Interview on the podcast "Yak About Today - A Boomer's GPS Guide to Life"

I had another wonderful discussion about memory with David Yakir, the host of the podcast “Yak About Today.” David is a wonderful interviewer and this short conversation is worth a listen. We discuss memory improvement (of course) and I offer several tips from my new book, Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success in School, Work, and Life.

The podcast interview is great for anyone but if you happen to be a baby boomer I encourage you to subscribe to his podcast. He has great guests, keeps things moving, and is fun to listen to! Click below to listen to the interview.

Taking the stairs....mentally.


Adding a bit of physical exercise into our day can be easy. We park the car far from the door of work or the store than usual to walk further than usual. We take the stairs to the second or third floor instead of taking the elevator. Many of us go to the gym a few times a week, walk around the neighborhood before or after work, or play with the kids in the yard before dinner. We’ve been told over and over that keeping our bodies fit is important. After years of hearing it many of us are finally taking action.

What are we doing for our minds, though? Yes, we go to the office, warehouse, stay at home with the kids, take care of elderly parents, volunteer, go wherever our daily efforts take us. Of course we focus and do what needs to be done, but that’s our normal, everyday effort. What is the mental equivalent of taking the stairs?

Here’s how I did it yesterday. At the end of work I double checked my cloud backup software and realized it hadn’t been backing up as usual for the past few days. I tried several things and couldn’t get it to work so decided to use a different program to back up the last week’s data onto an external drive.

As the backup started running I realized that I rarely use that particular software. What if the computer’s hard drive failed over night? (I have had two hard drives fail in the last several years so I’m a bit paranoid!) I’d eventually reinstall all the programs but…would I remember the name of the rarely used backup software? I realized I didn’t know the name of it - I had searched my computer for “backup” and chosen the program I had installed a few years ago without giving it any thought… or noting the name of it. How would I reinstall that program in an emergency if I didn’t even know its name?

Like many people the first thing I did was reach for my pen and the notepaper to the right of my keyboard where I keep my next day’s to-do list. Yes, the memory guy keeps a to-do list! I discuss why in chapter 51 of my latest book, Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success in School, Work, and Life (available today in paperback). To sum up: I keep my main to-do list in my mind and the paper list is my backup. Most people use their lists as the primary and hope, wish, or pray that they may also remember some of it. I flip that around: exercise the mind by making it work but anything “mission critical” gets backed up by writing it down.

To take the mental stairs last night I noted the name of the backup software and thought of a way to remember it. No need to write it down. Our minds know how to remember — think of all the things we manage to recall each day — I just needed to take a second and make the effort.

Today, take the mental stairs with a few things. Your mind may rebel at first. After all, changing a habit can be challenging and making ourselves work harder isn’t usually our first choice! But in the long run, your mind will thank you!

As a reward for reading this far, here’s the photo of the day. I’m learning photography as a way to continually exercise my mind and I’ll be posting some of the resulting photos.

Snuck outside early in the morning after getting pictures of these three through the window. This is the moment they realized I was outside with them (they don’t mind much when they see me inside the house). They stared at me for several seconds then turned tail and ran.

Snuck outside early in the morning after getting pictures of these three through the window. This is the moment they realized I was outside with them (they don’t mind much when they see me inside the house). They stared at me for several seconds then turned tail and ran.

Learn (and review) something new today

Have you challenged yourself to learn something new today? I know it seems hard with everything else that is going on in our lives but taking a few seconds to learn a new fact, foreign language word, phone number, or the name of someone new is essential to maintaining or improving our memory ability.

Will it seem hard? Yes. Will you forget sometimes? Absolutely. But it’s still worth trying.

By trying, we show our minds that we are serious about improving our memory ability. When we do this on a regular basis we train ourselves to pay more attention and work our minds. Over time this tiny bit of effort will pay off in a big way!

