Jonathan Levi On Reducing Your Resistance To Learning


jonathan_levi_anthony_metivierDo You Know Your Learning Duties And Obligations?


Put some thought into that question. It could well change our entire life.

Because, yes. YOU are obliged to learn.

And even though learning takes time, energy and can even cost a bundle of bones you’ll never see again …


You Cannot Lose When You Learn The Right Ways

Download the MP3 of this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast and have a blast reading the transcript below. And if you’ve got something to say, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Anthony: This is Anthony Metivier. You’re listening to the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, coming to you live from Tel Aviv with my good friend Jonathan Levi. Jonathan has been on the show many, many times before. You know him from SuperLearner.

This is a universe where you can learn how to learn faster with greater comprehension, greater memory of what it is that you want to learn. Every time that we speak, he’s been on the Magnetic Memory Podcast so many times, it’s just absolutely incredible what I learn. It is incredible what you can learn from Jonathan Levi. We’re going to freewheel it a little bit. We’ve got some background noise and so on.

But it would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t just jump on the fact that we’re together hanging out in Tel Aviv and have a talk about how you can learn and memorize more information, do so in a way that feels great, is a load of fun, reduces stress from your life and just makes everything better so that you can make the world better, which is what this is all about really. What would you say to that?

Jonathan: Yeah, I would say that I really like – I was actually editing a video today from the last time that you were in Tel Aviv and it resonated. You said something that I often say, and I think a lot of people in our very fortunate position to help people and educate people for a living often say.

I think Tony Robbins says it a lot as well. He says you have a unique gift and it is your duty and obligation (we say it in Branding You), it is your duty and obligation to figure out what that gift is a soon as possible and then arm yourself with the tools that allow you to deliver that gift. I think the sooner you do that the more quickly you realize your potential in life then you realize your purpose. I mean it ties all the way back to Viktor Frankl. Like all you need in life to be happy is a purpose, a worthwhile purpose, and then that just sets your trajectory in life of what you’re going to do, skills you’re going to acquire, the things are going to learn about, the people you’re going to be with, it all comes from that purpose.

Anthony: So then riddle me this, if I can quote the old Batman movie. Why is it that some of us know our purpose and some don’t? For those of us that do, what’s like an example from your own life that got you to know your purpose, and how did you take that knowledge of knowing your purpose and turn it essentially into a self-sustaining engine that just drives you towards doing what you’ve accomplished? It’s the fire that burns itself, or you know the burning bush. We’re here in the land the burning bush.

Jonathan: We are in the land of the burning bush.

Anthony: How does that work?

Why You Need To Seek If You Want To Find


Jonathan: That’s a tough question. Why do some people know and some people not know? I think the first question is why do some people seek and some people do not seek? I think a lot of people go through their lives not seeking more. I call it the prefix approach when what you really want is the a la carte approach to life.

I think in order to really be seeking and searching for your purpose, your mission in life, you have to take the approach that my life is a la carte in the sense that I can pick and choose from certain things. I can pick and choose if I want to have kids. I can pick and choose if I want to work in an office. I can pick and choose and so on. I think that’s a big component of why people struggle to find their purpose.


Why The Cost Of Stability May Be Killing You


But I think the other thing is we somehow along the way through the industrial era have kind of all settled on this stability over excitement mentality. A lot of parents raise their kids go get an education, get a good stable job, and that’s wonderful. Stability is great especially if you’re raising a family, but I think we need to get over this mentality that stability comes at the expense of excitement. You can have both. I know a lot of people who have super stable jobs, who are working at a very stable corporate job, and they’re doing their life’s purpose. They’re really excited about what they’re doing. So I reject the idea that you have to give up on a purpose and just go to a 9:00 to 5:00 that you hate.

Anthony: Right. Now let’s make this even more localized to a particular memory subject because a lot of people that say they want to learn a new language right. They think well I work from 9:00 to 5:00. I am with my kids until whatever time late night, I have six hours to sleep, then I get up, and then I go to shave and shower and go to get in the car, and so on and so forth. They have endless reasons why that they can’t not only just spend time learning language, but use the memory techniques that I teach and that you teach in order to be able to get the components of language into memory. Like where do they just begin, given what you said? Like where’s the entry point to getting started and then keeping going so that you have a different mindset for it and actually execution of learning given the situation they’re in?

Jonathan: Learning anything, well learning kind of in the direction of your purpose you mean?

Anthony: Yeah I mean if your purpose is to say you know you need to learn a language in order to fulfill a particular purpose.

The Best Way To Know When
Something Isn’t Right For You



Jonathan: Sure. So a few different thoughts there. One is I find when you work on things, when you find that right thing, the resistance goes away right. Like you can drag your feet on projects for years, and you and I know we’ve dragged our feet individually on projects. That’s a pretty good indication if you have to like force yourself to do something, it’s a pretty good indication that’s not you’re calling and not your purpose. I think you need to listen and be true to yourself and ask yourself what your motives are to do certain things. With that said, I mean there are pragmatic considerations and concerns around generating time which you know I talk about a lot in my productivity course.


