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2020 Update: If you’re American, here’s How to Memorize the Presidents.
Life is good, isn’t it? You bet it is.
But for some reason, when times get tough, without knowing a thing about the Prime Ministers of Canada, people around the world throw up their hands and say, “It’s time to head to the Great White North.”
Here’s the thing:
You’ll find some beautiful terrain and plenty of peace-loving citizens. But as a nation, we do not lack our own host of colorful characters.
So if you’re coming over for a permanent BBQ in response to US election results or some dictator who’s been giving you the squeeze, it’s time to learn how to memorize the Prime Ministers of Canada. It’s important to know what you’re getting into, after all. 😉
Beginner’s Guide To Memorizing Any List
The first thing to understand when memorizing the names of the Canadian Prime Ministers is that you’re dealing with a list. We’re talking about discrete units of information. Like, Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891).
The best way to rapidly memorize any list is to create a Memory Palace.
All Memory Palace creation takes is a simple drawing and a list of your Magnetic Stations charted out in a strategic way. Creating an effective Memory Palace reduces your cognitive load to a bare minimum. That reduction forms a huge part of the secret behind how memory techniques like a Memory Palace work:
You use a location you already know to place information you’ll Magnetically encode with imagery you already know onto a station so you can retrieve and decode what you want to know later.
Curious about correct Memory Palace creation? Here’s a Memory Palace walkthrough based on a Memory Palace submitted by a Magnetic Memory Method student:
If you need more guidance, here are an additional 5 Memory Palace Examples.
A Small Set Of Super Important Information
In this case, we have just 23 names for the Prime Ministers of Canada. When it comes to memorizing them, you have options.
1. You can create one Memory Palace with 23 Magnetic Stations exclusively for remembering them.
2. You can create two Memory Palaces with 12 Magnetic Stations each.
In either case, you ‘ll ideally use Memory Palaces with more Magnetic Stations than you need so that you can use more than one station per name if needed.
Or, if you’re already experienced with memory techniques, you can experiment with the Magnetic Memory Method “passing the baton” technique, which allows you to memorize more than one name per station. That’s for advanced memorizers, however, and even then, it’s good once in awhile to stick with the basics.
And that’s ultimately what I recommend so that you can add the dates of the Prime Ministers later using the Magnetic Chaining memory technique.
The Art Of Embarrassing Politicians
Let’s assume you’ve got a Memory Palace with a bit more than 23 Magnetic Stations to give you wiggle room.
Next, you need your list of information. The Wikipedia Prime Ministers of Canada page is as good as any. Whip that little darling open and look at the first name.
The trick to memorizing anything is association, also called encoding. It’s easy, fun and with a bit of practice using special exercises I’ve created for you, unbelievably fast.
John A. Macdonald, for example, brings to mind a picture of my friend and fellow mnemonist, John McPhedrine to mind. You’ve heard him on the show talking about memorizing German and music before.
I see John at the first station of the Memory Palace I’ve created with a giant letter ‘A’ in his hands. He’s using this to smash my MACbook Pro, which is playing a video of Donald Trump singing “Old Macdonald Had A Farm.”
Plus, as an advanced memorizer, I’ve got Trump’s hair as the tail of a dog swatting at a bat.
Because that additional imagery helps me remember the dates of this Canadian Prime Minister.
How does that work? It sounds complex, but it’s actually simple:
Using a special memory technique for memorizing numbers, 15 is “tail” and 91 is “bat.” I’ve got an entire course in the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass about all the ways you can remember numbers, or you can just check out this post on the Major Method. It’s a great way to instantly memorize any number, and not just short ones like historical dates.
The Prime Minister Who Built Walls
You Can Be Proud Of
Wikipedia tells this story about Alexander Mackenzie:
Once, while touring Fort Henry as prime minister, he asked the soldier accompanying him if he knew the thickness of the wall beside them. The embarrassed escort confessed that he didn’t and Mackenzie replied, “I do. It is five feet, ten inches. I know, because I built it myself!”
Little anecdotes like this can be fun to remember when memorizing a name. Plus, it’s interesting that Mackenzie was three times offered knighthood, but refused each time.
To encode all of this into memory, it’s a simple matter of seeing Alex from A Clockwork Orange taking … certain liberties with a former high school girlfriend of mine by the last name of Mackenzie against a section of the Berlin Wall now fixed on station two of my Prime Ministers of Canada Memory Palace. (Phew … that was a mouthful.)