What can you learn right now? Look up how to say hello, goodbye, thank you, how much, when, etc. in the language of a place you would like to visit or your ancestors came from. Memorize your license plate number or your spouse’s office number instead of just their cell phone number. Listen for the name of your server at the restaurant or the person ringing up your groceries at the store and make an effort to remember their name. You can do it - your mind knows how to remember all these things if you put the effort to it.

Tonight as you get ready for bed review what you learned. Then, tomorrow morning as you eat breakfast, quiz yourself. If you remember, congratulations. And if not - congratulations! You still made the effort and you can try it again. Do this every day and before long you’ll have trained yourself to remember better.

I’m learning to use my camera better - not just on Auto but how to control all the settings manually. Here’s a photo from a while ago (still on Auto mode but not bad, I think).

Remember, life is too short to suffer with a bad memory!


Common memory excuse #2: "I'm old(er)"

Memory Excuses #2 I'm old.jpg

Why do you have a bad memory? Are you using that as an excuse or is it the “real deal”? Let’s continue to look at common excuses people use to forgo memory improvement (and whether they are good excuses or not!).

  1. “I’m getting old/I’m just old.”

    Once again we need to look at whether you have a bad memory in every situation or just some/most. I have a friend who is “elderly” (his words) who complained of a bad memory and was concerned about forgetfulness, especially around remembering whether he took his several-times-a-day medication.

    Interestingly, though, he was easily able to remember the details of his friends’ families: whose kid had graduated from which college, whose grandchild was walking and talking up a storm, and any detail related to people.

    Remembering what he had for breakfast or whether he had taken his morning walk, however, seemed beyond him.

    This is a good example of remembering what we are interested in and what we focus on. For him, his personable nature made the details of his friends and their families memorable. Whether he took his morning pill or went for a walk yesterday were daily, unimportant details to him (but frustrating when he tried to recall them and couldn’t).

    For him and many others, getting old means that some things (routine daily activities, what the weather was like, what to get at the grocery store) have lost their uniqueness so they aren’t paid attention to. The problem isn’t necessarily a recall problem, it’s all about focus and attention. (Though for good measure he has his memory checked with his primary care physician on occasion.)

    If you feel you’re “old” or “getting older” look specifically at what you typically forget. Is it all areas of your life or just some? My latest memory book has quick, easy fixes for specific problem areas (a delightfully quick, easy, and fun way to remember whether you took your medicine or vitamin each day) and big-picture solutions for larger areas like how to improve your overall focus and pay attention better.

    Here’s a new review of the book by someone who you might relate to:

A recent review of my book “Mastering Memory”

A recent review of my book “Mastering Memory”

If you struggle to remember in every area of your life please read the previous blog post which has three great tips on how to start your overall memory improvement journey. Click here for the blog post.

Next time we’ll look at another common excuse for forgetfulness and a “bad memory.” In the meantime use the information above to ensure you’re doing what you can to have a better memory now. Life is too short for a bad memory, especially when remembering well is so simple and easy.

For more easy ways to have a better memory please check out my book. It has short, easy-to-read and understand chapters filled with practical advice on working with your mind instead of against it to remember better in all areas of your life.

What's holding you back? Common memory excuse #1.

Memory Excuses.jpg

Why do you have a bad memory? Are you using that as an excuse or is it the “real deal”? Let’s look at common excuses people use to forgo memory improvement (and whether they are good excuses or not!).

  1. “I just have a bad memory/I’ve always had a bad memory.”

    Ask yourself if you have a bad memory in every situation or just some/most. For example, can you remember something like movie dialogue and song lyrics but not things you read? That could indicate you have a good memory but you learn best audibly instead of by reading - not that you have a bad memory. There’s a solution for remembering better that involves making sure you hear the information (or use other techniques when forced to learn by reading).

    Or do you remember sports scores, stats, the players on your favorite teams, or the actors on TV or movies but aren’t good at remember the names of people you meet socially? To me that means you have a good memory for things that interest you, not a bad memory! There are ways to increase your memory ability for the less interesting things in life so you can enjoy your good memory in all areas of your life - not just sports or entertainment.

