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Anthony Metivier's Magnetic Memory Method Podcast
22 minutes | 4 days ago
7 Active Reading Strategies That Help You Remember More
You’ve probably heard that you need active reading strategies in order to understand and remember more. The question is… what exactly are these strategies and how can you use them effectively? On this page, we’re going to cover what I consider to be the best active reading techniques. According to whom? First, scientific research. Second, I’ll share techniques I learned as part of my journey towards getting two MAs, a PhD and working for decades as a research and writer. So if you like the best of both proven research and lived experience, you’re in the right spot to learn how to read better and faster. Let’s get started. What Is Active Reading? Active reading is distinguished from passive reading, an activity where you read just to read. By contrast, the active reading process involves strategies. These strategies may include: Mindset Mental heuristics Specific steps followed in a particular order Advanced note taking techniques Using memory techniques like the Memory Palace during or shortly after reading The most important aspect is that you have a specific goal in mind. For example, as I teach in How to Memorize a Textbook, a goal might be to extract and remember three points per chapter. Here’s another example: Whereas passive reading might involve just picking up the latest book to hit the market, active reading involves researching books that belong to a specific example. Some of my personal case studies have involved the Advaita Vedanta research project that led to my TEDxTalk, Two Easily Remembered Questions That Silence Negative Thoughts. All of the books I read for this project are compiled in the bibliography of The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being. The success of these projects required reading actively in each of the following ways we’re about to cover in depth. How to be an Active Reader: 7 Proven Active Reading Strategies As you go through each of the following strategies, I suggest you take notes. Why? Because it is one of the best possible techniques you can do to really switch on the power of fully engaged reading. One: Active Note Taking I take notes in a number of ways. These include: Linear note taking Note taking on index cards Mental note taking using a Memory Palace Mind mapping I have written a lot about many unusual note taking techniques. Two of my favorite include using index cards in different ways. The first way involves capturing individual ideas on individual cards. I usually decide on how many notes I will take from each chapter to keep things simple and follow the “less is more” principle. Next, I will make the first card have the title and name of the book. Each card thereafter will feature a quote, key point or my own observations. I always add the page number in case I need to find my way back to the place in the book for context. The second style involves cramming everything on to just 1-2 index cards per book. For example, when going through certain books, like some novels I’ve read for a research project on consciousness, there’s no need for multiple index cards. So I use one index card as I read and jot down first the page number and then the quote or idea. This single card keeps my attention focused on the goal of reading the book. Sure, some of them might be entertaining, but here’s what matters: Using the index card while reading helps me remember the goal of paying attention to the theme of consciousness – the core reason I’m reading the book in the first place. Two: Question Everything While Reading One thing that puzzles me about people who practice speed reading is their contradictions. For example, they’ll tell you how to stop subvocalizing, yet at the same time instruct that you should ask questions while reading. How exactly is this possible? I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I ask questions all the time and vocalize on purpose. In fact, to make reading extra-active, you can adopt the voice of particular people in your mind. For example, you can pretend that you are Einstein and ask questions in a German accent. Now that’s what I call active and engaging. And the best part is how it all helps with retaining new information for the long term. What questions should you ask? The obvious ones, of course: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? But you will make your reading even more active by asking other questions. A first level of additional activity would be to add “else” to each question above: Who else? What else? Where else? When else? Why else? How else? If you can push for 5 answers in each case, your engagement will go through the roof. I would suggest you also ask questions like: According to whom is this true? On what grounds are they an authority? How long is their point valid? What challenges or contradicts their point? Under what circumstances is their claim not true? What other evidence exists that they did not include? There are potentially hundreds of questions. The more you practice asking both simple and more complex questions, the more powerful questions will come to mind. Three: Use Multisensory Visualization A lot of people tell you to visualize while reading. That’s great advice, but what if you have aphantasia (lack of a mind’s eye)? The answer, whether you have this condition or not, is to widen your options. In the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass, you’ll learn to visualize using multiple senses that we remember through the KAVE COGS formula: Kinesthetic Auditory Visual Emotional Conceptual Olfactory Gustatory Spatial The Magnetic Modes can be practiced to the point that they work like high-precision cogs in a clock. Touching on each of these “Magnetic Modes” brings even the most abstract information to life, especially if you’re using mnemonic devices. Here are some examples of active reading using a few such devices: You read a book about the presidents and want to memorize one or more names. When you come across “Grover Cleveland,” you think about the kinesthetic sensation of stroking the blue fur of Grover from Sesame Street. You hear the sound of traffic in Cleveland in the United States and visualize the waves by the lighthouse in Cleveland, Australia. You read an equation like 5 ( x – 3 ) = 35. You imagine holding a seahorse in your hand (which looks similar to the number 5). It drives a bulldozer with a scoop shaped like a parenthetical mark. You hear it pushing against a cross in the ground that shoots a bullet at a moustache lying on its side. You estimate that it is about 35 metres high. You read a difficult concept like the halting problem. You imagine Alan Turing “halting” a computer program as it is about to run a speed light. You “hear” their argument in your mind. (Yes, it’s okay to subvocalize while reading.) There’s no doubt that many people will struggle with some of these active reading activities in the beginning. We often haven’t used any of them since early childhood, and even then, they were neither strategic or as sophisticated as they could have been. The trick is to just get started. Study more accelerated learning techniques like these as you go. Practice more often and regularly analyze your results. Four: Pause On New Or Difficult Vocabulary Amongst the many bad pieces of advice given in the speed reading community, reading without stopping is amongst the worst. In reality, the path to reading faster is to increase your vocabulary. That way, you won’t be slowed down in the future. You’ll just know what more words mean. Here’s a simple routine you can follow when you don’t recognize a word while reading: Pause and guess at its meaning. What is the work likely to mean? Try to think of alternate words that might fit in the sentence and still make sense. Write the word down on an index card for vocabulary or in a notebook. Jot down the page number and come back to reread the passage later. I suggest that you do not stop to look words up as you go, at least not in an online dictionary. Doing so interrupts the routine I just shared and also opens you to all kinds of distractions. It’s perfectly fine to save the material for later and doing so improves your memory while fending off digital amnesia. Five: Draw Difficult To Understand Charts And Diagrams Sadly, I used to skip charts and graphs. This bad reading habit slowed my path to understanding and weakened my visual interpretation abilities. Eventually, I learned that it is worth a bit of time – and is highly engaging – to contend with graphs and charts. And the best tactic for doing so was taught to me by my mentor Tony Buzan. As you can see, I’ve redrawn what Tony Buzan called “The Most Important Graph In The World.” (He’s right, by the way. This graph explains the science of how to establish long term memory of information in the shortest amount of time.) If you want a highly active means to understand visual information better, I highly recommend not only drawing graphs and charts. Discuss them verbally with yourself while drawing and later with others. When you teach, you learn the lesson twice. Six: Revisit Your Reading Strategically The index card method I’ve shared on this page allows you to revisit only the most important information from books in a compact format. However, sometimes you need to go back and read more. I would suggest that you turn “sometimes” into “almost always.” (Obviously, there are some books where this is not necessary. But even then, it’s worth revisiting them for better memory.) Unfortunately, there’s no magic number for how many times you should revisit a book to keep your familiarity active. You need to decide this based on your current memory ability and your needs for the information. But here’s a fun idea: Place your books on your bookshelf in three categories: Just read Read six months ago Read one year ago Experiment with different patterns. For example, you can look through books you’ve read in the “Just read” area five times a week for the first month and then move them down one shelf. When the book is in the “6 months” area, look at your material once monthly for six months before moving it to the yearly area. Once there, you can look once a year, or start again by putting it at the top. This powerful variation on the Zettelkasten method helped me a lot during graduate school. Thanks to having index cards in the books, I used Roman numerals to manage the amount of reviews I’d done. Of course, you’re probably wondering… what if I only read digital books? Audiobooks? Or what if I can only access the books I read at a library? Good questions. Here’s where using physical index cards will come in handy. You can store these and arrange them according to the needed review patterns in shoe boxes. This is how I’ve always done it. And I’m not the only one. In fact, here’s a picture from one many Magnetic Memory Method course participants who do the same. (You can find Mike McCollum’s full success story on our community’s testimonials page.) If you want to learn more about techniques like this, consider adding the Memory Palace technique. It’s a fun and easy process and it only takes a short amount of time to learn how: Seven: Summarize Using Multisensory Routines Reading doesn’t end when you close the book. I learned this during graduate school when Dr. Katie Anderson supervised a directing reading course. In case you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a course where you agree on a reading list with a professor. In lieu of attending a class with others, you meet with the professor and submit papers, usually for publication at the end of the course. Dr. Anderson wanted more than just a paper from me. She wanted weekly meetings based on full book summaries I’d written. In the beginning, the process of writing about every book and article I read for the course was a pain. But as my memory of everything I read was incredibly sharp thanks to the exercise, I soon came to love. The best part? When you’re actively keeping those index cards and using the Magnetic Modes I shared above, writing a summary only takes a few minutes. To get started: Read a book Gather notes and any interesting or unfamiliar terms Apply the Magnetic Modes Create a document on your computer Write the title and author of the book at the top Summarize all the big ideas in the book and any important details and impressions Store in a meaningful file system for organization Print out the summary and wrap it around your index cards for physical storage in a box or something similar Of course, some people are thinking… we’re in the 21st century! Why print this summary out? Well, when I was in grad school, I remember the very sad story of the grad student who kept everything on his computer. When his machine died, so did all of his research, including the full draft of his thesis. He ultimately dropped out, because the pain of doing all that work over again was too much. Sure, you can back things up in the cloud or on a backup drive, but everything digital is subject to decay and disorganization. It’s entirely up to you, but as far as I’m concerned, backing up your summaries in print is itself an active reading strategy worth putting into practice. Conclusion: The Active Reading Process Pays Off If you want to remember more of what you read and develop deep and lasting comprehension, these active reading strategies reap many rewards. The best part? The more you read strategically, the more strategies you’ll discover. Each person develops their own style, relative to how consistently they practice reading. And when you do, I hope you’ll come back to this page and share them in the comments. In the meantime, please let me know: Which of these strategies appeals to you the most?
24 minutes | 11 days ago
Skimming vs. Scanning: Which Helps You Remember More?
If you’re as skeptical about speed reading claims as I am, you’ve probably wondered about skimming vs. scanning. After all, speed readers aren’t the only ones who use these reading techniques. They also aren’t the only ones who have developed energizing strategies that help you remember more by reading less of some books. The big problem you probably face is that you need to read faster. And you need to do so in a way that doesn’t sacrifice reading comprehension. I skim and scan books myself, all without any of the highly questionable eye-training and subvocalization nonsense taught in speed reading books and courses. I also read much more on a yearly basis without sacrificing comprehension. Since I’ve got the academic credentials and publishing credits to my name to demonstrate that I am a reader with legit techniques in my pocket, I’m confident I can help you skim and scan more intelligently. So stick around because on this page, I’ll share my best tips and skim and scan reading strategies with a particular focus on remembering more. I can only recommend that you don’t skip around – and we’ll talk about why in a second. But let’s dive in by looking at these techniques from a higher level first. Skimming vs. Scanning: What’s the Difference? At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much that distinguishes these two reading techniques. As you’ll soon see, there are key differences, and their value to you stems from what you’re trying to get out of the reading material in question.Therein lies the ultimate difference: Reading techniques matter, but they matter most when deployed in context. You need to use the right techniques that work to produce the desired outcome. And in many cases, neither skimming or scanning will work. For example, if you have no familiarity with the topic area, these techniques won’t help because your brain doesn’t have enough connections to the material. Also, you might not have enough vocabulary to use either of these techniques effectively. This issue usually means that without some preexisting knowledge of a subject area, the differences between these two techniques doesn’t really matter. You will want to start with my free power-training on how to read faster instead. With this higher level point in mind, let’s get into some definitions that show how and why these techniques differ. Skimming Defined If we look at the origin of this word, it literally means to scoop a substance from a surface. That means when we’re trying to differentiate skimming from scanning, we already know that skimming can never serve as a depth reading technique. It’s all about the shallow elements of a book or other text. However, shallow does not necessarily mean superficial. As scholar and narratologist Gerard Genette discussed in his epic book, Paratexts, the “surfaces” of what we read often contain tremendous amounts of detail. For example, Genette points out the power of reading the colophon page for all kinds of important clues, including: Date and location of publication Translation information Edition number Author’s biographical data and rights Now, you might be thinking: This stuff has nothing to do with the meaning of the book! That may or may not be true, but it is always a best practice to at least glance at the colophon page. As I discuss in this video, you can pick up a very powerful memory tool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er-k8Ecgdfo Other parts of the books you can skim intelligently include: Table of contents Index Bibliography Acknowledgements Combined, skimming these elements of a book give you a lot of context. They are worth doing anytime you read any book because they help to form a field of understanding in your mind. And if you use mnemonic devices, you’ll be able to remember more by skimming. Caption: I dealt with a ton of overwhelm while completing my PhD and a second MA at the same time. Knowing how to balance skimming vs. scanning was a lifesaver! Scanning Defined In Brilliant Speed Reading, Phil Chambers says that scanning differs from skimming because it is “less pre-directed.” I’m not so sure about that, and as we’ve seen, it really comes down to your desired outcomes. In my view and experience, scanning should include the skimming we just talked about. Scanning might include skimming, but doesn’t necessarily need to include the other strategy. Scanning definitely involves going deeper. Rather than just familiarizing yourself with the “surface” features, you would go deeper, including: Flipping through the pages of each chapter Analyzing any graphs or charts Looking at images (what learning expert Barbara Oakley calls taking a “picture walk”) Reading chapter openings and conclusions Reading the book conclusion I included some dedicated reading in scanning because scan reading is useless without giving you something to base a decision on. What decision? Whether or not you’re going to continue and read the entire book. This decision is one of the best reasons to use both of these techniques because it can save you a ton of time on either: Skipping books unlikely to serve your goals Saving books for later that you don’t need to read right now How To Skim Read When learning how to skim a book, I suggest you start with the back cover. Try to mentally notice at least three (or more) details or observations that come to mind as you read. For example, on the back cover of The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental-Well Being, you might notice a few things like: The author is a film scholar Terms like “self-inquiry” and “control-freakism” are used It talks about the importance of experimentation The works of Gary Weber are mentioned An image of a “magnet” accompanies the name of the publishing imprint By reading the back cover, a “field” of awareness is already developing in your mind. These observations will compound as you dive into the colophon page, the index, bibliography and other “paratextual” elements of the book. The most important aspect of this kind of strategy to remember is that you’re reading to develop context. You’re not even sure you’re going to read the entire book yet, but you’re taking every opportunity to make sure you remember more by consciously observing its “surface” details from the beginning. The Top 10 Scanning Techniques To scan effectively, you will want to first decide a few things based on what you’ve learned from the skimming exercise. The main question to ask is this: Does the book warrant reading further? If the answer is “yes,” then I suggest you: Get out an index card. Write down the name of the book and the author (include publishing date) Memorize the publishing date using the Major System or Dominic System Count the number of chapters and then page through the entire book Note any keywords or key ideas that leap out at you When you find interesting points, add them to new index cards and include the page number Note any key graphs or images (you may want to redraw some of them if you find them hard to understand) Ask questions as you scan Jot down a summary of what you understood about the book from scanning When asking questions, you can include the stock questions common to most people who use critical thinking strategies: Who What Where When Why How But you can also go further. You can ask questions like: How and why is this author an authority on the book’s topic? How does the author demonstrate the validity of the research references in the book? What is the book’s big idea in my own words? What are a few of the sub-ideas in my own words? Do I need to read this book in full? Do I need to start at the beginning or can I select certain chapters? One of my favorite questions is: So what? To put it another way, “if this claim is true, what changes? If it isn’t true, what changes?” If you find that the answer is… “nothing changes,” then the stakes presented by the book simply aren’t that high. It might be worth skipping the book altogether. In sum, the quality of the answers you get from these questions will depend on your skills as a skimmer and your general familiarity with the field before you started the skimming and scanning exercises. Now, if using index cards is not something you care to do, you can use these mind mapping examples to consider some alternatives. Should You Skim Or Scan? As you can tell by now, my answer is both. One reading strategy is almost valueless without the other. Plus, you really need to perform some self-analysis before getting started. If you’re not already familiar with the area, neither of these techniques will be particularly helpful. In fact, they could damage your enthusiasm for learning the topic at all. If necessary, work on your reading comprehension strategies first so you can gain familiarity with the field. Everyday Applications For Using The Skimming And Scanning Technique If you’re in a bookstore, that’s definitely the time to simply scan a book. As a nearly universal rule, when I have found a book that passes the “scan test,” I get it. Too much time is wasted wishing I would have just got something and little is lost by having another reading resource around. When working in libraries, it definitely makes through to go through both skimming and scanning. To keep my index cards gathered together in a compact manner, I usually put them in ziplock bags. I know: this process is kind of weird. However, I’ve been practicing it since 2000. The organizational power alone has been invaluable over the years. Plus, I simply remember a lot more along the way about books I’ve seen, even if I haven’t read them all. For online applications, you can do something similar, taking care to write the web address and the date you accessed the article online. Some people will want to use Evernote, and there are tactics you can learn to optimize all kinds of software programs of this kind. How To Skim A Book For Use With The Memory Palace Technique There are a lot of ways to remember more of what you read even if you’re skimming and scanning. Of course, this assumes that you know how to use a Memory Palace. If you don’t have this skill yet, learn how to use it now: Once you know how to use a Memory Palace, you have options. For example, you can: Rapidly memorize the publication date, title and author name of any book Quickly create images based on page numbers using a 00-99 Use individual pages as simple Memory Palaces Ultimately, you’ll want to save these techniques for a full read of the books you encounter. And for that I suggest you learn how to memorize a textbook in greater detail next. How To Choose Your Reading Wisely And Contextually At the end of the day, the techniques you choose for your reading are less important than what you read and why you’re reading it. Unfortunately, no one can tell anyone else exactly what to read. That’s why I recommend you deploy these techniques within the context of a vision statement. For example, I have a long term reading project about NASA and space travel, one that is nested inside a learning project about the relationship between memory techniques and early developments in science and astronomy. When I found Dr. Richard Wiseman’s Shoot for the Moon in a bookstore, I skimmed it and instantly saw how it fits my reading project. Later I scanned it to maximize my field of understanding and then read it thoroughly from cover to cover for best results. When you use skimming and scanning techniques in this way, you’ll go beyond the energy-draining tactics that lead to highly suspicious ideas like “photoreading.” Instead, you’ll have energy-creating strategies that keep your enthusiasm high because you’re legitimately extracting maximum value from each and every book you look at. Without context, all the skim tips in the world won’t do better for you than any other accelerated learning technique. So let me know, what do you think of these definitions of skimming vs. scanning? And what vision do you have for your reading goals?
