The Ultimate Concentration Combo For Memory Improvement

| Podcast

Image of hands raising to illustrate a point about focus and concentrationDo you ever go hunting for music you can use to increase your focus and concentration?

I sure have. But over the years, I’ve experienced diminishing returns.

That got me wondering about what benefits it ever had in the first place.

So here’s an idea that might help you stop wasting time and energy on the hunt for external cures that promise to increase your focus.

Start by watching this video:

Now then … Why is all this business about concentration so important?

Here’s a wake-up call:

The problem with finding music and apps and other gadgets to help improve your focus and concentration is this:

Those efforts will always fail.

Why?

Because they never address the core problem.

And the reason you can’t focus and concentrate is simple:

Your Concentration Muscles Are Weak And Pathetic!

 

Trust me. I’ve been there. I’ve felt both sides of the coin while learning how to improve focus and concentration.

I’ve gone through periods where my concentration was so poor I couldn’t finish a single sentence in a book.

And this lack of concentration and the ongoing need to improve focus caused me a lot of pain.

For one thing, I almost dropped out of my Ph.D. program.

Imagine that!

Spending all those years of your life and thousands upon thousands in tuition …

… only to find yourself in a concentration rut.

Well, there’s a way out.

And the first step on that journey to freedom from poor concentration starts with saying Yes! to the alternative. And that involves nothing more than getting your ego out of the picture.

 

Laser Sharp Concentration Begins With A Little Death

 

Do I have your attention yet?

I hope so, because death is no laughing matter.

But here’s the thing:

If you’re willing to sit and meditate, you’ll be engaging in the most profound activity invented by humanity (next to memory techniques):

 

You’ll Be Murdering Your Ego!

 

And that, my Magnetic friend, is a wonderful thing.

Because every goal and desire you haven’t achieved is likely being held hostage by your ego.

It sounds crazy, but true.

So much of the focus and concentration we need to get things done flees from us due to simple biology.

You see, your brain conserves energy as much as possible.

Sure, some people are lazy and unmotivated.

But most of us struggle to focus and get things done because we have a brain telling us that it’s okay to be lazy and slothful.

And the worse thing is …

 

Your Lazy Brain Isn’t Necessarily Wrong!

 

Because here’s the thing:

Way back when we lived on the savanna, our brains learned to conserve energy. At least, that’s one historical interpretation of the anthropological data.

Seriously.

Whereas some people prefer to fantasize about early humans as big bulky caveman conquering the world …

… it’s more likely that we were weaklings hiding in the shade of trees most of the time.

What were we doing there?

Two things:

1) Conserving energy

2) Waiting for better predators to kill animals and leave their carcasses behind so we could scavenge the remains.

Sounds like a bleak interpretation of history, doesn’t it?

 

Not If You Let This Simple Fact Of Nature Empower You!

 

When you realize that it’s very likely humans evolved to conserve energy. That means to also limit spending it. And when you realize this, all that laziness suddenly makes sense.

When things make sense, you can start to engineer change on the basis of some solid understanding.

That’s important because for many of us, we simply can’t learn without knowing why we are the way we are and having some context around it.

So there you have it: You’re forgiven for being lazy. It’s in your genes.

 

No Ego, No Enemy

 

But what does all this have to do with the ego?

This is important:

As human psychology developed, language and stories arrived on the scene.

And that meant chatter.

A lot of which takes place in your mind.

Self-talk about the past, mostly inaccurate descriptions and alternative versions of the present, memories of the past …

It just goes on and on.

And it’s the constant talk that makes focus and concentration difficult to achieve.

Because now instead of conserving energy …

 

You’re Spending The Lifeblood Of Your Brain On Nothing!

 

But when you meditate, you create an escape hatch.

And you can make it bigger and bigger in a relatively short period of time.

Not only that, but you can approach higher levels of “awakening.” These are really cool because you understand …

Oh Wow! I’m Free From All That Floating Junk!

 

And that leads to something extraordinary:

You realize that you’re concentrating at a higher level.

Your focus is sharper.
You’re on fire for the present moment and letting it burn you up in all its glory.

 

How An Unusual Way Of Counting From 1 – 10
Will Increase Your Focus 100x … Or More!

 

Listen:

You don’t have to take my word for the bold claims I’m making. There is so much scientific research backing this up that you could build a new planet from it.