    If you struggle to remember in every area of your life there are a few things to look at:

    1. How is your sleep? Do you get enough (6-9 hours)? Is it quality sleep? This is an area to focus on to improve memory. Many of my coaching clients see remarkable improvement in their daily memory abilities when they go to sleep earlier. Some have even taken the step of buying a new mattress to improve their sleep and have had great results. Experts say that as our bodies change we often need to update our beds and estimate it needs to be done every 4-7 years. Gone are the days when beds were expected to last 10-20 years. Ignore a bed’s warranty and plan on buying a new bed every 5-6 years on average. I bought a guest bed from Amazon (Amazon’s in-house brand, Riven, and love sleeping on it. It’s a bit too soft for my wife as an everyday bed but works great in our guest room - every house guest has raved about it.

    2. How stressed are you? Stress and powerful emotions like grief, anger, sadness, fear,etc are huge issues for memory. My step-mother, dad, and father-in-law all passed away within nine months and my memory was horrible for that whole year. Yes, my highly-trained, know every trick in the book memory had a hard time keeping track of the simplest things. Look honestly at your emotional state and consider if you have a bad memory or if you’re overwhelmed in life. Work with caring people to get yourself back into balance and watch your ability to focus and remember easily improve.

    3. How is your activity level? Your physical shape? Taking care of our bodies plays a large part in how well our minds function. What can you (safely) do each day to start, continue, or improve the process of taking care of your body? (I suggest consulting an expert like your doctor or dietitian first.)

      These are three common problems I see - and help fix - when people claim the have a “bad” memory. Next time we’ll look at another one. In the meantime use the information above to ensure you’re doing what you can to have a better memory now. Life is too short for a bad memory, especially when remembering well is so simple and easy.

      For more easy ways to have a better memory please check out my book. It has short, easy-to-read and understand chapters filled with practical advice on working with your mind instead of against it to remember better in all areas of your life.

Reviews are in for Mastering Memory

The reviews are starting to come in and people seem to love my new book, Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success In School, Work, and Life. As an author I realize not everyone will love a book but it’s very gratifying to read these. Here is a screenshot of the Amazon review page:


Do you have trouble with remembering certain things (or everything)? Whether it’s my book or someone else’s I encourage you to do a tiny bit of work to improve your memory abilities. Life is too short to struggle with the embarrassment and unhappiness that forgetfulness brings! Remember better is possible for everyone and you may find - like many of my coaching clients - that it can be fun and enjoyable!

Engage your mind: learn new things

One of easiest ways to improve your memory is to learn new things that challenge your mind. Did I say easiest? Many people would argue that the hardest thing to do when our minds are struggling is to push them harder! But I look at it like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk every day: we gently push our bodies to help maintain our physical health.

To prevent burnout or a feeling of dread when it’s time to do your “mind work,” pick an activity you enjoy, ideally one with a near-term payoff. Here are a few ideas:

  • learn five new foreign language words per day. This works especially well with a language that means something to you: one a neighbor or colleague speaks or someplace you might visit one day (sooner is better to help with motivation)

  • learn to play a musical instrument

  • learn the rules to a new game (chess, Go, etc.) or sport (can anyone explain Cricket to me?!?). If you have children in your life, learn the rules to their favorite sport or game (anyone else know a child who is obsessed with Minecraft?!)

  • learn how to personalize your smart phone or organize your email inbox

  • learn how to operate your fancy camera, including all the manual options

  • learn anything that appeals to you, from finally actually finishing Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to mastering 5th grade math to help your child or grand child.

What do all these have in common? The word learn. Learning is something many of us dread. Once we finish school, we’re done. Why? Many have a bad experience in school. Some of us don’t learn well by reading. Sometimes it just feels like too much effort… much like walking up one or two flights of stairs instead of waiting for the elevator.