38 minutes | 17 days ago
How to Stop Subvocalizing: My Surprising Solution
Wondering how to stop subvocalizing? Well, let me ask you this: What if this rather strange term from the world of speed reading is fraudulent? Or what if reducing subvocalization is tactically a false goal for any serious lifelong learner? Here’s an even better question: What if there exist strategic ways to use your “inner voice” to read faster? You’re in luck. You see, the Magnetic Memory Method stresses the importance of avoiding energy-draining “tactics” so you can focus on enthusiasm-producing strategies that actually help you learn faster and better. That’s why on this page, we’re going to explore: How this strange term “subvocalization” has been defined and used historically. The psychological pain used to exploit people who are desperate to learn (this is probably what allows for the perpetuation of pseudo-scientific fraud in this area). Real techniques you can use to improve reading comprehension and speed by using your inner voice. And hey, if after you discover the truth subvocalization you still want to reduce it, I’ve got something for you. I’ll mention a simple trick from the world of meditation that is more likely to get you there. It’s perfectly a reasonable exercise. And the best part is that it relates scientifically to the nature of consciousness and studies in other aspects of learning where the eyes are involved. Let’s get started. What Is Subvocalization? First of all, there’s a long history to this term, and “subvocalization” isn’t the only word people have used. As Donald L. Cleland and William C. Davies show in “Silent Speech – History and Current Status,” the term also appears as: Silent speech Implicit speech Innervocalization Lip reading Vocalization The first recorded observation of people “speaking silently” to themselves occurred in 1868. Two psychologists focused on human physiology created a device like a telegraph key activated by the tongues of their test subjects. Everything they discovered is premised on the idea that parts of your mouth and throat move while you are reading. Somehow… for reasons no one seems to know… these movements came to be negatively portrayed as a (gasp!) habit. What we do know is that people who cite the same research clearly haven’t interpreted it as I have. They clearly missed Ake Edelfelt’s conclusion that subvocalization should not be stopped (more on his research-based assessment below). Frankly, if my interpretation is correct, and the “speed reader” who says the research calls it a bad habit is correct, then one of us is a horrible reader. Given that no one writing on that site uses a full name or lists any academic credentials… I don’t wish to come across as arrogant, but the bad reader probably isn’t me. Carrying on… The Historical Devices That Proved Subvocalization Is Normal Later devices used to study subvocalization included connecting a pneumograph to a kymograph. Some of these studies may have been mixed up with research into stuttering, which also involved using a pneumograph. If you read John Madison’s An Experimental Study of Stuttering, for example, he finds that stutters suffer brain fog and poor concentration. But he also finds that the use of a telegraph key for gathering data related to vocalization is highly suspect. Obviously, early 20th century science was not as sophisticated as what we have today. A lot of different people entered fields of study without necessarily having direct or even indirect credentials. It is thought, for example, that Rune Elmqvist, inventor of the first pacemaker, may have contributed an early electronically activated writing machine to initial experiments. It is not that he shouldn’t have, but when you see so many people with so many devices studying phenomena like this, here’s a suggestion. Start thinking “Wild West of Knowledge.” That will be more effective than expecting anything like clear and focused scientific analysis from this historical period. Indeed, when the first serious publication finally arises in 1960, Ake Edelfelt completely dismisses subvocalizing as a problem: “Silent speech is universal during silent reading; efforts to eliminate it should be discontinued.” Jump ahead to the present day and nothing amongst serious scientists has changed. According to research compiled by Scott Young, if you want to read well, you need to subvocalize. How To Stop Subvocalizing: Seven Weird, Unproven Tips That Probably Won’t Work The first thing you need to understand is that it’s more than fraudulent to claim that subvocalization should be stopped. It’s contradicted by almost every speed reading program and book I’ve seen. For example, in a course called “Kwik Reading” by Jim Kwik, you are given ways to reduce subvocalization. A few videos later, you are told to ask questions while reading. Well… which is it? Hear your inner voice or don’t hear your inner voice? How are you supposed to ask questions mentally if you’re trying to be silent? The lack of clarity and the utterly impossible to ignore contradiction in terms should instantly remind you of Ake Edelfelt’s finding: stop trying to do this. To persist in forcing yourself to be silence is nonsense. In fact, my research has yet to show exactly how something as normal and natural as subvocalizing came to be called a “habit.” It’s even less clear how the speed reading crowd started heaping so many negative connotations on your natural reading voice. But wait. There’s more, because the advice only gets worse. For example: One: Keep Reading A lot of speed reading training books and programs tell you to stop “backreading” or “regressing.” This “tactic” is utter nonsense for many reasons. For example, have you ever read Nietzsche? He causes you to reread things he’s said frequently. Have a look at this passage from The Gay Science: Owing to three Errors. Science has been furthered during recent centuries, partly because it was hoped that God’s goodness and wisdom would be best understood therewith and thereby – the principal motive in the soul of great Englishmen (like Newton); partly because the absolute utility of knowledge was believed in, and especially the most intimate connection of morality, knowledge, and happiness – the principal motive in the soul of great Frenchmen (like Voltaire); and partly because it was thought that in science there was something unselfish, harmless, self-sufficing, lovable, and truly innocent to be had, in which the evil human impulses did not at all participate – the principal motive in the soul of Spinoza, who felt himself divine, as a knowing being: – it is consequently owing to three errors that science has been furthered. Nietzsche says he’s going to talk about three errors at the beginning of the passage. He then doesn’t use the word “error” again until the last sentence. To understand what the errors are, you literally have to go back and reread the passage. Different ways of referring back to points within entire books or even individual paragraphs is a strategy that good writers use all the time. It’s like a P.S. inside of prose, or a callback to a salient point mentioned earlier in the text. If an author says, “As I mentioned back in chapter one,” there is zero reason why you would not go back to reread the passage if you can’t remember it. Sure, you might “read” faster by not going back to refresh points an author reiterates, but you’re not guaranteed to understand more just by plowing forward. If anything, your path to meaningful comprehension will be slowed, if not destroyed. Pro tip: Although I strongly disagree that you should avoid “regressing” backwards by rereading information (in fact, one of my most popular posts teaches a rereading strategy), there is a subtle point to be drawn here. When you can’t understand something and repeating an idea isn’t making it any clearer, moving forward can be helpful. There are many difficult topics I’ve read where I needed to not only keep reading, but also read outside of the text by using supplement guides and other resources. I also needed to memorize information I did not understand, which is one of the three corrections I made when correcting these three pieces of bad advice memory experts tend to give. Two: Use Your Finger Or A Pointer If running a finger, pencil, chopstick or broken antenna from a transistor radio helps you read better, that’s great. You’ll get no argument from me. But I think you deserve to know the origin of this tactic, which may have hypnotized people around the world into thinking it has an effect it might not. According to Marcia Biederman in Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed-Reading Worked, the origin story of this technique is beyond belief. Here’s how it goes: Once upon a time, Evelyn Wood dropped a book. As it was flying through the air, she reached to grab it and noticed she could read a sentence faster as her finger paced beneath it. Let me ask you this: How do you read a moving sentence on a small object like a book, even with a finger between your eyes and, say 21 words, flying through the air? The answer is that this story sounds like nonsense. Again, I’m not saying that some kind of aid can’t help. But before you invest a ton of time in it, consider how these tactics come into being in the first place. You could save yourself a lot of time and energy as you use the rule strategies needed for reading faster. Pro Tip: The rare time I can’t focus, I will use a blank index card to cover up parts of the page I’m not reading. I find this approach useful because it removes the stimulation of all the other words. It also does it in a way that doesn’t add a meaty finger between my eyes and the text. You can move the index card slowly down without even having your fingers appear near the page. Three: Count From 10 to 1 While Reading Counting while reading is another tip from Jim Kwik. Huh? Vocalize one type of content in the hopes that it will blot out another? I’m not sure how this makes sense. However, there is a technique related to this that is worth using in the context of meditation. It appears in Gary Weber’s Happiness Beyond Thought. This techniques stems from the Zen tradition. To perform the exercise, count from one to ten and try to suppress the even numbers. It’s kind of like playing a game of, “Don’t think of a red cat,” but I’ve found that I actually can do it (even though it took over a year of trying). Has this exercise helped me concentrate more while reading while also picking up speed and comprehending more? Yes, but that’s because many meditative activities have been shown to improve memory and concentration for reading. That’s why I practice this technique while meditating, not while reading. Four: Listen To Music While Reading Some people can listen to music while reading. When I was younger, I was able to do it all the time. I used to write a lot while listening to music (and sometimes still do). However, I don’t see how doing this can help reduce your inner voice. This article provides no research to back up the claim and says that “Classical usually music works best.” Really? Which Classical music? What does “usually” mean? I don’t know about you, but when I listen to Bach and Beethoven, those masters grab my ears by the throat and don’t let go. Good music commands our attention, so although I know from personal experience that it’s not impossible, these dubious claims with zero substantial research evidence or even anecdotes make no sense. They only raise questions. Five: Force Yourself To Read Faster Than Normal Although there is merit in pushing ourselves for better performance, there’s a potentially huge problem in this suggestion. For one thing, if you’re pushing yourself to read faster how are you doing it? Chances are… you’re doing it in thoughts. And that means you’re almost certainly “subvocalizing.” Plus, speed reading books and courses always advocate defining your “normal” reading speed. They talk about spending a lot of time testing how fast you’re reading and recording the numbers. I find this practice odd for a few reasons: As with the command to read faster, you’re creating mental content that almost certainly places a filter or lens between you and the content you should be focused on. Being aware of having a timer on and needing to count words also creates more mental content to think about (and vocalize while reading). How many people are actually skilled enough with the numeracy needed to: Create and gather accurate data? Analyze the data they produce accurately? Reasonably and reliably crossindex the speed data against the behaviors of their throats while reading? By all means, experiment with placing such filters on the reading experience. As John Graham has shared, adding “obstructions” during memory training helped him win the 2018 USA Memory Competition. But keep in mind that those training efforts were directed at a competition outcome, and there is nothing in particular any memory competitor needs to understand. When it comes to speed reading competitions, where timing is definitely an issue, I couldn’t find any sample questions to get a sense of how in-depth the comprehension questions go. That would be interesting to know, as would the specific criteria that apparently satisfied a “group of [unnamed] reporters” that Anne Jones read the final Harry Potter novel in 47 minutes. I’m seriously suspicious of the intellectual credibility of the questions she was asked, especially when her summary of a novel that was not read in anything like test conditions is that it was “very, very interesting.” Again, even if we had access to the standard used to question Jones’ comprehension, the larger point is this: Competition and speed reading demonstration outcomes do not necessarily reflect anything related to the reading comprehension strategies that actually help people get ahead in their lives. It’s also easy to fake knowledge of fiction, especially pop culture fare, because they are grounded upon well-known principles of narratology, such as the hero’s journey archetype. I’d love to see someone read Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs in the same period of time. That book too is something anyone could call “very, very interesting.” Six: Train Your Eyes I’m not sure how running an infinity sign in front of your eyes with your finger is supposed to stop you from reading in your head. It’s also not clear how any number of arm movements are supposed to help in this regard, though many speed reading books and courses insert what appears to be elements from Qigong and so-called Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) like “tapping.” Personally, running my eyes around in circles only gives me a headache. I highly recommend you check with a doctor first before engaging in any eye movement exercises. And take other body movement instructions with a grain of salt. There’s no doubt some physical movement can help you read better, but what it has to do with learning how to read without subvocalizing remains a mystery. Seven: Train with Software The Internet is awash with software programs purporting to help with different speed reading skills. Most of these softwares show you one word at a time, kind of like certain movie previews flash words on the screen for dramatic effect. I’m not sure how being shown individual words is going to help, but clearly part of the idea is that you will experience the words so quickly, you won’t have time to sound out the words. I’m not sure if it’s true, but when looking at these softwares, I quickly feel nauseous. To be fair, I once submitted myself to reading an entire chapter of a Dostoevsky novel using one of these software programs. Sure, it does feel like you’re following along. But there’s a catch. I can’t remember which novel it was, I don’t remember anything about the chapter, and who knows… maybe it wasn’t even by Dostoevsky. Worse, the reading experience was far from pleasurable. In fact, the experience was downright painful, and the only time I ever looked at such software again was while preparing this article. The Real Way To Stop Subvocalizing I’ve gone through many tough times due to bipolar disorder. During university, my mind sometimes got so loud during episodes where I could not afford to stop studying that I frequently went to the hospital for help. Do you want to know what helped? Increasing the sounds of words, not decreasing them. Back then, books on tape were still quite rare, and even rarer on CD. But whenever possible, I got them and would listen to the books narrated by professional actors while following along with the text in hand. And listening to the incomparable George Guidall narrate Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is not something I think I’ll ever forget. When I couldn’t find a book on tape or CD, which was often the case with the dense philosophy I needed to cover… I narrated the books myself. I often used a micro-cassette recorder so I could review the material at 2x speed. It made me sound like Mickey Mouse, but that was okay because it let me use a powerful technique for memorizing textbooks. When you’re immersed in the reading experience, you know exactly how to eliminate subvocalization. You do it by merging with the text and loving the reading experience, something that can require a bit of mental strength if you don’t know how to deal with boring topics. Frankly, I can say that I never read in my head. I always strive to “fuse” with the author so I can assemble with their ideas and share as much as possible of their realm of human consciousness. What Reading In Your Head Really Means Because here’s the truth: Humans never read in their own heads. No individual owns language. And each brain is an information storage and retrieval “device” that relies on trafficking in words that are shared. Words aren’t really all that important at the end of the day. It’s the ideas words point to that matters. And when the hucksters get away with shilling their garbage about “subvocalization,” it’s because they’re preying on the pain some people feel when they are locked out of the conversation. So if you want to be included in great conversations, your best bet is to: Increase your vocabulary Create detailed study missions Read more good books, much more often And to help you with learning more vocabulary so you can read faster as the path to remembering more, make sure you grab my free memory improvement kit. It will give you access to the universal Memory Palace technique every single person can and should learn. Until next time, never forget: We read to interact with the “voices” of others. Vocalize or do whatever you need to do to get at the meaning contained by the words and you cannot help but read better and faster.