But like a lot of science, all the evidence in the world sometimes fails to make people budge in the right direction. Take the struggle to stop smoking, for example.

In any case, when you meditate at least 4 days a week as recommended here (daily is better), you’ll find that your memory improves automatically. And it’s directly correlated with improvements in your focus and concentration.

Then try this:

As you sit and meditate, count from one to ten.

But instead of doing a straight-up count from one to ten …

Skip the even numbers. Repress them in your mind.

 

The Incontestable Truth About Red Cats

 

Have you ever heard of that question they teach new hypnotists?

It goes like this:

Don’t think of a red cat.

And, of course, it’s nearly impossible to hear that phrase without negating the word “don’t” and thinking of the thing you’re not supposed to think about.

Well, that’s what’s so odd about meditating and counting from one to ten but repressing the even numbers.

You’ll find at first that it’s very difficult to complete this simple exercise.

And that’s because it’s not so simple.

Just as it’s difficult not to think of a red cat when someone commands you not to do so, it’s really hard not to think of the numbers two, four, six and eight when you’re counting to ten.

This simple exercise, when practiced over time into the double and even triple digits, will improve your concentration significantly.

Why?

Cross-Fit Training For Your Mind Never Felt So Good

 

Because you’re basically giving your brain a few kinds of exercise at the same time.

First, you’re focusing on the present activity in a state of stillness. You’re practicing the concentration of governing the body.

Then, in counting, you’re practicing concentrating on tracking a behavior and accurately completing a task.

Finally, in doing all these things, you’re also monitoring your ability to repress things that you don’t want to think about.

And so you’re developing the ability to shut distractions out of your mind.

Best part:

 

You Can Use Your Newfound Focus And
Concentration To Use Memory Techniques Better

 

Seriously.

We’re living in an age where people are so worried about the future.

Unemployment runs rampant and an entire generation raised solely on the Internet is running around with brains destroyed by Digital Amnesia.

The solution?

Sit just to sit.

Count from one to ten.

Learn memory techniques.

Apply them to learning a new language.

Do things that are good for your brain so that you can eliminate any and all fear you may have about the future.

No, the things you need will never come pouring out of the sky.

But the power to manifest everything you dream of rests firmly in your mind.

If only you could concentrate.

Now you know how to make your concentration muscles super-strong.

And it hardly requires any heavy lifting.

Now isn’t that cool? 🙂

12 Responses to " The Ultimate Concentration Combo For Memory Improvement "

  1. Jonathan says:

    Absolutely fantastic honourable gentleman. Thanks a billion!

    I have been teaching my students through your materials, the only problem is that they don’t read very well yet. I am pushing them, now I am going to use this technique as well.

  2. Robby Gonzalez says:

    This is exactly what I needed. I’ve been using the magnetic memory method to memorize some scripts these past few weeks but I’ve really run into issues with concentration. I literally sat there doing everything except what I should’ve been doing for several hours last night, unable to focus. It was very depressing, finally I gave up and decided to wait until this morning… Now I read this post. Thanks so much!

    • I’m glad you found this post, Robby. Please do give this exercise due diligence because it will help you.

      As I mention in the podcast recording version, the science suggests most of us need at least 4 sessions per week to get the baseline benefits of meditation. I prefer daily and have recently started adding in elements of yoga to get even more benefits.

      Briefly, this involves simple breathing and movement:

      1. Breathing in while raising my arms up to the ceiling and then breathing out while leaning/stretching down to touch my toes. I do this at least three times, focusing on filling my diaphragm first and paying close attention to the exhalation process. I also focus on the space between breaths and the silence one can find there.

      2. Repeat this 3x, stretching down one leg at a time.

      3. Same breathing in and out procedure, except this time on the knees and pushing the arms out as far forward as possible during the forward stretch. Again, the focus is on each breath, the space between the breaths and the physical body.

      4. A kind of modified sun dog yoga movement patterned with the breathing.

      Much of this is informed by a recent reading of Happiness Beyond Thought by Gary Weber.

      Also, a lot of my breathing practice has been informed by experiences studying the Russian Martial Art Systema and Wim Hof. Another thing to try that I’m confident is worth your consideration is adding a daily cold shower to your practice.

