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Ever hear that crazy phrase, “knowledge is power”?
Sounds kind of cool, right? But have you ever asked yourself …
What The Heck Does That Silly Cliche Mean?
Well, “power,” it turns out, is an interesting concept. Especially when it comes to memory and memory improvement.
To begin, understand this:
People have defined it thousands of different ways throughout history.
Ever since I discovered it in university, I’ve always liked Michel Foucault’s definition. He’s a philosopher who you should check out sometime.
Don’t worry if you think philosophy is boring. Foucault didn’t dally around. He gets right down to defining it in many books. For Foucault, power amounts to “the ability to conduct the conduct of others.”
Now, let’s be honest:
Who In Their Right Mind Wouldn’t Want A Taste Of That?
And let’s be clear:
When it comes to memory improvement and using memory techniques as a way of life, that’s what we going for:
Power. Exactly as Michel Foucault defined.
Because if you’re using memory techniques to help you learn a language, guess what?
Speaking a language “controls” what others think. Just like my words are controlling what you think now.
Controlling what you’re thinking, feeling, deciding to do next.
And more than that …
Power Is Productive
It produces the next action in line.
When it comes to the power that using memory techniques creates, think of it this way:
If you’re using memory techniques for numbers so that you can quote SKU numbers at work or cite aspects of the law, you’re instantly better at controlling how your colleagues work with you.
Pretty neat, huh?
Well, hold on now, because it gets even better.
Because there are a lot of things about memory you probably don’t know.
And all of them will give you more power.
Which equals more control.
Particularly over the most important person in your life you need better control over.
So with all that in mind, let’s get started:
1. Memory Loss Starts At A Much
Younger Age Than Most People Think
Sad, but true.
We have this image that memory loss starts when you’re forty or older. Worse, we project the idea that struggles with memory belong to the elderly or people with Alzheimer’s.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Long before the age of digital amnesia, scientists knew that memory struggles begin already in our mid-20s, if not earlier.
And the more people relegate their memory activities to smartphones and computers, the more younger people start experiencing memory problems.
Don’t Blame The Machines For Everything!
Of course, we can’t just blame the machines or the questionable fact that they don’t teach learning and memory techniques in schools. (They do.)
This is what’s more important:
We’re exposing young people to information they don’t care about.
Want to help the young person in your life learn how to discover exactly what they care about to help guide their studies? Make sure you listen to the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast for the link to the listener only audiobook, The Ultimate Memory Improvement Secret.
I promise. That book will help.
And then giddy up on improving your memory. No matter how young and spry you think you are now, memory loss is always around the corner.
2. You Change Your Memories Every Time You Remember Them
I love that scene from Lost Highway.
For two reasons:
A) It exposes a fundamental truth about human behavior.
B) The whole movie is about how memories change merely by recalling them.
And it’s true.
Every time you remember something, you’re engaging in an exchange of chemicals.
You know this, right? Your mind is produced by your brain: soft, squishy material made up of all kinds of nutrients and acids.
The kind of stuff that aliens probably love to eat. 😉
And in that pool of chemical substances, sit your memories. Your memories are part of that stuff, not different from it.
Every time you access one of them, it’s like putting bread into a toaster.
And, as you know, bread that has been toasted ain’t never going back to being bread again. It’s different now, and different it shall remain.
3. Your Memory Is More Like A Neighborhood Than A Computer
Not only are your memories made of physical material, they are also dispersed like multiple spheres in a pinball machine.
Think of it the way Gary Small suggested when I interviewed him on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast.
He explains that the computer metaphor for the human brain and memory is false.
Instead, your brain is like a series of neighborhoods, bigger and more complex than the biggest cities of the world.
And every time new information enters your “memory city,” it doesn’t book a room in a hotel someplace and wait patiently to be called for a business meeting when you need it.
Instead, the information is broken up and sent into many different homes in many different neighborhoods.
The Businessmen Your Memory Slices And Dices Everyday
Think of it like this:
Say that you learn a German phrase like, “Ich möchte mir etwas kaufen, aber ich weiß nicht was.” (I want to buy myself something, but I don’t know what.)
