instead. You see, you have gained nothing in ten years studying but have only become a repeater, and you retake tests."
However, I recall those moments when my dad would sit and drink with his friends. Whenever he heard them boast about their children, he would put his head down in sadness. Or, when my mother said nothing whenever she heard our relatives praise their children. I was really a child who seriously hurt my parents' self-esteem. I needed to change.
After that I enrolled in a continuing education course and got absorbed in studying for three years. I finally passed the entrance examination to the Việt Nam National University, Hồ Chí Minh City and kept moving forward. I conducted research on various topics, kept enhancing my memory and received a scholarship to complete my Masters degree from the Auckland University, in New Zealand.
Inner Sanctum: What helped you to overcome challenges in studying and reach your current status in life?
After all those years struggling against challenges of life and studies, there were three things that helped me to acquire today's achievements: self-esteem, love and proper method.
When my poor results were mocked by others, my self-esteem and that of my family was severely dented. Once you have something that you need to protect, you will become stronger. What I needed to protect was my self-esteem.
I also realised that the core and ultimate value of life is love. Love from the family and teachers… is the invisible strength that cannot be defeated by any other power. Such love prevented me from falling into an autistic life, made me understand the value of life and knowledge. It became the firm shoulders for me to lean on.
And if working hard helps to reach target, the proper method will help us do that in the quickest way. I am certain that without a proper method, it would have taken me a lifetime to accumulate the knowledge that I possess.
Inner Sanctum: Can you share something about your current research and lecturing work?
After setting the world's records, I started to deliver lectures. Most people would think that my life would be associated with lectures on memorising skills and inspiring others. Of course, lectures are a part of my life, but not all.
Since I attended school, I made great efforts to read, mull over and write to improve my ability to conduct studies. I have been passionate and want to pursue Geopolitics and International Private Law. I am considering making a career as a top-notch researcher and analyst in these two fields.
Inner Sanctum: You have opened classes in the training of memory, and you deliver lectures in different places to inspire others. What advantages and disadvantages have you seen in the youth today?
Through my lectures in Việt Nam, most of the people I have come into contact with are the youth. I have realised that they have the advantage of being active, young, creative and quick at grasping new knowledge. But their weakness also lies within such strengths. Though they are active, they are more likely to give up and get discouraged on encountering harsh challenges. They are young so they tend to have a great sense of self, therefore, they usually try to express themselves and find it hard to accept mistakes.