When going through school, we’re always told to review our notes. We simply look at books and notes over and over again hoping that we’ll somehow absorb the information and recall it on a test. While we may recall it the next day, what happens to that information in the weeks, or even days, following? It’s gone. Research suggests that within two years of finishing school, people only remember the equivalent of about three weeks’ worth of lessons. That’s out of 12 years of schooling! So why does this happen? Typically, we store most of our information in our Medium-Term Memory. The key, however, is transferring that information into our Long-Term Memory.
Luckily, Kevin Horsley has mastered the art of memory and wants to teach you his techniques. Horsley improved his own life by harnessing an unlimited memory. You see, Horsley struggled in school, he was dyslexic and by the time he graduated college, he still couldn’t finish reading a book. Taking inspiration from Tony Buzan’s Use your Memory, Horsley realized he could train his mind. After years of practice, he joined the World Memory Championships in 1995 and won second place. In 1999, he broke the world record for memorizing the first 10,000 digits of Pi, thus passing the “Everest of Memory Tests.” No, he doesn’t have a photographic memory nor is he a magician. So how did he do it? Well, keep reading to find out his tips and tricks for unleashing the power of your memory.
Chapter 1: The Art of Concentration
As the world constantly changes, we find ourselves having to learn new things to keep up. The opportunity to learn surrounds us every day, the problem is that we hinder ourselves from learning all the time. We say things like “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m too old,” or “I don’t have the time.” But having a sharp memory isn’t something you are born with, in fact, it’s a skill and like any skill, it must be learned and practiced.
Just like you can achieve a toned, muscular body through training, you can achieve better concentration through training. The problem with today’s digital age, however, is that we are constantly connected. Take a look at your day. How do you begin your morning? Many of us begin our days checking our phones before we even get out of bed. Once we’ve finally managed to get ourselves ready, we’ve hardly had time to eat breakfast, and we might even spend our morning commute taking business calls and stressing over traffic. Before we show up to work in the morning, our minds have moved in a thousand different directions and we fail to do the one thing we need to do: concentrate.
To master the art of concentration, the first step is to get rid of any conflicts in your mind. To do this, you’ll need to get rid of the noise. I’m sure many of you have thoughts running around your head, you may even have some nagging thoughts trying to push through at this very moment. So how can you rid yourself of these and find peace? Of course, you can pick up the practice of meditation, but there’s an even easier way to do this without mastering meditation. First, you’ll need to stop multitasking. When you multi-task you stop giving 100 percent of yourself to just one task.
According to neuroscience experts, multitasking can even slow you down by 50 percent. Not only are you slowed down, but you also increase your chances of making a mistake by 50 percent. So when you’re spending time with your family, give yourself wholly to them by putting your phone away. Additionally, you can free your mind by knowing your PIC: Purpose, Interests, and Curiosity. Purpose, of course, gives you a reason to learn so make it specific. Instead of saying “I will learn to improve my memory,” say “I will learn at least five strategies to improve my memory.”
When you’re interested in something, you’ll be more likely to concentrate on it. So work on aligning what you want to learn with something that interests you. You may have to change your mindset and perspective to make something more interesting. Lastly, ignite your curiosity by asking yourself, “How can I benefit from this skill?” Once you understand how the new skill will improve your life, you’ll be more likely to concentrate on learning it. Now that you know how to improve concentration, it’s time to learn strategies to help you retain that information.
Chapter 2: Use the SEE Method
Have you ever gotten to the bottom of a page you just read, only to find that you forgot what you read? This happens to many of us, but why? It’s because you did not use your imagination while reading. You see, memory is not a photographic process, but a creative one. For instance, when you read a novel, the words you read translate into a movie in your head. You begin to visualize the characters, the setting, and the events happening.
When it comes to nonfiction books, however, this creative process doesn’t happen. Some try to remember what they’ve read by repeating the words over and over again until they understand, but this technique doesn’t quite work. Instead, you must learn to create images of what you’re trying to learn. Of course, learning this way will take some practice, so to help you, just use the SEE method. SEE stands for senses, exaggerate, and energize. So let’s take a look at the word “apple.” When you think of an apple, you can see it, taste it, smell it, and even touch it in your mind. The letters “A-P-P-L-E,” however, never once entered your mind, right?
Now, you’ll want to exaggerate it. Perhaps instead of imagining a normal-sized apple, you imagine an apple as tall as a skyscraper. Forget logic, you don’t need your imagination to be realistic, it’s all about making funny images in your mind. Lastly, you’ll need to energize or give energy to your images. Make your apple dance, give it arms, legs, or even a face. Remember, you’re creating a movie in your mind so make it as entertaining as possible.
You can further bring information to life by breaking down words into parts. Say you’re trying to learn capitals of cities and countries, many people just simply try to memorize them and hope they retain the information. Instead, try making it fun!