      As I caution in the post I linked you to, check with your doctor first because trying cold exposure. But it appears to have many benefits above and beyond more concentration – such as creating more discipline.

      And the best part is that all of these practices can be combined together in a habit chain that takes less than 15-20 minutes a day and yet still has a massive impact.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope these additional thoughts help you further. I look forward to learning more about your experience as you continue the journey! 🙂

  3. I love the odd-numbers-technique! Will try, it sounds difficult to do.

    Oh, if we could only shut down our brains for a moment… and the deeper the personality, the more creative, the more troubled we are, the more difficult that task is… Basically, if you have an interesting character, you might be in trouble! But would you rather be a plain character? Nah, not me. Great post, Anthony!

    • Thanks for these thoughts, Alexander.

      You know, I think we all have more interesting characters than we realize. But the trouble is that we suppose that certain fundamentals don’t apply to us because we fantasize that we’re so incredibly unique that the rules don’t apply to us.

      So to spin things in the other direction, it’s possible that the most creative people actually have very “thin” personalities and really aren’t all that troubled. Their creative tasks really aren’t that difficult and what they’ve done is really just mastered the art of getting their personality out of the way so they can step into flow.

      People like David Lynch and David Cronenberg come to mind. Lynch is quite outspoken about the meditation stuff and Catching the Big Fish will be lovely reading for you if you don’t know it already.

      I don’t know if Cronenberg meditates, but the literature is filled with people remarking on what a normal guy he is in real life, despite fountains of bizarre creativity that push the limits. He certainly is an interesting character in many ways, but it all seems to be held so closely in check that he can’t be lying about having a mostly vanilla lifestyle and one that makes the wild inventiveness possible.

      All of this discussion reminds me of one of my original dissertation ideas, which was tentatively titled, “The Myth of the Sick Poet.” Basically it was going to be a numerical analysis based around the question: Just how many of the most creative minds out there really are producing their genius at the expense of living reckless lives? And to what extent are we exaggerating the stories of their madness in order to hide the (possibly scary) fact that most of their accomplishment really comes from simple, repetitive, disciplined and, by all appearances, utterly boring mechanical activities?

      Kafka would be an interesting case here, especially since he is an example of someone who went out of his way to mythologize his own sickness. He did this to such an extent that he may have inadvertently institutionalized the “sick poet” industry. Having studied his writing and his life for many years, it was heartbreaking, dismaying and sadly off-putting to finally visit the museum in Prague and realize that he was the inventor of his torture because he chose to blame the world for his problems instead of accept personal responsibility for them.

      It was a shocking moment because someone whom I had thought was so very interesting was actually a lot like everyone else: hellbent on annihilating the fruits of their own genius. It’s cool that Max Brod saved Kafka’s writing from the fire, but I’d rather wish that he’d been more “plain” like David Cronenberg, been less interested in his ego and produced even more of the amazing stuff he was capable of for the world to read.

      Mine is a futile wish, and there is certainly much to be admired and mined from Kafka as is, but I still can’t help but wonder what the cannon of so many artists and writers would have looked like if they had been willing to be less interesting. But I suppose I’m partial here because I’m doing my best to be as boring as possible so I can maximize the output of useful things for people while I have the assets of time and energy to do so. If counting numbers be the path, count on! 😉

  4. Alex says:

    Thanks for the encouragement and exercises to assist with concentration Anthony. Concentration and focus are essential elements to memory I believe.

    These are issues with which I struggle continually, but ironically enough, practising memory art has helped me greatly to improve both.

    I have found listening to sounds or music is a way of avoiding the discomfort of listening to myself. It’s somewhat like having a conversation, then drowning out the interlocutor’s benevolent voice. Sitting quietly and listening for the still, small voice and practising this counting method may be a simple, powerful way to tap those much needed elements of concentration and focus.

    I hope to add this to my practice.

    Kind regards.

    • Thanks for this, Alex. This is an interesting aspect of music listening I hadn’t considered and will think more about.

      The interesting thing is that I suppose I also sometimes resort to music to push away the discomfort of thought. For example, in a moment of frustration, a good heavy metal album can pound out the noise of an internal discussion that actually merits great attention to its detail.