29 minutes | a month ago
9 Critical Thinking Strategies That Lifelong Learners Need To Know
If you’re looking for critical thinking strategies to help yourself or others, congratulations. Learning to think better is one of the best ways to help ourselves improve the world. And now that you’re here, I’m going to treat you to an epic lesson in critical thinking techniques that can: Improve your performance at school or work Help you make better decisions Assist in avoiding mistakes that crush others Improve profits as an entrepreneur Using creative thinking and critical processes of understanding that improve your memory This final benefit is especially important if you find yourself forgetting information. And on this page you’ll even learn more about how to remember the steps involved in thinking more critically. A Brief History Of Critical Thinking Strategies Every culture has developed tools for thinking better. Let’s list just a few classic examples: Asia: Tao Te Ching and The Art of War India: Panchadasi and the Advaita Vedanta tradition Greek: Plato and the Socratic Method Russia: Triz Britain: Analytic philosophy France and Germany: Continental philosophy and Nietzsche’s “genealogy” Spain, Italy, and other parts of Europe: Llullism and techniques like ars combinatoria This final tradition is particularly interesting because it was key to the development of formal logic and ideas that eventually made modern computing possible. Critical thinking is always evolving and some of the newest applications are involved in everything from new political initiatives to quantum computing and innovations in space travel. 9 Types Of Critical Thinking That Help Lifelong Learners Outperform Their Competition Let’s face it. The reason we learn critical thinking is not just so we can improve the world. It’s so we can compete in the race to improve the world. That means that critical thinking cannot stand on its own. It has to also include analytical thinking and creative thinking. That’s why we have to go beyond the typical stuff you read online about asking: Who What Where When Why How Don’t get me wrong. Those are important questions to ask. But let’s dive in and understand four of the biggest and best categories of critical thinking: 1. First Principles Thinking This kind of thinking breaks a problem down to its basic parts and uses them to explore new paths. It tends to keep a goal in mind at each step. To use this kind of thinking, you also want to: Identify core assumptions Break the problem down into parts Create new processes towards a clearly defined goal Example: We know that memory requires at least some level of repetition. But how can we reduce that amount? Looking at our core assumptions, we can break the problem down into parts and notice that primacy and recency effect allow us to create a tool. The new process is the Memory Palace technique, something that every memory competitor and many students use and refine year after year, usually by repeating this same critical thinking strategy. 2. Blank Slate Thinking This technique starts with first principles, but you go further. You ask: What would this look like completely from scratch? Example: Imagine you’re trying to solve poverty in an inner city. Even though it won’t be possible to start the city over, by thinking about what the area looked like before it was inhabited, you can imagine a new history and try to figure out how greater fairness might have been achieved. 3. Synergistic Thinking Synergy is about combining things together that don’t normally go together. As a way of stimulating more critical thinking, you would get a bunch of items together and keep asking, Why don’t these items go together? Then dream up ways they could be combined as a critical thinking exercise. Example: Imagine scissors and a banana or a kite and vase. Ask: Why don’t these items go together? Your answers might be something like, because bananas don’t need to be cut and vases don’t need to fly. Try to come up with at least 5 reasons why the items you’ve paired don’t go together. Then try to come up with at least 5 ways they could. Even if the solutions you come up with are silly, they will exercise your mind. For example, maybe banana skins can oil rusty scissors or kites could deliver flowers to people in hospitals where the elevators are broken. 4. Adaptation A lot of innovations come from people transferring a feature from one area to another. Example: Book of the month club business models have become everything from vinyl record clubs to monthly underwear subscriptions. Another way to think about adaptation as a critical thinking strategy is ars combinatoria. This ancient technique let you adapt a Memory Wheel based on “contracting” larger ideas down into individual letters. Then, if you had a problem you needed to solve, you would expand the letters and adapt the ideas within them. It’s hard to explain, so here’s a video that describes the technique in-depth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cYDmaBXvJg 5. Magnification and Minimization We often get stuck in our thinking because we’re looking at things in their actual scale. But when we change their size and dimension, we can gain new insights. Example: If you’re trying to solve a problem involving thousands of people, scale down to thinking about how to solve it for just ten people, or even one. Or, if you’ve having a hard time imagining something small like the operations of a biological cell, draw it as big as possible so you can zoom in on individual parts with greater ease. 6. Reverse or Invert Have you ever wondered why magicians disappear in a puff of smoke instead of appearing in them? Or what about donut holes? Where do they go? Take problems and play them in reverse in your mind. Example: In the hard problem of consciousness, experiences like headaches are said to be impossible to measure. (This is because pain is typically based on perception.) To invert the problem, you might consider pleasure and how smiling is inherently visible. To reverse it, you might imagine tears flowing back into your eyes and try to trace them back to where in your brain the process of crying begins. 7. Assume Different Points of View We often make the mistake of seeing problems only through our own eyes. But it’s very useful to try to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” whenever you can. Example: Some criminals have broken into your local grocery store and broken all the windows. This obviously raises safety issues and the criminals should be punished. But can you spend 5-10 minutes thinking through the life situations that may have led these people to act criminally in this way? Did they have as much free will in it as you assume? Next, think through the perspective of the store manager. Think through the experiences of one or two of the employees. Then think through the perspective of some of your neighbors. Apply this kind of critical thinking strategy to many situations and you will gain a much greater perspective on human life and reality. 8. Mastermind Thinking I never met Einstein, and chances are, neither did you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t imagine having a conversation with him. You can also have imaginary conversations with Steve Jobs, Buddha and Joan of Arc. Although these won’t necessarily be accurate, the more you know about these people, the more you can ask, What would Jimi Hendrix do and get a reasonable answer. Example: Let’s say you want to 10x your revenue over the next two years. You can read the biographies of 3-5 entrepreneurs who have been successful in your field and then mentally assemble them for a council meeting in your mind. Ask them what they would do and let your understanding of their accomplishments guide your answers. 9. Last Principles Thinking Science Fiction is very good at asking, “What’s next?” Example: In SevenEves, Niel Stephenson imagines the moon blowing up and ultimately wiping out all life on planet earth. The entire novel answers the question: what’s next? To use this in your thinking, ask “If this situation is true, what happens next?” Although it’s usually impossible to know, by running the thought process, you will be practicing one of the finest strategies for critical thinking we’ve got. You don’t even have to avoid reductio ad absurdum issues, so long as you work to come up with several solutions. How To Make Critical Thinking A Daily Habit You might have just read the strategies above and be thinking, “That’s all fine and dandy. I can see why these critical thinking examples are so useful. But how am I supposed to remember how to use them?” Here are some ideas: Use A Memory Palace This technique can help you readily memorize everything we’ve just discussed. Here’s how: Keep A Journal If memorizing critical thinking strategies isn’t right for you, you can always copy them into the first page of a journal. Then, when you need to solve a problem, you can write out your responses to each thinking process. Read About Decision Makers Chances are that if there’s a biography about a successful person, they’ve been successful at critical thinking. Whether it’s an actor, entrepreneur, lawyer or president, success leaves clues and advanced thinking skills will be involved in every extraordinary achievement. Discuss Often A lot of people don’t think critically with any level of skill because they don’t engage in enough conversation. Is it strictly necessary? What if you’re an introvert? Those are good questions, but I’d use critical thinking itself to flip things around a bit. I would ask instead: What happens if I continue the way I’m going without enough conversation with others? Anytime you hit a stumbling block, such as an idea or belief about yourself that would prevent you from getting a benefit, it’s more valuable to ask about the price you’ll pay by not voluntarily embracing an obvious solution. In sum, discussion works and everyone who wants to be a better thinker should engage in as many of them as possible, with as many people as possible. I’ve found that Lunchclub is a great tool for meeting a large variety of people who come from all kinds of different perspectives. By speaking with others, you’re also placing yourself in creative and supportive environments that lead to even more ideas worth having. Read Books Regularly To Stimulate Critical Thought There are many big ideas and lessons that you’ll never encounter if you keep your head stuck in the sand of your own interests and preferred entertainment. For example, I find economics pretty boring. But by being willing to stretch, I’ve learned a ton, experienced many surprise insights and wound up using many directly useful ideas that improved my life. Go through these books that normally wouldn’t attract you slowly and with as much interest as you can muster. And if you need help, my article on dealing with boring topics is a must. A Bonus Critical Thinking Strategy Everyone Can Use So, what do you say? Can you imagine yourself using any of these critical thinking strategies? Or perhaps I should ask, What do you imagine the consequences will be if you don’t? Whether you’re using these approaches yourself or teaching them to someone else, here’s one last suggestion. Whenever you’re looking at a problem, new or old, ask yourself: What’s the real problem that needs solving? Far too often, people work on coming up with solutions for the wrong problem. Everything you’ve learned today should help in avoiding that sad outcome, but I just wanted to throw it in as a bonus. Just in case. And get this: It was thinking critically about this article using the very tools on this page helped me realize it needed to be here. (Last principles thinking) Cool how it all works, isn’t it?
32 minutes | a month ago
How To Read Faster: 16 Proven Tips From A Thorough Reader
If you want to know how to read faster, you’ve probably tried to stop “subvocalizing” and reduce “backskipping.” What if I told you such “speed reading” techniques are probably a waste of time for most serious learners who have big goals for their lives? There are at least three reasons why speed reading won’t help a lot of people. These are: A limited vocabulary A limited understanding of the field A lack of reading strategy Even if techniques like controlling your eyes better and silencing your inner voice helped you, so what? If you don’t know what even a small percentage of words mean and lack familiarity with the topic area, you’re not going to understand any faster. In such cases, you’d do better reading slowly, looking up words and terms, and interrupting your flow to aid understanding by reading outside of the main text. So let’s reframe the question: If you’re learning to read faster, what are the fundamental speed reading techniques that will help you zip through multiple books in a single day? As someone who blazes through multiple books all the time, reading intelligently and applying speed in ways that make sense is something I can help you achieve. And the best part is I can help you read quickly without giving yourself the headaches most speed reading courses induce, so let’s get started. How to Read Faster (While Remembering Everything) The first thing to do is define “everything.” No one actually needs or wants to remember everything. As Jill Price’s so-called photographic memory shows, doing so can make you ill. Instead, we want to develop a number of “decision metrics” that guide us as we go. Soon, your frustrations around your reading speed will disappear. You will safely leave behind all the instructions about recording your baseline reading speed and suppressing your inner voice, only to be told by speed reading experts that you’re supposed to make mental images and ask questions as you read. (Seriously? How are you supposed to reduce your inner voice and increase it at the same time? Speed reading courses that teach this should offend anyone with a modicum of common sense in their system.) So we start by thinking about goals for reading faster and remembering more. And to do that, let’s just expose the white elephant in the room: There is no perfect way to get started. And the tips to read faster I’m about to present are not necessarily “steps” to follow in order. My hope is that you’ll rethink what reading is, and what reading can be. How to Read Faster and Comprehend More Tip #1: Set goals with deadlines within a reading plan If you want to read faster, you have to practice reading more often. And the best way I know of to do that is by creating a reading plan for yourself. That way you can develop topic mastery based on a combination of vocabulary, specific terminology, history and the perspectives of the main players in the field. For example, when I was researching my book, The Victorious Mind, I created a 90-day reading plan. That way, when using all the techniques you’ll discover on this page, I was reading in a direction that was leading me to a specific goal. Creating your own reading plan takes some practice, but here are some suggestions. These are important because if you want to read faster, you need to develop familiarity with the topic. Find the definitive textbook or most famous book on the topic. For example, when I started a reading project on consciousness, I quickly found out that Gödel, Escher, Bach is a key text in the field. Find 2-3 articles about the book and read these. Go beyond the Wikipedia page. Find 2-3 videos. Find 2-3 podcasts. Use my how to memorize a textbook strategy as you read to cull out the information you want to remember Follow-up with 2-3 of the books mentioned in the definitive textbook (In massive tomes like Gödel, Escher, Bach you’ll discover endless reading suggestions, so setting a limit is really important!) How will adding more material to one you read faster? My friend and fellow memory expert Jonathan Levi calls this tactic, “brute force learning.” The answer behind why it help is simple: When you start with the fundamentals and develop knowledge of the field, you’ll give yourself the most important reading skill in the world: pattern recognition. In setting reading goals like this, you’re learning what it means to know your field. The more you know, the more you can know, and that will naturally help your brain: Recognize big and important ideas faster Connect them to fundamentals in instantly memorable ways Using multiple mediums like video and audio tap into more representations of your brain and add more perspectives from others who have read the book Note: I personally expect every beginning to be “front loaded” with more effort and only after some “pattern recognition” has been developed do I expect to read and understand faster. However, we want to make sure we don’t fall into collector’s fallacy, which is why when I say 2-3 other resources, I really mean 2-3. To develop this level of recognition as quickly as possible, let’s look at the next powerful strategy. Tip #2: The U.S.S.R. Technique It would be nice if life were simple enough that we can always read at the same time and the same place – just like in school. In fact, with a bit of planning, we can. And it’s one of the most important strategies for reading faster that I know. This is thanks to the power of rhythm and flow. U.S.S.R. stands for Uninterrupted, Sustained, Silent Reading. Instead of doing eye training exercises to expand your peripheral vision, protect your environment from visual interruptions. Read in a quiet place with little or no foot traffic. Put borders around your time. And if you have family or roommates with schedules that interfere with your own, take responsibility and communicate with them about your needs. It would be nice if other people would remember and respect your schedule and goals, but it’s unrealistic to hold them to that standard. Be firm and protect both your time and space. Tip #3: Learn to relax A lot of people are so stressed out about not reading quickly enough that they tense their bodies. This lack of physical ease puts their posture out of whack, impedes breathing and makes being alive generally uncomfortable. When learning how to read a book fast, you need to be in an optimal physical position. Rather than give a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach (that doesn’t exist), experiment. You may need to sit in different ways depending on the topic matter. Meditation is also a key strategy for developing relaxation on demand. These 12 concentration meditations should help you out. Tip #4: Do Not Avoid Reviewing I’ve never understood the emphasis on eliminating “back skipping” or “regression” you see in the speed reading community. This strikes me as precisely the way to make sure you forget information. Instead, I suggest reviewing frequently and strategically. For example, I like to hold my finger in the page where the chapter started and go back to it several times. This technique is kind of like inner-book interleaving, which we’ll talk about more later. (It is not really possible to reproduce this technique when reading digitally, though some software programs allow for multiple bookmarks that make this easier. If the document is numbered and you have a Major System, memorizing page numbers can help with this as well.) But the main point is that I don’t stress if my mind wanders or I need to go back. Reviewing is a way to keep focus, maintain connection with the book and actively connect the dots while reading. I’m biased, but I also find that physical books are better for avoiding mind wandering and you get other benefits, as I’ve described in detail here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er-k8Ecgdfo Tip #5: Do Not Wreck Your Eyes Based On Bad Science A lot of speed reading books ask you to follow a pen in an infinity symbol. Or they might ask you to draw dots on your pages to impose three columns, the idea being