Improve Your Memory And Concentration With Creativity

| Podcast

concentration and creativity inspirational creativesDo you struggle with concentration and memory?

Maybe even because you’ve been labeled with manic depression or A.D.D.?

I hope you don’t have those conditions, but either way, there’s hope for clearing up any and all brain fog from messing up your memory. And it’s great honor that Rob Lawrence, host of Inspirational Creatives Podcast has allowed me to share his interview with me.

In it, we talk about creativity, concentration, musicianship and how all of it ties into living a life of superior memory.

Note: Quite a few things have changed since recording this interview. Olly Richards helped me fix a Spanish pronunciation problem created by the power of mnemonics and there have been a number of Magnetic Memory Method podcast episodes on Music Mnemonics For Guitar And Piano that have shown development and huge promise since recording this talk with Rob.

With all that said, here’s the transcript for this interview to go with the audio. Enjoy and be sure to read more about Rob Lawrence and get subscribed to the Inspirational Creatives Podcast on iTunes!

 

Psychic Brain Surgery

 

Rob: So do I call you Dr. Metivier or Anthony?

Anthony:  Well that’s always a very interesting issue. I really don’t know. I mean get a kick out of being called doctor, and it certainly circulates around but it’s not necessary. My dad gets a kick out of it too. Actually, it’s funny that you mention brain surgery. Because for years and years he didn’t really quite understand what I did in my Ph.D., so he used to call me a brain surgeon, which there are some elements of that involved in what I do. It’s just psychic brain surgery.

Rob: Yeah, there’s some technical accuracy in that. Have you always been interested in memory and imagination?

Anthony: In a roundabout way. I basically wrote my first story that I remember, when I was in grade four. By story, I mean something that had a solid beginning, middle and an end. I had an ability to remember stories, as we all do, and loved to retell stories, tell jokes and retained stories in my mind. I’d often watch a movie and then try to rewrite it from memory. Yeah, I’ve always had this interest from a very young age.

Rob: Stories are a fascinating concept, something that we tell our children and seem to be something that we’ve done since the beginning of time. Do you think we’ve lost our ability to remember in the way that we used to?

 

Why You Have Not “Lost” Your Ability To Remember

 

Anthony: I don’t believe at all that we’ve lost it. But the extent to which we use it has certainly changed.

There is a kind of running myth that back in the day in Ancient Greece and in Matteo Ricci‘s era everybody used these memory techniques that I teach. They all memorized thousands of books and this kind of thing, which isn’t true. I would say that the ratio of people who use memory techniques then and in comparison with now is relatively the same per capita let’s say. It’s really just a growing thing.

We’re in a renaissance of memory techniques right now. It seems to be happening at the precise moment that technology appears to be taking over or our memory needs, which I find deeply fascinating that this renaissance is taking place now at that technological moment. There are reasons to believe that actually technology is expanding our memory abilities rather than diminishing it. That’s a topic to be explored. It’s very conceptual, and I don’t have any hard data behind it but it’s something that I feel is being enabled by technology rather than the common statement that our memories are being eroded by technology.

Rob: That’s fascinating, an absolutely fascinating thought there. So what are the key factors necessary to be able to succeed in improving your memory and using these Magnetic Memory Techniques that you teach?

Anthony: Well there are a number of factors, but it all begins with the desire actually to improve your memory because without that there is nothing to ground it upon.

Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, always said that the fantasy is better than the reality. That’s not exactly true in this case because you use fantasy in order to create reality, but nonetheless, there is an effort involved. A lot of people don’t have the necessary drive in order to get into it.

One of my jobs is to give them that drive. So that’s a key factor there. In many ways, that is what my job is. It is simply to open the door for people, give points of access and points of entry.

Beyond that, there’s the willingness to experiment, which is a key factor, the pleasure in imagination is a key factor and also a kind of wish or desire to have this information and to use it. Because if you’re not going to use it, you can have memorize all the things in the world and it won’t do anything for you.

Memory champions, for example, can memorize thousands of digits that they forget half an hour later, but they have that particular use value in the competition in of itself. It’s always got to have some sort of use and some sort of pay off. The more you can identify with that use and that payoff is, then the more you have that necessary key factor to succeed.

 

Don’t Miss The Motivation Train!

 

Rob: You’re talking about motivation there, and you’re also talking about trying to find ways to get started exploring these techniques.

Anthony: It’s not particular to the field of memory training. All areas need points of access and entry points. With music for example, people who would be perfectly capable of becoming very good musicians don’t get the point access that enables them to enter the kingdom. It could be that they didn’t get the right teacher or they didn’t get enough sleep or enough Cheerios or whatever the case may be.

They just missed that train which is very sad because we all have musical capacities. That really is, I think, one of the key factors of all education is helping people find that entry point, as many as possible, because it’s really sad. We all have the ability to do anything really. We just need the prophets and the leaders who are able to show the way.

