Mnemonics And The 7 Eternal Laws Of Memory Improvement

mnemonics-7-lawsBe honest about your experience with mnemonics.

You’ve read a book or two, maybe even taken a video course. And yet …


You’re Still Scrambling To Recall Information!


If that sounds like you, then here’s the sad truth: 

You’re suffering from “memory improvement randomness.” That’s what happens when people read a book on mnemonics, take a stab at the techniques and then … give up … only to pick up another book by someone else and try all over again.

Fortunately, there’s a cure.

In fact, there are 7 of them.


Why Most People Are Allergic To Mnemonics


First off, let’s look at one big problem.

The word “mnemonics” isn’t all that sexy, is it? And it sounds an awful lot like “pneumonic,” in the singular “mnemonic” form, which makes it sound even more like this beautiful art relates to pneumonia.

“Mnemotechnics” is nicer, and definitely won’t make you sick. But the “technics” part makes the whole thing sound like hard work.

That’s no good.

Because the truth is that mnemonics are not only easy, but they’re the most exciting activity in the world.

And that’s the key to falling in love with this special field of personal improvement.


How To Find Excitement In The
Oldest Mental Art 


To locate and embrace the excitement of using mnemonics and memory techniques, you first need to get rid of the notion that any of this is “hard work.” 

It isn’t. Never has been. Never will be.

Unless you decide that it must be. That’s all mindset and this podcast on developing better mindset will help you with that.

Bookmark those resources for later as we dive into the 7 Eternal Laws Of Memory Improvement. 

Follow each of these laws of mnemonics and you will quickly find the fun in using memory techniques and never forget what a wild ride the art of memory can be.


1. You Have The Duty To Go Insane
With Your Mnemonics


The trick to remembering anything is association. You take a piece of information you don’t know and associate it with something you do.

For example, I had no idea the word 感到 (gǎn dào) meant to feel. But I do know of a character named Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. And in my imagination, I know how to hurt his feelings.

So that’s what I did. In the craziest way possible. Then, using the drawing skills I have, I got it down on paper to make the learning process even faster and easier.

Optimized-gandolf gan dao

Of course, the trouble with teaching mnemonics is that I can’t exactly show you exactly what the imagery looks like in my mind. I would need a Hollywood film crew and a Spielberg-sized budget for that.

But rest assured that what happens when Gandalf feeds the Tao Te Ching to that black horse isn’t pretty. But it helps me remember not only the sound and the meaning of the word, but also its tones in Mandarin.

If you’d like to get better at making crazy imagery in your imagination, check out the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast episode called Mindshock: How To Make Amazing Visual Imagery And Memorize More Stuff.


2. Every Building You’ve Ever Been In Is Infinitely Valuable


To get the most from mnemonics, you need to locate the crazy images you come up with in a Memory Palace.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think that Memory Palaces take too much work, and that’s probably my fault.

You see, I’ve used the phrase “build Memory Palaces” when talking about mnemonics thousands of times. What I really mean is “create” Memory Palaces – or whatever word you need that involves spending 2-5 minutes creating a fantastic tool you can use to organize and store your mnemonics.

If you don’t already know how to build create a Memory Palace, I suggest you register for my Free Memory Improvement Kit right away. If you’re already a pro when it comes to this realm of mnemonics, then kudos to you. Send me a scan or picture of one of your Memory Palaces by email. I’d love to see it.

The important point is that you have learned the Memory Palace skill. It is the ultimate form of mnemonics because it lets you use every other kind of memory technique inside its walls.

And since the most efficient Memory Palaces tend to be based on actual buildings you’ve visited, that means you can increase the real estate value of them all. Instead of just handing over your rent or paying down a mortgage so you can store your stuff while working, why not store your memories their too? It’s a great way to make every building you’ve ever known invaluable using mnemonics.


3. Always Begin With A Clear Picture Of The End In Mind


One thing that trips up just about every beginner with memory techniques is planning. Each memory project is unique, which means you need to take stock of the situation and work out a few things in advance.

For example, if you like to learn languages online as opposed to from a textbook, you’ll have different amounts and kinds of material to memorize.