Exactly How To Make More Time
Magically Appear In Your Life


How do you make time? I think for most people the psychological boundary of busyness and how much time they actually have is much more significant than the actual pragmatic realistic constraints on their time. How many of us waste that twenty minutes waiting for the bus? How many of us waste that time sitting on the bus? How many of us, while our kids are brushing their teeth for school, are sitting there like flipping through Facebook instead of reviewing whatever it is. In your case, memorizing a deck of cards because that’s part of your purpose is empowering people with memory. I think we need to be realistic actually about how busy we are and actually how well we’re using our time. I’m well known for tracking everything I do, and I can tell you on any given day how productive I am in percentages because I track how my time is being spent on my computer.

Once you start doing these things, you start looking at yourself and your life through an optimization mindset. What you discover is quite surprising. Like those five-minute breaks that you spend on Facebook amount to an hour and a half of time, and unless and until you track you have no insight into that. That would be my advice is like be honest with yourself. How busy are you really? The first thing where I was trying to get is like why is it that you’re not making time for these things, because that’s also a good indication. When I decided I want to learn piano, which is part of my mission, right. I want to inspire people to learn anything. I can’t do that if I don’t play musical instruments.

It’s amazing how much time I make Anthony. It’s amazing. Like I put off breakfast some mornings, because I’m just like you know, I’ll have like a quick breakfast and a smoothie, so that I can use my hands to like play piano while I wait for my first call in the morning because I love it, and I’m so passionate about it. And the first thing I wanted to talk to you when you came to Tel Aviv was like dude how are you memorizing this? How can I figure out these chord structures? The night you came, we talked for two and a half hours on the beach about mnemonic techniques for music. That’s a pretty good sign that that’s like serving my purpose and my mission even though I’m not a musician. I’m pretty damn excited about teaching other people and empowering other people to lean learn musical instruments, or whatever.

Anthony: All right, well let’s talk about that because I’d been talking about it on the podcast with John McPhedrine a few weeks ago who has just brilliant ideas about it of his own accord so forth, and I thought you know I am not done with these ideas. I haven’t fully gone through it and everything, but I’m going to get this off my chest because I’m so excited about it. I’m going to do it partially as like a tribute to you, a gift to you.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Anthony: And with deep acknowledgement to John for his contributions to music mnemonics, and also just to get something out that I’ve been thinking about working with and so forth. By the same token, you were yes I get it. You understand exactly where I’m coming from. But at the same time, you are deeply unsatisfied by it, and you said you know, I think it the there has to be a better way kind of thing. So take us through two things. First, you know what is it from a SuperLearner perspective that you’ve been doing, like the top two to three things that have gotten you where you are with music. I sat and watched you play which is amazing. Then what is it you know, either with specific or just general references to what I told you that night, that sort of deeply unsatisfied you, and what you found maybe interesting about it or whatever. I mean just jam on it.

Jonathan: So first, I have to say, I’ve spent so much time with you in the last few days in person, I haven’t listen to the podcast episode. But I feel like I got a pretty good idea based on what you explained to me. There were a few things that I thought were absolutely brilliant like using the major method for notes and stuff like that I think is really clever. Like on the fretboard, I think it’s really clever. It’s a lot of work but then memorizing all the notes on the fretboard is going to be a lot of work. I’ll first say my difficulty, and then I’ll say what I’m doing.


The Raw Truth About Methods Versus Systems


My difficulty is, and this is at the core of how you and I teach differently, I like systems because I’d rather be 80 percent to 100 percent of the people, and you like methods because you’d rather be 100 percent flexible to 80 percent of the people. I think I cater to an audience who wants to know precisely. Students ask me all the time how often should I pause in making markers or visual symbols, we call markers. How often should I pause? Every paragraph, every two paragraphs, they want exact specific numbers.

The truth is it depends. It depends on you. It depends on your working memory capacity. It depends on what you’re reading obviously. It depends on how long the paragraphs are. But my students seem to want systems, and they want things nailed down very, very specifically. I’m of the belief that you need to know the rules really well before you break them. Like for example, a non-native English speaker could never start a sentence with and, but for Gary Halbert and Anthony Metivier, who have a perfect command of copyrighting an English speaking can, and know how, even though that’s wrong technically.