Rob: I’d love to come back to that point about music because I’ve heard you’re a musician. Before I do, with your work, what are some of the key access points that you help people with in terms of being out to get a footing on these Magnetic Memory Techniques?

Anthony: Well for me the big thing is the Memory Palace. The reason why I focus on it so specifically and teach so much about it is because it’s not only the fundamental memory technique, but it is the memory technique that you can use all of their memory techniques inside of. If you can get going with that, then you have enabled yourself really to have a success with every other memory technique.

One of the other reasons that I focus on Memory Palace is because everybody knows where their toilet is. Everybody knows where their bed is. Everybody knows where their kitchen is. Because of that innate ability to recall locations with great detail, just conceptually knowing the distance between different areas and where they’re located in space in your home or in your workplace, you can then leverage that power and place information by the sofa or on the desk and recall it at ease by simply mentally going to that location.

That is a major point of entry if you can learn how to use that technique correctly, instantly use it for something that is interesting to you and makes a significant difference to your life. Because so many people encounter memory techniques and they say well memorize your grocery list. Nothing in the world could be more boring than memorizing a grocery list, which is another reason why people don’t find a point of entry.

But when you say memorize the lyrics of your favorite song that somehow evade you are using a path from your sofa to your office desk to your dinner table, well then that’s interesting because you get a great deal of pleasure out of it. Now you can sing along with that song. Now you can annoy your spouse or your friends by singing it over and over again or whatever the case may be. That makes a difference in your life. Those are two points of access, the very specific technique and then how you’re going to use that technique to get a victory, that make you feel good. You see the possibilities for what else you could memorize.

 

Two Kinds Of Memory Palaces … Take Your Pick! 

 

Rob: That’s fascinating. So there is this concept here of Memory Palaces and are they real places or these places that we make up in our minds?

Anthony: You can make them up in your minds or people use video games. There are all kinds of possibilities in what I call virtual Memory Palaces.

I typically do not recommend that people use them at least not at the beginning stage. Yes, you want to ground your Memory Palaces on real locations, places that you’re familiar with and generally places that you have a positive association with. I have worked with people over the years who suffered abuse in a home, and they just keep coming up against those memories when they’re trying to use it as a Memory Palace.

You could use a Memory Palace technique to help cleanse those bad memories, but until that that has taken place it’s really best just to use places with positive associations or at least neutral associations, which is another technique that you can use to have a clinical approach to things so that positive and negative memories don’t really play. For example, high schools have both positive and negative memories. If you can get a neutral approach or a clinical approach, then they’re pretty safe to use and very detailed so that you can get a lot of action out of them.

 

Familiarity Is The Key

 

Rob: Is there an advantage to using places that you already know you know?

Anthony: What you are going to do is actually create a journey through a home, or a school, or a church, or a movie theater or whatever the case may be. You’re going to follow that journey the same way every time.

It’s not exactly like following a movie through your mind, but it’s more like following a play through your mind because you restage it every time. It’s going to be slightly different. But nonetheless, a movie or play, you’re going to move on that journey in the same way.

I mean there’s later techniques were you leap frog around in order to overcome what’s called the forgetting curve but in general you follow that same path just as you would basically follow of the same path from your door to your driveway. I mean you could walk around in circles around your car, but normally you just go from the door to the driveway to the door of your car. Because that is so ubiquitous, so every day and so commonplace, there’s nothing to remember or forget about it.

You just know that intuitively and intentionally because it’s what you would do in real life anyway. Instead of just walking passively alongside the rosebush, now you have a giant clown who is eating your slippers to remind you that they need to go buy new shoes, or to help stimulate a line of poetry, or a foreign language word, or whatever the case may be, you’re actively using that location instead of passively. It’s just something that you pass by every day anyway.

Rob: It sounds to me like something we intuitively do as children when we’re younger and we recount stories. That thought is inspired by something you just said there which is the clown eating the slippers. It’s part of the technique to exaggerate and create these kind of images in our minds.

 

How To Experience Cartoons In Your Mind

 

Anthony: That’s a fundamental part of it. So on top of the journey through a Memory Palace, every place that you want to memorize a target piece of information you create an image in order to encode it. Then when you go along that journey again in your mind you, decode it.

The way that you remember the coding is by making it big, large, bright, vibrant and colorful, and on top of that, including some kind of zany crazy bizarre action. The more that you can focus on doing that, which in the beginning can be a bit of a challenge for some people, but gets very easy very quickly with some exercises and just practice, you can shock yourself into remembering anything.

The more that you have cartoon-like silly engaging actions between characters, like an action with a reaction the way you would have in Wile E. Coyote cartoons with the Road Runner, or Pinky and The Brain or whatever these cartoon characters are. They are actually quite rigorous with one another. One would even say violent, but in a cartoon way, then they’re going to capture the interest of your mind’s eye in the way that a car wreck on the highway causes the rubberneck effect and you have to see it. Then you decode it and you get your target information back. If you do it a sufficient number of times, then you don’t need the image anymore. You have affectively learned and memorized the information and it’s yours.