When I work with a Chinese teacher, for example, I have different Memory Palaces than I do for Spanish. When I’m memorizing music, my use of mnemonics differs a great deal, and in that case, the Memory Palace is the instrument itself. See Memorize Bach on Bass for some preliminary music memory explorations and my discussion with John McPhedrine for his current music mnemonics ideas.

But no matter how you approach mnemonics (and even when you learn without mnemonics), you need a plan.

4. Know Your Passion Inside And Out


It breaks my heart when people struggle with learning.

The problem usually isn’t with them, however, and it’s never with the information.

It’s always THE COMBINATION of the two.

Let’s face it: some people just don’t like some of the things they wind up studying.

Yet, for various reasons, they feel stuck with a topic or simply have to fulfill a commitment.

For most of us, most of the time, we can skip the problem altogether by finding topics to learn that we’re truly in love with.

Because when times get tough – and they always do eventually – passion will pull you through.



5. Believe In The Natural Abilities Of
Your Imagination And Nurture Them


If there’s on thing that gets newbies and old pros with mnemonics in a rut fast, it’s a sudden drop in self-confidence.

It happens to the best of us. Even I avoided tackling Japanese and Chinese for a long time because I worried mnemonics wouldn’t help with these languages.

The solution for when confidence dries up?

Certainly not dinky software brain games to which some people run.

No, we want to nurture our mind with simple creativity exercises at which we cannot fail. For example, the Creativity Kickstarter is a great way to return to the basics by coloring while recalling some information you’ve already confidently memorized.

For example, when I go to the Creativity Kickstarter when I find a current Memory Palace and its mnemonics too challenging. This happened a lot with my Chinese C Memory Palace – probably because of the Memory Palace I chose for it.

To reduce my frustration, I got out the Creativity Kickstarter and while working with it, I practiced Recall Rehearsal by firing off the mnemonics in Chinese Memory Palace B. My success in that Memory Palace boosted my confidence back up to the top and the C Memory Palace no longer felt so challenging.


6. Close The Deal By Knowing Your Numbers


Can you remember the 3rd Eternal Law of Memory Improvement? If not, scroll back up and take a peek.

If you do remember it, good work! What mnemonics did you use to memorize it?

The point is this: A huge part of knowing where you’re going is determining how you’ll know if you got there.

For me, I currently have a goal of memorizing 3 new Chinese words every morning before I turn the computer on. 

Why only 3?

It’s because Chinese is different than other languages I’ve tinkered around with. Whereas a German word is just sound and meaning with spelling so intuitive it makes my Macbook Pro ashamed, Chinese vocabulary involves:

* Sound + correct tones

* Meaning

* Characters

In my mind, each word is actually 3 words and each requires 3 mnemonics. (Or more. At the moment I’m using the Major Method for the tones.)

How do I know if I’ve successfully memorized 3 words at the end of the day?

Easy. I test.

If I can recall them at the end of the day and the next morning and correctly use them in a sentence, then I’ve memorized them.

In other words, I don’t leave recalling what I’ve memorized to chance. I test as a matter of course to ensure that when the time comes to use the word or phrase in actual context, the mnemonics are there for me.

Skip this Eternal Law at your own risk.


7. You Must Keep Going


Unused talents die and turn to dust with alarming speed. Once you join us mnemonists who practice the art of memory and make mnemonics a way of life, you have to keep going. Like any skill you can hone, to keep it sharp, you’ve got to use it.


Easy. Make sure that you’re follow all 7 of the Eternal Laws of Memory Improvement. Each feeds the other, making a bullet proof shield that no sword of forgetfulness can penetrate. Not only will you be able to learn, memorize and recall anything, but you’ll accomplish goals that have evaded you and feel amazing.

Never forget that memory and confidence connect at the hip. The more confident you are in your memory, the more confident you’ll be in all areas of life. This leads to rich new experiences that give you more exciting memories.

And the more experiences you have to draw on in life, the more associations you can make when using mnemonics. Isn’t that exciting?