But the Mackenzie I used to kiss so gently in high school fights back by trying to knight him with a giant camera that he beats away with a pamphlet printout of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
Why a camera and this bizarre retaliation with an ancient allegory? You’ve probably already guessed it by now. It’s our old friend the Major Method, which tells me that “cam” decodes to 73 and “cave” to 78, the same years Alexander Mackenzie served as one of the Prime Ministers of Canada.
Isn’t That Just Too Simple?
It really is, and that fun simplicity explains why so many people who get into memory techniques email and ask me …
Isn’t this … cheating?
Absolutely not. And here’s why:
It’s one thing to create the Memory Palaces and have fun dreaming up weird images and vignettes.
Long Term Memory Requires Recall Rehearsal
But you’ve also got to replay these stories and decode them in your mind over time. Skip this step and the information might still get into long term memory, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Luckily, setting up a Magnetic Memory Method Recall Rehearsal routine is easy. Just go over the information you’ve memorized about 5 times before the day is through. Make one of those times right before bed to help consolidation.
But here’s a warning:
Some recent research evidence suggests that older people don’t get the same memory consolidation benefits as younger people do. It’s good to keep that evidence in mind, but also be your own scientist. As you can see in this video on making boring information more interesting, I got away with a high recall rate after far fewer Recall Rehearsal sessions. But I would have done better if I’d repeated the poem more often.
The Rule Of Five
That’s what World Memory Champion Dominic O’Brien calls it and The Rule Of Five holds great power.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or wondering where you’re going to find the time, don’t stress it. The important thing is just to get started. Memory techniques are a skill you’ll want to use for life and the Prime Ministers of Canada is just the beginning. Later, they’ll help you focus on your work in some very impressive and powerful ways. That’s why we want to use them after all, right?
I hope you’ve seen how you can not only memorize a long list of names, but also add historical dates and facts. When I look at station two of my Memory Palace of Canadian Prime Ministers, it’s easy to see a movie character and person from my past interacting with a few select symbols that help recall an interesting scenario and numbers.
Wrapping It All Up With
A Magnetic Little Bow
Here’s a summary of all you have to do to experience great success:
1. Create a Memory Palace for the Prime Ministers of Canada.
Remember to pad out your Memory Palace so that you have a few extra stations in case you need them.
2. Have the names prepared.
You can do it directly from a Wikipedia page, but you’re better off printing the list out and encoding the names to your Magnetic Stations somewhere you won’t be bothered by notifications.
Being tempted to skip around on your browser isn’t helpful either. Like I said last time about boring information … Instead of taking it in small doses, make it exciting for yourself. It’s not that hard!
3. Practice Recall Rehearsal diligently.
The Rule of Five is great, but take it on principle, not as dogma. Always test and never hope that five repetitions is enough. It might become more than necessary once you get good with mnemonics, but it will never be too much. Every time you enter a Memory Palace and practice the beautiful art of memory, you get better and better with the best asset you’ve got:
The ability to learn, remember and recall anything.
Now then … How about that Canadian anthem? 😉
Some more splendid Canadiana Anthony.
Good newbie Canadians will also want to bone up on their ice hockey statistics. For instance, how many Stanley Cups have the Montreal Canadiens missed? (Every one since 1993 to be precise! How aBoMinable. — Hmmm plus “minable” is French for awful.)
I have a memory journey around the House of Commons and Parliament Hill in Ottawa for this one. I combine Alphabet, memory place and journey and Major methods to help me out. There is so much memorable scenery around there for inspiration. So I thought I would share a few images with you
1 ALLIGATOR Sir John A. Macdonald (1815–1891) MP for Kingston, ON Standing to the right side of the Centre Block steps. Being served a Big Mac by Ronald McDonald; Sir John has his huge coat TaiL on a BeD and is accompanied by his pet alligator TaiL – BeD
2 BIRD Alexander Mackenzie (1822–1892) MP for Lambton, ON A few steps away on the path (right side) Dressed as a NuN fighting alongside Big Bird who is also pecking a huge BuN; they’re battling with Alex de Large and Mackenzie Phillips NuN – BuN
The Parliamentary precinct is quite large, so this is quite roomy for me to use.