 

How To Harness The Memory Power Of Emotions

 

Rob: Wow! That’s pretty fascinating. So it sounds to me like these techniques are more objective than they are subjective. What I mean by that is you were talking earlier about positive and negative emotions. I guess one of the assumptions I made automatically before I spoke with you today is that you use some kind of emotional power to help you remember certain things. Would that be an accurate reflection or is it a bit more complicated than that?

Anthony: Technically you’re using an objective process to create subjective experience that relates to an object memory or some piece of information that is a kind of object. It’s a living breathing object. Yes, emotions are involved. I mean if you see your spouse smashing something with a hammer, there’s going to be an emotion involved.

That emotion can be anger. Some of the images involve kissing which can involve romantic elements. You do want an emotional element to it, but you want it objective in the sense that there is a strategy involved. So in the same way that Hugh Grant might not be in love with Drew Barrymore and yet they’re kissing and projecting that emotion, you’re going objectively to create an emotion through deliberately rigging images in your mind.

 

The Real Reasons Why Anyone Can Improve Their Memory

 

Rob: Got it. So is this something that anybody can develop in your experience?

Anthony: Everybody can experience memory improvement. They’re already doing it at some level anyway. So it’s just a matter of understanding how that your imagination works, which is pretty simple and easy to do, then leveraging it and then developing it in certain directions. But even if you don’t develop it, you still have the ability to do this at an intermediate level.

There’s no elementary level to it whatsoever. You can go from intermediate to an advanced level. Anybody can do it. I mean I have podcast interviews on my podcasts with 10‑year-olds, 8‑year-olds who are using these techniques. I have personally trained 88‑year-old individuals and people in their 80s, 70s, 60s and 50s. There’s even very interesting research going on right now by someone in Kasper Bormans who is using the Memory Palace technique to help people with Alzheimer’s remember the names of their family members and getting results with this which is absolutely incredible.

So there are curative properties for people who have brain damage. They’re also using Memory Palace techniques for what’s called chemobrain when cancer patients have to take a lot of chemotherapy and they lose their memory, and they lose general cognitive abilities. So they are getting results with this kind of memory exercise as well. So anybody can do it.

Rob: Wow! That’s pretty incredible and something I was going to ask you about. But it is pretty inspiring to hear that these techniques can be used, or similar techniques to this, can be used to help improve the memory of people that have health conditions, which are affecting their memory. That’s pretty inspirational. What are the common applications that your students tend to use? You’re talking about very young people there and very old people. In your experience, what do people tend to use these Magnetic Memory Methods for?

 

The Most Common Applications Of Memory Techniques

 

Anthony: The biggest application in my personal experience as someone offering these is with foreign language vocabulary and to a certain extent grammar principles. This has been tremendously successful because it’s one of the hugest pain points in the world. People want to learn new languages. They want to improve their own language, but words just don’t stick without either massive amounts of repetition or some kind of technique. There are all kinds of techniques in the world for using your memory to help you better recall words. But there is no specific strategy that was developed just for word retention and recall. So I developed it. I developed it out of my own personal need, shared it and it just became wildly successful because so many other people have that pain point. That’s really the largest part of my training is specifically for the purpose of learning languages.

Rob: So I’m guessing you speak different languages?

Anthony: I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise because I just don’t have any kind of natural ability the way some people do. But of course, some people don’t have a natural ability. They are just using certain techniques in their minds that relate to what I teach, but without a kind of actual apparatus. I never it was very successful despite a deep interest in languages throughout my life.

But being able to build a number of Memory Palaces and put large amounts of vocabulary with a basic understanding of grammar, vocabulary being like a kind of petrol or gas that you put into an engine, and grammar being a kind of engine, then you can get very far very quickly. You just need to add speaking, reading, writing and listening to the mix. Things happen very quickly.

Rob: So can you give me an example of perhaps one of the languages that you’ve begun teach yourself, and can you talk me through how you’ve perhaps memorized the phrase or something like that with these Memory Palaces in mind?

Anthony: One thing that I’ve been developing for some time now but that I really love is Spanish. So imagine you came across the word abuela. Abuela means grandmother, and you wanted to memorize that. There are really not any cognates with English. There’s no relationship grandmother and abuela. So you’ve got to find a point of access.

One thing that you can do is split the words in different pieces. So there’s ab-u-ela. One thing that I like to do is use famous people. So ab reminds me of Abraham Lincoln and ela reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald. I imagine that Abraham Lincoln encounters Ella Fitzgerald dressed as his grandmother and she is saying boo like a ghost.

So now, you have ab-u-ela. You can add abuelo for grandfather just by having some Jell-O or whatever the case may be. Now you’ve got that word and that is on the bed in a Memory Palace that I have. Then just move to the next one, the next one and the next one so that you’re collecting words.