It’s like you need to know the Magnetic Memory Method really well to break the rules. But I would believe that your approach is make your own rules. It’s a method, not a system. I think that was my difficulty. I mean you’ve seen how I run my business as well. Like everything is a system. We know exactly how many characters are allowed to go into this title, and we know exactly what settings to use on every single blog post we do. We have the exact processes that are never deviated from. I think that would drive some people crazy, but that’s kind of how I operate. It’s the German passport, what can I say.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to accelerate the learning of music. First things first, I needed to do was memorize each of the keys as in the physical keys on the piano. I needed to know what each one of them were. So I came up with a nice little mnemonic technique where each one looks like a certain thing. For example, the “D” is in between two other white keys, which face inward towards it. So that, to me, as someone who speaks Spanish, wasdentro.

 Dentro: in between, and the one next to it to the right was “E” which for me is it’s facing backwards into the cluster, “espalda” which literally means back as in physical. You’re back, not backwards and so on and so forth. You know the “F” key is facing forward into a cluster. So that’s “F”, and that’s how I did that, and within you know two or three minutes I could look at any one and know exactly what it was. I mean that’s easy stuff.

I’m using essentially a very similar way that you are to memorize the songs essentially. I’ve been using that with guitar for some time. I’m still trying to figure out a lot of other stuff. I’m doing a lot of like brute force learning. Not just reading music, but also figuring it out on my own, and just understanding like what different intervals sound like. So one of the things we teach in our courses is this idea like brute force learning. A lot of people will just go to a piano tutor, and then just do the piano tutor’s homework. I’m like watching YouTube videos, memorizing songs that I would never be able to read in sheet music to get familiar with the finger movement. I’m writing out sheet music as I hear it. I’m doing all different kinds of multifaceted approaches so that it’s not just me, the book and the piano tutor. It’s a holistic approach to learning.

Anthony: Now how are you doing that systematically though?

Jonathan: That’s a big problem for me I haven’t really conquered. I’m doing it kind of as I feel, and really what I’m doing is I’m using it as a frustration avoidance mechanism. Like when I get really sick of playing Jingle Bells, which is something I can actually read because it’s very easy. Then I go to a really hard song that I know is going to take me about ten seconds to figure out each chord as it’s written, because I haven’t even started learning chords.

That kind of breaks my frustration and creates a new frustration. When I get tired of that, you know maybe in the next session what I’ll do is I’ll just sound something out, or I’ll watch a YouTube video, which just shows me which keys to press. Then later I’ll reverse engineer it by looking at the music. Ironically, it’s not a system. It’s a method, and my method is go until I get frustrated, but if I still want to keep playing, jump from thing to thing to thing to thing to thing so that I am still getting hours, because I get really frustrated super fast playing Jingle Bells a hundred times.

Anthony: Well, the reason why I asked that and it wasn’t meant to be to be a nasty thing to do. One of the things that I think makes us interesting people to follow and listen to is we’re one hundred percent transparent about the things that we do. We’re out there. We’ve got our heart on our sleeves, and one of the things that I always say, when I talk about it being a method and so forth, is I also always say one is the most dangerous number in the world. You need multiple teachers. You need multiple exposure to how people do things in multiple ways. You don’t teach how to learn music yet. But I’m really fascinated about how you think that you could turn what you’re doing, exploring, your mixing system with method and so forth, how you could turn that into a systematic approach that matches what you already teach systematically in SuperLearning.

Jonathan: Well I think the closest thing to a system that I’ve seen is your use of Major Method. Then I really like the idea, I know you’re not huge on PAO (person, action object), but I really like this idea of you know much music is either three fourths time or four fourths common time, so I like this idea of having PAO for three fourths time and PAAO (person, action adjective, object).

How To Make Metaphors Part Of Memorizing Music


For example, C D G E, I would have C as PAAO. So C could always be Charles Manson chewing on crunchy capers. If C is the first piece in that, then it would be a Charles Manson. Then the next one is D, which would be David Bowie diving into deep dragons or something like that. Then I would use the diving. Charles Manson diving so on and so forth. Then you just create a visual symbol, which I’m sure your audience knows all about and then you put it into Memory Palaces. Now here’s where you and I differ. Up until that point you and I somewhat agree. You believe that you should vary every single time the P, the A, the O. I say like let me just learn C, D, E, you know A through G, have one PAAO thing.

That’s a system versus a method. So for me it’s always Charles Manson chewing on crunchy capers. So there is your system, and then again, where you and I would differ is I would want to system that says the first verse is always in this corner, and then the chorus is always in a corner of the room, and so on and so forth. The choruses are always, the refrain is always in the bathroom. I’d want something like that, so that if I ever just want to jump in at a certain point in the song, I think that would drive you nuts if I’m not mistaken.

Anthony: Actually, I think that this is a good a good discussion point because I think people misunderstand what I mean by system versus method. Because the kinds of systematic things that you’re talking about, and you know PAO, and I don’t like PAO and all that sort of stuff. It’s not so much that I don’t like PAO, it’s just that like when you’re using major method, major method actually is not a system. It is a method right.