that if you only perform three eye fixations on each line you’ll read faster. Scott Young has deeply questioned the research on eye training and reducing subvocalization. Frankly, I think he could have gone a lot further. So many of the claims are based on self reporting by people who probably don’t know enough about testing themselves for us to believe they are being accurate. What about using a pointer? Maybe, but think about the bizarre origin story for this technique: Evelyn Wood says she discovered it when a book fell off a desk and flew past her. As she tried to catch it, she noticed her finger running along a sentence. For more details, read Scan Artist: How Evelyn Wood Convinced the World That Speed Reading Worked, by Marcia Biederman. I don’t know about you, but I doubt I could ready anything from a book in motion, let alone have my finger help with the process. This puzzling origin story only gets weirder when you look into fraudulent claims involving JFK himself as perhaps the most famous person to fall for such speed reading fallacies. We can go deeper: Why would you put something between yourself and the information, either your finger, pencil or a chopstick. (Yes, I’ve encountered a course that suggested carrying around a chopstick.) This strategy sounds like the opposite of how you would want to train your eyes – which would be unassisted and definitely unobstructed. Plus, how are you supposed to use a pointer on mobile, when your finger would constantly be clicking links and opening new pages? As you can see, some of the speed reading teaching out there falls apart quickly when held to scrutiny. Tip #6: Consider Interleaving I’ve already mentioned picking a main, authoritative textbook on a topic and reading a few additional articles. Essentially, you’re giving your brain a break as you weave between different voices and this encourages what is called “diffuse thinking.” It also helps you break up time spent on a dense book with lighter versions of the same information. However, you can also get the benefits of diffuse thinking by reading a few other topics at the same time. For example, when I go to the library, I purposely “distract” myself by grabbing a few books from other topics that interest me. I’ll get a novel and a few books from completely random categories. This strategy helps make it easier to take interesting breaks and set little mini-goals. For example, let’s say you grab one book you need to read and three unrelated books. You can then create a little if-this-then-that reading circuit: Finish one chapter then… Peruse an interesting book, then… Finish another chapter, then… Pick up the next book… etc. Don’t underestimate the power of giving yourself a shorter reading goal and then allowing your mind to wander. It’s well-documented that it helps us understand and remember more. Tip #7: Don’t Force “Understanding” When it comes to reading comprehension strategies, force isn’t one of them. In reality, we read precisely because we don’t understand and should acknowledge that we will always not know what we don’t know. In some ways, understanding is always incomplete, and one of the points of Gödel, Escher, Bach is to illustrate this as a normal and healthy part of human consciousness. If you don’t understand, make a note of it. You can also use a modified version of the Feynman technique to help coax yourself along. Typically, the Feynman technique involves describing a topic in writing as if you were teaching it to a child. Then, when you come across blanks in your knowledge, you fill in the gaps with re-reading or reading outside the core textbook. It is powerful and yet another reason while subvocalization is probably not a great strategy. You want to use the power of asking such questions and teaching yourself while you read. In all things, be humble enough to realize that your fullest possible understanding is always yet to come. It’s a process forever held in beta, and that is a very exciting thing when you stop to think about it. Tip #8: Vocalize to get over stumbling blocks Not to overdo my criticism of subvocalization. I actually think there is a context in which it makes sense. However, when it comes to reading faster, one of the quickest ways to overcome a hurdle is to read something you don’t understand aloud. Even the best authors are capable of writing unclear sentences. Heck, they can even produce garbled paragraphs, pages and even entire books. When you can’t understand, there is no shame in reading out loud. In fact, I’ve had times when my concentration was so shot, I recorded myself and listened back to the material to aid in understanding it. If you want to know how to read faster and comprehend from someone who has hit rock bottom and still wound up getting a PhD, that is exactly how I did it. Tip #9: Priming and Picture Walking Priming is the best thing from the world of speed reading in my opinion. There are different ways to do it, and here is the general pattern I use, followed by a discussion: Read the front and back cover first, including all verbs Scan the index and bibliography Read the conclusion Read the colophon page Read the table of contents Skim through the book looking for illustrations, charts and tables Read the introduction Read the most interesting chapters Read the entire book (where relevant) When we talked earlier about expanding the field, I meant in terms of an entire topic. But we can do this in terms of an individual book as well. Reading the covers and all of the “paratexts” like the colophon page, index and bibliography is great for “dropping seeds in the field” of your memory. It’s like looking at a map and pinning little flags of recognition. You are literally training your brain that there is already familiar territory here. For example, whenever I look through a book and see a name like Giordano Bruno or Friedrich Nietzsche in the text, I recognize that this new book includes content “wormholes.” Recently, I quickly read Daniel Dennet’s Breaking the Spell, and quickly assessed the many ways he makes use of Nietzsche in that book. It’s not that this strategy necessarily leads to any specific outcome. It just creates context and wakes up parts of your existing memory and competence in the field. It also generates curiosity. When you’re curious, you’re probably having fun, so this aspect of priming is basically like watching a movie trailer to whet your appetite. When it comes to reading the book out of order, I read the conclusion first primarily to find out if the author actually arrived at a conclusion worth pursuing. Combined with the introduction, these two parts of the book usually mention in which chapters evidence has been given to support certain arguments, and this helps you decide where you need to focus. Finally, if it seems clear that the book is worth reading, I’ll dive in and use the next strategy. Tip #10: Cull the information you want to memorize first, use the Memory Palace technique later A lot of speed reading courses talk about making associations as you read. I do this myself sometimes. But I never do it when I want to understand and remember a large amount of the book quickly. This is because I find it’s better to read strategically and limit the amount of interruptions. I do not think interruptions to take notes are bad. But too many gets us into collector’s fallacy, which is why I limit myself to between 3-10 points per chapter. I’ve been sharing this technique for years and a lot of people think it won’t be enough information. The reality is that if you can memorize the big ideas, a lot of the granular details will tend to fall into place anyway. This is because wherever content is king, context is god. The details typically fill themselves in. Strategically, when using the Memory Palace technique, you can add more details later, but you’ll have nothing to add those details too if you don’t just get started. In brief, I extract the points to index cards, and this is because they are moveable. Then, when I have the main points I want to memorize, I place them in a Memory Palace purposely chosen for the content in that book. There may be several Memory Palaces for the book, or some of the information may be connected to other existing memories with or without Memory Palaces. The point is simply that reading and note taking is divided from the process of memorizing and reviewing. This makes everything clear, crisp and focused. I find the same approach makes sense when learning to become fluent in a language as well. Tip #11: Write Summaries When Dr. Anderson told me she wanted summaries from each book I read during my last semester of courses during grad school, I swallowed hard. That’s because there were dozens of books on my reading list. However, I’m grateful she made this assignment a requirement because I’ve been writing summaries ever since. It’s great for learning faster because it taps into the levels of processing effect by causing you to actively recall the information in your own words. I’ve found that 250-500 words is more than enough to capture a book’s core thesis and its main points. Tip #12: Discuss (With Anyone or Anything) It’s important to verbalize what you’re learning. If you can’t join a group on the Internet for live stream discussions, I suggest: Scheduling a reading discussion with family Self talk while walking or at the gym Talking with pets as a last ditch effort It’s always better if you can talk with other people, but if that’s impossible, at least talk to yourself. This activity is like the Feynman Technique, minus the writing. You can also imagine having a discussion with the author, or even the authors of other books. As I shared in this Q&A on how to learn effectively, imaginary interviewing is a great way to speed up your path to understanding more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOESIeZfDeM Tip #13: Expand Your Vocabulary Brilliant Speed Reading, by Phil Chambers, seems to me one of the best books on speed reading thanks to its emphasis on vocabulary development. By learning all about prefixes and suffixes, you rapidly reduce the amount of time you have to spend looking up words you don’t understand. Chambers’ book gets you started, and something like Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis is well worth your time if you want every book you read to be super clear and easy to digest. Tip #14: Know Your Needs and Wants Using the 80/20 Rule You’ve probably heard about the hero’s journey. It’s the structure of nearly every fairy tale and popular story in the movies and novels. In every story, the hero has a driving ambition that comes into conflict with a psychological need. The same thing happens in reading. You know you “want it all,” but in reality, you only need a certain amount. Thus, as the hero in your own reading adventure, you need to accept that no one, ever, has memorized everything in a book and had all of that information be useful. It’s just not in the nature of either books or knowledge. Rather, smart people develop the ability to zero in on the key points and identify the granular details that support those points in valid ways. There’s no best way to develop this “radar” other than to get started culling information in a manner like I’ve suggested above. Tip #15: Be Patient with Different Writing Styles and Conventions Authors have their quirks and some genres come backed with tedious conventions. However, there’s a reason they evolved and often, just being patient is the fastest path to mastering a text. Again, understanding is a process, not a destination. So if you double-down on how much you’re reading, you’ll learn the different conventions of different genres much more quickly and then be able to skim more intelligently and without learning the details. This kind of reading is especially true when it comes to legal documents and scientific papers. Many of their conventions were designed so that readers could quickly pick up the “gist” of their arguments and know almost at a glance if they relate to the research query. But without spending some time to learn those conventions, you’ll forever be locked out of knowing how to navigate them. You can apply this same thinking to novels too. For example, I loved Ready Player One by Ernest Cline so got a copy of Armada. I soon realized I wasn’t as much in love with Armada, so I used my knowledge of convention to skim through it. I quickly found the dilemma, the decision and action, the gathering of allies and a few other features that led me to understand the battle and resolution. Am I going to write an A+ paper on Armada? Of course not. But I am satisfied that I got the gist of the tale and wound up enjoying it more because I used speed reading based on conventional knowledge, rather than getting impatient with it because it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One. Tip #16: Develop Memory Systems And Practice Mnemonic Strategies One of the coolest tools you can learn to use is a 00-99 PAO. Although I normally separate gathering information from memorizing it, when you’re reading casually and just want to memorize a few points from a book, using a number system as a kind of “Magnetic Bookmark” is a lot of fun. In brief, the technique lets you create an image for every two digit number. If you find a salient detail on page 75, you instantly have an image for that number. You can then get that image to interact with the ideas on the page. For example, in Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson talks about episodic memory and mnestic memory in the context of Shakespeare and Freud. Since 75 is John Cale in my 00-99, it was easy for me to imagine him interacting with Shakespeare and Freud in a way that helped me remember Peterson’s point about knowledge, memory and competence. Of course, I didn’t just leave it at that. I followed up by writing a short summary of the book when I was done and that helped consolidate the memory. Now that it’s there, I understand this book much better and am able to speak about it at will. There are hoards of memory strategies you can learn, including: The Memory Palace Link and story methods Elaborative encoding Peg Systems Dive in and start exploring them. 3 Speed Reading Exercises That Don’t Suck If you’re not convinced by the 15 points of strategy I laid out for you above, try some of these alternatives to the paradoxical and contradictory exercises you find in most speed reading courses. Magnetic Eye Fixations Instead of trying to reduce your eye movements, spend some time increasing them. Study how your eyes move. I’ve spent hours doing this and find it helps me concentrate. The origin of it comes from headaches I was getting in high school. My eyes always felt like I had a hard time focusing on the page. As I explained to the doctor, it was like my eyes always slipped off the page, and this annoyed me because I loved reading. As a result of this complaint, I was given glasses. I don’t think they ever helped, but I wore them from around age 15 to age 20. While I was in university, I started getting headaches again and went to see an optometrist. She said the glasses I had were wrecking my eyes and told me the best thing to do would be to strengthen them by reading normally. She actually didn’t let me leave with the glasses I brought in because she was so worried about how they were weakening the muscles in my eyes. So I went home and within a week my headaches were gone. At first, I noticed my eyes going back to slipping off the page, and that’s when I started to work at fixating them. To this day, if I ever feel like I can’t concentrate, I take a deep breath in and then pretend like I’m shooting Superman-like lasers at the page. Within a short while, I am focused and reading like normal. Number-Skipping A lot of speed reading courses suggest that to reduce subvocalization, you should count backwards while reading (or some other pattern). In reality, we know that subvocalization actually helps with understanding, so here’s what I suggest instead. When not reading, get into your favorite meditation pose. Then count from 1-10 and back down again. If you can actually do that without your mind wandering, congrats. You’re practically a Zen Master already. Round Two: This time, try suppressing the even numbers. In other words, count 1, but just breathe while you should be counting 2 and try to think of nothing. Then allow yourself to count to 3. This practice increases focus and helps you experience the nature of thought so that if your mind is wandering while you read, you can easily bring it back into focus. 3 Locations Find three different spots to read. For example: Park Cafe Bedroom Read 10 pages in each location and make a general note of the time it takes. Pay attention to aspects like your posture, the environment and the nature of the material. If you find yourself distracted, take a moment to either practice Number Skipping or Magnetic Fixation and see how these techniques differ in different locations. Also study yourself at different times of day. Try reading after a cold shower. Make note of when you ate and how processes of digestion might be influencing your focus across the cycle. This final exercise takes time, but will reward you. Know Thyself, as they say, and you will know more than anyone else ever can about how to improve your reading abilities. How To Read Fast: A Professor’s Final Word I’ve not only taught reading and comprehension, including critical thinking courses at universities around the world. I’ve been reading my entire life. That is the the ultimate secret to how I’ve managed to read so much, so quickly: I read. I mentioned the bankrupt Evelyn Wood origin story before, but there is one part of it that makes sense. In the fuller narrative, Wood says she observed that her professor read a paper she’d written very quickly and had an intelligent conversation with her about it. This kind of report makes sense for one very specific reason I’m intimately familiar with from having gone through this experience with my own doctoral supervisor: He was an expert in my field and had been reading materials related to my topic for decades. If he hadn’t, he would have had no business being my supervisor. It’s not that these people are “speed reading.” They’re just highly capable of scanning for the main points and connecting it to their existing knowledge. The rest is strategy and mindset, so let me leave you with a few personal examples from my own decades of having slogged through many difficult books. If I don’t like something I have to read, I adjust my attitude. If I don’t understand something, I go back and pick another comprehension strategy (like reading aloud or the Feynman Technique). I go in with a stack of index cards and Memory Palaces when they are warranted and am prepared to split the information gathering from the memorizing and allow understanding to come later. Above all, I assume that I won’t understand a new book because it is new. And as much as possible, I go in with a goal and a schedule. I personally don’t like the term “speed reading.” I think it preys on gullibility and desperation. Yet, I know from experience and having seen friends who swear by these techniques that if you already have familiarity in a particular field, blazing fast speeds are possible. But even then, the best readers I know are always humble. They think critically, scientifically and understand that the ability to comprehend information is a multi-layered process. This is because language is a shared medium and it never exists in just one brain. Language is how we “hyperlink” with one another, and that’s why the real way to learn faster and remember more will always be to increase the links. If it takes a bit longer to create more connections thoroughly and well, then who would you rather be? The tortoise or the hare?