Just imagine that there are a number of words in Spanish that start with “ab.” Abraham Lincoln moves from place to place to place interacting with different other people. You can pick up a lot of words really quickly. Then again, using them in speaking, reading, writing and listening, you’ll encounter them, you’ll hear them, and you’ll use them. Everything is just absolutely fantastic. You might even call it Magnetic.

 

How To Memorize Grammar Concepts Fast

 

Rob: How does it work with grammar without getting into too much detail because I imagine that’s a slightly different ballgame.

Anthony: It is and it isn’t. A lot of grammar has to do with conjugations.

I mean grammar is a big world. One of the things is verb conjugations, which are very difficult for people. So imagine that you create a Memory Palace for say the “to be” verbs. Spanish has two, so let’s just deal with one. You would have ser. For me, I used Hamlet serving desert because ser is in desert.

It’s not a one-to-one correspondence but it works for me. You’re rarely going to find one-to-one correspondences. There are a number of conjugations of “to be” like you are, I am, they are. You have a sufficient number of stops or stations in a Memory Palace and you just see Hamlet helping you remember all of those different conjugations. So ser is to be. Yo soy is I am. Tu eres is you are and so forth.

So yo soy, Hamlet is injecting the cake into a bathtub of soy. Tu eres is this giant statute of Aries and he is throwing the cake at that statue’s face and so on. So that’s one way for verb conjugations. You pick any verb that you and you conjugate them. But you also generally pick up the way that the regular and irregular verb contributions work. So after a while you really don’t need to do that for every verb. You just need the verb.

 

How To Develop Unconscious Competence

 

Rob: I’m guessing that over time through practice that you become unconscious competent at this. I guess the language just starts to come naturally does it?

Anthony: Yeah, especially if you do a kind of alphabetization that I was suggesting because, not in all languages but in many languages, you get a feel for how the structure works. So in German, for example, there are a lot of words that start with ent.

That generally, but almost always, suggests something about the next part of the word. Also with words that start with ber. Whatever follows that generally has something to do with what that ber characterizes about the language. That works in English as well with endings and with some beginnings.

You get a feel for it. You get to a point where you can guess with some accuracy what a word means. Of course all language learning is experimentation, testing. Do you get a result from the use of a word or is it making sense when you read. Of course, words have multiple senses. But language learning, like memory itself, is not a fixed piece of glass. It’s something that is wet and movable. You just go with the flow, and you use memory as a kind of surfboard to navigate through torrid waters.

Mnemonics for Music Memory Hacks In Development

 

Rob: Got it. I’d like to turn our conversation towards creativity, and come back to this point about music and appreciate that you’re a musician. How long have you been a musician? Have you been a musician your whole life?

Anthony: I played guitar in my dad’s lap. It is one of those classic images where the father is helping you press down your fingers on the guitar.

After that, it’s kind of a long story, but when I got to band class in grade six they didn’t want to let me into band class because I didn’t pass the proper tests. I persisted anyway even though I was tone deaf or whatever those tests were that they had. I persisted. I wanted to play bass guitar and they said you can’t. We’re not going to buy an amplifier for the class just so you can play bass guitar.

I said well what’s the next closest thing and they said trombone. I went with it. Then I played trombone until I got grade nine, and I was able to finally able to get a bass. Then I just started in bands and went from there. I ultimately wound up playing in a band in Germany and going on tour and having lots and lots of fun as a result. Bass has always been my thing, but I’ve also played sitar, flute, banjo, a bit of piano and a little flute that I got in Prague once upon a time.

Rob: I read, I think it was on Amazon actually, that you were memorizing Bach’s compositions on cello. Can you describe to me a bit about how your methods apply to creative endeavors, for example, playing or more writing music?

Anthony: I’m learning the Bach cello pieces on bass guitar for performance on bass guitar. One of the things that really help is if you are able to create an image for each string.

So E is for Ernie. A is for out Al Pacino and so forth.

Then you can have each fret have a sound attached to it or an image. There’s something called the Major Method where each number is a sound. So 0 is “sa,” 1 is “ta” or “da,” 2 is “na,” and so forth up until 9. Then you can create combinations. So if something where at the twelfth fret, for instance, that would be tan because 1 is “T” or “D”, and 2 is “N”. You don’t even have to be as specific as the string if you don’t want to.

But if you know something’s on the twelve fret, and it’s on the E string, then that is Ernie getting a tan. Or it’s Al Pacino getting a tan. It’s just a quick thing where you can look at a piece of sheet music and you can navigate quite quickly and establish not needing to look at the sheet music and not really needing as much dedicated practice looking back and forth, closing your eyes, playing, and looking back and forth.

It really helps. But you need the basis first. If you are trying to do this while you’re learning the memory techniques, then it probably would be more of a barrier than anything, or if you were trying to use it while you’re learning music it would probably be more of the barrier than anything. But if you have both of those things in combination, then it’s a beautiful thing.

 

The Real Secret Of A Solid Memory Is Sleep

 

Rob:  So get some music theory first, learn the memory techniques, then try and put the two together.