Jonathan: Fair, yes.

Anthony: So when you’re doing something like what you’re talking about, what I think is so exciting, and what my mind leaps on, and I would instantly adopt systematically, is you mentioned Charles Manson and David Bowie. Both of those guys have strong ties to the world of music. So what I would do in a systematic way is say to myself as I’m developing memorizing music, every character comes from the world of music.

Now that’s now you’re getting into semantics whether that’s methodological or systematic. But if you said that it must be someone from the world of music, then you are giving yourself an aid to recall because if you’re searching for something, you instantly already have a hook. It must be someone from the world of music. So who could it be? Well it’s there’s only so many notes in the scale. So there are a lot of systematic things in the Magnetic Memory Method. But why I insist on the methodological thing is because a lot of the training out there comes from people who develop the techniques for competition. The material that you memorize in competition lends itself to systematicity.

Jonathan: Right, it’s always the same competition, the same events and stuff like that.

Anthony: But foreign language learning does not lend itself to systematicity. Especially not when you learn languages online.

Jonathan: That’s fair.

Anthony: There are, as far as I know, no real substantial language learning competitions and that’s because the margin for cheating would be so high because one could pose as not knowing languages.

Jonathan: That and it’s so hard to test actual fluency. You know I mean. It’s hard to define fluency much less test it.

Anthony: I’m glad these things came up because I think that again it just sort of reinforces my pedagogical philosophy that one is the most dangerous number that you will ever know, and you need multiple teachers. That’s why I like to go and study from you, for example, and be around you and study you because you challenge my assumptions and my presuppositions. I grow and I think and I apply and I implement and so forth, and I’ve gotten faster at certain things that I do.

Also, you’ve broken down certain walls of stubbornness against all odds because I’m a cranky professor sometimes. I surprise myself. So I really encourage people who are listening to this you don’t know Jonathan or you know you have come across him, but haven’t dived in and just gotten into the SuperLearner way of doing things, to go and do that. My only caveat being that you implement. Because it doesn’t matter how many people that you study from, if you’re not taking action on what they’re teaching you, then it’s not going to go anywhere. Who is someone that you’ve recently learned something from where you went from this is a concept or an idea or a process and you leapt on it, and then you got a result. What comes to mind?

Jonathan: Wow!

Anthony: I mean maybe there are multiple things.

Jonathan: You put me on the spot there. Let’s think. Someone that I have immediately put something into practice and it is just worked. I am going to give a shout out to our head of marketing, Mr. Steven Pratley because I wrote out this whole webinar thing. I wanted to host a webinar or for my audience to educate them.

Basically, my goal is to reach a million people if your audience doesn’t know. I want to teach a million people how to learn more effectively. One of the best ways to do that and still be able to pay your bills is do a free one hour webinar which teaches them you know a lot of the basics and gets them up and running. I can get that in front of a million people and then at the end you offer them to join your premium training so I can also afford to advertise and send that out to a million people. I’d written like these slides. Steven was like look, this is good, but let me show you this webinar that, I think it was like Frank Kern did, one of the folks that you admire so much.

He sends me this thing, and I just read through it I’m like whoa. This goes through, you as a story consultant will love, the whole story. Why this works this way and how this works this way and it’s not you know that the hero’s journey. It’s brilliant. I put it in a place. The next day I just wrote out all the slides and boom, boom, boom, and I think we’re going to be delivering a similar version of that to your audience very shortly here. Boy, did it work. People were in the chat. They were going nuts and they really appreciated it so much more than they would have if it were just my boring presentation. Like here are the top three tips that you could – so it worked really well. We were very fortunate to have a few people join also our premium training and they’ve been enjoying it really well because they’ve had this nice primer to get into it. That I think would be the example.

How To Put A Knife In The Heart Of A Memory Expert


Anthony: I’m glad that you raise that because one thing that I’m always itching and burning to talk about, and it’s a very uncomfortable subject or at least it’s often received very poorly, and it can lead to something that I find so extraordinarily paradoxical that I can’t quite understand it. It’s this. We are rewarded handsomely for the work that we do. When we do promotions, we do our best to help people understand the value that we offer and to compel them to take action so that they can get the kind of results to lead the lives that they want to lead.

But to lead the lives that they want to lead, how that they want to learn at a higher level and be able to remember more, and do it in ways that are fun and so forth, the strangest things happen. I get multi-paragraph emails of people who say, “You know man, I was just so skeptical of your stuff and it’s there’s certain things about your marketing that just kind of you know rub the wrong way and so forth but I took a chance on this and it’s just unbelievable what happened. You know, in six weeks I memorized a thousand words. I just finally am able to learn in a way that’s fun, and I’m remembering stuff. It’s just changed my life.” On the other hand, emails come in from people, and I’m not going to quote this person, but you know someone swore at me. They basically said in a couple sentences that I’m completely out of my mind. That they hate me they wish that I would go to hell.