If that phrase was a businessman, your memory wouldn’t store him altogether in the same place.
Instead, it would take his hat and put it in one home in one neighborhood of your memory.
Then, in an entirely different neighborhood, your memory would deposit his briefcase. And that neighborhood might be just around the bend, or it might be hundreds of thousands of miles away.
And the division keeps going, taking each arm of the businessman to a unique location. It might even be the case that each individual toe goes to its own home in a variety of different neighborhoods.
Sounds Complex, Doesn’t It?
Well, that’s the miracle and challenge of memory. Next time you struggle to recall something because you’re missing a part (like a last name when you have the first name), understand that this is why:
Your memory stored the first and last name, just not necessarily in the same neighborhood of your “memory city.”
And this is why memory techniques are so fantastic, especially for remembering a lot of names at events:
When you use a Memory Palace, and particularly the Magnetic Memory Method, you’re rigging the game in your favor.
You are literally requesting that your mind store the information in a more compact way. You are creating connections that put you in control of information storage in ways that no computer can beat.
4. You Cash In On Your Memories Overnight
I know, I know, you’re tired of hearing about how important SLEEP DEFICIT page is for your memory.
I’m sorry. Get used to it. Nothing could be more important for your memory.
I’ve experienced a lot of sleep deficit over the past few years due to traveling the world in search of new Memory Palaces. I can tell you one thing:
Nothing hurts your memory more than exhaustion.
Because even with the most powerful memory techniques in the world, memory “consolidates” during sleep.
It seems to be related to the same way that we experience muscle growth during sleep. Work out all you want in the gym, but if you’re not putting in the snooze time, you’ll never see anything like the results you want.
Does Memory Consolidation Work If You’re Old?
Recent research shows that sleep consolidation might not be nearly as important for memory as an adult as it is for a younger person.
But in my own experiences as someone now in his forties, I can tell you that I still feel a huge difference. I’ve also done experiments with changing when I memorize Chinese vocabulary, and I do seem to have much stronger recall when I use the Magnetic Memory Method at night, rather than the morning.
Here’s the real kicker, though:
Practicing your memory first thing and before you go to bed.
5. Technology Can Augment Human Memory, But Also Harm It
Some of my friends think I’m a Luddite.
After all, I didn’t update my iPhone 4s until 2017. And even then I never used it as a phone anyway. It’s a computer for reading and writing.
All things told, all my devices are good for memory in certain contexts and I appreciate having them.
But we’re killing our memory abilities in so many ways. I talk about this a lot on my post about digital amnesia, so I’ll step off my soapbox for now.
Just please understand that we need balance in our life and that’s why vinyl records are so popular, not to mention physical journals (I recommend The Freedom Journal).
6. Repetition Can Be Fun
Most people don’t know this, but rote learning does have a fun button written into its code.
No, that’s a lie. Rote learning is always a crime against humanity.
If you have to repeat anything a zillion times or you’re bombing through flash cards without at least the assistance of some mnemonics, you’re doing it wrong.
No exposure to information should be without excitement. And every memory activity you engage in should CREATE energy, not CONSUME it.
Think of that the next time you repeat something mindlessly with the hope and the wish and the prayer that it will stick in your memory.
Remember: power is productive.
If rote learning and spaced-repetition software give you your jollies, rock on.
But if you’re sick of hammering your brain with same information and having it drain you of enthusiasm, get out into the real world and use a Memory Palace and the rest of the Magnetic Memory Method instead.
7. Human Memory (Probably) Has No Limits
People often think that their memory is like a sponge. If they bring in new information, they ask, won’t it squeeze the old stuff out?
The answer is no.
Memory is nothing like a sponge and there is no metaphor of “storage” or “absorption” that fits the bill.
It’s also important to understand that when we use the word “memory” we are mushing together all kinds of different memory?
There’s no way we can use them all up. And if you have a good Memory Palace technique by your side, here’s the thing:
You can ALWAYS find a building you’ve never been in before.
Get out your Memory Journal, make a quick sketch. Chart out your Magnetic Stations. And then use them to memorize some information.
It’s easy, fun and you don’t have to be a world traveler to do it. I’ll bet there are at least ten cafes and restaurants you haven’t been to in your city or town that would make glorious Memory Palaces.