Anthony: Basically, but I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from trying to do both at the same time. My feeling is that having learned music myself and having learned to do dedicated practice playing with that rote learning style, I can see that they would jar with each other.

Rob:  Yeah and how reliable have you found these techniques in terms of your music and being able to memorize such compositions?

Anthony: Well I’d say that it’s basically an 88 to 98 percent success rate. A lot has to do with how tired one is, how well fed one is, how much the bodily needs are taken care of so they can use your attention, which is going to be true one way or the other. Also, it has to do with motivation and intensity. When I was playing, I just came back to Germany from Canada and I needed to be prepared to go on the road with The Outside.

Rob: The band.

Anthony: There wasn’t a whole lot of time for me to think F, G sharp and all that stuff, and try and get it. I just needed to know that those were the notes and as quickly as possible. So it really helped in that in that case rather than feeling around. Plus we were tuned in C#, and that doesn’t really go with my ears that well. I really needed to know what the notes were, I couldn’t hear them as well, and as I mentioned, I sort of have had historically a difficult time with learning by ear. It’s really helped me out to pick up things fast that way. It also helps build concentration.

 

The Bare Minimum Time Investment In
Memory Techniques You Need To Make

 

Rob: So for somebody very new to these techniques, how long would it take you to start learning and to start implementing them and getting results?

Anthony: Well you really could be pretty well master level by the end of the day if you want to.

Rob:Wow!

Anthony: This is this is well known. There have been all kinds of people. In the UK there is Mark Channon who used to have a TV show. He would have regular people learn these techniques, perhaps not in a day, but over a week, and then they would go on his show.

They would compete against taxi drivers with the knowledge. They would do better than taxi drivers who have been on the streets for twenty years reciting routes from their minds after a week’s training or so. It’s really not rocket science.

It’s just actually wanting to learn the memory techniques, wanting to use them and having a good instructional basis upon which you can learn them. That’s really ultimately the problem. Because people just don’t find the right teacher, and there’s all kinds of people who are the right teacher. You just kind of need to read multiple books sometimes, or take multiple trainings in order to get it, but you can get it. Once you’ve gotten it, it happens real fast. Most of my people are ready to go within two to five hours and get great results.

 

How To Overcome Memory Challenges

 

Rob: Amazing! What are the common challenges that people new to these memory techniques face in your experience?

Anthony: One of the challenges with respect to how I teach them is with getting enough Memory Palaces. People feel that they don’t have enough because one just won’t do it.

You really need at least two dozen Memory Palaces for the kind of language acquisition method that I teach. But unfortunately, people feel a kind of Memory Palace scarcity. I try my best to remind them that everybody has been to more than one school, or at least most of us have been. There are shopping malls all over the place. There are stores all over the place, restaurants, cafes, etc. You just need to go out in the world and you’ll find more than enough Memory Palaces.

To this day there are Memory Palaces on my street that I haven’t had a need of, but if I ever am I’m running on street screaming because aliens are attacking, and I need some special formula to create a death ray gun for them, there’s a bakery that I’ve never been in, and I’m going to go use it.

To me it’s a non-issue but people do struggle with that. Then the other thing has everything to do with are they relaxed. That’s one of the hugest barriers to creativity. I always include a module on using relaxation techniques. Because the mind wants to create barriers, it wants to say this doesn’t work. It wants to say I’m not creative. It wants to say that I don’t have an imagination. It’s wants to say I’m not visual. The ego comes up again and again and again. Relaxation is a very key tool for just overcoming the voice that says this is impossible. That has helped a lot of people.

 

Why Relaxation Solves All Struggles With Mnemonics

 

Rob: That’s really interesting you say that because about the relaxation techniques there, and the mind creating barriers. I think there is a whole conversation in itself that we could have there. You mentioned earlier health and well-being. How do these methods help to improve concentration and creativity?

Anthony: Well they are fantastic. I mean they saved my life because I was in grad school and I couldn’t concentrate.

I still have concentration issues because of a medical condition, which is bipolar disorder. I had to take a lot of lithium at that time. It was just unbelievable the cement that was in my head. I was responsible for very technical French philosophy and literary theory. It just wasn’t getting in.

That’s when I really discovered these systematic memory techniques and started to use them. What I found is that it was irrelevant how good or bad a day I was having, because they were grounded on that relationship between where my coach was and where my cupboard with cookies was.

It just didn’t matter what my mood was. It didn’t matter how sick I was. It didn’t matter how healthy I was. I could just recall the information because I could lean upon the simple architecture of my house.

This new level of focus and concentration happens for all kinds of people. They find that this is reliable regardless of how they feel. Because you learn to concentrate differently, and like I said, you lean upon leverage what you what you already know.

That’s the basis of all memory techniques because you’re using where you are already know. It helps improve concentration simply by using what you are already concentrating on, and then just amping that up a little bit.

Rob: How did you discover these Magnetic Memory Methods?

Anthony: I’m not aware that I was aware of them before that I needed them. I don’t have any distinct memory of knowing about memory championships or memory techniques.