Jonathan: That’s pretty offensive language.

Anthony: I don’t want to give that person who may or may not be listening right now some feeling that they have power or whatever, but it puts a knife in my heart. The reason why is because that person obviously needs the same help that the person who succeeded needed. Why is it that some people that come to these webinars that we do, which have different levels of free training based on where you may be at, why is it that instead of turning the channel when it’s not for them, they feel that they have to throw a stone, be filled with hatred and try to destroy as opposed to just turning the channel? Or, taking action and giving something a try. We give these extraordinary guarantees. What’s going on here?

Jonathan: That’s interesting. You know what’s funny is, I often have to be given the advice that I give. I’m going to give you the advice that you give which is great, that’s awesome, because I think it’s Gary Halbert who says, and you introduced me to Gary Halbert, who says if you’re not pissing a couple people off then you’re not being provocative enough. I would love for everyone to love me. I would love to never get an email that says hey you kind of look like a sleaze bag in this video.

But the vast majority of people are getting impacted because it is out there, because I’m telling crazy outrageous stories and stuff like that. I mean also, you can learn so much from those folks I think because it just allows you to tighten up your game. Eventually, you take enough feedback, and the reason we have a master class is because I took enough feedback from people saying this is unclear, this was boring the way you recorded this and that’s constructive feedback I guess. More constructive than like you know you look like a blank and blank in a blank and you probably blank your blank. But you take enough of that feedback, and you become airtight which is pretty cool.


The Moral Obligation To Teach Memory Skills
Once You’ve Learned Them



Anthony: Another reason why I wanted to raise this topic is because I think, and I talk about it all the time, is that if you learn memory techniques and you use them you are morally obligated to teach them to other people.

Jonathan: Agreed.

Anthony: I think that a lot of people would like to be able actually to make a living out of a passion that they have. One thing that Dave Farrow pointed out when he was a guest on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, there are a lot of people out there who teach memory techniques who actually aren’t qualified to be teaching them because they haven’t gone out and actually accomplished anything from those memory techniques. I’m not a memory competitor, but I wonder if you would talk a little bit about what you’re feeling is about that. How do you get to a point where you are satisfied that you could teach something that you’ve learned? You should become a SuperLearner to the extent that now it’s time for you to become a super teacher.

Jonathan: Sure. I struggle with this myself because I don’t use a lot of the memory techniques that we teach. I mean I use them but I’m not going up to people and memorizing their credit card numbers and stuff like that, and I don’t even memorize, to be honest, my own credit card numbers because I change credit cards every time there’s like a new offer and it’s just proven to be useless to me. But at the same time, I do memorize. Someone sold me a lock at the store the other day, and he was joking with because he asked what I do. I was like I teach memory.

He’s like okay, I’m taking out of the package. I’m not giving you the manual with the code. He like just flashed it to me, and I still remember it. I’m not going to say it now in case someone steals my bike again. I still remember it because I just created a Major Method system for it. I use the techniques but not maybe as much as I’d like to. I think my approach to that is why not. I should start using them just for giggles to learn music. That’s why I’ve started piano.

To learn languages, I do actually use them quite extensively, but I don’t memorize cards. I think I should. I think I should because I talk about it and I don’t use PAO as much. I think I should because I talk about it. But to answer your question, just to finish on that a little bit actually, but I do speed read quite a bit. I do learn quite aggressively. I do take on learning projects. I’m learning three instruments and two languages right now as we speak. I struggle with the parts of the course that I needed to put in there to be complete. Do I use them enough really to proselytize them?

With that said, I believe in them. I know that they work, and when I do use them, they work extraordinarily well. So even though I don’t have a Memory Palace for every single book I read, I do use spaced repetition and I do highlight in a certain way, which is kind of a SuperLearner way of doing things. When are you good enough to teach these methods? I think actually, and this touches on the brute force learning thing, something taught is something twice learned. One of my best techniques, do you remember what I was reading when we were in Berlin together?

Anthony: I don’t even remember observing what you were reading.

Jonathan: We didn’t have much time for reading, but I was talking your ear off about this book, Sex At Dawn. Well, I’m not even talking someone else’s ear off, but whatever book I’m reading at the time, I’m usually talking people’s ear off about it. I was recently talking to you about Stephen Hawking and like how you mind blowing all this stuff was. I think the same is true of learning memory techniques. Like you not only have an obligation, but you’re highly incentivized to share everything you learn.

I try to talk with you as much as I can about different things that I’m learning. I try to talk with all my friends. We talked about mnemonics for music as I mentioned. The thing is you learn something, you go out that night and you happen to be chatting with friends, share that knowledge with them.

