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Go ahead and admit it.
You’re skeptical that memory techniques will work for you.
You might even be skeptical that memory techniques work at all.
I mean … those memory champions could be using mirrors or some kind of technology, right?
They’re absolutely not, but … who hasn’t given it a thought when you hear the incredible results of memory improvement training.
Hundreds of words!
Thousands of digits!
Countless decks of playing cards!
All under the pressure of time, cameras and competition.
Here’s the thing:
As scientifically proven as the memory techniques are …
Your Skepticism Is Good!
In fact …
It turns out that the more skeptical you are about memory techniques, the better they work!
And over the years, I’ve discovered 3 reasons why skeptics succeed with memory techniques better than anyone else.
Buckle in because if you’ve been sitting on the fence when it comes to using memory techniques …
… or if you’ve been suffering less than stellar results every time you give them a try …
The problem could be that you’re just not skeptical enough.
#1 Skeptics Are Ethical
Kind of a weird place to start, right?
But it’s true.
Because skeptics tend to follow, in one way or another, the laws of a universal rule:
The responsibility for demonstrating the validity of a claim falls on the person making the claim.
In other words:
If YOU say something outlandish like, “Memory techniques won’t work for me” …
… AND you’re an ethical person …
YOU Will Do Something To Prove That You’re Right!
And that’s where the fun begins.
Because it’s almost impossible NOT to succeed with memory techniques if you’re ethical. And you have to be seriously getting in your own way to make failure even a remote possibility.
#2 Skepticism Comes Packed With Determination
People anxious to prove that they can’t use memory techniques bring truckloads of determination.
So much so that they’re able to quickly overcome the objections that people with only a passing interest in training their memory allow to disrupt them.
What are these objections?
- I’m not creative …
- I’m not visual …
- I don’t have the energy …
- It’s too hard …
… and a slew of other negative self-talkisms that no true skeptic would ever let stand in their way.
No, skeptics want badly to get at the truth. So they tackle the training with all the due diligence it deserves.
Aren’t you starting to wish that you were a skeptic too? 😉
#3 Skepticism Creates Multiple Levels Of Energy
Think about it this way:
The fact that the skeptic motors in with all guns blazing to prove that they can’t do it is one level of energy.
But then when they begin to see that they’re absolutely wrong …
A new energy appears.
The energy of total surprise and excitement from getting results! Because lo and behold, these skeptics discover … the memory techniques do perform with ease after all!
And when that second level of energy doubles back to the memory of their skepticism … it grows even bigger!
Because they’ve returned to their ethical core and accomplished something profound.
They didn’t sit around whining and crying about their doubt.
They went out and investigated.
They picked the purportedly miraculous skill apart and learned it in the process.
And, of course, to really learn memory techniques, you’ve got to also use them.
And when that happens …
You’re Hooked For Life!
Isn’t that exciting?
You bet it is.
Just like it was for Tom, who attended one of the live Magnetic Memory Method trainings I give around the world.
On this particular occasion … Guilin, China.
At the end of the second session, Tom came to me and exclaimed, “You changed my life!”
To be honest, that bold claim made me a bit skeptical!
So we chatted a bit and I understood he was sincere.
But it wasn’t until the third day that he told me just how skeptical he’d been.
Listening to me talk …
… even before he took action …
… the clarity that the Magnetic Memory Method brings to authentic memory improvement wasn’t opening his mind or melting his heart …
It was creating a plan of attack!
And even in the planning, Tom could see that …
He Would Fail To Prove That Memory Techniques Don’t Work!
Although … here’s the ugly truth.
It’s easy to repeat the good news that “memory techniques work.”
But that’s semantics.
The truth is that memory techniques don’t work.
Not at all.
It’s YOU who work the techniques. Never the other way around.
You don’t ask a skipping rope to fly in circles in the air, do you?
No! You pick it up and twirl it around your body as you jump up and down.
It’s not magic – it’s exercise!
And the benefits of doing so?
But for some reason, many people expect to buy a memory improvement book or course and have some kind of otherworldly, spellbinding transformation.