What had happened, as I mentioned, I was in this really deep clinical depression, having to take these medicines I was unfamiliar with, and completely thrown into a storm because of it, not only from the condition that required the pills, but the pills that address the condition.

I was avoiding life basically. I was going back to an older love of mine, which are card tricks. I found that, as many people do, I could concentrate just fine on something that pleased me. You don’t get far in advanced card tricks before you encounter the holy grail of memorizing a deck of cards.

There are two types in magic. There is the kind where you make it appear like you have memorized a deck of cards. Then there is the kind where you actually have memorized the deck of cards. There’s a third kind where you have memorized a stack, which is a preordered arrangement. It also makes it appear that you have memorized the whole deck but you have actually memorized just a portion of it.

Now I got fascinated with the idea of memorizing the whole deck because I really like to do advanced magic tricks. As it turned out, what I thought was impossible was incredibly easy.

I learned card memorization and from there I never really looked back at it again as a form of study. I just started using it. I saw instantly how I could apply that to my graduate studies. Then years later, I saw instantly how that I could apply it to learning a language.

I also used it to learn Biblical Hebrew, which was part of my graduate studies and needing to show proficiency in another language.

But it wasn’t really something you could become fluent in, Biblical Hebrew. So it was some time later when I was in Germany. I thought wow if only I could find a way to use these techniques to get a lot of speed going for myself with German because I love this language and I want to be able to speak it.

One day it came to me, I was sitting on the porch (a favorite place for concentration), and I thought what if I had a Memory Palace for every single letter of the alphabet. That’s where it all began. That was where my first book began. Sometime after that, when I was teaching some students how to do this, and they said oh you have to write this down for us. So I did and then that became the first book. That’s basically the journey. It’s just been incredible. But it all came from deep, deep need. It really did save my life. It turned things around in a big way.

 

Why Memory Techniques Improve Everything In Life

 

Rob: Yeah and how’s it improved your life in terms of you were talking earlier about your bipolar. How has this improved your life in that aspect?

Anthony: Well it’s a confidence thing in many ways. It’s reported often the frustration with feeling better, and probably better said feeling like a normal person, because you can feel pretty good when you bipolar disorder.

But feeling better in terms of being able to contribute to society and maintain a normal life from lithium, but the cost is a certain zombie effect and certain straight-line nothingness.

Also, this poor concentration and sludge in the mind, and also some of the antidepressants that go along with that, or the antipsychotic medications that go along with that also do devastating things to your personality. I managed to get onto a different medication altogether called Lamictal or lamotrigine that is for people with epilepsy but it also helps maintain mood.

That has limited those side effects, but they’re still there from the condition itself. These techniques are amazing in terms of the confidence. Because I know no matter what mood I’m in, I can walk into a place and if I need to, I can not only recite some poetry, but I can tell you what page it’s on.

That’s an incredibly empowering thing. It’s not necessarily as fast as I would like it sometimes because I still have to access these images and so forth, but it is there. As long as I’m relaxed, I am 100 percent confident that I can do it. Spring is a really bad time, but I’m going to be presenting at the polyglot conference in May in Berlin, and I’m going to do it basically from memory. They require that I have a PowerPoint presentation, which is a bit sad.

Nonetheless, I know that no matter how turbulent the spring is for me, I’m going to be able to go there and do that speech. That’s incredibly empowering. There are other things. I mean just being able to memorize a Buddhist meditation ritual, which incidentally ancient Buddhist rituals seem to have used something like a Memory Palace technique in and of themselves.

That’s great. It was a path for me into meditation. I’m not really spiritual in the sense of beliefs or anything like that, but spiritual in the sense of taking care of myself and connecting with nature and meditating and all of these things. That came from memory and developing approaches where there is a clear enough state of mind to use them at their highest possible abilities. I’m really grateful for memory and to memory for introducing me to all those different areas.

Rob: How different is your life now compared to before you knew about these men techniques and developing these memory techniques?

Anthony: I’m a lot less stressed out, and I’m much more creative. I was always creative, but the creative capacities have increased incredibly. Some of that is due to the fact that I write. I’ve written several novels. You just simply can’t get help but get more creative when you continuously write.

Often when you have these burned out periods where you feel like you’re not being creative at all and everything is off, and when you look back, they are the most creative periods of all.

But memory has really helped with that because one cool thing that happens is that I can remember what I’ve written a lot better, which I never used to be able to do. I used to have to go and look back. What was that character’s name? What were they wearing? What town were they in and so forth?

But with improved concentration, I’m able to manage my own stories a lot better, which is really great, the metaphors and turns of phrase that characters use. It doesn’t have to be fiction writing either. You can memorize copywriting headlines, for example. You can have a cheat sheet, a crib file, or a swipe file in your head, and that really helps with writing headlines or writing sales letters. It’s just fantastic. That’s one very practical application.