First off, it is way more interesting than talking about Donald Trump or political gossip or whatever. It is way more uplifting than talking about whatever godawful event happened you know across the world in some terrible attack. You’re spreading knowledge, you’re spreading wisdom and you’re reinforcing your own learning.

I would hope that anyone who’s taken my courses or your courses is going around and when people say, “Oh sorry. I forgot your name. I have a terrible memory,” they stop and say, “You don’t have a terrible memory. You don’t know these powerful things called mnemonic techniques.” Then explain because that’s a way more interesting first conversation with someone than what do you do, and where do you live and all that junk that we’re also tired of answering.

Anthony: I’ve certainly had many of those interesting conversations. Without going a long spiel, but give the people listening to this podcast your assessment of what you’ve seen as me being someone who does practice these techniques and an honest one, given you see me make mistakes, you see me correct myself.

Jonathan: Perfectly done. I will give you a glittering testimonial that you really do use this stuff.

Anthony: But I want you to do like also give a portrait of the reality of what you saw.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Anthony: With like the self-correction and how I actually –

Jonathan: Absolutely, you use the techniques. You use them in a different way than I would use them, which is you like to go back and correct and clean up because that provides – I mean there’s merit in doing it both ways. You have these kinds of memorable, almost like slightly awkward situations where mispronounce a vowel and stuff like that, and then after that was memorable right. Once you have this like red face moment, it’s memorable. With certain words, we’ve been like correcting the vowel pronunciations because we don’t have an “A” sound in Hebrew.

I think one thing that I’ve learned from you that’s really great is knowingly or unknowingly you take really good advantage of social pressure in the sense that people ask can you tell them what you do and then you encourage them to challenge you. Tim Ferriss talks about this all the time like setting good stakes. I should probably advertise more often, and I try not to it because I don’t like to be put on the spot too much.

Then you’re walking down the street and six months later you see someone who frankly just didn’t impress you that much or wasn’t that memorable to you, and oh you’re the memory guy. But with that said, maybe I should be taking more advantage of that and I should be because it pushes you to use the techniques and social pressure is kind of a social accountability are kind really powerful things that I could use to improve my practice of memory.

Anthony: I think you do have social pressure working in your favor and in other respects. My observation is, and it’s absolutely incredible to me how that you can with we’re talking about this or that subject, and the detail with which you go through the points that you want to make with names, dates, percentages. You have this laser-like accuracy in the things that you want to talk about, that I don’t have like a mobile Internet thing where I can like check your accuracy or whatever. But it’s so obvious to me that what you’re reciting comes from something not that you’ve just memorized, but you’ve learned it so deeply that you’ve made it part of your knowledge base and that you’re able to report on findings and inform other people from your mind unassisted. This is to me the demonstration that you l walk the walk and you talk that talk.

Jonathan: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that very much.

Anthony: I’m constantly impressed by it. Also just what you do in recorded settings on having your broadcast and so forth, because you refer to the people that you’ve interviewed on your podcast in ways that show me you’ve learned from what you’ve done using your own learning approach.

Jonathan: You know what the craziest thing about it is? I think you can probably testify to this as well or attest to this as well, after a while you become so confident in your memory and your mind becomes so interconnected, I often don’t need to use visual mnemonics anymore.

I often don’t even need to, because my brain is just like a hyper connected network and so like Ben Greenfield tells me something on the show, and I just connected it. I mean I guess maybe deep down intrinsically I do have a specific image that I remember from when he told me why he doesn’t use gyms and he likes to work out of doors. I do have an image for that, but it’s not like I’m sitting there and imagining it. I’m in conversations. I’m generating images as second nature and they’re all just interconnecting to everything that I know.

Ironically, we talked about this the last time we sat down with Jimmy and we recorded. I really want to figure out a way to get my brain tested because I have a theory that just everything has become so interconnected. Now one of the things that I want to talk about it that I want your audience to know is people are always like oh I well I learned Spanish and it pushed the Russian out of my mind. That is so not true. It’s actually the more you use it, the more you have. The more I learn, the more I’m able to learn because I just have so many more connection points. Especially when you’re learning about peripherally related things.


The Ultimate Secret Weapon According To Jonathan Levi


For example, when I started learning about hormonal balance, I knew more about weightlifting than I did about supplementation, but I was able to fill out clusters of neural networks because the more you learn the more you’re able to learn, and the more you have as a basis. I would attribute I read a ton, I read a proper ton. I talk to a lot of people and I have a lot of conversations. I learn from many different sources, and I think that’s like the secret weapon.

Anthony: Well I know a way to test your brain. I’m going to create a hypothetical, and I want you to answer a question that I know is on a lot of people’s minds. What do I do to get started on a particular thing? Like what’s the first step that I need to take to learning a subject. What I’m going to do in this hypothetical is there’s now something called the Magnetic Memory Method Memory Championships. That memory championship requires that you be able to memorize a deck of cards, and recall the order of that deck of cards that has been randomly shuffled in under twenty seconds. You have six months in order to develop the skill. The prize is $7 billion. I want to know what you’re going to do as the first step in order to enable yourself to win that prize, knowing that you have six months to do it.