Well … that’s not so far off the mark. If you work the memory techniques, you absolutely can experience an entrancing metamorphosis of memory ability most people only dream of!
But you’ve got to understand that all memory improvement begins and ends with picking up the tool and using it.
And That’s Why Tom Couldn’t Prove That Memory Techniques Don’t Work!
He was too determined to pick up the tool and use it to prove that the memory techniques don’t work.
But to do that …
He had to work the techniques!
And so the third day he returned to me and said again, “You changed my life!”
But this time it wasn’t just with the claim that I’d changed his life.
It was with a Magnetic Memory Method Memory Journal in tow.
All the instructions followed to the letter.
And let me tell you …
His first Memory Palace Looked Beautiful!
And on the page beside it, two columns of Chinese idioms.
Not simple vocabulary, but small, complex phrases.
And What Happened Next Didn’t Surprise Me In The Least!
You see, I’ve encountered many times before.
Not that it doesn’t give me a thrill each and every time.
Quite the opposite. As I listened to Tom recite 20 Chinese idioms off the top of his head, my heart exploded with pride, excitement and the absolute edification that comes with seeing yet another skeptic move over to the Magnetic side of the Force.
I’ve felt the same edification when using the Magnetic Memory Method to memorize Chinese poems.
But oh how Tom doubted!
And oh how he let his skepticism be his prime motivator.
Which leaves us now with possibly …
The Most Important Memory Improvement
Question In The Known And Unknown Universe!
If you’re not already a skeptic, but you’d like to have the energy of a skeptic so that you can finally get some results, how do you bring the power of positive skepticism into your life?
I’m so glad you asked because I’m unusually equipped to help you answer the question.
After all, back during my professor days, I taught a fourth year course in Critical Thinking for a couple semesters.
And now you can enjoy the broad strokes of that course in just a few minutes.
But be cautious:
What You’re About To Learn
Will Improve Your Entire Life
Skepticism begins simply.
It begins by inspecting information more closely than before.
Instead of glossing over everything all the time, peer between the lines.
And ask you think and ask questions …
Ask more questions.
And go in with a particular attitude when you do:
Expect Specific Answers That Make Sense And Must Be True
So in the case of memory improvement, if a claim doesn’t seem quite right (which is often the case in information about memory supplements), go to the source and ask pointed questions.
Expect real answers and don’t be satisfied until you get them.
But please understand that when it comes to memory improvement training, it’s something you learn by doing. So you need to know the difference between inbound questions and outbound questions.
And it’s usually more appropriate in this case questions like:
- Have I learned to create a well-formed Memory Palace?
- Have I used a Memory Palace that I created according to the best guidance I can find?
- Have I used information that will make my life instantly better (like 20 Chinese idioms) instead of practicing with a useless shopping list?
Questions like these cut to the core of the matter and what you’ll find is that the most powerful skepticism for our purposes today are skepticism not of the techniques. We’re talking about skepticism of what you’re doing with the techniques.
And when you get to this point, test the facts against your own experience.
And keep track of the results.
A Memory Journal is one of the best ways to do this and you will deserve massive congratulations.
Not merely because you’re now using memory techniques.
But because you’ve finally accomplished something truly special.
You’re now living a science-based life.
Because here’s what a skeptic really is (courtesy one of my favorite blogs, Science Based Life):
A skeptic is a person who withholds judgment on beliefs, claims, and topics, until the relevant evidence is examined, regardless of previous beliefs etc. Only under a verification of said evidence will a claim etc. be considered valid.
And notice that it is “withholding” judgment, not refusing to examine evidence.
And in this case, all the evidence you need is in the scientific journals.
It’s in the anecdotal descriptions and historical records going back thousands of years.
It’s in the annals of the World Memory Championships which recently celebrated 25 years. And there are many, many more competitions out there who also verify incredible feats under test conditions and track everything.
But there’s no place you need evidence more than inside your own head.
And the only way to get it there is to simply create a Memory Palace and use it.
You’ll need nothing more.
Except more skepticism.