 

The Future Of Memory Techniques For
Concentration And Creativity 

 

Rob: Fantastic. I’m losing track of time actually talking with you here. What’s the most exciting aspect of your work for you right now?

Anthony:Well, really, it is when people who have joined the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass or read one of my books email me and they say I was really skeptical about this. I didn’t think it was going to work. Now I’ve got two hundred words in my head.

People have reported much more than that. They use very specific figures like 70 percent more fluency. Some guy wrote me a couple weeks ago and it said thanks for the donuts in the subject line. He had added another notch to his belt because he bet his coworkers that he could memorize some extraordinarily dry codes that have to do with hookup parts for RVs or something like this in the United States, and he bet them donuts that he could.

I don’t think that’s good for his health, but nonetheless, it’s an absolute demonstration of what’s possible. I love, not just the actual accomplishments, what it has done for the people and their confidence. What it has done in their ability to take that now and apply it to any goal that they want to achieve.

You just hear it when I speak to them over Skype. You can see it in their emails with the exclamation marks and the all caps and just the phrasing and the excitement in how that they write about it. You know that they have been transformed and that is the most exciting thing is transformation. Also, knowing that it’s not short term is that if they want to continue using these techniques it just gets better and better and better from here and there really no ceiling to it. That’s really the best thing of all.

Rob: Yeah, that’s pretty inspirational actually. Just hearing how it transforms people’s lives in that way and how it can help them with their work. I can think of multiple ways it could just make your life more efficient and more enjoyable in the sense. What has inspired you most recently?

Anthony: One of the things that has really inspired me, even though I have left the band that I was playing in, is just watching the development of how that they are constantly getting gigs, constantly out on the road and promoting the new album and making videos. Also, bass players and guitarists have a special connection.

Sergio Klein is the guitarist at The Outside, and just watching him develop as a teacher and what he does with respect to creative problem solving.

He’s moving into the online field where he’s making videos and putting a course together about arpeggios. Just watching him also learn marketing and some of the packaging that you need to together in order to offer trainings to the world is just really inspiring because he’s taken to it in an extraordinary way. I know that he is such an amazing teacher. He’s such an amazing guitarist as well.

He recently joined Criminal, which is a great South American medal band. He’s just accomplishing his dream. He told me something so extraordinary. He went played with them in a festival in Spain. He said that for the first time in a long time he came home with money, which you know is just awesome. He was in London also recording with them. He doesn’t have to pay to go there. It’s just a real testament and an acknowledgment of his skills as a guitarist. I really see a great future for him.

 

Where Preparation Meets Opportunity, There Is No Ceiling

 

Rob: They say success is preparation plus opportunity. You mentioned developing marketing online products, which is something I know you do. How has that aspect of the journey been for you?

Anthony: It’s been great. I mean that’s what I do. I don’t have a job or anything like that. I had to learn it and have to experiment. Every day is an experimentation and in one way or the other. Being able to have multiple levels of trainings available for people has been great because there are so many different learning styles. I have audio books, Kindle books, paper books and video courses. The video courses contain audio. Basically, being able to serve a wide spectrum of learning styles is really incredible and helps spread that reach much farther than it would go if it were just a book. That’s really great.

Rob: What’s next for you? What are you working on right now?

Anthony: Well I’m putting together some new video courses. One of the things that I’ve experimented with that I didn’t think was going to be as successful as it was, is to go and make video courses about older books on memory that are in the public domain.

I started with Aristotle. I thought, oh this is just for me it’s not going to be something that is anything for anybody else but I want to do it anyway because I love Aristotle’s essay on memory. So I’ll make a video course about it and see what happens. It was a wild success. I had never launched a course that did more business than any of my others on the first week. It was just unbelievable.

I’m going to continue making these little mini courses about some of the ancient writings on memory and keep doing that because that’s obviously of interest to people. Of course, I’m able when working with Aristotle’s essay on memory I’m able also to talk about Plato on memory and different aspects of the philosophy that go along with that.

So in other words, I have never been able to use my Ph.D. much. As a professor, I did have a couple gigs here and there and a teaching research grant. But I sort of got off that track. Now through video teaching I can use a memory as the basis for teaching philosophy in the things that I trained for.

That’s what’s coming up next, more of that and more memory training. I have endless amounts of work that I can do. I have a mastermind group where I’m starting to do monthly webinars just for the people who belong to that and go really deep into many of these areas that aren’t in any memory training books and extend out into other areas where memory touches our lives which just about everything. So I got my life’s work now. It’s just a matter of what am I going to do next.

Rob: Fascinating. That’s fantastic. You mentioned Aristotle. Have you read Brian Clark’s post about Aristotle and writing?

Anthony: No, but I’ve got to look it up!

Rob: I read it last night and I thought it was quite good.

Anthony: Yeah, I’m looking it up. Aristotle’s Top Three Tips For Blogging?

Rob: That’s it. Yeah, Top Three Tips For Blogging. That’s was the one. For anyone that’s interested, where’s the best place for them to be able to find out more about you and your work?