22 minutes | a month ago
Concentration Meditation: 12 Focus Exercises To Get You ‘In The Zone’
Do you have a hard time focusing and wonder if concentration meditation will help? Right now, times are tough. There are hundreds of news stories, social media posts, and other distractions all vying for your attention — all screaming (loudly) about how important they are. Even before the world turned upside down, you already had a hard time concentrating. Then along came a pandemic and ruined any chance of being able to sit down and concentrate on anything important. But what if I told you your concentration is already 10 times better than you think it is? Chances are, you just haven’t learned how to pay attention to what concentration really is. So in today’s post, I’m going to break it all down — and I’ll teach you a number of exercises you can use to boost your focus. You’ll learn how to use concentration meditation, the benefits, and what shortcuts do (and don’t) work. Here’s what this post will cover: What is Concentration, Exactly? Benefits of Concentration Meditation Examples of Concentration Concentration Shortcuts How to Get into a Flow State Types of Concentration Meditation 1. Object Focus Meditation 2. Word Focus Meditation 3. Moving Meditation 4. Breathing Meditation 5. Number Skipping Meditation 6. Chanting Mantras 7. Biographical Thought Control Exercise 8. Movie House Exercise 9. The Music Album Exercise 10. Neti Neti Exercise 11. Flight of the Garuda Exercise 12. Memory Palace Recall Exercise Meditation and the Framing Effect Concentration Meditation FAQs Ready? Let’s get started. First, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I could not live without concentration, and neither could you. Here’s why exercises like these have been so important and helpful for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvtYjdriSpM And get this: Memory will improve meditation — and meditation will improve memory. So let’s begin with a definition. What is Concentration, Exactly? When you think about the word concentration, what comes to mind? It probably brings up images of someone super focused. Maybe they’re reading a long and complex novel, studying for a big exam, or doing a task that involves being really careful. Let’s look at four aspects of concentration you might not have considered. Focus All Your Attention The dictionary says concentration is the action or power of focusing all one’s attention. The two most important words in that definition are “all” and “attention.” So what does it mean to have the action or power of all one’s attention in concentration? Let’s start thinking about concentration by thinking about it as circles. Why? Because the word “concentration” comes from “concentric.” That means having a common center. And this is why you’re probably more concentrated than you think. It’s a matter of which circle or sphere of concentration you’re currently in. The meditation for focus and concentration you’ll learn later in this post is part of a tactical strategy guide. You’ll learn how to go out and try different things. And you’ll see (as I mentioned in the opening) how you’re already much further ahead than you think you are. This post and the meditations and exercises you’ll learn will help you accelerate your progress with concentration very quickly. Be Aware of Your Awareness If we dive even deeper into this idea of concentration, it can also be a careful mental application of your awareness itself — not just attention. When you’re aware, you’re already concentrated. How aware are you of your awareness? If you were to give it a number out of 100, what would it be? 80 percent aware? 20 percent aware? Do you even know if you’re aware of your awareness… or not? The reason I ask you to think about this is, arguably, all we are is awareness. Therefore, we’re always 100% concentrated. We’re already there. If you’re feeling a little confused or like this concept is a bit far out there, I’d encourage you to read a book called Standing as Awareness: The Direct Path by Greg Goode. The book can help you wrap your mind around this concept — it’s eye-opening when you start to understand what awareness is, and how it ties into concentration and focus. Moreover, my research has revealed that memory training has been about realizing total presence since at least the 1500s. I talk about this in-depth in a mindfulness YouTube series I’m developing called The New Art of Memory. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkZ2FGJhR5R9njWtWwRrkZKaq8j7OjDL3 Shift Your Understanding A close mental application of concentration, paired with the meditations we’ll do later, require a shift in understanding. Because concentration is only as good as your awareness of awareness itself. And awareness of consciousness is not just that, but it’s awareness of consciousness plus something – which is everything in it. Everything that is consciousness right now. And you can zero in and focus, or you can zoom out and be much wider, and you can think about things as a kind of oneness. In some sense, this is what you want to get to. You want to live in the zone. You want to be so focused, so hyper-aware, that you’re just blissful every single moment — because you have this oneness with the present moment. As a tactic for creating laser focus that stands the test of time – and hopefully also improves and grows in intensity over time – you have to understand it as awareness. And if you want to learn even more, Greg Goode also wrote a book called The Direct Path, which has even more activities. These will really help you exercise your focus and concentration muscles. Don’t Lose Yourself in the World When I think about how to define concentration and attention, I think of a line from Eckhart Tolle’s book Stillness Speaks: “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the ‘I am’ that is deeper than name and form.” This is what we’re after when we want to increase our concentration. We want to not lose ourselves in the world. We want to be that observer of all that is in the world. Stillness is being the witness to all that is in our awareness as we are standing as awareness. Eckhart Tolle says that “Stillness is your essential nature,” and you can get there with a bit of time and practice. There are all the kinds of things you will achieve when you understand that concentration is stillness — and when you are, as Greg puts it, standing as awareness. All focus. All concentration, in that moment, on a singular action, a singular movement. This is what you already are. You just have forgotten it. Next, let’s look at the benefits of meditation for concentration and focus. Benefits of Concentration Meditation Concentration is stillness. It allows you to take a drifting mind and bring it back to center, to your essential nature. This means you don’t really have to do much to get yourself back there, but it’s still helpful to understand how you can “stand as awareness.” When you get knocked down, to know how to come back to center so you can work around irrelevant thoughts. Neutralize Your Thoughts You can’t totally eliminate distracting thoughts… but you can turn them off. When you’re able to change the form of their energy, you can – as the Atma Bodha says – change thoughts through practice: “Constant practice of self-knowledge neutralizes ignorance as a base neutralizes an acid, purifying the individual self.” In this case, ignorance is not being in stillness. Not being able to find your way back to center because you’re not practicing self-knowledge. One of the things to focus on here is a Zen principle: finding the starting point is always the practice. You just have to find the start — because always being at the starting point is the goal. The wave of our focus and our concentration is always changing. So how can we be constantly in search of the starting point? Make Motivation Irrelevant When you understand that concentration is stillness, you eliminate the need for motivation. A lot of people say they’re “not motivated” — they’re constantly waiting for inspiration or motivation to strike. But motivation isn’t real. It isn’t a strategy. And motivation is never going to just randomly show up on a Tuesday. What would better serve you is to get past motivation. And the way you do that is to realize you are already what you seek. It’s like this line from The Flight of the Garuda: “The nature of mind in its purity is like a stainless crystal ball. Its essence is emptiness, its nature is clarity, and its responsiveness is a continuum. In no way, whatsoever, is the nature of mind affected by samsara’s negativity. From the first, it is Buddha, ‘Trust in this.'” Only a Buddha knows a Buddha — you are already awareness. You are perfect stillness. But ignorance of this quiet moment, the stillness inside you, throws you off seeing what’s right in front of your eyes. Instead, you clamor for motivation and get attached to the idea of needing to be motivated in order to accomplish anything. Get Centered When you get to the point where you realize that concentration is stillness, your memory will improve. No matter what’s going on in your life, you are able to find stillness. Whether you have family in a COVID-19 outbreak area who can’t find masks or you have a garden-variety bad day, practicing concentration meditation helps you focus. You don’t need to be motivated — because motivation is irrelevant when you have true concentration. And then your memory improves. You find your way back when you lose your place. You find your way back to the starting point we just talked about. It’s no longer an intellectual thing. Instead, it’s something you live. You live it because it’s the only thing that exists. Because you’re so concentrated on it. Stop Forgetting When you start to live this type of awareness, you have access to a broad range of techniques that help you get back to center. You stop forgetting what you need to do next. Have you ever had that experience where you have so many things you need to do, but you don’t remember what it was that you need to do next? That goes away. We can talk about oneness, but in the oneness there are many techniques. One is the most dangerous number — and that’s why there are 12 different techniques included in this post for you to explore. Destroy Boredom So many people say they’re struggling with boredom. But boredom simply isn’t necessary — it’s a choice. If you want a simple way to get rid of boredom, I would suggest picking up some “bring gratitude” cards — they have a number of exercises to help you understand how blessed you are. If you have internet access, you have no right to be bored. Instead, get yourself some gratitude for your life and kick boredom to the curb. Next, let’s look at some direct benefits of concentration meditation. Short- and Long-Term Memory Boosts We’ve covered a number of the benefits so far, but I want to talk about a few that will help you as you build focus and concentration. There are both short- and long-term memory benefits that come along with regular concentration meditation practice. You’ll also discover the nature of your focus — and what breaks or impedes it. Restore Your Focus As you continue to meditate consistently, over time you’ll start to notice your awareness is segmented. It’s like the concentric circles we talked about at the beginning of this post. You’ll be able to get back to certain circles in your awareness, see what breaks your concentration, and then – much like a Zen archer – shoot an arrow through the thing interrupting you. And even if you get impeded, you’ll be held up for less time — and less often. The circle continues, and you’ll grow your gratitude and be able to take more risks. Tame the Monkey Mind So many people have issues with monkey mind. I’ve had years of suffering from it, and know it’s no fun. Mindfulness meditation teachers often describe the mind as a scorpion-bitten, drunk monkey — it’s that hard to control it without dedicated practice. When you do shoot those Zen-arrows, you want them aimed in the right direction, and at the time of your decision. In an ideal world, you can tame the monkey mind and think what you want to think when you want to think it. Make Better Decisions When you are able to re-perceive, it helps lead to better decisions. But what does that mean? To answer, let’s take a look at a 2017 study by Elisabeth Norman, Metacognition and Mindfulness: the Role of Fringe Consciousness. She says (lightly edited): Over the last years, there has been an increased interest in the relationship between mindfulness and metacognition… The relevance of metacognition to mindfulness can be illustrated by the fact that heightened attention and an open orientation to one’s own mental events, which are characteristic of mindful states, both require that the person monitors and controls aspects of their ongoing cognitive activity, which are the two core functional mechanisms of metacognition… [One of the referenced studies] specifically linked mindfulness to metacognition, arguing that the process of mindfully attending with openness and nonjudgementalness leads to what is referred to as reperceiving. This involves a shift in perspective, where thoughts, feelings, and sensations that were previously “subject” now become “object,” in the sense that they are experienced more independently of one’s expectations, experience, or attitudes. This involves a more flexible attitude to one’s experiences. The contrasting state of mind would be mindlessness, during which the individual is highly context-dependent, ignorant to novel aspects of their environment, and over reliant on learned schemas and scripts. When you are able to shift your perspective, you can experience life away from the structure of your likes and dislikes, your experience, and any assumptions that might lead to poor choices. Improve Willpower I don’t want to get lost in the weeds of free will — but I do want you to understand that when you understand the difference between choice and selection, you will have a greater ability to have acts of will. Choice is an illusion. There’s no power to choose. You are born, you don’t choose your parents, and then karma takes over. Then you constantly face the pressures of the laws of reality — you have to eat, you have to breathe. There’s no choice involved. Choice creates great misery. At the same time, you’ll have many selections to make. The quality of the selections you make has a lot to do with the field of your awareness — how big it is, how well-practiced, and how cultivated through constant study and implementation. So you get to select from a field of potential things, not choose. And you need to select better, to use acts of will in order to select. The important benefit comes when you can see the distinction and accept the things you can’t change. This allows you to focus instead on using your acts of will to select better in life, rather than reacting when things appear in your field. Cultivate Patience I always think about the story in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now where he talks about how to react when you’re waiting and someone doesn’t show up on time. Instead of being angry they’re late, you could just say, “Oh, I wasn’t waiting for you. I was just enjoying being here. Just being.” Concentration meditation will help you achieve that attitude. By paying more attention to the current moment rather than getting upset about someone else’s behavior, you get to enjoy whatever is happening in the moment. There are a bunch of brain chemicals that switch on when you meditate — in a podcast episode with Daniel Kahneman, Sam Harris calls it “heroin-level meditation.” I don’t know if that’s the best analogy for it, but it certainly feels great. There is some research indicating the chemicals produced when you meditate consistently are similar to the effects of taking Psilocybin mushrooms or Peyote. And having taken a bunch of hallucinatory drugs in my day, I can tell you there’s definitely a relationship. But my recommendation – if you want to be high all the time – do this instead. Do these concentration exercises regularly and you don’t need to take drugs. Mental Minimalism You might know what minimalism means in terms of the amount of stuff you own, but what does mental minimalism mean? It comes from removing thoughts that do not serve, and having the courage to remove objects. One of the reasons people have so much junk in their minds is because they have so much junk in the environment around them. It’s very hard for some people to get rid of clutter, and the two go together. But if you have the courage to remove clutter from your life, you will likely also have fewer thoughts and much more freedom. Higher-Order Focus The last benefit of concentration meditation we’ll discuss today is you’ll probably spend much more time on higher-order projects. Instead of spending your life in death-by-1000-papercuts mode, you can spend time and mental energy creating a vision for your life. Then, once you have your life vision in place, you can set objectives and organize your time such that you actually achieve those goals. The more you meditate, the more likely you’ll see these higher-order topics, spend more time on them, and actually gain traction in your life. Next, let’s look at a few examples of what concentration might look like in the real world. Examples of Concentration Let’s take a quick peek at a few examples. In the Zone From time to time, everyone feels like they’re “in the zone.” This means being in the task-positive network of the brain, as opposed to the default mode network. The default mode network is characterized by “me” in the future or past. Instead, the task-positive network means being fully present in the moment — you’re absolutely in the here-and-now and loving every minute of what’s happening. For me, this happens when I’m up on stage playing music. I was in the zone every night, because as soon as you count off there’s no stopping until the song is over. We were there with the audience, seeing their reactions, and waiting for the next song to start. Check Your Strings In the tennis world, this happens when a player makes a mistake or misses a shot and then wanders off and checks the strings on their racquet. What might seem funny to an outsider is that they have the most expensive racquets in the world and yet they still check to make sure there’s nothing wrong with their equipment. What you might not know is it’s a way for the player to remove their mind from the thing that just happened. It’s another example of concentration where you correct yourself to get back on course. When you get knocked out of the zone, how can you get back into it quickly? Instead of beating yourself up and thinking, “Oh, I always make this mistake. I’m so stupid!” you get the chance to stand up, dust yourself off, and get back in the zone. If you think about being in the zone as the middle point in a circle, how do you get knocked out of the zone? You don’t. Instead, you get knocked one concentric circle back — you’re not totally out of the circle. It’s an opportunity to collect yourself and your concentration and get back to center. You’re never not concentrated. If you make a mistake and your focus shifts to your reaction to the mistake, you’re still 100% concentrated. Your awareness is now totally focused on the mistake. The metacognitive skill becomes how to bounce back to the center of the circle. Vicarious Experiences A great illustration of a vicarious experience is when you’re so engrossed in watching a movie it’s like you’re right there with the main characters. For example, if you were watching The Matrix and you identify so strongly with Neo you feel it when he gets punched. Or when Trinity is in a tricky situation where she needs to run away and can’t — and your psycho-motor responses react with sweaty palms or a pounding heart. In real life, we can (and often do) construct this kind of galvanic response in our bodies. When you get caught up in a mistake and can’t stop thinking about it, that’s a vicarious experience of the past. Mindfulness Meditation Just showing up to meditate is already an example of concentration. It’s like the old Woody Allen line, “eighty percent of success is just showing up.” You don’t have to do it perfectly. Just show up. Even if you try just one of the exercises included in this post you’ll learn so much about yourself. And if you haven’t read it already, take a read through my post called How to Improve Concentration and Memory Buddha-Style. There’s a ton of science about the benefits of meditation and some practical advice about how to get started. Now let’s talk about some concentration shortcuts, and why they don’t work. Concentration Shortcuts (That Don’t Work) Sorry, but there’s no shortcut to concentration and focus! The exercises later in the post are not shortcuts — this is something where you need to be all in. My dad used to say, “[censored] or get off the pot.” And that’s how this is going to work. If you want progress, you have to do the work. Let’s take a look at the claims some people make about ways to shortcut your way to concentration. Supplements One of the so-called shortcuts to gain focus is to take a bunch of supplements. In a post entitled 9 Nootropics to Unlock Your True Brain, Dave Asprey contradicts himself quite a bit, but he nails it by the end. The first mistake in the post is that there’s such a thing as a “true brain.” I know it’s just semantics, but the brain is a living breathing thing. It changes with every breath we take and every pump of our hearts. So a “true brain” doesn’t exist, insofar as your brain is flexible in the moment. If you’re supplementing your brain, at some point it will need to be supplemented again. I think this is an issue, because – as Dave points out – supplements can lead to depression and changes in character. Add in the purity and quality issues inherent with supplements, and you could end up killing yourself. And so he gives the solution: fix your diet first. A lot of people wouldn’t need supplements at all if their diets were right. In many cases, a healthy and complete diet will give you the vitamins and minerals your brain needs. You should also aim for a sattvic diet – one that keeps you in a headspace of clarity and contentment – and avoid rajasic and tamasic foods. Rajasic foods irritate you, and tamasic foods make you lazy and slow. The key thing to remember is: there’s no shortcut to the perfect diet. No one person has the answer for you. It’s up to you to try things out, test how they work for you, and test some more. It took me six months of this kind of testing to figure out my current diet. A lot of people ask why there’s no Magnetic Memory Method memory supplement. The main reason is I haven’t found any type of supplement that helps more than drinking a glass of water. Seriously! Research shows you can improve your verbal memory by drinking water. Doing Nothing Unfortunately, doing nothing is a shortcut many people try. And, as you might imagine, it doesn’t work. But why do people do nothing? Because it’s the easy path. And when it comes to memory, concentration, and focus many people are happy to just get by. Doing nothing, changing nothing, has just as many wear-and-tear issues on your body as anything else. Your posture can be destroyed by staring at your cell phone, in kyphosis, all day long — or by laying on the couch all day. But some people will still take this path. Inconsistent Practice Consistency is key if you want to maintain sustained focus for long periods of time and achieve flow. Half the battle here is making sure you have habits intact. At the end of the day, there are lots of ways to get your habits going, flowing, and growing. I would suggest you forget about other people’s opinions and just do what works for you. Here’s a list of my favorite habit-formation resources. Form Habits Like the Pros Let’s take a look at three of my favorite books on the topic. Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential — by Barbara Oakley This book is great because it not only teaches you about how to get habits going, but also teaches why habits are so hard to start in the first place. (It all has to do with the insular cortex in your brain.) There’s also an in-depth review of the book here on Magnetic Memory Method if you want to learn more. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown — by Daniel Coyle This is one of my favorite books. It was one of the first places I read about dopamine, myelin, and all of the opioid receptors. There’s a way to grow your greatness and Daniel spells it out clearly. Your brain is a garden and it’s as simple as growing it. Atomic Habits — by James Clear James is an author I interviewed for the podcast a couple of years ago. In the interview, you’ll hear a discussion about how to write a book in a habitual way — and it’s the book I’m currently getting into audiobook format. Now let’s look at a few ways you can get “in the zone.” How to Get into a Flow State Remember, a flow state is the level of focus and concentration where time seems to disappear and you get so absorbed in your work nothing else exists. The scientific term for this state is called an autotelic experience. Autotelic Flow Ideally, doing something becomes its own reward. We want to be switched on. We don’t want to think about it — we just want to show up and have flow happen. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says: “An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, little comfort, or power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding. Because such persons experience flow in work, in family life, when interacting with people, when eating, even alone, with nothing to do, they depend less on external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life of routines. They’re more autonomous and independent because they cannot be as easily manipulated with treats or rewards from the outside. At the same time, they are more involved with everything around them because they are fully immersed in the current of life.” I believe every single one of us can become either an autotelic person or get better at it. But what if you have a really hard time getting into flow? How Do You Induce a Flow State? We talked earlier about vision statements, creating actual milestones, and scheduling your time. That’s part of it — build it so you can get to work and focus on those things. Concentration meditation will also help you get into a flow state. As you’re working to get there, you might also consider self-hypnosis. There’s a long story in my past about not wanting to write my Ph.D. dissertation — it involves getting really drunk and busting my head open on a kettlebell (resulting in an ER trip and stitches) and led to me getting into self-hypnosis to get my dissertation written. I already had my National Guild of Hypnotism (NGH) certification, so I sat down and made a recording to help myself get the dissertation done. And while I won’t get into the ins and outs of how to hypnotize yourself, it is a type of concentration meditation. If you go and get hypnotized by somebody else (if they know what they’re doing and are any good at it) it’s also a kind of concentration meditation. We just use different words. The difference is – as the Amazing Kreskin says – “it’s persuasion.” Persuasion is nothing more than the acceptance of a suggestion. Similarly, hypnosis is nothing more than acceptance of a suggestion. We’re going to do a lot more about meditation for concentration and focus moving forward. I created a Facebook page about the topic, and I’d love for you to join us there. Next, we’ll look at the different types of concentration meditation. Grab a piece of paper or your favorite note-taking system and let’s get learning! Types of Concentration Meditation Everyone needs to explore a range of meditations and ideally have more than one kind in their “meditation stack” for the best results. A 2017 article explores some interesting gender considerations to keep in mind. And since there’s no single meditation that works for everyone, we’ll learn about 12 different approaches you can take. Some of these examples are not really meditations but rather exercises to help you concentrate. If you want to see examples of these meditations in action, you can check out this YouTube Livestream. 1. Object Focus Meditation This is a visualization training where you focus on “an object.” We could get really nerdy about what an object actually is — because pretty much everything that appears in your awareness is an object. And because it appears to you, you are not it. A higher-order “focus on objects” meditation would be to focus on the object of perception as it appears to you. The Waking Up app from Sam Harris has a lot more like this. But we can also keep this meditation really simple. Here’s an example: Hold a cup in your hand, look at it, and then ask… “Where in my consciousness, where in my awareness, where in my concentration, is this cup?” You can then do the same thing with your eyes closed, or with the cup sitting somewhere else in front of you. You can also get different cups and compare them. Ask yourself where the color on the cup is, what the color is, and what divides the color from the space around the cup. As you focus on the cup, you may also become aware of how there’s so much color around you. The objects are not the color — but they’re also not not the color. As you start to see the distinctions and notice your mind has this great filter, you may begin to see how your concentration is a thing that’s always on. And whether it’s a cup, a playing card, a coin, or some other object, when you focus on an object in your environment you can make endless inquiries about it. Where does the sensation of the object and your hand begin and end? Where does my awareness of the object begin? Where is the object? What does it feel like against my skin? What does my skin feel like? How did this object come into my possession? Are there any stories associated with this object? You might decide to journal your observations about the object, allowing yourself to follow the thread of observations as you think about its many layers. If you’ve taken the free course at MagneticMemoryMethod.com you know there are a number of approaches like the candle exercise, the apple exercise, the corner exercise, and the negative space exercise you can use for this type of meditation. 2. Word Focus Meditation Another type of concentration meditation is to focus on words or word parts. This is the great memory tradition of the West, to understand the role of words as the core of how we can memorize things quickly. In this way, we can concentrate and meditate on the nature of language. We’re essentially back to object meditation but more fluid and with a different focus. This type of meditation has a strange characteristic of being constantly moving — because words printed on a page may move around in your mind in a way they don’t move around on the page. One guy I find really fascinating is Harry Kahne, who had the interesting idea of “multiple mentality.” He would write with both hands and his mouth and feet, all at the same time. He would solve equations with one hand while writing a poem with the other, all while spelling the alphabet backward with one of his feet. His Multiple Mentality Course (also available by doing a Google search) is the origin of my playing around with memorizing the alphabet backward. You might also choose to memorize the alphabet forwards and skip letters — or A, Z, B, Y, C, X, D, W, etc. This type of concentration meditation will help you see the object of the alphabet in your awareness and perceive your awareness of information in the space of you as you stand in awareness. The direct improvements you’ll see from this kind of work is to improve the mental organization of information in the space of your awareness. 3. Moving Meditation Adding movement to your meditation might be just the ticket if you have a hard time with seated meditation. This could be a traditional walking meditation, but can also include things like learning how to juggle. As you might imagine, the second you lose focus you’re likely to drop the ball. Anything that involves you being 100% present is a great meditation. If you want an additional challenge once you’ve gotten regular juggling down, you can add more juggling balls or even sing or recite from memory while juggling. You could even recite the alphabet backward or sing in a foreign language. I learned a lot of things in Systema — patterns like linking your walking with your breath. One of the patterns you could try is to take one step with each breath. You can then keep your walking pace the same and do two steps per breath, three steps per breath, four steps per breath, etc. See how high you can go (without passing out), and then scale back to one. It should go without saying, but consult with your doctor before taking on any new exercise program. This type of concentration meditation is great because it involves linking your breath and movement, as well as changing your attentional awareness to include how much oxygen you need. 4. Breathing Meditation Breath meditations are some of my favorites. As well as linking breath and movement, there are specific breathing exercises you can do as part of your meditation practice. One of my favorites is alternate psychic nostril breathing — different from standard alternate nostril breathing in that you don’t actually touch your face. (This makes it great for our current times and the admonitions to stop touching your face!) You might also choose to use pendulum breathing, where you “swing” the breath like a pendulum. The short version: inhale, pause, and inhale again. Exhale, pause, and exhale again. Then, repeat the cycle. I also enjoy box breathing, which I taught in a recent post about how to memorize a speech. It’s similar to pendulum breathing, but involves a breath cycle where you inhale, pause, exhale, pause, and then repeat. 5. Number Skipping Meditation Gary Weber talks about number skipping in Happiness Beyond Thought. It’s a very challenging – and very powerful – concentration meditation. We’ll start with a simple version of this mindfulness meditation, but I would encourage you to read the book to go deeper. Begin by counting 10 breaths in and out. One breath in and out is one. In and out, 2. In and out, 3. All the way up to ten. Then you’ll move on to the skipping: in and out, 1. In and out, with “nothing” represented in the mind. In and out, 3. In and out, nothing. In and out, 5. In and out, nothing. You’ll actively count the odd numbers in your mind, while the even numbers are just space. And because this is kind of like, “Don’t think of a red car” it can be difficult to do. Suppressing the even numbers is hard because you’re telling yourself not to think of those numbers. You’ll represent the even numbers by giving yourself the command not to represent them. Easy, right? 😉 I didn’t believe this to be possible, but with time and effort, I discovered it was doable. This is the path to removing symbolism in your mind and having Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience (PNSE). It can lead to experiences of absolute bliss and perfect stillness during your meditation. 6. Chanting Mantras Another type of concentration meditation is to chant (sing) mantras — these can be either short- or long-form. You might be wondering about this word: mantra. What does it mean? Man = to think Tra = instrumental The word mantra may feel really spiritual or “woo” and I even avoided it for years. But then a friend of mine pointed out that it’s the same thing Gary Weber talks about. I don’t think that statement proved true, but Gary does talk about needing and wanting a secular tradition, extracting a secular nature out of things. It’s about science instead and therefore doesn’t require belief. And lo and behold, it turned out that “mantra” was just a Sanskrit word which means “the instrument of thinking.” If you’re not familiar with chanting, you can simply open up a text and follow along by reading the text. Or, you might put on a video where the text is displayed and sing along with it. You might think of this version as singing along with a hymn in church. However, it’s even more beneficial if you memorize the chants. I started simply with something called kirtan kriya, which is just 4 syllables. In Sanskrit, it’s “Sa Ta Na Ma.” You might decide to start with something simple like that and then move on to the Ribhu Gita from Evolving Through Thought. The first 2 lines of the passage boil down to two questions: are my thoughts useful, and how do they behave? What a beautiful mantra to concentrate on, that reveals the true nature of your thoughts and neutralizes them instantly! I feel like the Ribhu Gita is important to memorize in the original Sanskrit. It gives an extra layer of lenses that allows you to distance yourself even more so you can see things as they really are. If you want some help memorizing the Ribhu Gita, I would recommend picking up your free copy of my memory training kit (or taking the masterclass to learn how to memorize). You could also focus on a chant with some kind of semantic content or lesson. I like the Nirvana Shatakam, sometimes called the Atma Shatakam, which translates to, “I am not my mind. I am not my memory. I am not my nose or my ears.” This helps you pay attention to the fact that the very idea of your mind and memory appear in you — but they are not you. Instead, you are the witness to those things. Memorizing the Nirvana Shatakam can be a good way to really feel into this idea. And the good news is it’s not that easy to memorize and it’s fun to sing. 7. Biographical Thought Control Exercise This is something I’ve been playing around with for years, and I recently came into possession of a book that reminds me of the exercise. Franz Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics is the first of three volumes about self-realization. In my opinion, the book itself hasn’t stood the test of time but it does have some interesting exercises in it. One of the things he talks about is the difference between your biography of now and the biography of what’s to come. The book discusses how to make sure your vision for the future is true — which bridges into a lot of what I’ve been talking about here at Magnetic Memory Method for quite a while. To do a biographical thought control exercise of your own, relax, and then revisit a memory. This could be any memory, from a day ago or years ago. Build up that memory in your mind and then release it. To make the exercise much more rigorous, structure your thoughts about your biography with numbers. For example: Try to remember what year it was when you were in grade one and also how old you were. Relax, and then draw a mental square of the room that grade one took place in. Move ahead through the years; perhaps even skip a few years, to grade five, grade eight, grade twelve. Pick a pattern and concentrate. Next, ask where you were during those years. Think about who your friends were during those years, their names, and the name of your teacher. You might also try the alphabet. For example: Take the letter “A” and think of a family member or friend whose name starts with that letter. What memories do you have of them? Think about any locations associated with that person. Move on to the letter “B” and repeat the process. Once you have a clear picture of that time period or people, totally release it. 8. Movie House Exercise For this concentration meditation, you’ll remember as much as you can about a movie. For example: Think of a movie title that starts with the letter A. Sit down or lay down in meditation. Enter a movie theater in your mind (your choice which one). Find your favorite spot to sit. Begin to play the movie in your mind. Try to remember the opening scene, including the music. Continue to follow the chain of associations if you can’t remember a particular detail. Work your way through and try to remember the entire movie, in as much detail as possible. It’s okay if you skip around and remember scenes out of order. Finally, move on through the alphabet. If you enjoy this kind of exercise, I also wrote an entire post about how to increase your memory by watching movies and television. 9. The Music Album Exercise This is similar to the movie exercise above, but with your favorite music album instead. You’ll recreate the album in your mind. For example: Step into an imaginary listening booth and put on your headphones. Try to remember the title of the first song on the album. Then work your way through each song on the album. Next, go back to the first song and start to play it in your mind. Replay as much of it as you can and study your perception of listening to the album. See how long you can hold your concentration before it drops. If you don’t have musical memory, then ask yourself, “what happens in the absence of music?” And if you want to challenge yourself, start with albums where you can’t for the life of you remember one song on the album — watch what happens in the mind when you try to remember something so far gone. 10. Neti Neti Exercise Coming back to our Sanskrit exercises, if you are chanting and get distracted what do you do? What’s your strategy? One thing you can do is think, “not this. Not this.” (That’s what neti neti means in Sanskrit.) So any time you get distracted from whatever topic or exercise you’re concentrating on, you can think, “Not this. Not this.” “Neti, neti.” Then bring your focus back. You can do this over and over, as the mind will inevitably wander. It’s a good way to avoid frustration, judgment, and emotion around your concentration meditation. It helps you keep things simple. 11. Flight of the Garuda Exercise Let’s come back to the line I shared early on in this post from the Flight of the Garuda — when we were discussing motivation as it relates to concentration memory. It translates to this: “Where is the mind now? Is it in the upper or lower part of your body? In your sense organs, in your lungs, or your heart?” The book is wonderful and maps the Advaita Vedanta beautifully. I wouldn’t say it’s accurate that all paths lead to the same place or achieve the same thing for the person following the path. But I will say, the more you know of the paths the more enabled you are to follow the best possible path. The thing I love the most in the Flight of the Garuda is the emphasis on “the starting point is the goal.” It’s great to always have a beginner’s mind in these matters. 12. Memory Palace Recall Exercise This exercise requires you to have a developed Memory Palace. If you’re not there yet, come back to this section when you’ve completed the free training. Wandering around your Memory Palace is a meditative exercise on its own. For this exercise, you could use the following: Language (like semantic content) 00 to 99 review Number skipping Major system When you’ve decided what to review, start your concentration meditation by asking yourself, “where are these locations?” in your mind. You might also consider drawing your Memory Palaces as though they were mandalas — and then fixate and focus on the movement as a simple meditation. One thing to notice is how many meditations – as they’re taught – already involve Memory Palace mechanisms. For example, Michael Roach has a great exercise in one of his audio programs where he talks about how you can use the temple he taught in to help you remember it. As I remember it, the first part of the meditation was to imagine crossing a bridge. There’s the corner, you’re crossing a bridge, and people are always firing arrows at you. The arrows are on fire — and the bridge is made of wood. And the bridge is catching on fire. The notion of this meditation is to concentrate your awareness on the fact that there will always be enemies who are trying to undercut you. The next part of the meditation is a party, where you get to remember you always have friends to celebrate with you when you cross the burning bridge. And it goes on a few more steps. But no matter which of these meditations or exercises you choose to do, it comes back to these three questions: “What are we doing here?” “Who’s doing it?” “Do you accept the suggestion that these things work by how you think about it yourself and by how others have helped you think about it that way?” Finally, let’s look at how your approach can boost the benefits of your meditation. Meditation and the Framing Effect Remember, a Memory Palace is – at some level – already a concentration meditation. And there’s something called frame effect and an interesting study that was done with a group of hotel workers. They divided the workers into two groups — Group A and Group B. Group A participants were told to stop taking the elevator and given no explanation why. The participants in Group B were given some understanding of how many calories they burned as they vacuumed, washed windows, folded sheets, and went about their daily tasks. The study provided this group with calorie-burning charts that showed data like how many more calories they would burn by taking the stairs versus the elevator, and were told their work was equivalent to going to the gym. The study found Group B burned more calories and got more fit, because of the framing effect. Where this ties in with Memory Palaces and memorization is this: if you apply the framing effect to yourself – thinking that you’re meditating while you’re memorizing – you will see similar boosts in your results. Because memory techniques like Memory Palaces are already like a meditation, you can hit the ground running. You can use your Memory Palace to get in the zone, to use concentration meditation to hit your flow state. Finally, let’s answer some of the questions I hear most often about concentration meditation. Concentration Meditation FAQs Is drifting bad while performing any of these meditations? The mind drifting while you meditate is not necessarily a bad thing. The question is: do you stop and ask yourself, “Where