Because every hurdle …
Every learning challenge you’ll ever face …
Benefits from the force and energy of skepticism.
And so all you need to do is ask the right questions and take responsibility for creating the evidence that will answer those questions.
So Now Let Me Ask You A Question:
Are you ready to start being a skeptic?
For the sake of your memory and the improvement of mental literacy around the world, I certainly hope so.
And if you’re not ready, let me know how I can help!
Not only a great article, a fun read!
Thanks for stopping by to check this out, Jim!
For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to check out my interview with Jim Samuels, make sure to do so a.s.a.p.
And get Re-Mind Yourself while you’re on that page from Amazon. It’s one of the best books on memory techniques in the world because it has unique features found nowhere else in the world. If you still have a shred of something holding you back from the power of memory techniques in your body, heart or soul, this book above all will release you into the power and glory of experiencing memory in all its glory.
Enjoy and let us know how you liked the book and the interview! 🙂
Bravo for skepticism. Three cheers for the incredulous. In fact, memory techniques are splendid for skeptics. Seeing is believing. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m from Missouri. So many cool idioms about skepticism.
There are reasons why Cicero and his buddies suggested that mnemonic imagery be zany, colourful, huge, rude and nasty. They liked to put such images out in full view so they could vividly deliver the facts.
It’s the same technique young and old can use today.
Get some vocab, craft a memory space, associate some images, practice and review; and ace whatever comes your way. It’s not rocket science, it’s memory science! 😉
Ah, Missouri, the “Show-Me” state. Very cool that an entire place identifies with the power of skepticism – provided it doesn’t have the pharmakon effect.
The art of memory is definitely a science par excellence – as all true arts are at their core. My mind makes a random but fitting association riffing on your thoughts:
Have you seen Tim’s Vermeer? Directed by none other than one of the best skeptics we’ve got, Teller.
Also Penn Jillette worked on writing – someone I hope to speak with one day or at least obtain permission from to replay a recording of his discussion of aphantasia. This recording contains the clue to how even those lowest on the visual threshold and thereby best equipped to be receive memory improvement results from their skepticism-driven exploration.
These are rhizomatic connections the best readers of this blog will not hesitate to bulb tout suite into their memory gardens. 🙂
I have not seen Tim’s Vermeer; however, it looks awesome!
Using the rhizomatic learning methods and modern technology of today to emulate the Art of Vermeer is somewhat analogous to memory practitioners using today’s mnemonic apparatus and technology to visit and emulate the past of of our mnemonic forbears.
When you’re memorizing ” When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,” and visualizing and hearing 40 Johnny Winter and Shelley Winters images interacting loudly and lasciviously on a battlefield, that’s pretty rhizomatic! 😉 – And very powerful mnemonically!
One of my favourite skeptics and memorizers hors pair, is Lynne Kelly. Her book has yet to reach North America, but I check out my local book seller from time to time and will snap it up when I can.
What I enjoy about your pod casts Anthony is the wonderful world of thinking, learning by doing, and working the techniques.
As the great chess master Emmanuel Lasker said, ” “On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of lies; the merciless fact, culmination in checkmate, contradicts the hypocrites.”.
This is true of memory work as well. Work well and long, eventually you’ll be able to checkmate your memory targets.
Yes, Lynne’s new book is great – I was so excited when it arrived that I even live-streamed my excitement about finally getting The Memory Code.
I also had some correspondence with her this morning as we’re planning on interview for the MMM Podcast. She told me about an exciting new project to help bring memory techniques into schools that I can’t wait to announce … oh I’m sure it’s okay to mention The Orality Center already, seeing as it’s already online and all.
Great quote from Emmanuel Lasker. Truth, if ever I read it. 🙂
Thank you, Alex. Your comments are much appreciated.
My book, The Memory Code, has been published in North America for 2 months now. I know that Barnes & Noble stores all have it. As does Amazon.
Looking forward to our chat on the MMM podcast.
I’m looking forward to our chat as well and thanks for stopping by to let us know that The Memory Code is available in North America. I highly recommend the hard cover edition! 🙂
I have also enjoyed your web site Lynne and enthusiastically read about your 30 (and counting) memory projects.