Today, though, we don’t have to suffer through classes or subjects that don’t interest us. Start learning something and realize you have no interest in it? No problem! Dump it… but pick up something that does interest you.

If you don’t know how - that’s easily fixed. Whether it’s my book about how to remember the new thing you’re learning (Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success in School, Work, and Life) or someone else’s, a Youtube video about how to remember (which works well if you learn better from watching an explanation instead of reading), there really isn’t a good excuse.

Get with it. Start small and don’t forget to choose an activity, subject, language, or hobby that interests you - that’s the key. It’s much easier to learn and remember things we are passionate about!

I practice what I preach. In addition to the memory training I do most days as a memory athlete, I’m slowly learning how to take photos with my Sony A6000 camera. Photography is a passion of mine, I’ve had the camera for a few years, and it’s time to learn how to handle it better. Below are some of my recent photos and I’ll be posting more off and on.

Join me in staying (or getting) mentally fit. If you’re brave, post what you’re interested in learning below.

Helping Hand in the Rain

Helping Hand in the Rain

Hay Deer at Dawn

Hay Deer at Dawn

Improve focus to improve memory

Do you struggle to remember? One of the first things I help my coaching clients with is improving focus. Our minds know how to remember but too often we’re distracted, overwhelmed, or too busy to get the information in the first place. And if we don’t get the information we can’t recall it later.

One way to improve focus (out of the many I use) is to practice mindfulness. Even attempting mindfulness often improves focus, even if one doesn’t think it’s being done “correctly” or “well.”

Here is an interesting article both for those who may have ADHD and those who struggle with many distractions in their lives. It includes two good exercises for improving focus…which will also have the effect of improving your ability to remember.

Don’t take my word for it — try it yourself. Do one of the short, easy exercises once a day for a week and see what happens. Leave a reply below or email me privately with the results.

If you need more help or are unhappy with your ability to remember, I also encourage you to pick up my new book, Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success in School, Work, and Life. It’s an easy-to-read book filled with practical solutions to 75 common memory problems, from remembering names of people we meet, motivating ourselves to remember better at work or school, and even pleasing our friends and family members by finally remembering more of what they say. You’ll even be able to remember to pick up what you need from the grocery store on the way home!

Please check out the book today - it will help your memory tremendously.

Mastering Memory Book

I’m so excited to announce that my new book will be published soon! It’s available for pre-order right now.

This is a fun book with practical solutions to common (and some less common) memory problems. More to come but I wanted to get the word out here now! Here’s the link to pre-order or get more information.


News about cyber security and passwords

My book (The Hack-Proof Password System: Protect Yourself Online With a Memory Expert's In-Depth Guide to Remembering Passwords) is available at a perfect time. Just in the last few days there have been several reports of systems being hacked and people being asked to change their passwords immediately.

This is obviously important for the site which has been hacked, but even more important because of the number of people who still use the same password for more than one website. This is so dangerous! In one report I saw this morning, a college's website was hacked and student user names and passwords were vulnerable. If students used the same password for his Amazon account, or her bank account, the hacker could easily gain access to those accounts using the stolen user name and password combination.

In my book, I discuss this further, and recommend that people use a different password for every single website. It's entirely possible to do this by using any of the three methods I guide readers through in the book.

Memory improvement is easier than most people think, and remembering passwords can be simple and even fun. Give the book a try and see for yourself! The book is discounted for a few days: only 99 cents on Amazon:

To receive a free printable workbook for use with the ebook, plus a companion book (PDF) about staying safe online, go to this page of my site:


Interviewed by Sales Babble Podcast

Pat Helmers, sales guru extraordinaire, trainer, and podcast host, interviewed me recently about using memory to improve sales. We also discussed my new book, The Hack-Proof Password System

Pat admitted he uses a software solution for managing his passwords and put me to the test to convince him that my techniques were easy and effective. I think I did, but listen for yourself, especially if you have doubts about whether you should use your mind as the ultimate hack-proof password storage! Here's the interview:

If sales are any part of your business, definitely check out Pat's podcast for weekly advice from him and other experts in business, marketing, and sales.