Jonathan: Is the prize determined by speed or accuracy or what? Or it is just my ability to do it.

Anthony: Just to keep it simple, anybody who can come and memorize a deck of cards. Now, let me condition this though, because the way it typically works is that they count the time that you spent memorizing. But I want it to be that within twenty seconds you can memorize it and recall it. I know that’s totally hypothetical and totally impossible. Because it does take longer to do the active recall than it does to do the act of memorization, but just imagine that it is possible. That you could just go through a deck in ten seconds and then in another ten seconds you could say the order of what you saw. What is Hour 1 of what a SuperLearner is going to do to tackle this problem in order to win this prize?

Jonathan: I think most people, especially if they read like some of Tim Ferriss’ stuff would be like deconstruct the skill and understand. That would be probably in the first hour of work. The, first, first thing I would do is set goals. I need to know what my goal is, what do I need to be able to do. Then I would try to get in touch with my motivations, because adult learners as Malcolm Knowles taught us in 1955, there you go setting statistics, said that there are five adult learning requirements, and one of them is pressing need. One of them is a good learning environment.

One of them is connection to prior knowledge, but another one is an understanding of why they’re learning what they’re learning. So I would connect with this $7 billion prize and ask is that why I’m doing it, am I doing it for pride or my doing it for whatever. Then I also need to know what do I need to be able to do? What are my deliverables? I would set goals. I would break those goals down into steps. They would be S.M.A.R.T. goals, specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, timely goals:

By this month, I’ll be doing it one minute. By this month, I’ll be doing it in thirty seconds, so and so forth. Then I get into all the accelerated learning stuff that people know me for. I would talk to you. I would talk to my buddy Nelson Dellis. I would read probably a couple hundred pages of different books on people who’ve done it. I’d read anything Ben Pridmore has come out with. I would not take this approach that many people do of like no, no I’m learning it this way not this way. I would learn it every possible way that I could, and then I would just build a training schedule around my a S.M.A.R.T. goals, and I would just get it done.

Anthony: What would be a compelling reason to do something like that?

Jonathan: For me? It comes down to like authenticity. The reason that I want to start playing around with memorizing cards is like I want to walk the walk to talk the talk. I speed read. So I’m cool teaching speedreading. I use memory techniques. So I’m cool teaching memory techniques, but I’ve taught PAO and I don’t really use it that much. So I want to start using it more, even though I think it’s important to give my audience like the full spectrum.

On my show, I host people who talk about nutritarian eating and not eating too many animal products, and I don’t really believe in that, but I think it’s important to share the spectrum, expose people and let them create their own learning journey. This is something else that that Knowles tells us. You need self-directed learning. It’s important. Kids will just do the homework because the teacher said, but adults will need to kind of feel that they have ownership and agency in the learning process. That’s what I said when I said like an ideal respectful learning environment, a learning environment that respects their autonomous process. I’m starting to melt here.

Anthony: We’re going to hot and we’re going to put this episode to rest, but I really appreciate everything that you’ve said. I think that it’s always empowering to hear your perspective on things. I really appreciate that we could cover so much in this talk. I really hope that you will put time into memorizing cards because I’d love to pow-wow with you on it. I think that if we can walk away on one thing is that the power of your friendships with people has a lot to do with shared terrain and territory. The more you know, the more you can know and that means more people you can know and more people you can connect with, and you are a great connector. I really hope that people will find ways to connect with you by taking up your training as a first point of entry for sure, and getting on your podcast and mailing list and all the things that you do so that they’re learning more and more from you. How can they do that?

Jonathan: We’ll put a link in the show notes, which you know Anthony is part of our ecosystem and stuff like that. If you guys want to support the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast then use his link, and you can check me out. My personal website is You can also check me out at Becoming A Superhuman if you want to download some free podcast episodes. Check out the show notes. I’m sure Anthony will have some resources for you guys.

Anthony: We’re going to have a transcript of this. I don’t know if it’s going to be available immediately upon publishing because we’re going to hopefully get this out this week so that is in sync with what I said at the beginning, but thank you for tolerating the background noise. One of the things that I would point out is that we have and enjoy the success that we do because we jump on opportunity and when preparation meets opportunity, there is no ceiling. So until the time that we speak again, keep that in mind, keep it in memory, and keep yourself Magnetic.

9 Responses

  1. Hello Jonathan and Anthony

    Dr Frankl was truly a remarkable philosopher, psychologist and medical doctor. His simple yet powerful book. “Man’s search for meaning,” lays out his hypothesis that man is not so much impelled by the pleasure principle (Freud) or the power principle (Jung,) but rather by the Will to Meaning.