Quick Recap


7 Eternal Laws of Memory Improvement When Using Mnemonics

1. You must create insane associative-imagery that is impossible to forget.

2. You must locate that imagery in specific and easy to find Memory Palace locations.

3. You must have the end goal in mind. Knowing where you’re going will ensure you have as Memory Palaces as you need (or at least keep you creating them as you go along so you never run out).

4. You must be passionate about what you’re learning. If you don’t value the topic or the larger topic it belongs to … what on earth are you spending time on it for?

5. You must believe in the natural abilities of your imagination and nurture them.

6. You must test and track your results.

7. You must keep going.

14 Responses to " Mnemonics And The 7 Eternal Laws Of Memory Improvement "

  1. Alex says:

    Thanks Anthony. The way I remember to say “Bye-bye” in Mandarin

    再见 Zàijiàn

    is to visualize the Korean rapper “Psy” dressed in white, walking a French poodle (“chien”) waving bye bye and barking Psy-chien or ,,, Zàijiàn, and put it into a memory palace for common phrases (a Chinese restaurant in my neighbourhood)

    It’s a lot of fun and never boring.

    • Wow – 谢谢 for this, Alex! Using Psy as a Bridging Figure for Chinese is a POWERFUL idea. It’s so concrete and he comes instantly to mind. Much more so than a “psychologist” who must be linked to Freud in a roundabout way that requires more mental energy than necessary.

      I love too that you’ve got French in the mix as well. It’s one of the advantages that we memorizers who know more than one language have. I’ve used a lot of German to assist with other languages. For some reason German seems to gel well with Greek, which is a language I’ve definitely got to get back to one of these days.

      How long have you been studying Chinese? 🙂

      • Alex says:

        谢谢 Anthony, (si, si, Spanish? 😉

        Only a few months for Chinese, like Wolof: which strangely enough I have gotten further along with; likely because there is a colleague with whom I banter daily. Nanga def? Mangi fe rikk (the response sounds like “magnifique” which may not be surprising as many Senegalais speak beautiful French!)

        So in my Major Method, I happily include words in other languages, because what matters is the associative image, not the word itself.

        First of all, I think you’re message bears repeating because it truly is “fun”:-da”mental”

        Quick Recap
        7 Eternal Laws of Memory Improvement When Using Mnemonics
        1. You must create insane associative-imagery that is impossible to forget. (PSY with his poodle, etc.)

        2. You must locate that imagery in specific and easy to find Memory Palace locations. (absolutely true, and very important in SEM cubed memory palace hotels.)

        3. You must have the end goal in mind. Knowing where you’re going will ensure you have as Memory Palaces as you need (or at least keep you creating them as you go along so you never run out). Maybe turning them into journeys. Start in your bedroom, and end down the street at your corner store.

        4. You must be passionate about what you’re learning. If you don’t value the topic or the larger topic it belongs to … what on earth are you spending time on it for? Vitally important.

        5. You must believe in the natural abilities of your imagination and nurture them. The better you do, the better it becomes. As you enrich your imagination, it becomes more fertile, “a memory garden for your palace.”

        6. You must test and track your results. This totally helps point 5 above.

        7. You must keep going.
        Memory is a beautiful voyage. Never rush it because you’ll miss all of the beauty. I know you’re from beautiful BC. One of my favourite memories as a youngster was the ubiquitous Canadian road trip from East to West, stopping at Calgary and going to Van by CPR. It took time, but I was never bored. Take your time because your memories and life are worth it.

        All of these principles enhance your method

        Kind regards to you. Thank you for the beautiful work helping memory gardeners weed their gardens and beautify their memory palaces!

        • Thanks for this great example, Alex. It’s great to have an example from you and your insights. And I love the metaphor of helping gardeners work in their Memory Palaces. That’s exactly my goal and I’m always overjoyed when I hear that it has helped people! 🙂

  2. Bjoern says:

    Hey Anthony,

    I started with the MMC and for me it’s a bit more complicated than your metal friend. However, building memory palaces and getting ready for it ( with a positive mind set) is difficult for me. But I am making progress, though.

    But what happened is that my mind is now more focused at my job and storing daily informations. My mind likes to run and draw crazy patterns and focusing was always a challenge for me.