is the mind in which this drifting is happening?” or “What is this drifting, and to whom is the drifting happening?” In the end, drifting cannot be a good or bad thing — because “good” and “bad” are just ideas that exist. There’s only bad if you allow yourself to get frustrated or emotional about what’s happening. Instead, think of drifting as diffuse thinking. I love to go for walks or take a shower and let my mind drift away. When I become aware I’ve drifted off I simply go right back to where I was. Make drifting part of the exercise, something to observe. What is the role of discomfort in meditation? Is discomfort or comfort better for meditation? This is another good vs bad situation where the answer is “it depends.” If you’re uncomfortable while trying to meditate and you end up judging yourself or your body, then it could be defined as “bad.” But if you work with pain or discomfort in the body and find a way to integrate it and deal with it while you’re working to improve it… then it is what it is. Neither good nor bad. One of the things to talk about in the context of comfort and discomfort is that it doesn’t really matter if you sit in a “meditation pose” while you do it. As James Swartz points out, the only reason people in the early Vedic tradition sat in meditation is because they didn’t have chairs. (I don’t know if that’s historically true, but it would make a lot of sense.) So if you want to sit in a chair while doing these meditations and exercises, go ahead. You can get the same benefits seated on the floor, sitting in a chair, laying down, or walking around. But you have to figure out what works best for you. If you’re sitting around and making yourself uncomfortable because you’ve made sitting a requirement, then I think you’re missing the point. The point is knowledge — knowledge of your concentration, your awareness, and knowledge of what it means to stand as awareness. To be awareness itself. You don’t need to be in discomfort. But if you are in discomfort then you need to make it part of the exercise. As Tim Ferriss commented while interviewing Wim Hof, so much comfort is killing us. Can concentration in meditation be measured? There are a few ways you can test your concentration and focus. There’s something called Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) that measures a subject’s attention and focus based on the integrity of their brain signals. An event will occur on the screen (a shape will change color, for example) and the subject has to repeatedly give a response (press a button). There’s a simple exercise in Happiness Beyond Thought you can try: draw a line, and every time your thoughts change, change direction with the line. It’s an easy way to test how long and uninterrupted (or short and all over the place) your concentration is. You could also Mind Map to see how long you can map your way through something. Or, put on a timer and see how long you can stay aware of what you’re doing — stopping the timer whenever you notice your concentration waning. Keep track of your sessions in a journal and see if your times improve as you continue the practice. Whatever way you test your concentration, be sure to come up with your own metric and work to improve it from your baseline. Where can I concentrate in meditation? The goal of focus in meditation is everywhere at any time. Have a continuous ritual in one place that you use continuously. This place can become a mental image you revisit in any circumstances — somewhere you can go to find clarity and calm. When you memorize long-form mantras, you also have a kind of place or set of places. The Australian Aboriginals called their Memory Palaces “songlines.” In my experience, I can drop in on any number of spots along the geography of one of my Memory Palaces to find calm. For example, the Ribhu Gita passages deal with the mind, body, and matters of spirit. Visiting any one of these meditative passages helps “neutralize” particular issues that might arise. Because each phrase is in a Memory Palace, both the meaning of the self-inquiry mantra and the location itself provide calm, stability and help reassert concentration on demand. How can I keep my mind from wandering off during meditation? If you’ve tried meditation before and you only made it a minute or two before you were totally distracted again, you are not alone. Everyone starts somewhere, and for someone just getting started, two minutes of focus is a great achievement. Don’t give up. Instead, remember that recentering and coming back to the present moment, again and again, is all part of the practice. Being able to focus for a couple of minutes means you’re on the verge of something massive. So stick with it. You’ll be glad you did. Should I use music to improve my concentration? This is another question where the answer is, “it depends.” When we’re talking about music for concentration or concentration meditation music, you want to first identify what you want to concentrate on. Context matters. If you want to focus on writing something – whether a blog post or a book chapter – certain types of music will not be conducive to your focus. But there might be other types of music that are perfect for helping you concentrate. For example, I’ve trained myself to use particular music that helps me sit down and write — and I have other types of music I use specifically for when I need to edit my writing. I don’t really listen to “music” when I meditate… except that I kind of do. I don’t really think of mantra meditation or chanting as music, but it is musical. One way to discover whether music helps you concentrate during meditation is to explore 10 different pieces of concentration music. Listen to each, test out whether they are helpful or not. Try each piece of music multiple times. And write down your results. What I believe will work better is focusing on memorizing specific pieces of music — do the Music Album Exercise above and try to recreate specific albums. In the end, it’s about being with the music. Studying the music. Concentrating on the music. Finally, let’s wrap up our deep dive into concentration meditation. Meditation for Concentration and Focus In the end, everything is memory. And the quality of your memory is the quality of your life. The quality of this moment is the quality of you having a strategy to deal with whatever comes. When those arrows are flying and your bridge is burning, what does your memory help you remember to do? The exercises and meditations you learned today will help you improve the quality of your memory. Be sure to bookmark this post and come back to it as you want to learn a new concentration meditation. And remember: it’s a marathon, not a race. A journey, not a destination. Always study multiple teachers of multiple practices, but not at the expense of following through with a single kind. I would recommend focusing on one type at a time for at least 90 days to explore their nuances and implications. And if you want to learn more about my memory techniques – including meditation for focus and concentration – grab your copy of my new book, The Victorious Mind.
47 minutes | a month ago
Arthur Worsley On Getting Traction And Discovering Your Why
It is no secret that we are all constantly in a state of self-examination. While some people may be more “self-aware” than others, no matter where you are on the spectrum, there is a constant need, a persistent desire to “Know Thyself.” The greatest task in that knowing, above all else, may be the biggest question, and, more complicated therefore, to answer, the question of “Why?” Today, more than ever perhaps, we are being challenged to slow down, to examine our priorities, to reflect on who we are and what motivates us. Whether that is an intentional choice, or the current state of the world has given you the gift of more time in the form of working from home and eliminating your commute, or governmental measures have encouraged a “safer at home” mindset, now is no better time for working towards that answer. My guest today is Arthur Worsley. He is the man behind The Art of Living blog, the author of the TRACKTION Planner, and the Moments app. He is an entrepreneur, graduate of Oxford where he studied psychology, philosophy, and physiology. Thumbs up for the Tracktion Planner! We discuss his mission of guiding others to find their motivation, through practical, executable, analog tools. Arthur provides a real, honest look at a difficult situation that became his catalyst for self-discovery, and, through coaching, and his own journey, the roadblocks that others faced that were similar, and how they, and you, in turn, can also overcome them. He even shares his own experience with answering that big question of “Why?” as he applied for Oxford. In his words, it was “terrifying” to see one’s future residing in such an empty space. The question of why was intentional, providing a blank canvas, open to interpretation. He learned how to navigate and fill that space for himself, and with the tools and methods he has created, you can also learn to answer that all-important question of “Why?” If you’re struggling to find your motivation for your everyday…. Or maybe the bigger challenge of your life’s purpose… Just take note of where you’re starting from. As you begin to answer that question, and, unavoidably, the others that arise, know you are enough. That self-doubt? It can serve you. That questioning is good. That questioning means growth. And why then wouldn’t we take that opportunity as we ask that very thing of ourselves? Press play now above to listen in as Arthur shares: How physiology, psychology, and philosophy can not only live in harmony as disciplines, but how they actually, in fact, intersect and can help you improve your focus The evolution of the Pyramid of Needs for modern day society – what’s missing, and why The gap that exists between effort (what you do) and motivation (why you do it) What loss of religion means practically, and the problem that “lack of faith” can create The reason behind the current resurgence of Stoicism, and what questions that philosophy can answer. Why meaning must be found in purpose, and not purpose within meaning The relationship (that’s necessary) between decision making and data collection The pros and cons to the novelty effect The most common reasons planners fail, and how you can overcome them with just a few simple tools The problem with perfectionism and its relationship to procrastination Why reading isn’t always beneficial – and how you may need to tweak your reading style (were you aware you had one?) How problem solving can be addictive, and what mindset is required to achieve cyclical solutions Why connection is such a critical why – even for an introvert And even more! Further Resources on the web, this podcast, and the MMM Blog: The Art of Living The Wheel of Life Book Recommendations Book Summaries Arthur Worsley on the Nomad Podcast Optimizing Evernote and Other Productivity Software for Better Memory Olly Richards on Crazy Language Learning Goals and Mastering Motivation Mindset, Memory and Motivation with Sam Gendreau
27 minutes | a month ago
Dr. Bruno Furst’s You Can Remember: Does It Work?
Dr. Bruno Furst created a number of memory improvement courses and You Can Remember! is one of the most famous. He was a German lawyer and his full name was Johann Franz Bruno Fürst. People familiar with the long tradition of memory techniques will probably think he chose to go by “Bruno” to attract the attention of people already familiar with memory techniques. It’s impossible to know, but I personally find it hard not to think about one of the most famous memory teachers, Giordano Bruno. Since “der Fürst” can mean “prince” or “ruler” in German, I have often wondered if the entire name is invented to say something about Giordano Bruno’s constant influence. Given that this Bruno Furst fled Germany after Hitler came to power, this idea that he may have changed his name is plausible. Very little is known about him. The only Wikipedia page about him is in French and the New Yorker has their article about him locked in an archive. But the fact that he has a profile in that magazine gives us a clue to his prominence during his era. The question is… does his memory training work? The answer depends on you, your goals and your willingness to go on what Furst calls, “Adventures in Memory and Concentration.” This printed pamphlet is an advertising piece designed to increase your desire to become a memory master. Notice the many dated professions and conventions of the era Furst was addressing. This pairing of memory with concentration is important because you really can’t have one without the other. The good news is that improving one naturally improves the other. So with that in mind, let’s take a deep dive into this flagship memory training from Dr. Bruno Furst. I hope you enjoy this You Can Remember review. You Can Remember!: Everything You Need to Know First, it’s important to realize that Dr. Furst recycled his material often. That means you might be disappointed if you already have these books: Stop Forgetting: How to Develop Your Memory And Put It To Practical Use The Practical Way To A Better Memory: A Simple, Easy-To-Use Method of Training Your Memory I love collecting memory books and courses. You Can Remember! by Dr. Bruno Furst is quite unique. Although these books do have some differences in them, what makes You Can Remember! unique is a method of segmenting the different skills into ten sessions. These sessions are split up into ten small booklets of about 30 pages each. The package comes with four separate envelopes, each packed with “examinations” or “model answers.” The exams typically ask you to spend 20 minutes reading a magazine. You then quiz yourself and self-assess your accuracy. Inside, you’ll find simple questions on typewritten sheets. Finally, the box comes with the “Number Dictionary.” This small booklet is packed with words that fit the Major System from 00-1000. Overview of the 10 Sessions Bruno Furst faces the same challenge all memory experts run up against: There is no perfect place to start learning memory techniques. But I feel that Dr. Furst made the best possible choice by starting where I also introduce students to the art of memory, with the Memory Palace technique. Session 1: In his work, Dr. Furst uses the terminology of his era: The Memory Checkroom. Instead of calling each stop in the Memory Palace a “Magnetic Station,” he talks about coat hooks, each with a number. So that you can remember the numbers of each “hook,” you learn the Major System. The session concludes with a test of how you interact your different hooks with daily chores. Session 2: Furst extends the Major System in this session and helps you extend it to three digits. He shows how you can use it to memorize “telephone numbers, price lists, addresses, formulas of every kind – in short, everything connected with numbers in practical life.” The session ends with showing how flexible this number system is by sharing various mnemonic devices you can apply to different kinds of information. A historic image of Dr. Furst shows that he likely taught even more advanced uses for numbers in his live training sessions. You see him with specially printed playing cards that include 3-digit numbers, for example, but I don’t know exactly what he had in mind for these. Encoding past 00-99 is not covered in any of his material I’ve read. Session 3: This session goes further with extending your Major System and explains how to remember prices. Session 4: Here Dr. Furst discusses applying the techniques to memorizing information from newspapers and short stories. You are given a number of still photographs to work with. You also go through scenarios where you might want to remember an anecdote and how your mnemonic devices can help trigger the memories. Session 5: Dr. Furst explains the different types of memories and then extends the techniques to memorizing faces and then names. He explains how to apply the techniques at parties. Dr. Bruno Furst discussing how to memorize faces. Session 6: Here, you learn the “chain method,” which is essentially the same as the link and story method. He touches on how to use this method to memorize a speech. Session 7: In this session, Furst covers memorizing historical dates, geography and memorizing contest winners and information related to the tax code. This is probably one of the most dated parts of the Bruno Furst memory program, especially since there have been many advancements in how to use memory techniques in the past decade alone. Session 8: Dr. Furst starts ramping things up in this section by discussing adding facts to people. He discusses remembering names when you don’t actually know the person (such as artists, authors, historical figures, etc). You also learn how to tackle memorizing scripture and the US States. Session 9: By this point, Dr. Furst figures you are ready for some of the next-level techniques. Here, he introduces using classification systems to improve your memory. For example, if you need to memorize a bunch of items on a tray, you would isolate all the musical instruments into a category. When exactly anyone would need to do this outside of working for airport security is unclear, but this technique does relate to what we call the Conceptual Mode in the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass. His introduction to using this kind of “mental division” is worth practicing even if the examples he gives don’t relate to many real world applications. One approach that still is potentially useful involves his discussion of using the Dewey Decimal system. This strategy is compelling and with a more robust approach to the Memory Palace, it’s quite easy to see how one could “nest” a number of them together using this categorical system. This session is one of the most important and it’s curious that more of this material doesn’t appear in the introduction. Furst waits until nearly the end to stress the importance of goal setting, planning and exposes the truth about creativity. (The truth is that real creativity in memory training involves bringing together preexisting elements, not “inventing” new imagery and associations.) Session 10: You learn how to memorize a deck of cards in this session and a few routines you can use to stun your friends. The course ends with Furst stressing the need for ongoing practice in order to maintain the skills you’ve gained. Can Bruno Furst Help You with Memory Improvement? If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you know that I feel more is better than less. “One,” as I often say, “is the most dangerous number” when you’re learning any skill. You want multiple teachers. But whether it’s Mega Memory, Pmemory or something by one of our contemporary memory competitors (like Nelson Dellis), you should think about a few things before deciding. Historical recency. Furst refers to dated newspaper formats, hairstyles that are no longer in fashion and checkrooms that one rarely sees anymore. If you’re a certain age, these examples won’t bother you. But there’s nothing about dealing with the Internet or information overwhelm. Dr. Furst couldn’t have even imagined what students of today deal with and this book shows it. (That said, the amount of techniques he covers is impressive and they’re all still relevant to today’s era.) The examples are incredibly vague and generic. We know so much more about multisensory, concrete associations these days. You will likely struggle if you use examples that may have worked for a few people in his era. Bad advice. Furst talks about not using rhymes for a reason that doesn’t really make sense and tells you to repeat names in conversations, which is not strictly necessary when memorizing them. He also seems to assume that everyone is an extrovert. He breaks learning a 00-99 PAO over 10 sessions instead of just focusing on this particular skill. He may have had the learning technique called “interleaving” in mind, but I doubt it. This strategy might reduce the cognitive load of developing your Major System, but you wind up switching topics many times and he never quite develops a solid use case as he might have by gathering this mnemonic strategy in one place. The History Of Memory Techniques Personally, I picked up these books and the You Can Remember! course to better understand the history of this beautiful tradition. Like Kevin Trudeau and Harry Lorayne, Bruno Furst was more than a memory teacher. He was a great marketer. The course I ordered came packed with the original advertising and it’s clear that Furst knew just how much convincing many people need in order to give these techniques a try. Testimonials for Bruno Furst came with You Can Remember! to help remind new students of the value in the program. The use of testimonials and what he calls “proof again” testimonials and offers for free training shows that he was devoted to “education-based advertising.” Although nothing in his marketing offers the kinds of “results in advance” we focus on in the Magnetic Memory Method world, it is inspiring to see the effort that went into these “listicles via mail.” There is also an “advertorial” in Maclean’s where he teaches the Major System in passing. It is not known whether Dr. Furst wrote these advertising materials himself, but they strike me as coming from the same author. I get this feeling because the memory training itself is written to encourage you take action, and this is common across all memory training programs. If you want, as Dr. Furst puts it, to “make more friends, and acquire greater popularity at social gatherings,” you have to take action. As I have done for years, he urges the learner not to be content with the examples he gives. The imperative to “try the system immediately in your daily life,” comes up as a mantra, and I agree that it needs to be repeated often. He correctly stresses that “every human activity rests in some way on memory” and shows how improving memory leads to great efficiency and pleasure in life. Finally, it is worth noting how Dr. Furst brings memory training together with general self help. When talking about classification, he talks about applying this mnemonic strategy to your goals. He suggests breaking your five year plan into categories like your business or work, social life and family recreation. Practical, But Dated Memory Training As I mentioned at the beginning, there is no perfect way to start your memory training journal. But if you want to split things across ten learning sessions and can get hold of You Can Remember!, I have no problem recommending it. Even where there are certainly aspects to the program I could complain about it, Furst knows his stuff and his own goals are in the right place. As he says, “Every advance in civilization and every step in cultural progress rests in the last analysis upon memory.” This fact remains true and those of us who love memory techniques owe a debt of gratitude for his work, whether we go through his material or not.