Let’s take a look at the capital of Australia, Canberra. If you want to remember it, then use your senses by visualizing a KANgaroo eating some BERRies. Learning doesn’t have to be serious, have fun with it, play with your imagination and your memory will be better. You can also use this technique when trying to learn a foreign language. For instance, the Spanish word for sun is sol. Think of the SUN burning the SOLE of your foot. Or take the Japanese word forchest, which is mune. Try to picture MONEY growing out of your CHEST. As you can see, using your imagination to bring your movie to life is the key to remembering information.
Chapter 3: Organize Information Using the Car Method
Now that you know how to turn information into movies in your mind, it’s time to learn how to organize those files and store them in your long-term memory. The best way to organize information is through the car method, in which you use your car as a long-term storage compartment. This practice combines new information with something you are already familiar with, your car.
The compartments we use to store our memories must be familiar to us, luckily, we tend to be experts at remembering specific routes and places. Think about your route to work, you can probably imagine each turn, stoplight, and speed bump in your mind right now. So for this method to you’ll need to place items you need to remember in specific locations along a route that is already familiar in your mind. This method may sound bizarre at first, but remember that if you want to be different, you’ll need to do things differently. As you read the following story, try to picture the scenario and we’ll see how much you remember by the end.
View your car in your mind and imagine yourself squeezing an apple into the front grid. Take a carrot and stab it onto the hood. On the windshield, you see grainy bread that you know is going to ruin your windshield wipers. Next, get inside your car and squash dried fruit onto the dashboard, really imagine it in the speedometer. You then sit on strawberries and blueberries, really feel them squish beneath you. Throw some eggs onto the passenger, now they have egg on their face. In the back seat, you begin to pour seeds and nuts all over.
Get out of the car and imagine a massive orange on the roof. Then, open the trunk of the car where you find fish, really smell the fish. In the exhaust pipe, brussel sprouts and broccoli are growing out the exhaust. Finally, the tires of your car are made out of sweet potatoes! Go around your car and see all the details again, really make the images clear in your mind, use the SEE method to do this. What you just learned are the fourteen superfoods that have been shown to improve your vitality and keep your mind agile and alert.
How does this technique work? When you use your car, or a place familiar to you, you use something that is already stored in your long-term memory. All you did was simply attach new memories to it. Follow the formula LTM + STM = MTM. In other words, Long-Term Memory plus Short-Term Memory is equal to Medium-Term Memory. By organizing the information this way, it becomes easier to find and recall. The secret to accelerated learning is a superior organization.
Chapter 4: Never Forget a Name
You or someone you know might be the type of person to admittedly say, “I’m terrible with names.” We’ve all heard this excuse for why someone can’t remember names, but you don’t have to be that person anymore. Many believe that the ability to remember names is natural, either you’re good at it or you’re not; however if you apply the correct strategy, you canremember the name of every person you come in contact with. If you want to remember names like a memory master, you have to focus on the four Cs.
The four Cs are: concentrate, create, connect, and continuous use. If you can remember this system, you can avoid the awkward or even embarrassing scenario of forgetting names. First, you need to concentrate on the conversation. Usually, when we get introduced to people, they say their name so quickly that nobody can even understand it. To avoid this situation, take control of the introduction, slow it down, and really hear the name. If you don’t hear the name, you’ll never remember it. If you miss it at first, ask the person to say it again. If it’s particularly difficult, ask the person to spell it out too. Take a genuine interest and you’ll find that you’ll greatly improve your name memory.
Next, you’ll need to create an image for the name in your mind. For instance, you may hear people say, “I know the face, but I can’t remember the name.” That’s because faces form an image in our mind whereas names don’t, so names don’t normally “stick” as well as faces. To hold on to a memory, we must make an image out of the name. When you are introduced to someone, you only have about twenty seconds to think about the name and make an association. The author’s name, for example, is Kevin which sounds like Cave in. His surname, Horsley, can conjure an image of a horse and Bruce Lee. So perhaps you can imagine Bruce Lee riding a horse into a cave! Some names may be difficult, but with a bit of creativity, any name can be given meaning and turned into a picture.
Since learning is all about making connections, you’ll need to learn how to connect the unknown person to something you’re familiar with. You can do this in many ways, one of which is through Comparison Connection. With this method, you simply think of someone you already know with the same name. Let’s say you meet someone named George, you can picture someone else you know named George or even think of someone famous like George Clooney.
Or maybe the person you meet has a striking feature, then connect that name to something you remember. Let’s say upon meeting your new colleague, Janice, you notice that she has icy blue eyes. Her name also sounds similar to CHAIN ICE. Now, make a connection between her name and the chain of ice swirling in her blue eyes!
If you follow these techniques, unfortunately, you’ll still only be storing memories medium-term. For new information to be placed in your long-term memory, you must use it every day. Try keeping a list of all the people you’ve met recently in a journal, or even befriend them on your favorite social media sites!