      By the same token, I’ll have to write more on the use of music to stimulate, strengthen and deepen thought. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of intention. You can put on music to combat thought or nurture it. You can use it flee from thought or deliberately choose to listen to an album from beginning to end as an exercise in concentration.

      To that end, I sometimes do these things:

      1. Throw on album with the intention to listen to it from beginning to end.

      2. Think deeply about the music and track my attention span while listening to it.

      3. Note when my mind wanders away and note the kinds of musical features that bring my attention back (something in the lyrics, percussion, some kind of production effect, etc.)

      4. Practice concentrating on individual instruments for as long as possible.

      5. Practice concentrating on the interaction between just two instruments for as long as possible.

      6. Practice concentrating just on production and design elements.

      7. Practice free association for as long as possible.

      8. Practice just listening to an album from beginning to end without any of the above, listening just to listen.

      All of this links back to 11 Reasons You Should Reread At Least One Book Every Month.

      Just about everything in that post/podcast applies to re-listening to albums from beginning to end. And to that end, I found myself last week listening to Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8 from beginning to end. Although I no longer have the CD of the exact performance my grandfather showed me when I first heard it, through the magic of the Internet, I was able to find it on YouTube.

      It is a profound, delightful and extraordinarily rewarding concentration exercise to do all of the above with this recording and think of all the Memory Palace options at my beck and call from years and years of listening to this performance in different homes and locations.

      And then there are all the glorious thoughts to think about Shostakovich’s life itself, perhaps one of the most fascinating biographies on the planet. And that story about the phone call he received from Stalin while in a New York hotel room …

      Sight unseen, one could not wish for a more potent virtual Memory Palace if you needed one on the fly! 🙂

      • Alex says:

        Thank you for the detailed reply Anthony.

        As I think of great music I am sensing the use of sound in my Memory Palaces, and I can see (and hear) how such powerful mind imagery can be used to augment memory.

        I think for example of “Angie” and am carried back to my school days and dances, friends, faces and places from then, and these are markers for memories.

        Fascinating to ponder how music and memory interplay and can be used to great purpose.

        I suppose, however, that great art (music, poetry, memory, dance, visual, cooking (olfactory)) and so forth, all assist each other – I contend that creativity of all sorts (musical, philosophical, scientific, interpersonal, ad infinitum) enriches all aspects of our mind and memory.

        This is often why I refer to my mental spaces as mind palaces because they encompass more than memory. However, to each his/her/their own. 😉

        Best magnetic regards.

  5. Brandon says:

    Hey, Anthony, this is the post I really needed to hear.

    I can personally relate to you when you said that at times you barely had the time to read a sentence from a book because that is the concentration rut that I am in all the time, particularly with electronics.

    My reading speed is very slow and since I can’t concentrate, most of what I read is understood and forgotten within a day later.

    I have not really started daily meditation because I do not have an instructor nor do I have an idea of what method to use. There are dozens of different kinds of meditation, each having different effects, and I just want to know which one works best from scientific studies.

    Also, how long did it take you to improve your concentration skills after you began meditating?

    • Thanks for this, Brandon.

      To answer your question directly:

      Yes, there are dozens of studies, but the “best” meditation technique is, first and foremost, the one you’re going to use.

      That’s why I mention the “sit just to sit” method taught by Alan Watts that I mention in the video. And that for me was the best method for getting started.

      However, it might not be the best method for you, so you’ve just got to read through a couple of options and go with the one that feels best to you and the most likely to use.

      To take sitting just to sit as a quick example:

      1. Sit just to sit.

      2. Set a timer if it’s helpful. The Tim Ferriss trick is to think about how long you think you can do it and then set a timer for less time than that. So if you think you can do 10 minutes, set your timer for 8 minutes.

      3. Sit for an unlimited amount of time or the duration of the timer. And then just observe what happens without trying to accomplish anything. Just study what takes places.

      4. Later add different activities based on an ongoing study of meditation. It could be the counting trick I mention here or some other things you come across.

      5. Repeat and continue studying.

      Why is this the truly fastest path?

      Because it’s the path that all successful people take.

      And for me, it started helping my concentration the very first time I finally “got” what meditation is really all about: sitting just to sit.

      From there, I’ve kept on the path and make it the single most important event of my day. And like the best of friends, it always pleasantly surprises me.

      Enjoy and keep me posted on your journey! 🙂

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