One of the most common questions I receive is… how do I find Memory Palaces?
What if I don’t have a car?
What if I live in the forest?
What if I can’t get out much?
No matter who you are or where you live, you can use the Method of Loci.
All you need to do is keep an open mind and experiment.
And it’s with these principles in mind that I can tell you I especially admired this recent letter I received from a member of the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass.
What Do I Do If I Don’t Have Enough Memory Palaces?
It’s a good question, and we’ll look at the nuances in depth on this page.
And in this video, I will introduce you to the Infinite Memory Palace technique:
Here’s a variation on the question I often receive, followed by a number of suggestions:
I’m going to apologize in advance, this email is going to be a bit long, and… I am very sorry for that. I would be, however, very grateful for your help.
I have to say this… I watched a lot of your videos, listened to a lot of podcasts, and…I honestly am pumped to get started really seriously learning Japanese vocabulary.
At the risk or sounding like I’m obfuscating things…I just have a few quick and simple questions, involving the “Art of Association” itself, so to speak.
Should one prefer memory palaces, or images?
If you have looked at Japanese before, you probably have noticed that its spelling is in no way similar to western languages, so I came up with two possible ways to memorize vocabulary, but, I’d rather do things the right way, the easier and more efficient way, right from the get-go.
So, in idea one, I thought of treating each kana as a sentinel, to give each one a specific image that will be tied to vocabulary. I’d create 26 memory palaces, a-z, and store words based on their first letter when transliterated. Then tie the actual first kana image, to the rest of the word. That way I can have words like yasai and yokoshiro in the same palace, with distinct “sentinel” images attached to them, to give away the first kana itself. This idea uses less palaces, but more images. And is, as I think of it, “Palace-Conservative”.
The second idea, (Don’t worry, there is only two), is “Image-Conservative”, and, the general idea, is to use a single palace for each kana. Now, there are variations to this, really, in variation 1, I only looked at the hiragana, (because katakana uses the same sounds but different symbols), and would store words based solely on the first kana in the word. (no transliteration). Including the Datuken, I would require 70 palaces. If I included “Combo-Hiragana”, I’d require 106. (Roughly). To blow this up even more, in variation 2, if I were to treat the katakana and hiragana separately, to remember the proper spelling of words (Like, which kana syllabary to use), I’d need roughly 212 palaces.
I’m brand new to Memory Palaces, and the Magnetic Memory Method, and really, the “Palace Conservative” idea sounds more intuitive to me, but, haha, this is coming from a guy who thought rote learning and spaced repetition systems like Anki were the only way to go. And I really, really didn’t like them.
Memory Palace Acquisition, a problem?
For me, yes. Let me explain: I’m 21 years old. I live in a town of 5000 people. Nearest town has maybe 500 people. Nearest city, of 250,000, is 400km away. I have no car. I have no drivers license. I also have a night job, and sleep during the day. I have spent 13 years of my life here, about 8 years of my life in that small nearby town, and 4 months in Barrie. I don’t remember those 4 months very well, I was only 7, and…well, I was extremely depressed, and in short, that’s the reason I ended up back in this town to begin with.
Anyways…during the Palace Recitation exercise I was only able to come up with about 60 palaces. And I really thought about this, with a lot of time and effort. Occasionally, 1 more might pop up, but…I believe I have pretty much maxed out now. And I really don’t want to sound pessimistic, I love this method thus far, and I can see myself using it forever, and ever…and ever. But, until I’m able to move out to a city, where I can actually just “go memory palace hunting” so to speak, I’m stumped about what to do. I don’t know if you ever lived in a small town before, but just going out and getting new friends and doing all that, is really…it’s very hard to do. For example I can’t just, you know, burst into the little high school we have and start socializing with a bunch of the kids there. It’d be…inappropriate, to say the least.
I played one of my favourite video games, Ocarina of Time, as remade for the 3DS back in 2011, and spent about an hour, really visualizing and exploring one of the “Dungeons” in the game, both as a visualization exercise, and because I may use it as an imagined memory palace.
I was thinking of using many, many more buildings I have found in video games as well, but…recalling these structures adds a layer of complexity on top of storing the images…so, I wanted to know how “practical” it would be, in general, to save up a bunch of imagined memory palaces?
What about large imagined memory palaces?
Okay, so, recalling large, real buildings, is fairly easy. Our brains are tuned for that. But what about…large, imaginary buildings?
I know it sounds like a no-brainer, like, “it’s imagined and it’s large and so there’s more to try and remember about the layout, so of course it’ll be harder to remember!” But, I was wondering if it’d be more practical to memorize a large imaginary palace, (Take Ocarina of Time’s Shadow Temple or Spirit Temple for example), versus, trying to memorize the layouts of say, ten or fifteen small or medium sized imaginary buildings?