You don’t even have to spend money in them to create your Memory Palaces. You could just go during off hours and tell them what you’re doing. Most will be okay with that.
If Not, Just Move On …
And if you don’t like restaurants or cafes, go to movie theaters. Go to libraries. Museums. Churches. Even well-structured parks can serve if you’re into outdoor Memory Palaces.
The point is to not trick yourself into thinking that you’re running out of Memory Palaces.
That can’t and won’t happen.
That’s called “Memory Palace Scarcity, ” and sadly it stops many people cold in their tracks.
Don’t let it happen to you.
8. You Probably Remember Less From
Ebooks Than Physical Books
I’ll bet you love Ebooks.
I know I sure do.
The problem is …
You’re much less likely to remember information you read digitally than from physical books.
Why is this? Well, you can check out the research for yourself, but I have a pet theory.
And the theory is more than the obvious points that information is “located” inside of books in a way that it cannot be inside a computer.
In other words, it is probably useful to your memory that you know on a conscious or subconscious level that a piece of information was 1/4 or 3/4 of the way into a book. The location of the information within the physical space of the book is a kind of memory hook.
You don’t get that feeling in an Ebook, even though devices like Kindle will show you a percentage to give you a sense of progress.
I also don’t think it’s just about the physical differences between holding a book and holding a digital reader. Those elements are important too, but far more critical it seems to me is this:
Your Brain Is Chemical
Your brain is chemical. Books are chemical. And computers are chemical too …
And yet somehow … I don’t know how to explain it. And I’m happy to be dead wrong, but I just think we are at a strange remove from “digital ink” that doesn’t exist when you’ve got a book in your hand.
It may have to do with presence. The best way I can think of to explain it is to relate books to vinyl records. Check out this cool video from Vinyl Eyezz to expand your thinking on the matter. Then go buy something physical.
9. Memories Can Be Manufactured
Just as each memory transforms every time you recall it, you can be compelled to create memories that never happened.
There are a lot of angles to this problem, some of which fall under the title of false memory syndrome.
But I think it’s more complex than that – and quite possibly sinister. For example, look at this seemingly innocent manufacturing of memory regarding a hot air balloon experience:
Then imagine that the cops have accused you of committing a murder.
Scary stuff, right?
Well, now that you know about this problem, you can fend off any threats that might emerge around it in your life.
And the best thing for it is to train your memory so that you’re starting off strong in the first place if trouble ever arises.
10. The First Memory Palace Probably
Comes From The Buddha, Not Ancient Greece
I love the story of Simonides of Ceos. It not only demonstrates just how easy it is to remember stories, but the story itself contains all the traits of what makes a story memorable.
But here’s the thing:
The idea of “location-based mnemonics,” (the sexier, but more accurate term for the Memory Palace technique) predates Simonides by a long time.
For example, many yogic and Buddhist rituals involved using parts of temples to recall passages of rituals. You might imagine a bridge in one corner of the temple, for example, and a black dog in another.
Then, during your meditation, you would mentally “visit” these Magnetic stations in the temple Memory Palace and decode them as part of completing the meditation.
Sure, they didn’t call it a Memory Palace and probably didn’t think of it as a memory technique.
But that’s what’s going on beyond a doubt. And the best part is that when you understand this relationship between space and memory, the role of churches of all stripes throughout history becomes much clearer.
Stations of the Cross, anyone?
11. Stories Filled With Emotion Are
The Easiest Information To Remember
Yesterday I ate a sandwich. It was good.
… not very memorable, is it?
Of course not.
But what if I told you that yesterday at 11:49 p.m., I was so ravenously hungry that a furious rage overtook me.
I hopped into a tank I stole from the local military and drove it through the wall of the nearest McDonald’s.
Then, with a wave of my magic wand, I made my mouth so big that I could fit all the food in the restaurant into my mouth.
I’m talking EVERYTHING. I vacuumed it in like I was the Hoover Vacuum King of Fast Food.
Then I burped a strawberry vanilla-scented wind that put the police in a relaxed state so that they turned around and went to the nearest Buddhist temple to meditate about bridges and dogs.