    Through the light of our meaning, we can derive our purposeful and fundamental goals.

    We can arrive at our meaning by discovering our values.

    Our values are available to us by listing what we cherish and love to do in life.

    For me, one of my values is learning how to create and enjoy mind palaces (of course, like you, I have many values and goals.)

    I am gratified that you mentioned Dr Frankl in your discussion, and I particularly liked your comparison and contrast of system versus method! I think the ancients were more about the ars memoriae, whereas the contemporaries are about the scientific approach.

    The field is vast and the roads are rarely travelled, but through meaning, purpose and sheer dogged determination and experimentation: the laurels of memory and learning can be yours!

    Kind regards

    1. I like how you’ve placed Frankl in the context of Freud and Jung while throwing in a subtle reference to Nietzsche, Alex. Last night I spoke with Tony Buzan on the phone and suggested he title his next book “Warriors of the Mind,” but “The Will to Meaning” would be great as well. What he described falls very much in line with what you’ve suggested.

      It’s great that you liked the discussion of system and method. I know that for some it borders on semantics, but actually words are tools that help us think about what we’re doing. And the truth is that people who use memory techniques are both artists and scientists.

      If anyone reading is looking for a learning hack, that is it: be both artist and scientist in all that you do. It will give you the Will to Meaning you seek and so much more!

      Thanks again for your great comments. I look forward to more! 🙂

      1. Philosophy is the love of wisdom.

        It is not surprising therefore that all of the great figures of the mind, from antiquity to the present, from Simonides to Plato, from Cicero to Lorayne, Buzan, Levi and Métivier, whether they approach the wisdom and knowledge primarily through the microscope of science or the brush stroke of art, might all be considered philosophers of the mind.

        Harry Lorayne said “You cannot remember if you don’t know.”

        Philosophers strive not merely to know, but also to understand.

        Each has his technique, but all have the thirst and hunger for wisdom.

        Thank you for offering us this wisdom of women and men like Joanna and Jonathan and for allowing us to be philosophers of the mind as well.

        1. All well said. As Buzan mentioned to me in our conversation last night, all you have to do now is get out there and start teaching others using the media available to you. Philosophers are by default teachers, so all you have to do is find a way to speak about what you’ve learned and honor the power of your memory by placing what you’ve remembered into the lives of others.

          Even just what you’re doing now is a great contribution, but you’re such a great writer. Have you ever considered putting together your own blog? 🙂

          1. Coming from a man whose wit, wisdom, knowledge and erudition I admire is truly high praise! Thank you Anthony. You are most kind.

            I have always considered myself more as an enthusiast and fan, but I like the allusions Jonathan and you made to getting in the ring.

            Mr. Buzan is a warrior of the mind, and in many respects we are all in his dojo.

            Chess and Go, Poker. Spelling Bees, etc. are also mental martial arts.

            With your commitment and dedication I too consider you a master of magnetic memory martial artistry.

            So I don’t think I will blog for the moment. I will merely enjoy others’ speculations and chime in with a comment or two of my own from time to time.

            I hope to continue to learn and apply the wisdom I gather from men and women (and children – like Alicia!) of memory warriors like yourselves to my life and those around me.

            Kind regards

          2. There are indeed many paths to practicing mental literacy and learning and application are amongst the finest. And of course I appreciate your participation on this modest memory improvement blog greatly because if we’re in the ring, it is people like you who pump us up between rounds with inspiration, support and the call to create new ideas match after match.

            I look forward to more words from you and thanks for mentioning Alicia. For those of you reading this who haven’t heard Tap The Mind Of A 10-Year Old Memory Palace Master, it will teach you a ton about how to use your memory.

            But please don’t forget Imogen Aires. On the Memory Improvement Techniques For Kids, she shows her own youthful powers that any adult can model. Her father’s TedTalk on memory for kids is on that page as well. An absolutely incredible presentation and demonstration of speaking from memory.

            Thanks again and talk soon! 🙂

  2. What a splendid story by Imogen and Kevin Aires, Anthony! Thank you so much for reminding us of her.

    I like that Lewis Smile takes an abstract concept and literally makes it child’s play. If only there were students and guides like her and Kevin to inspire me when I was being force fed Wuthering Heights! I might have remembered something other than Heathcliff. And I only remeber Heathcliff’s name because of Red Skelton’s stories about Gertrude and Heathcliff, the Two Seagulls. 😉

    But I digress.

    A fine young lady, and I am sure there will be many more youngsters about whom we hear fine feats of mnemonic skill.

    Kind regards

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Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

Dr. Metivier holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from York University and has been featured in Forbes, Viva Magazine, Fluent in 3 Months, Daily Stoic, Learning How to Learn and he has delivered one of the most popular TEDx Talks on memory improvement.

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