Interviewed by Anthony Metivier

Last week I had the great pleasure of begin interviewed by Anthony Metivier: podcast host, professor, author, and memory expert. 

We had a wide-ranging discussion about cyber security, passwords, learning, life-hacking, and more. We also dove deeply into memory improvement, how to remember better, memory palaces, and tips for remembering passwords.

This is well worth a listen! Listen on his website or subscribe to his podcast for even other great interviews. (Scroll down on his page to see the podcast playing controls.)

My new memory book!

My long-awaited book is finally available! It's The Hack-Proof Password System: Protect Yourself Online With a Memory Expert's In-Depth Guide to Remembering Passwords. (I know, quite a mouthful!)

I'm proud of how well it turned out. In it, I guide you through why it's so hard to remember passwords, how essential it is, and - most importantly - how to do it. I make the process easy and even fun with exercises that gradually develop your memory and creativity. You practice creating passwords to made-up websites like one for the Statue of Liberty, "Loud!", "SuperCheapo" and others so you get a real feel for how easy it is.

A few of the biggest comments people had when I told them I was working on this project:

"I just use the same password over and over. How bad can it be?" 

Bad. Very, very bad. Imagine the headache from your social media account getting hijacked, or your email account spamming everyone in your contact list and infecting them as well. Bad things happen to those who reuse their passwords on multiple websites!

"I just use a password management program." 

Oh, like the one that was recently successfully hacked? Or the other big one, that has been successfully hacked twice now? Your mind is the ultimate, unhackable (is that a word?) place to store your passwords. Use it!

"I could never do that." 

Yes, you can. Really. It's so much easier than you might think. While you're going through the exercises, you're also improving your memory for other parts of your life. Frequently misplace items? Forget the names of people? Wonder why you walked into the room? Don't remember things people tell you? Learning how to remember passwords will help you remember better in other parts of your life.

"Why isn't this just a blog post? How can it be a full book?"

The print version is 114 pages - trust me, it's a full book. I guide you through:

  • The Steps of Memory
  • My Three Keys to Remembering Anything
  • How to be more creative to make better memories
  • Exercises to improve your creativity
  • Two different methods for creating and remembering passwords
  • A complete system for remembering assigned passwords (like XR9TK?341na3%z)
  • Fun practice exercises creating passwords for silly, made-up websites
  • An explanation of phishing, spear-phishing, two-factor authentication, and more.

BUT - it's all organized into bite-size morsels to indulge yourself with. (Okay, that's going a little's not delectable chocolate bon-bons. But it is a helpful, easy-to-read book that will take your cyber security to the next level and help keep you safe online.)

Click here to check it out on Amazon. There's a four question quiz to see if it's perfect for you. Then download it, enjoy it, give your mind a little (easy) workout. The powerful yet easy-to-learn techniques in the book will save you time, money, and frustration while protecting your privacy and making you secure.

Pi Day World Record Attempt

I'm at it again! I'll be attempting to set a new world record on Pi Day, Tuesday 3/14, 2017.

I'll attempt to break a record that has been called “The Everest of Memorization Tests.” It involves knowing not only the first 10,000 digits of Pi in five-digit segments: 3.   14159  26535   8979… but also being able to instantly identify any of the segments.

Judges will give me 50 random segments and must be able to correctly recall the five digits both before and after every given segment.

Watch the short video for a good visual explanation.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, approximated as 3.14159, and has an infinite number of digits with no apparent pattern.

The attempt will be held starting at 10am in Saratoga Springs, at 2 Union Avenue, Room 126, hosted by the Academy for Lifelong Learning and Empire College. Limited seating is available for spectators, but all are welcome to watch via Facebook Live via my page: After the record attempt, I'll answer questions and offer memory tips.