Amerindian cultures have excellent loci, song, dance, story and other forms of memory and record keeping.
Inuit in the far North of Canada kept telling the British and anyone else (who wouldn’t listen) about the fate and end of Sir John Franklin and his crews who perished on the ill starred HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to attempt to find the North West Passage in the Arctic Ocean.
It was thanks to these people that the ships (as well as some remains) were found – quite recently, too, in fact.
Other indigenous cultures employ wampum beads for currency, trading and treaties. Totems, potlaches, star blanket history, sweat and medicine lodges, and more.
False face and other first nations’ traditional medicinal and spiritual practices are based on many different forms of memory and meditation methods.
Thanks for your splendid work in this field.
Thanks for this, Alex.
It all begs the question …
Who will be the first mnemonist to achieve fluency in an indigenous Canadian language?
With respect to Aboriginal languages, Amanda Markham has published the excellent Learning an Aboriginal Language: A Quick & Dirty Guide to Learning Vocabulary.
I’m a bit partial to her findings for reasons you’ll see upon reading, so, dear MMM blog readers, let your fullest skeptical powers unite and definitely judge for yourselves. A good test of the techniques for yourself will solve just about any and all lingering doubt. 🙂
Hi Anthony, Here as promised is my input on this topic:
I always thought that being a Skeptic was wrong. You opened my eyes. I once told myself the following: Nothing is a surprise to me anymore.
With this being said I was taken back by when you said Skeptic drives one to be better. I was/am not skeptic that these things for memory work because I know they still do. Here I am a normal guy who when I see a 2 digit Number I don’t see the number anymore I actually see the Image that I was taught. 34 for me is Mayor no matter how you slice it.
3 digits are my goal to master next 101-1000. But I will get there. Then after I will learn all 52 states area codes. So when you ask me a state I can tell you all the area codes in that state. It was good when I lived in 2 NY and FL.
I already have a few 3 digits memorized and they have a spot in my Journeys around town. I hope I didn’t bore you too much with all my explaining of my process. Hope to hear from you soon. ~~ Bill~~
Hmmm – a good angle. I must say that when I tried memory techniques before (a long time ago), they always seemed to be harder work than just sitting down and learning stuff in the usual way.
I’ve still had the same feelings as I’ve tried this time, but I’m persisting and maybe it will work this time. The jury is still out on whether it is really worth all that effort.
Thanks for sharing your perspective, Rosemary.
I think one of the distinguishing factors here is fun. There may also be layover effects from traditional learning work ethic – something that I have certainly had to combat when learning memory techniques.
Plus, there is no doubt that many of us have different learning styles. And when it comes to mnemonics, issues like aphantasia suggest that “seeing” images in the mind isn’t an option for some people.
But there are other tools:
* Association through irony
* Association through puns
* Association through rhyme
* Association through logical twists
* Association through the concept (not necessarily the sight) of size
* … and on and on. And each can be explored using the tools of spatial memory (the Memory Palace), episodic memory (use of story) and the other kinds of memory that one accesses regularly when using memory techniques.
All of which comes back to the matter of fun and the desire to solve one’s own puzzle of how memory works at an individual level.
This is why I use the metaphor of the scientist in the laboratory so often for memory techniques. It can be nothing but a blending of science and art as each new person discovers the universal principles by which the brain always already learns. At its core, mnemonics is a means of discovering what you do anyway on autopilot and then accentuating it.
It’s beautiful and definitely worth the effort – especially when you find the fun in it such that the expenditure of time and energy goes by unfelt, or at least without any sense of harm. 🙂
Really loved this article! First it was nerds, then geeks and now here you are standing up for skeptics. I might just start a site for skeptics, their time has come. Great points you make too!
Thanks for stopping by, Mark!
Yes, a blog for skeptics would be good. I think the existing ones matter, but many lack in the kind of verb and finesse you could bring. Consider me first in line for a guest post on the power of memory for skepticism! 🙂