Canadian governors general could be mnemonized at Rideau Hall.
Justices could be mnemonized at the Supreme Court, etc.
I must say I find the Alphabet method very powerful when used in conjunction with the Major method for historical dates and facts..
With it, I can mnemonize from 2599 BCE to 2599 CE with animals from A to Z representing each century, If I wish.
With a 1,000 image Major method, filling a larger number of memory journeys or memory palaces would be a snap.
Always enjoy your podcast Anthony. Thanks again.
Great point, regarding hockey!
Plus, the idea of linking information with their appropriate Memory Palaces is delightful. Medical students would do well to use the offices of their GPs, for example, not to mention the areas of hospitals we’re all free to visit at any time.
Glad you like the show and delighted to read these examples from your own journey with the art of memory! 🙂
My successful Canadian PM memory journey inspired me to tackle the 44 (now 45 – with POTUS elect Donald J. Trump!)
Unfortunately, I am not quite as familiar with the US executives (BTW the Canadian head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, and her official handle is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith,” and she is represented by the current Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.) In Canada, the executive branch is the Crown.
I found a very useful way to handle long lists (I suppose it’s arguable whether 45 is a long list; it’s a lot shorter than the lists the memory competitors must handle.)
Anyway, often such lists are split into groups: so for political figures one can cut them into smaller groups (hopefully containing five to seven items, but that isn’t always feasible.)
For POTUS, the list could be divided as such:
from Washington to Monroe
Early to mid 19th century POTUS
from JQ Adams to Millard Fillmore
Mid 19th century to post Civil War POTUS:
Franklin Pierce to U.S. Grant
Post CW to end of 19th century POTUS:
R.B. Hayes to Grover Cleveland
Early 20th century to WWII: POTUS:
McKinley to Franklin D Roosevelt
Mid 20th century to end of 20th century POTUS:
Harry S Truman to William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton
Finally, 21st century POTUS:
…. and lastly, Prez The Donald himself!
Each division becomes a room (with as may stations as POTUS in the group I suggest) in your memory palace.
For example, my first memory palace room is my kitchen, where the first five presidents are making POTUS stew.
Washington is at the kitchen sink washing veg for supper, John Adams is putting on the tea; Thomas Jefferson is standing at the stove cooking up a mess of stew; Madison is rummaging in the fridge for stuff; and Monroe is hanging out of the cupboard kicking and shouting.
All of these images can be enhanced with figures like Marilyn Monroe or George Jefferson standing in for the POTUS as long as you follow the logic of remembering what you want. If you want numerical info just add Major method imagery. For example, GW vaping (89) then Adams puking (97). etc.
Make each section of the list a room in your MP and have fun astounding your friends, neighbours, teachers, etc.
History tests are there to be aced by those who invest the time in mnemonic fun.
You’re a Canadian and you can’t even spell colour properly.
This website follows Google’s preferred spelling conventions. Since my target audience for this piece is actually Americans who might take an interest in Canadian Prime Ministers instead of the usual convention of memorizing the presidents, it only makes sense to optimize every aspect of the page for that audience.
On another note, I personally haven’t lived in Canada for many years and don’t particularly subscribe to every convention of the place I was born – which, if I recall correctly, is mightily diverse in many ways. I also remember it as a tolerant place where people had better things to do than nitpick, but it seems recently that free speech issues over words and spellings has taken over many minds in the nation and may even start hauling “peoplekind” to jail if they dare use the word “mankind.”
I don’t suppose your comment today connects with that negative trend, or at least I hope it doesn’t. Either way, many thanks for stopping by and sharing your proofreading observation. If nothing else, it raises a few interesting points in my mind for a future discussion on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast.
Would you perhaps like to be a guest to talk about what led you to include “You’re a Canadian” as part of your observation? I would love to understand more about what exactly leads people to use the Internet to leave commentary of this kind and go further into the topic of memorizing spelling.
I actually can’t think of anyone better with whom to discuss this topic than you. Even if your tone is off-putting, both snark and spelling are fascinating issues and is only going to get more important as voice-search comes into use and matters of national identity continue to erode. And when we think of the perception of English spelling from a macroscopic level, it is one of the more interesting learning and memory challenges.
Let me know and we’ll arrange a time to record the discussion! 🙂