Author of the book Ultimate Memory Magic, Jim Karol, teaches us how to use and strengthen our memory so we can remember anything!
Today’s episode is an interview with Jim Karol, author of the audiobook Ultimate Memory Magic. We’ll be exploring how to memorize anything and everything ... quickly. Listen to the podcast episode to hear the actual interview, and find Jim’s book at getitdoneguy.com/memory.
Jim starts with a memory ‘peg system.’ In a peg system, you memorize a set of distinct peg images that correspond to numbers.
For example, your pegs might be:
1 = Arnold Schwartzenegger
2 = Gwyneth Paltrow
3 = Ben Platt
4 = Zac Efron
5 = Taylor Swift
You memorize those associations until they’re automatic. Then, to memorize any list, you combine the peg images with the things you’re memorizing.
Let's say you want to memorize a list of tasks, and the tasks are:
A. Clean the car
B. Fold laundry
C. Buy a holiday gift for the office party
You would create an image of peg 1, Arnold Schwartzenegger, cleaning a fabulously expensive car. Then you would imagine Gwyneth Paltrow directing a small army of servants to fold her laundry. Third, you'd imagine Ben Platt in a Santa costume purchasing a gigantic box in wrapping paper with a bow.
Now to remember your to-do list, you run through your pegs and retrieve the new image. Number one is Arnold. The image of Arnold and his car come to mind, so you remember you need to clean the car. Two is Gwyneth and her army of laundry folders, and you remember you need to fold the laundry. Three is Ben and his gigantic box.
Use emotional anchors for the pegs
You always use the same pegs, and those tell you where in the list you are. Remembering your peg images is the key to this technique. Often, peg memory techniques simply choose an arbitrary set of peg images and have you memorize them verbatim.
Don’t use arbitrary peg images. Instead, create your initial peg images so they have strong emotional meaning for you.
Jim adds an important twist. Don’t use arbitrary peg images. Instead, create your initial peg images so they have strong emotional meaning for you. That will make them much easier to remember.
If you’re a movie buff, you can use your favorite (and not-so-favorite) actors. That’s what I did above. Or you could use all of the cast from one show. If you love collecting matchbox cars, you could use models of cars. If you're a foodie, each peg image could be a different dish, or a restaurant where you’ve eaten.
Do whatever it takes for you to create a set of peg images that you can remember basically forever.
Use synesthesia to strengthen connections
When you’re memorizing an association, you can mix in more than just the words. If you’re remembering to do the laundry with Gwyneth Paltrow, also throw in the smell of freshly cleaned laundry. And maybe the sounds of your household servants laughing joyously as they fold your underwear. The more senses you bring to your memory, the better you’ll remember things.
Memorize names by using anchors with similar sounds
One reason people are so bad at memorizing names is that they simply forget to do so. The first step to insuring you’ll remember a name is stopping to take the time to form the memory. Create a ritual to remind yourself. If you often shake hands with people as you meet them, train yourself to pause at the end of a handshake and deliberately choose to remember their name.
The first step to insuring you’ll remember a name is stopping to take the time to form the memory.
The name itself will be more memorable if you choose an anchor with a similar sound. If you meet someone who’s name is Jo, and you really like the character of the Joker from Batman, visualize your new friend standing next to the Joker. The similar sounds will help you recall Jo’s name. Make the picture more memorable by imagining Jo pouring a bowl of soup over the Joker’s head, and you’ll be more likely to remember. (Also, the Joker will be more likely to kidnap and torture Jo in some very creative ways. But hey, that’s not your fault, right? You’re just the person who chose to use a psychopathic sadist as a memory hook.)
Remember numbers musically
When it comes to numbers, peg systems don’t work so well. After all, your pegs are numbers. So remembering numbers by using other numbers is at least confusing, if not down right … confusing.
For numbers, use music! Use rhythm and tempo and melody to put the number to a song. If you’ve ever used a old-school touch tone phone to make an actual phone call (who does that, right?), your brain might already use this technique. When you dial a number, you learn what it sounds like through the headset. Then when you dial it again, if you misdial, you catch it because the sound doesn’t sound right.
Use the elements in whatever combinations work
The key to all the memory techniques is making your peg system rock solid. It becomes the bedrock you anchor everything else to.
Once you have the system established, you don’t need to use the pegs in order. If you’re remembering a name like Stever, and peg 94 in your peg system is a Beaver, then you might associate my face with peg 94 and the image of a Beaver. Next time you’re lucky enough to gaze upon my countenance, you’ll remember the number 94, and the image of a Beaver, and you’ll call me Stever. (Under no circumstances, however, will you call me Ward.)
Deliberately using your memory with a peg system, vivid emotional imagery, synesthesia, and musicality can boost your memory into the stratosphere.
Memory is tricky. We’re all born with memory that’s always operating, all the time. We remember what we had for breakfast without any effort. But deliberately using your memory with a peg system, vivid emotional imagery, synesthesia, and musicality can boost your memory into the stratosphere.
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