Please watch online on Tuesday - 10am Eastern - or catch the video of it that I'll post later. 

Whether you watch or not, please send warm thoughts my way during that time (and before as I train). This is by far the hardest memory feat I've ever attempted. I can easily memorize 10,000 digits - that only took about 11 hours. But to instantly place a five-digit segment out of the 2,000 total segments, then be able to know which five digits come before and after has proven very difficult to consistently accomplish in training. 


"The Everest of Memorization Tests"

You know you're in trouble when step 1 is "Memorize the first 10,000 digits of Pi: forwards, backwards, and out of order."

That's what I've spent the last few weeks doing. Or, as my wonderful wife Beth said, "You realize that attempting to do that in only a few weeks is insane, right?" Yes dear...but what a challenge.

Several weeks ago my friend Nelson Dellis, a fellow memory athlete, suggested we not only both attempt to break a world record in memory, but we do it against each other - to encourage each other and compete to see who could break the record by the most (if it was even possible to break the record). 

Making it trickier: he wanted to do it on September 21st, World Alzheimer's day, to bring awareness to the disease and educate people about it. We also are working to help scientists who are researching memory in order to eventually find a cure.

Like a good friend (and an idiot), I said yes. 

Who cares that I'd have to fly to San Diego right after doing a big keynote address Tuesday morning in Philadelphia? No problem.

The challenge: memorize the first 10,000 digits of Pi in 5-digit segments. For the record, judges will call out random 5-digit segments from anywhere in the first 10,000 digits, always from different thousands. In other words, the first segment may come from the 6,000-7,000 bunch, the second segment from the 1,000-2,000 bunch, etc. 

We will have to know Pi well enough that we can tell the judge the five digit segment prior and following the one they've given us. Randomly, no hints, no context. 

I memorize using pictures and storing the information in a series of locations (the rooms in my house, my town, nearby towns, etc.) The way it works out, it's 2,000 pictures. Each picture contains the five digits of a segment. 

Imagine someone giving you 2,000 pictures you've never seen before, in order from 1-2,000. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to memorize those pictures well enough that you know the order perfectly, even out of context.

Making it more troublesome: imagine some of those pictures are really, really similar. For example, a lion tamer sledding down a hill and running over a bunny, and Joey from friends sledding down another hill, running over another bunny. AND a soldier sledding down another hill running over a bunny. And Joey from friends sledding down yet a different hill running over a clown (sorry, Barry Lubin/Grandma!). 

(This paragraph for memory geeks only: I have a PAO system, 2-2-2, and have resisted developing a 3-digit system. Since the challenge involves memorizing Pi in 5-digit segments, this would be the perfect motivator to do a three digit system and do P-O.)

I wasted time trying to work out a new system for memorizing this much data, eventually throwing it out when it became apparent that the new system would take too long to develop.

I was cruising along pretty well, memorizing 1,000 and reviewing every other day, when we had first a small family emergency, then a huge family emergency where I was unable to memorize for many days. Family definitely comes first, and thankfully the situation has worked itself out and ended well (whew!). But it set me back by almost two weeks.

Now I'm sitting in the airport, big gig done, ready to fly to California, and hoping that the past week of cramming has been enough.

My last Pi session with my wife a few days ago was depressing. I remembered many in a row, perfectly and quickly, then would hear a segment and have no was like I had never even thought of that picture before. I'd ask her to give me clues, the segments before and after, and even that wouldn't help. 

I figure out of the 2,000 pictures, I know 1,800-1,850 really well. That leaves way too many that I don't know well enough. On my drive to my presentation yesterday, I spent five hours listening to the numbers read out, hoping that would help. Now I have a 9 hour trip to San Diego to continue cramming!

More details of the challenge here:

Follow us on Facebook Live Wednesday, September 21 starting at noon Pacific, 3pm eastern. We'll each be attempting the record three times, so tune in to watch on Extreme Memory Challenge page. (I'll also try to stream it on my page: