The Zeno’s Paradox of Memory Skills

zeno's paradox of memory palacesDear Memorizers,

In some ways, building Memory Palaces is a lot like advanced math. You chart a course based on a predetermined number of stations and then you move from coordinate to coordinate with a developed understanding of where you’re going because of “equations” you’ve used to construct the journey and place your words along the way.

So the message about Zeno’s Paradox in this nifty video isn’t all that unrelated, especially when it comes to matters like fluency or mastering the terminology of a subject area:

One of the things that fascinates me about this video is how the theory manages to be both utterly convoluted and completely elegant at the same time. The idea that an arrow can never reach its target even though it definitely has done, can do and will again reminds me a lot of Memory Palaces.

For example, many people tell me that my approach is too complex and involves too many steps. If the target is fluency, then they feel that they’ll never reach it because they’re spending too much time on “pre-memorization” activities.

But really, if you’ve using the worksheets to figure out all of your Palaces and identify a journey within each one, you’ve really spent only between 1-5 hours. If you’ve been reading this newsletter, then you also know that you can get started with just one letter in one Memory Palace …

Anyhow, what I think is missing from the Zeno’s Paradox story is this (at least when it applies to human activities):

The journey is the goal. The goal is the journey.

When we are memorizing a language or learning the terminology of a profession or studying for a degree, we sometimes forget that now is all we have. Having goals is great and they are a key component of success.

But goals are only stations along the way and we need to settle ourselves into the present moment and really enjoy what’s going on.

This is one reason I don’t like rote learning. There’s very little to enjoy about repeating the same word over and over again – unless you happen to love the sound of it.

What I do really enjoy is using a dedicated Memory Palace to place words I don’t know using vibrant, silly and fun imagery that makes me laugh whenever I think about how I’ve learned and memorized a new word or phrase.

Every moment of it is fun.

So yes, Zeno’s Paradox is puzzling and fascinating to think about. But let’s not treat the use of Memory Palaces to build fluency as if the goal both can and cannot ever be reached. If you are memorizing the vocabulary of a new language or the terminology of your profession, then you have successfully strung the goal and the journey together.

Today.

Right now.

As we speak.

In Zeno’s Present.

That’s what the Magnetic Memory Method is all about.

Until next time, make sure to teach someone what you have learned about memorization. It’s the best way to deepen your own understanding and to help make the world a better – and more memorable – place. The more we remember, the more we can remember, and the more we learn, the more we can learn.

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