I suppose it depends on the volume of related information I’d want to store in it, but…if I wanted to learn about multi-threaded programming, and store it all in imagined palaces, should I store all the info across several imagined palaces, or contain it in a single, large one?
Not crossing your path, and long hallways…
On the note of not crossing your own path in memory palaces. During my “Virtual tour” of the “Shadow Temple” in ocarina of time, I realized there are many hallways and, “leaf” rooms. Or, really, a hallway that leads to a room, and that room leads to 5 more connected rooms, but the only way to get back, is to go down that hallway again. Does that…count as crossing my path? Or does it only really count, if there are stations in that hallway?
Okay I’m done bombarding you with questions for now! I hope you can answer, and…I hope they are good questions (Well, there’s no such thing as a bad question, really) but, I hope they are at least…entertaining questions or…something positive. I love you videos, your method, your website, (I also love that it is mobile-friendly), and your podcasts. I listen to them while I’m at work!
Prose Version Of My Answer
Thanks for your questions!
Do you know of Giordano Bruno? Check out his book On the Composition of Images in particular. He had some great memory systems and I’ve been able to look at some archival documents and will be putting together something special over the coming year based on his work.
Yours Free: A Private Course With Cheat Sheets For Becoming A Memory Master, Starting From Scratch.
>>> Click Here For This Special Free Offer.
He’s really important because he shares ideas for placing Memory Palaces inside of Memory Palaces. I would also suggest you check out these Memory Palace books.
The long and short of the answer is this:
Use The Alphabet
A lot of people miss this step.
But if you just sit down and complete one of the fist Magnetic Memory Method exercises, it should be easy to find an abundance of Memory Palaces.
Start with the letter “A”. Think of people you know with that name. And stores that start with that letter.
Just about everyone on the planet knows the location of at least one Apple store, for example.
You might be rusty in the beginning, but that’s why this is an exercise. For more on the importance of the alphabet to your success in using the Memory Palace technique, see:
Don’t Make It A Numbers Game
Many people write to me and say, “But I have to memorize thousands of words! I’ll never find enough places for that.”
First of all, whether you’re a child or an adult, everyone learns one word or phrase at a time. It’s really important to relax and realize that everyone goes through this process.
Next, people get worried about the volume they’ll need before they even know how to memorize ten words.
Why are you worried about thousands of words before you can memorize a few dozen?
Here’s the reality:
As you use the Memory Palace technique, you can:
- Re-explore the alphabet and your past for more options
- Pay attention to the world around you and create more Memory Palaces
I always go back through my past. Just the other day I remembered the time my dad picked me up at a bus station in British Columbia.
I can now use that bus station as a “B” Memory Palace. Or I can use it for a “G” Memory Palace (it was a Greyhound station). Or I can use it for both.
In sum, don’t slow yourself down by worrying about needs you don’t have yet. There’s plenty of time to come up with all kinds of Memory Palaces.
If You Build The Skills, You Can Reuse A Memory Palace
Another problem people face is that they give up before they have the skills fully developed.
Reusing Memory Palaces isn’t always the best strategy, but in language learning, you have an exception. Here’s why:
For every station you use in a Memory Palace for one word, you can later add a phrase that uses that word.
This means that every single station can evolve from one word to fifteen or more, depending on the phrase or sentence.
This is one way to “reuse” a Memory Palace and scale the technique.
You can also reuse some Memory Palaces entirely. Let’s say you memorize a number of verbs in a Memory Palace and they’ve all entered your long term memory. You can then go in and use the same Memory Palace for nouns.
But if you don’t have the foundational skills first, you can never do these things.
So focus on developing the foundational skills. It makes so much more possible as your brain relearns the meaning of “location” and “space.”
Regarding The Memory Palace For Language Learning
It’s great to hear that you’re excited for learning Japanese. And I like what you’re thinking.
The honest answer is that you should try both of your ideas. At first glance, I think your sentinel idea is going to work better, but I still think the only way to know is to at least give a percentage of the 212 Memory Palace version you are thinking of a try.
Because it might open the floodgates in your mind in a way that will never happen if you opt for just the one. I’m going through the same experimentation phase with Kanji and I simply have to do the extra steps of trying different approaches I come up with or risk never knowing what will
a) Work best
b) Stimulate new ideas and results I could not anticipate without at least giving it a try
There’s a third way, however, and one that I don’t think you should take because you’re obviously advanced enough not to need it. And that’s to either use Romanji or the principle of homophonic transliteration to create your own Romanji.
Ultimately, this can create more problems than it solves and I only recommend it to people who need to get their foot in the door in order to at least have speech recognition and the ability to speak. But since you want to read, spell and have such a high order of thinking already working for you, go with these two options and settle on the one you like best. You’ll figure it out in short order.