Chapter 5: The Secret to Remembering Numbers and Dates
Imagine a long list of digits being called out in random succession. How many do you think you could remember? The average person will only remember about seven digits; however, a trained memory is limitless. Horsley can remember a 50-digit random number in less than 20 seconds and 100 digits in 45 seconds. The secret isn’t simply being smart, it’s about applying the right strategy. When you apply the right strategy, you can also develop Horsley’s “super-human powers” of mastering number memorization.
Numbers, unlike letters, don’t have much meaning. Therefore, a strategy Horsley uses is changing numbers into words and then into images. In other words, he takes the numbers and twists them into shapes, so that they form letters. Then, he turns the letters into words. While this seems like a lot of work, once you have the code down, you’ll be able to remember sequences of numbers with ease.
Each number from zero to nine can be assigned a letter based on how the number looks or the letter sounds. For this exercise, you’ll want to omit all vowels for the time being. Let’s get started assigning numbers to letters: Zero can be the S, Z, or C sound. S sounds like the hissing of a wheel, and a wheel looks like a zero. The number 1 represents the T or D sound. When you look at the letters T and D, they both have a vertical straight line which looks like the number 1. Similarly, when a 2 is flipped onto its side, it looks like an N and 3 flipped on its side looks like an M. Therefore, 2 is the N sound and 3 is the M sound. To continue, four can symbolize R; five can represent L; six can be the soft g, soft ch, sh, or j sound; seven can be K or C; eight can be F or V, and nine can look like a b or p.
Based on this code, if someone were wanting you to remember the number 78, you would see that you have the letters K or C for 7 and F or V for 8. Therefore, you can create the word CaVe for the number 78! See how we used vowels to create a full word? Once you master this code, you’ll be able to remember any sequence of numbers, but what about dates? How can you use this technique to recall important dates?
The secret to remembering dates is that you only need to remember the last three digits because most of the dates we want to remember occurred in the last thousand years. Let’s say you want to remember the year we landed on the moon, 1969. Take the numbers 9-6-9 and assign the letters b to 9, sh to 6, and p to 9. Create a word with the available vowels. What word do you get? BiSHoP! Of course, now you need to use the SEE principle to make a picture that you will remember. Perhaps imagine a bishop walking on the moon or a bishop playing with the moon dust with Neil Armstrong!
While this memorization technique seems silly, remember that learning should be a fun and creative experience. Of course, this technique won’t come naturally either, it takes practice to make it work. But when you do, there will be no limits to your number memory and you’ll become more knowledgeable and impress your friends!
Chapter 6: The Importance of Discipline and Review
If you apply all of the techniques that you’ve learned so far, you’ll realize that simply applying techniques won’t be enough to make you a memory master. Imagine becoming a memory master similar to becoming an Olympic gold medalist. Athletes don’t win gold medals by just applying techniques. They apply them and practice them. This requires self-discipline. Now you don’t have to punish yourself all day every day to master your memory; instead, you should simply apply daily actions that are directed towards your goal.
But what daily actions should you implement? When you use the memory methods from this book, you are guaranteed to store that information into your medium-term memory, but you’ll need to review and revisit to transfer that information into the long-term. Imagine yourmind like a bank account, the more you invest the more it grows. Once you create clear images in your mind, review the information ten minutes after receiving it. Review the images, and review them forwards and backwards. Reviewing the images backwards helps you to remember them more effectively.
Once you’ve done this, review after one hour then one day, three days, seven days, fourteen days, twenty-one days, twenty-eight days, two months, three months and then it should be in your memory forever. There is no magic when it comes to memory improvement, only management. While review takes discipline, it’s the key to keeping information fresh in your mind. It keeps that information alive and awake so you can connect more information to what already exists.
Memory skills are an important tool in your self-improvement arsenal, but you need to provide the energy to make it work. If you work on your memory, you’ll also see an improvement in your confidence as you begin to impress yourself with your amazing ability. Remember that you must “do different to become different.” So take these tools, make them your own, practice hard, and unleash the power of your memory.
Chapter 7: Final Summary
If you want to become a memory master, then you’ll need to bring information to life. To do this, you’ll need to first concentrate on the information being presented to you. If you aren’t willing to receive the information, then you’ll never remember it! Next, you’ll need to create and connect. Use your imagination and create a movie in your mind to help you remember. Use your senses: see it in your mind, taste it, smell it, hear it, and even touch it. If you can bring it to life, you’ll be more likely to remember it. Then, you’ll need to connect that information to something that you already know. Build your new knowledge upon something that already exists! Of course, these techniques will all be useless if the information never gets transferred into your Long-Term Memory. To do this, you’ll need lots of self-discipline and spend time reviewing what you’ve stored. If you can apply these techniques and put in the time and effort, you’ll never forget anything again.