Stupid story, I know, but it’s a heck of a lot more memorable.
Why? Because it’s got emotions in it:
The NEED of hunger.
The ANGER of irrational aggression.
The EXCITEMENT of magic.
The WEIRDNESS of dream logic.
And all those elements mixed together make bland information much more memorable.
Go ahead and try it.
Pump a reminder into your phone for later today: What was Anthony’s story at the end of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast?
Take a moment to jot it down.
Then come back and compare notes.
I’ll bet your 85-99% accurate in your recall.
Here’s What’s Even Better:
You can apply that same, emotion-based zaniness to even the most deadly boring information in the world.
And so long as you know how to create a Memory Palace and use Magnetic Imagery to encode and decode the information through the Recall Rehearsal process …
Power! Sheer power!
And power in the positive senses we’ve been talking about.
So listen …
There’s no need to struggle with bad memory anymore. In fact, no one has a bad memory. People who suffer from forgetfulness just don’t know enough about the miracle of memory.
But now you do and the future is wide open and bright for more discovery about your memory and your mind.
Get out there and have fun and until next time … Keep yourself Magnetic! 🙂
Love this crazy exploration of memory. Buddhists, Foucault, magic wands? I remembering more of this story than I knew!
Thanks for letting me know this was memorable for you, Beth – I appreciate it! 🙂
Dear Anthony, Great podcast, again awesome job. I really had my thoughts about the pod cast before listening to it but you have a way to twist things around to make them interesting. I for one picked up the secret when you first offered it, it is a great help. Everything is helpful. Happy St Patricks’ day to all. For now Keep doing what you do.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Bill. I’m glad I can make these things about memory interesting and really appreciate you grabbing The Ultimate Memory Improvement Secret.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you as well – and I shall indeed keep on keeping on.
Talk soon! 🙂
Really interesting points in here, especially no.9. In fact last week i was reading this article and this reminded me of it:
Thanks for sharing this interesting article, Mark!
I think an unstated point here for when it comes to learning a language or something else is that we can use the power of false memory to encode information that is real and needs to be remembered. Take “shopaholic” in Chinese, for example, which was as simple as seeing Go-Go Gadget with a Go board, a Wu-tang album and a guy Brian I know all in a tussle.
That stuff never happened and Inspector Gadget doesn’t even exist. But I remember it as if it did happen and it works for its intended purpose.
But heaven forbid any of us have our memories manipulated against our will in ways that lead to some of the horror stories people have suffered. Thanks for adding a warning article to the resource pool! 🙂
I had a thought while listening to the podcast. I am using pre-reading before reading the context and it helps me to get the stream of content in a more organized way. Maybe this pre-reading creates a quick map for the data to store in the memory city.
Good podcast. Thank you
Pre-reading is really great and a huge part of priming your memory.
It’s kind of like going out on a stage before giving a concert. Because you have a feel for the lay of the land, your performance is much better.
But if you go onto a stage cold and try to perform without having been on it before … you won’t do nearly as well.
So pre-reading books is kind of like soundcheck for musicians and other stage performers.
Thanks for taking the time to comment and revealing yet another powerful metaphor for learning – always appreciated! 🙂
Hi, Anthony. My sincere thanks to you for being so available and open as you are to not only answer questions, yet more importantly to add more thought expanding ideas to them, to help progressively and proactively continue on this very powerful memory improvement journey.
Based on what I have been learning I have been re-training myself, and edifying my new skill enhancements by posting videos on my YouTube channel. This gives me good feedback and improves my retention, and communications in front of the camera too.
Just yesterday, I was able to memorize and recall all 50 states, both forward, and based on a session I heard previously, now in reverse order as well.
This is life changing, highly enjoyable and great to be a focused engaged part of.
And yes, knowing the SKU codes can be highly effective too, as well as your checking and credit card numbers, as you train the processes of in your teachings.
And speaking of work, or anything related to it, I can easily say, something to the effect of this.
“If you recall, (Name) on such and such a date, we discussed these 10 items”
By using a memory palace, remembering these 10 items is not hard to do at all. And it lets that person know immediately that the person speaking to them is serious since there is a great chance that they will not be able to recall those same 10 things on that given date.