With respect to life north of Barrie, Ontario, I lived in Toronto for 10 years, so know your neck of the woods quite well. I’ve driven through at least 5 times throughout my life. I’ve also lived in places smaller than you, though admittedly Silver Creek is within 20 minutes of Salmon Arm by car. Of course, I had to hitchhike a lot to get there, but it was still not that big of a deal and I did wind up walking more than a few times too.
In other words, I think I understand your situation and have to say that 60 is an impressive number given the circumstances. But I think you can probably stretch it out further.
About using the school you mentioned, often schools have evening programs and public events. It’s Christmas time, so maybe you can go to the Christmas concert or take a one-day seminar. There’s probably a community events calendar available online that you can look into.
Failing that, you could just go to the principal’s office during the day, tell him about the Magnetic Memory Method and say that you need a new Memory Palace. Tell him that you know it sounds creepy, but if you could make an appointment a 4 or 4:30 after you’ve woken up and all the students are gone home to have a guided tour, that would be great. If you’re upfront with people, they’re usually very helpful, no matter how strange your story may be.
Again, Most People Give Up Too Soon!
Have you tried the local hospital? You should be able to walk around in there without anybody even asking about your presence and get lots and lots of stations.
I don’t know if you’re a religious person or not, but there are often tasty snacks after the Sunday service and churches make for great Memory Palaces. I have several.
Have you covered the gas stations and restaurants? Admittedly, these aren’t the greatest, but a gas station with a restaurant can work wonders just by sitting for a cup of coffee.
Finally, when I used to walk those long stretches, I encountered many barns and I can still remember them. Even without seeing the inside of them, I know that they all have four corners and have used these corners to memorize information.
What If I Don’t Have A Car?
I didn’t have a car myself for a long time. Then I had one, and now I am without a car again and have been since 1998.
I walk or take the bus everywhere. If it’s safe for you to do so, it’s a perfectly fine way to find more Memory Palace options.
You can also save up for a taxi, or take a city tour. Many cities have walking tours too and they are a great way to gather these powerful mnemonic devices.
Using An Imaginary Memory Palace
About virtual Memory Palaces, I really don’t find them practical for most things for the precise reason you’ve expressed: they add a layer of complexity. More than that, you have to rebuild them while you’re staging and decoding the associative-imagery. It makes no sense in most cases.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with it. You most certainly should. I’ve had some interesting successes with them, especially with memorizing poetry and other verbatim texts. This is because the text itself serves as a kind of aid to memory because it’s a chain. So one thing you can do is practice Virtual Memory Palaces based on video games using poetry first and then adapt them for other purposes such as vocabulary.
This represents an extra step, but I think you’ll find that it pays off in the long run. You get good with using Virtual Memory Palaces with something relatively trivial first and that lends itself to the practice and then switch the ability you’ve gained over to something more difficult. It’s kind of like how a baseball player practices swinging with 3 or 4 bats in hand so that they have more power and agility when they gear down to just one bat during the game.
Peer vs. Enter
About crossing your own path, the solution here is to not enter the rooms. Just glance into them. I call this at certain points in the Masterclass the “Peer vs. Enter” technique. And it literally is just that: peering in through the door and casting your mental eyes around either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the nature of your journey and then moving on. It helps a lot of people a great deal.
The other alternative is not to travel your Memory Palace at all. You don’t have to be a figure that moves along the journey. You can be like a god who lifts up the roof and then peers down at the layout, looking from room to room and station to station. There will be path-crossing issues with this too, but it is another way to think about traveling through a Memory Palace.
Back to Virtual Memory Palaces – there is a full video about reusing Memory Palaces related to this topic in the MMM Masterclass. It goes through some of the more advanced techniques and will give you some ideas.
You’ve also given me some ideas of illustrations that I can make to better demonstrate the Peer vs. Enter technique. As you know, using a Memory Palace with these optimized methods is one of the best memory care home solutions we’ve got, so I’ll work on these and make them exclusive to the Masterclass.
I hope that these notes answer your questions. Please do be in touch if you have any more and let me know when that something special I put into the mailbox for you the other day arrives.
To sum everything up, the answer is to be both logical and rational about this journey at the same time. Anyone who can walk down any street will probably never run out of Memory Palace options.
P.S. Visiting Giordano Bruno nearly killed me. LOL!
Further Resources Mentioned In This Episode
Giordano Bruno on Wikipedia
Interview with Scott Gosnell about Bruno’s memory techniques
Scott Gosnell’s translation of Bruno’s De Umbris Idearum: On The Shadows Of Ideas.
Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze
What is an Author? by Michel Foucault