    My goal is to learn Spanish and I am sure that this method will help me

    • Thanks for this, Bjoern. Great to have a comment from you here about your progress and experiences.

      My mind runs crazy too, but that’s why meditation has been so powerful for me. For example, this morning I memorized some cards. Had I done this before my meditation, the results would have been much poorer than simply taking a few minutes (9 minutes exactly) to sit in silence, breathe and use some of the other meditation tools you have access to as an owner of the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass.

      Here’s the thing too: Because I’ve been meditating now since mid-February 2016 on a daily basis without pause, the depth of concentration keeps getting better and better. For example, I used to stick to one card per station in a Memory Palace. Now, however, I can do three cards per station like it’s nothing.

      This evolution in my abilities has helped with memorizing entire phrases on single stations as well – so I think if you add meditation to your arsenal, you’ll get even more focus at your job. I think the reason it is already happening is that Recall Rehearsal is already itself a form of meditation and likely brings all the same effects. I think playing music from memory also creates these overarching benefits in other aspects of life.

      In sum, the calm mind is already a much more organized mind and the benefits apply to memorizing any kind of information.

      Thanks again for stopping by to comment. I look forward to the next one and further correspondence with you! 🙂

  3. Barca says:

    When I´m learning something (e.g. groups of English words) I always google pictures of rooms and then I use them to remember what I want. There are thousands of rooms online!

    • That’s a brilliant technique, Barca! I’m so glad you mentioned it because I’m often asked how to find Memory Palaces. Your approach is a more than feasible method. It’s genius, in fact.

      That said, do you find there’s a difference between using a room that you’ve visited in real life and one that you haven’t? I usually get better results from ones that I’ve been in.

      I’d love to hear more about your experience, especially in terms of comparison.

      In the meantime, many thanks again! 🙂

      • Barca says:

        I don´t see a big difference between a real room and a virtual one in terms of the amount of words/information remembered. But when I want to learn something different than just single words/short phrases, I always try to use a real place (a place I´ve been in, like my room/house/any road I know).

        The advantage of using vitual pictures of rooms is the huge amount of them online. I do not need to use the same room over and over again. I just find another room online when I need.
        On the other hand, one room is usually not enough when I want to learn more than 10 new words. Online rooms have usually very small capacity (5-15 words).

        When I´m done learning, I name each picture.
        Let´s say, I just learned these words (Esperanto):
        – cerealo (grain)
        – hordeo (barley)
        – aveno (oats)
        – maizo (corn)
        – rizo (rice)
        – milio (millet)
        – sorgo (sorthum)
        – tritiko (wheat)
        – sekalo (rye)
        – spelto (spelt)
        – fagopiro (buckwheat)

        Then the name is: ESP – Grains (cerealo,…) (11)
        Where: ESP – my abbreviation for Esperanto (I´m also learning German and still English)
        Grains – name of the group of words
        (cerealo,…) – first word of the group which will remind me the others
        ,… – indicates that there are more words than just one
        (11) – the exact number of words (helps me while revising)

        And then I set a reminder alarm in the calendar app on my mobile phone (the title is the same as the name of the picture), so that I know when I should revise it (in order to remember it for longer that just one week).

        • Wow – this is an amazing description of your process that I think will help a lot of people. Thanks for taking the time to share it!

          Do you find that looking at pictures of rooms gives you a flattened view, or one that uses just 2-3 corners? In other words, do you have to imagine the parts of the room that the 2D photograph doesn’t reveal? Or do you get images that have a 3D orientation? 🙂

          • Barca says:

            Well, I have to admit that I do not understand a little bit, but when I´m looking at the picture I´m imagining how I´m walking in the room and touching the furniture. This helps me remember the stations which I use for remembering my information.

          • That’s a great strategy. Anytime you can involve another representation system, like the kinesthetic, you’re creating a much more immersive experience that involves more parts of the brain. I’ll bet that if you imagine how things smell and add sound, you’ll get even better results. I’d love to hear back from you about what happens if you give that a try! 🙂

    • Barca says:

      And one can also use Google Maps.

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