This gives you a position of authority and lets the other person know that that they need to be equally the same.
This also helps when it comes to this.
“Give me a call on Monday. I should have an answer for you then”.
When you do, you stand out in their eyes when you remember to do
exactly that, and better yet, doing this in context to what they themselves said, and
without having to write it down!
Appreciate your availability, help, and encouragement to
progress to even more continually.
Thanks for the kind words, Bruce. I love your passion and energy for this topic as well. Your name memory video is especially great!
Congrats on memorizing the states. That is a lovely accomplishment and has future uses. For example, you could add the state capitals and with the Major Method different stats, such as population densities and the like.
Keep up the great memorizing and I look forward to your next comment here on the blog. Much appreciated! 🙂
Yes, just today, I had an occasion to bring forth some recalled facts regarding a situation where I needed to move the ball forward. Due to this, I was able to accomplish exactly this. Here is a quick summary of it.
“Yes, I understand your version of it. For now, let’s forget this, and go back and revisit, and re-look at the facts as I see them based on what I will go over with you now, point by point. From there you can decide the best course and path to follow!!”
Awesome that you’re bringing these skills into real life. I’m reminded of my conversation with Jim Samuels. Have you ever heard it? 🙂
Thanks as ever for your pod cast. I wanted just to encourage all of your listeners and magnetic Mnemonizers to keep at it. Like anything worthwhile, there is a learning curve, and the more you do something and enjoy doing the better you will become.
One small breakthrough I had recently with respect to memorizing abstract lists (not groceries, but computer security control families in NIST Special Publication 800-53!) is the power of simplicity.
Technical documents contain a plethora of acronyms, and this document has plenty. What I wanted to do was to commit to memory certain pieces of information.
One thing I have been struggling with is how to translate abstract and often hugely wordy text to imagery so I could recall the content of the paragraph. I have found a way to simplify by translating abstract acronyms to memorable figures.
For the high-level controls (18 in all) I translated their initials to wild and zany or interesting people:
AC = ALICE COOPER = Access Control
AT = ALVIN TOEFFLER = Awareness and Training
AU = AUDIE MURPHY = Audit and Accountability
I scattered all of these people at intervals in two rooms (my old bedroom and my parents’ bedroom,) and the stations I arranged as Dean Vaughn suggests (for each room he uses the corners as odd-numbered stations, the walls as even-numbered stations, and the floor and ceiling for 0 and 10 – if needed.)
To have stronger recollection, each figure had a specific action, and sometimes was with an object. For example, PE = Phil Esposito (aka Physical and Environmental Protection controls,) and he is located in the front left corner of my parents’ room beside a memorable picture of the Sacred Heart, which was located there (memorable also because Espo is standing in full Boston Bruins equipment – and is sweating, bleeding, wheezing and ready to go back on the ice.)
MP = Mary Pickford, and she is on the ceiling of the room frightened and shrieking at hordes of reporters (Media Protection.)
It’s a useful skill for anyone to develop, and it certainly is far more fun than mindlessly repeating information that doesn’t mean anything.
Thanks for yet another amazing contribution, Alex.
The idea of an alphabet code is very intriguing and lights my mind on fire with a mission I might actually try to complete. 26 notable people with names that start with X and Z will probably require some invention, but not necessarily much.
For example, I know a guy named Zoltan. So every person in this chain can be associated with him:
Zoltan and Alex from A Clockwork Orange
Zoltan and Borat
Zoltan and Connie
Zoltan and Derek
Zoltan and Eric
Zoltan and …
Doing this with every letter of the alphabet is great mental exercise and I’m sure that applications will emerge for much of it.
The Vaughn Cube is, of course, a book for the serious mnemonist, and with the Major Method and/or the Alphabet code, you could fix certain figures in place, much like I’ve done with the bass guitar fretboard. These would be go-to Memory Palaces for specific applications, such as remembering names at parties, etc.
And for those who want to memorize the verse numbers in scriptures, this could also be a valuable application for them.
As always, your insights and encouragement are much appreciated. Look forward to your next post! 🙂