Anthony:  Well the best thing is go to the special video course I have for you.

Rob:  Great. Well thank you so much for your time today Anthony. It’s been absolutely fascinating to speak with you.

Anthony: Thank you very much for having me. Let me know if you ever need help with your memory.

13 Responses to " Improve Your Memory And Concentration With Creativity "

  1. Badr says:

    thank you sir for this !

  2. BennyB says:

    Thank you for the podcast and congratulations on your matrimony adventure.

  3. Andrés Mauricio says:

    Great content, thanks for sharing this interview, really let me understand a lot of your memory technique.

    • Thanks for letting me know you liked this, Andrés. I appreciate it.

      This interview is quite old and there have been some updates to how I work. But the basics are all still largely the same.

      Hope to hear from you again soon! 🙂

  4. Alex says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Thank you and Rob for sharing a very inspiring story!

    It seems many of the modern mnemonists (and very likely the mnemonists who came before us struggled with the idea of arranging order out of Chaos.)

    It seems to be a recurring them in the thinking of philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, and of rhetors such as Cicero and Quintilian. The Judaeo Christian, Hermetic, Amerindian and diverse ethnologies around the planet have mused on the universal theme of Chaos versus Order.

    The theme even goes back to before Aristotle and Plato. Ancient Egypt has its memory mythologies with Amon chiding Thoth for having given Man writing: for it will not improve their memory but in fact weaken it (my paraphrase.)

    Our personal Chaos may stem from physical, psychological, religious, emotional, social, economic, political phenomena. Or indeed, it may stem from none of those challenges at all.

    However, trying to order things too much interferes with the positive aspects of Chaos: creativity, imagination, spontaneity: the Big Bang of creation as it were!

    In your story, as with many stories of modern, Renaissance and ancient mnemonists, I infer that Man needs to order his world … but not too much. 😉

    Too much order, it seems, will squash the creativity of the vivid imagined memory places and of the vivid imagined dynamic imagery.

    Perhaps, we might strive for memory paintings in our mind palaces, rather than for memory snapshots, because memory paintings may help us better evoke the emotions and senses that we need to “magnetize” our objects and concepts.

    Kind regards

    • Thanks for this great assessment, Alex. I think you’re right on the money.

      You also address one of the core concerns that many people have when they approach memory techniques for language learning: the fear that it will only create more chaos. This concern is, as you point out, not only legitimate, but at the core of humanity.

      I’ve always liked Nietzsche’s discussion of these two forces through the lens of Apollo and Dionysus in The Birth of Tragedy. Have you ever had a chance to read it? 🙂

      • Alex says:

        I have not read the book, but I will look at the translation: http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/tragedy_all.htm

        I am currently reading “The Art of Memory” by Dame Frances A. Yates.

        The wonderful irony about creativity and memory work is that the more you memorize, the more you create!

        Since reading your blog, I have splendid material on my reading list. The more I read, the more I want to memorize. It’s a magnificent self-nourishing ourobouros. 😉

        I think a blog post on your favourite memory books and why you like them may be a possible blog idea, Anthony.

        Kind regards

        • I’m glad you’re reading The Art of Memory, Alex. I have notes prepared for a mega podcast on it to save for the next anniversary of the podcast.

          In the meantime, I don’t have a post yet on my favorite books, but I do have a video on why I don’t have such a list. It’s called My Best Memory Improvement Book Recommendation.

          Highly recommended. 🙂

          • Alex says:

            Thank you Anthony: an excellent recommendation indeed!

            As per Rob’s comment, the creative discipline and practice of the art, and the desire to know how others have practiced the Art of Memory in the past, and do currently practice it, inspire me to look deeper into it and into some of the older texts on mnemonic methods.

            There are so many facets and aspects of memory practice, ranging from the spiritual to the banal (all of which, of course, attest to the magnificence of memory – a true gift to us all!)

            Well, I am very much looking forward to your podcast on this seminal work on the history of mnemonics and the life of Giordano Bruno Nolano! When will the MMM podcast have its anniversary?

            Kind regards

    • Rob says:

      I’m really glad you enjoyed listening to this chat and hearing what Anthony had to say, as much as I enjoyed putting it together with him, Alex.

      Inspired by your thoughts on order and chaos. They remind me of the themes of freedom and discipline, which often surface when discussing living a creative life.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Alex says:

        Thank you Rob.

        It seems a paradox when one compares freedom with discipline, does it not? Often those who are more disciplined with themselves can access greater freedoms and breadths of expression.

        I was having this discussion recently with a lady who used to dance with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. She said those who have mastered the basics (in her view, of classical ballet,) and have the creative discipline and drive of good work are the ones who will continue to create in the long run. (She is in her 80s, and is very inspiring, indeed!)

        This, too, appears to relate to mnemonic methods as well. The more time you spend on the art, the more pleasure you tend to derive. The more disciplined you are, the freer you tend to become.

        Kind regards

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