Memory Athlete

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

Why I Compete

In two weeks I'll be in China competing again at the World Memory Championships. Many people wonder why I compete. Aside from the obvious (a much better memory because I'm constantly working to improve it), there's the "thrill of victory.... and the agony of defeat." (Anyone remember that line?!?)

Here's a so-far unseen video from last year's competition, also in China, of the thrill side of it, where I broke my own previous record of memorizing a random number that is spoken only out loud - we (the competitors) never see it, we only hear it. Oh - and it's spoken aloud by a computer at the rate of one digit per second. :) 

I listened for 150 seconds and recalled them all, start to finish, perfectly. At the end of the video is 150 seconds of spoken digits using the software from the competition, so you can listen to the computer and see how you do. Give it a try!

Announcing: I'm competing again at the World Memory Championships!

I am once again competing at the World Memory Championships. This will be my fourth year in a row, and I'm training harder than ever. Just over the weekend I memorized 2,500+ digits of random numbers: 1,200 digits in one hour, and the rest in five-minute blocks. This will hopefully prepare me for both the Hour Numbers event and the Speed Numbers (5 minute) event, plus the other three disciplines that feature numbers.

This year's competition will be held in Chengdu, China on December 15-18. 

I'll be posting more details here, as well as my training schedule, pictures of the trip, etc. Stay tuned.