Remember when you were in middle school? How boring it was?
Wouldn’t it have been great if you had not only the ability to make it the most exciting time of your life, but also memorize everything you learned?
Here’s The VERY Good News About Helping Middle School Students Remember More
Even if it’s too late for you, it doesn’t have to be for your kids or any young person for whom you buy books in your family or social circles. US Memory Bronze Medal Champion Brad Zupp has an exciting training book just for youth.
Unlock Your Amazing Memory is a great book and in this post, I’m going to try and sell you on buying and reading it. Heck, even if school is far behind you and your hair has gone gray, you’re going to learn a lot from Zupp’s book.
Not Being Able To Remember Does Not Make You Dumb
Unfortunately, schools tend to set things up so that we think intelligence is linked to performance on tests and exams. But this couldn’t be further from the truth and Zupp shows how any student can break the pattern of institutionally-forced failure.
Zupp’s book is easy to read for the advertised grade level, as well as anyone. This aspect of Unlock Your Amazing Memory really makes it shine because all too often, books on technical skills like mnemonics can also make you feel stupid. Zupp’s clear writing style and progressive organization of the basics makes it impossible to misunderstand the techniques.
The More You Practice Your Memory,
The Better It will Be
Learning memory techniques can take time, but the payoff later is incredible speed that MORE than pays off the initial investment. The best part is that it pays off for life.
To motivate readers, Zupp recommends visualizing yourself impressing friends. This is okay, but I would add visualizing just taking the first steps. For example, research has shown that people who visualize themselves putting on their running shoes get more fit in a six-month period than those who see themselves with an excellent physique.
When it comes to memory techniques, you can start by visualizing yourself creating a Memory Palace. To make that even simpler, picture yourself getting a memory journal and picking out a special pen or pencil that you will use exclusively for that journal.
Taking this small step is more likely to lead to actually creating a Memory Palace than visualizing yourself as a memory hero in front of your friends. Heck, just picturing yourself reading the book from beginning to end and then actually reading it will already make you a modern Hercules amongst your Internet-addled friends.
Remembering Involves 3 Steps So Simple You’ll
Wonder Why Schools Don’t Save The Alphabet For Later
Zupp breaks his approach to memory techniques into three distinct movements.
The first seems obvious, but how many people actually do it? For Zupp, it’s called remembering to “get” the info, or what Harry Lorayne often calls “paying attention to it in the first place.”
You Can’t Remember What You Haven’t Learned
So if “paying attention” to the target information is the first key to “getting” it into memory, how do you accomplish this feat?
First up, Zupp says you’ve got to sit up straight. I remember this principle well from learning music. Slumping not only breaks the flow of oxygen. It also reduces concentration. You’re going to need focus if you want to learn well over the long haul.
Speaking of air, breathing is an incredible stimulant for memory. An oxygenated brain has more resources for creating the physical connections needed to form memories.
Guessing Games Make Memories Fast
Another of Zupp’s suggestions involves thinking ahead. For example, when you’re listening to a lecture, try figuring out where the lecturer is headed in advance of his current line of thought. By doing this, you increase the attention you’re paying to the speaker. The intensified focus makes the material more memorable almost by default, even if your assumptions are wrong.
In fact, the information becomes more memorable when you are wrong because your mind loops back to the part of the thread where you took your wayward turn.
The game of guessing “what’s next” reminds me of a meditation approach suggest by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now. When meditating, Tolle suggests pretending you are a cat perched in front of a mouse hole. But instead of waiting for a mouse, you wonder instead, “What thought will I think of next?”
This activity keeps you focused both on the present moment and ready to capture new thoughts when they appear. In the case of meditation, the thoughts don’t distract you. Instead, they create even more focus because you’ve attuned yourself to their appearance.
The same applies to keeping your mind on what the professor might say next. You’ll be wide awake to the present moment and carefully attuned to whatever comes next.
Counting Uhms, Ahems And Other Human Hesitations
To increase focus, Zupp suggestions counting the uhms made by your teacher. But is this particular strategy reasonable? You might wind up juggling the wrong info in your mind. Answering “uhm” and “ah” won’t get you far on many exams – unless they involve demonstrating radical knowledge about contemporary sound poetry.
When I’m in need of concentration, I prefer repeating what people are saying in my mind, deleting the uhms. This practice creates laser-like focus and helps form memories. That said, Zupp’s method is worth trying.
When You Know How You’re Going To Memorize It,
All Information Gets Stickier
Another means of focusing and paying attention involves asking yourself how you’re going to remember the info. This activity offers a great deal of value because you can practice mnemonics directly in response to the question.
For example, in a class on literature when you’re asked to learn the definition of a simile, you can ask yourself how you’re going to remember it and start formulating an answer. You could ask this simple question and say, “Eureka! I’ll see a simian ape tearing Lee jeans in half as he shouts ‘like!'”
Make Multitasking An Endangered Species
We’ll All Be Glad Left The Planet
Finally, Zupp urges us to avoid the multitasking myth. If you want to focus, limit yourself to one task at a time. When it comes to memory skills, for example, this is why I have created a deliberate three-day memory routine to maximize your results. So long as you can devote all of your attention to just the three recommended tasks on the three recommended days, you’ll get results beyond the extraordinary.
Don’t Forget To Press Save!
Another key takeaway from Zupp’s book is that you need to focus on storing the information. Imagery, especially exaggerated imagery, is the most powerful mnemonic tool we have for making information stick. In combination with a Memory Palace, it’s the closest thing in the brain to a “save” button.
One great feature of Zupp’s work is explaining how to deal with abstract information. In the Magnetic Memory Method, we call the process word division, which involves taking information with no concrete correlative and breaking it down into smaller units that can be paired with tangible imagery.
The only problem, as Zupp points out, is that too few people know how to make the needed imagery vibrant and exciting. The imagination literally needs a smack across the face to get your memory working and anything less makes the information boring. And and as we all know from many boring hours in school, that which makes you drool gets lost fast.
If You’re Looking For Mnemonic Examples, Here Be Dragons
Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me to tailor them a series if images to help them memorize information.
I never do it. My books and video courses are light on mnemonic examples because I focus on the nuts, the bolts and the detailed mechanics. It’s what I do and I’m proud to be the only one in the field who concentrates this deeply on mastering the Memory Palace.
That said, some people benefit from seeing a lot of examples from the mind of a mnemonist. For that reason, Zupp’s book is becoming one of my go-to recommendations.
I’m leery about sending people off to example-land, however. I always have been and we’ve talked a lot about the dangers of mnemonic examples on previous episodes of the Magnetic Memory Podcast.
A recent experience makes me even more certain that making your own mnemonic examples based on our own understanding of the core mnemonic principles enforces my conviction.
Why You Must Learn To “Pack Your Own Parachute” As A Student
Out in the dunes of Gran Canaria, I found myself spending a delightful afternoon with Peter Sage. We were there shooting a variety of videos for some courses with Jimmy Naraine and Peter told an incredible story about getting an upper-level parachuting certification.
In order to earn it, the parachuter has to personally pack his or her parachute. Not only is the task detailed and requires great care. The stakes are also high.
Because you have to dive wearing the parachute you packed yourself.
And as Peter told the story, he said that the smoothest opening he ever experienced as a parachute popped out above him was from the bag he packed himself.
It’s Exactly The Same With Mnemonics!
Sure, a few examples help and no doubt we all need them. But if you want a smooth experience using memory techniques, you need to leave the mnemonic examples of others behind as quickly as possible.
The other problems with mnemonic models is that authors of memory improvement books often use information that readers could care less about. Sure, some people might like to have all the US presidents and state capitals in mind. But it’s the 21st century and globalization requires less Americancentric examples to appeal to the needs of much wider audiences.
In no way do I mean this brief soapbox lecture with its politically correct tone as a criticism of Zupp’s book. He explains his example images in solid language and includes a lot of fun illustrations. Nonetheless, over half the book contains these examples and I would have liked to see more detail on Memory Palace creation and the art of recall.
All the same, I highly recommend this book to anyone of any age. Complete the exercises, supplement Zupp’s work with other memory training books and programs and you will be delighted with the progress you make.
And listen, if you enjoy the book, leave a quick review for Brad on Amazon. Even the shortest sentence of support helps memory trainers continue helping you. Pitch in with some star ratings with your candid feedback and help make the world a better place. You can help spread the good news about memory techniques and Zupp’s audience of students in grades 5 to 8 are amongst those who can use his help the most.