15 minutes | 2 months ago
How to Become Fluent in a Language: Everything You Need to Know
If you want to become conversationally fluent, you might wonder how many words and phrases you need to learn. You probably also want to know how long it’s going to take to tie enough threads of the language together to speak without hesitation. You also want the certainty that the language will in fact wind up deep down inside you and become part of your being. On this page, you’ll discover the best way to become fluent in a language — and how to define fluency in the first place. It’s not exactly what a lot of people think. In fact, when you define “fluency” in the best possible way, you can achieve goals in the languages you want to learn with incredible speed and efficiency. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2TOary2yQQ Here’s what this post will cover: What Does It Mean To Be Fluent? The 5 Stages of Language Fluency When Are You Fluent In A Language? How To Become Fluent In A Language Fast: 8 Powerful Tips Becoming Conversationally Fluent Is Easy And Fun Let’s begin. What Does It Mean To Be Fluent? Let’s start our definition by ruling out what fluency isn’t. Fluency is not: Being 100% accurate every time you speak Knowing every single word in a language Mastering grammar Think about your own mother tongue. Do you say things 100% perfectly every time you speak? Of course not. We all stutter sometimes or forget simple words we’ve known our entire lives. Likewise, any honest person who looks through a dictionary will find hundreds of words they do not know in their mother tongue. As for grammar, I remember showing off in German to my friend Olly Richards in Berlin several years ago. When I asked someone I was speaking to if my grammar was correct, the native German speaker shrugged and looked at me as if I was insane for asking such a question. Here’s the point of this story about asking a native German speaker if my grammar was correct: Very few native speakers actually know much about their mother tongue. And that means in order to become proficient in a language, you don’t have to either. The Better Definition You Need When Becoming Fluent In A Language A better definition of fluency is this: The ability to complete goals while using another language. And the main goal? To use words and phrases to: Convey thoughts, ideas, emotions, or commands Understand thoughts, ideas, emotions, or commands Ideally, you’ll be doing this in pleasant interactions with people you enjoy speaking with — though this is not necessarily always the case. For example, I’ve dealt more than a few times with immigration offices in Germany. I spoke in German and was able to convey and understand the necessary details in order to accomplish goals completely using German. (But it was not my idea of fun.) The 5 Stages of Language Fluency As you start learning a language, you’re going to go through phases or stages. These can be broken down into: 1. Zero knowledge of the language. You literally don’t know a thing. You might not even know what the language is called in the language you’re learning. (For example, German is called Deutsch.) 2. Basics of the language, like the alphabet. In different languages, you’ll face different demands depending on the character set and any symbols you need to learn. Obviously, Asian languages have bigger demands than Russian with Cyrillic, or you might lose a few letters when learning a language like Italian. 3. Starting to speak. In this stage, you will perhaps have a few words and phrases you can use. You may be practicing entirely on your own or with a teacher. 4. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In this stage, you’ll ramp up your efforts by using what is called The Levels Of Processing. You need to combine multiple forms of input and output in order to consolidate what you’re learning. 5. Flying solo. This is when you are able to hold conversations that flow — or at least accomplish goals. You’ll usually find this incredibly pleasurable, but all that matters is that you can understand and be understood pretty much on demand. You can start understanding interesting aspects of a language at all of these levels. You really don’t have to wait for the fifth stage to understand innuendo, for example. Even just knowing a bit about how certain letters are sounded can give you access to the psychological experience of the language. You can also work on your accuracy at each stage. In fact, you’ll want to keep coming back to hone the accuracy of each stage over time. For example, I’ve been studying Sanskrit for three years, and I still learn new things just about the alphabet. When Are You Fluent In A Language? How long does it take to become fluent in a language? The answer to this question is either 1) up to you or 2) based on a test you take to assess your progress. In Europe, you might consider being tested based on the CEFR levels. For a language like Chinese, you might take a formal test based on HSK 1-6. (When discussing how to learn Chinese, I give an example of a journey to passing level 3.) I suggest you find a “sweet spot” between your own definition of fluency and an external exam. Again, native speakers rarely know their mother tongue all that well at a technical level, so you probably want to judge the fluidity of your conversations and the ability to accomplish goals in the language above all. Studying to complete tests can be very useful along the way, but ultimately life itself is the real test. How To Become Fluent In A Language Fast: 8 Powerful Tips You came here to understand how to learn a language fluently, so let’s get into 8 things you can do to reach fluency fast. 1. Create a Vision Statement and a Learning Plan Realize that there are good rules of thumb but no one path that suits everyone. It’s important to accept this simple fact. Your journey will share some common characteristics with other learners, but ultimately it’s your path to follow. To ensure you have a path to follow, I suggest you write out a Vision Statement and craft a learning plan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFz31HpVkj0&t=2s For example, you can get a journal to document your journey and start on page one with a statement like this: I will be fluent enough in German in 90 days from now to hold my first conversation about my interests and future plans. Can you see how powerful this simple statement is? Instead of saying, “I want to learn German,” (or whatever language you’re learning) you now have a clear and crisp goal. It is concrete and specific. You can also develop a plan based on this goal thanks to its specificity. You know that you need to learn words and phrases around interests and plans. This allows you to create highly targeted learning missions. To do that, I suggest writing out the exact times of day and locations you will study your language. For example, you can create a calendar in your journal and set mornings from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for learning. 2. Gather the Best Possible Learning Materials Using Limits A lot of language learners overwhelm themselves with too many study materials. In today’s world, it’s easy to make this mistake — it seems like every minute there’s a new book or course you can take. Instead, follow the advice my friend Olly Richards gave me years ago. Pick just: One language textbook One language course One language teacher In the beginning, you might not know which are the best for you, so be willing to experiment. Generally, your research will be worth every minute and there are lots of reviews you can read. Personally, I think Pimsleur audio programs are decent in the beginning for the course you choose. A book should have a nice vocabulary list and sample conversations with full phrases. And a teacher should be responsive to your vision statement and your learning plan. Simple, right? It is, just so long as you don’t fall for “shiny new language resource” syndrome and abandon the resources you’ve already invested in. Be a completionist and you’ll be well rewarded. 3. Pick a Memorization Strategy When you’re just getting started, remembering new words is one of the most difficult challenges. You have to remember sound, meaning, spelling, and in some cases characters or new alphabets. Mnemonics are your best bet for moving quickly. These include: The Memory Palace technique Story and linking methods Pegword method To learn each of these in one swift course, please consider completing Memory Palace Mastery: You’ll also want to consider combining the Memory Palace technique with self-created flash cards. For example, these cards have linking associations and are themselves linked to a Memory Palace: 4. Book Sessions With Your Teacher In Advance As part of planning your personal learning sessions, it’s important to spend time with a native speaker. There are at least two ways to do this: With a paid teacher With a tandem partner Personally, I recommend you get a paid teacher. Sometimes you can find good tandem partners, but they always want at least half the time for their language. Plus, they are rarely trained teachers. That said, paid teachers are not without their pitfalls. This is why having your vision statement and specific goals laid out for them is a must. Otherwise, they will often take you in directions that will not get you to fluency under any definition. And the reason to book your sessions in advance is so you have them scheduled. When you have already paid and just need to show up, you’re much more likely to put in the time. For finding teachers, I recommend italki and Tandem. 5. Use This Tip With Native Speakers One of the best things you can do is book many sessions with a native speaker and sit with a magazine. Flip through the pages and simply ask, “What is that?” Repeat this question and record everything. I share a really fun and easy tool for doing this in this best language learning software article. When you get home or after you end the session, go through the recording and capture the words and phrases you want to commit to memory. Then use your favorite memory strategy to learn them permanently. When you next speak with your partner, make sure to repeat the new words you’ve learned. Don’t expect your teachers or speaking partners to always monitor this perfectly. Take charge to make sure that you are in alignment with your vision and goals. 6. Read Stories I first read Kafka and Brecht in German while in university, in 2001. I quickly learned the power of stories for picking up new vocabulary and phrases. Of course, Kafka was too complex. But Brecht plays can be watched on video with English subtitles, and this made audio exposure to the language a delight. You can also buy DVDs that have subtitles in the language you’re learning. Watching Hamlet with the German words on the screen was hugely beneficial for me. But don’t ignore old fashioned books. I suggest this Teach Yourself collection of stories for multiple languages as a wonderful source of graded reading material. Beelingua is an interesting app with multiple stories that you should consider as well. 7. Translate Articles Based On Your Interests My friend Luca Lampariello got me into the idea of translation for language learning — specifically based around topics you’re interested in and want to be able to talk about. I’ve done this quite a bit, and picking a book of interviews with my favorite German band was a great way to develop speaking powers with the kinds of Germans I hung around with most: musicians. Again, if you’re clear about your vision, it’s easier to think up missions like these and plan them out. To get started, try using Google translate to find some keywords. If you’re into classical music, for example, figure out how that is said in the language you’re learning. Then search Google for articles about that topic using the term you discovered. To translate, I suggest going word for word with a dictionary. Write out your translation by hand, which is known to help memory much more than typing. Pro tip: I recommend that you don’t spend too long on any translation effort in one sitting. 10-15 minutes will do. Always take note of especially interesting words and phrases so you can memorize them. 8. Reevaluate Your Vision Statement And Craft New Missions Thanks to the focus you’ve brought to the task of developing your fluency, you’ll have come a long way much faster than most who dabble in language learning. As you set new vision statements over the years, think about the kinds of missions and goals you can set that will give you a useful boost immediately. This part of the process is important because the further into the future you set the achievements, the more you invite delay and frustration. Be willing to break things down into smaller achievements. Even if the rewards are much smaller as a result, you’ll get more of them, more often. And always be realistic about how native speakers actually use the language you’re learning. Think more about the kinds of people you want to speak with and think about working on missions that reflect goals like: Improving accuracy in a regional dialect you live in or want to visit. Developing more vocabulary inside of a specific interest area (like art, science, or philosophy). Develop personal ways to develop your proficiency. Consider having your accuracy and proficiency tested by external tests (if relevant to your goals). Use these to craft your missions accordingly. In sum, we always want to create “Quick Victories” for ourselves. It’s not really about creating motivation. Rather, it’s about laying the neurochemical basis for learning consistently so we always keep going – almost on autopilot – even when we don’t feel like studying. (Which can and will happen to everyone.) Finally, add a bit of “Zen” to the process. By this suggestion, I mean let go of the outcome. A lot of learners chase away success because they cling to unrealistic goals or otherwise make a poorly conceived outcome a must. When you can relax and focus on having fun, learning a language is not only more fun and much easier, it also feels like it’s just happening naturally. As some people say, no one “learns” languages. They are only acquired. For that to happen, you just have to rig the game so you can. Becoming Conversationally Fluent Is Easy And Fun As you can tell, the exact definition of “fluency” is flexible. I suggest you mix things up by crafting your own personal standard and working towards at least one external evaluation. Whatever you do, please don’t confuse using apps as actual language learning practice. I haven’t included anything about them in this article because they’re not really how successful language learners operate. At most, they might use Anki or some related SRS program, but I have found in my many years of speaking with polyglots that it’s not the tool. Instead, it’s the strategic use of the tool in a context that gets you plenty of speaking practice with real humans that matters. When it comes to making sure you can speak with natives, one of the most powerful tools is the Memory Palace technique. It lets you rapidly pile up your arsenal of words and phrases. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use it for language learning, register for this free training series now. It will take you through the most effective and efficient way you can learn any language much faster, simply by playing a kind of game in your mind as you use a focused set of resources. It’s also the best tool I know of for rigging the game neurologically in your favor because of how it gives you those “quick victories” practically on demand. Plus, we have studies that show how powerful these techniques are for experiencing the brain-preserving benefits of bilingualism. And let me know: Which of these tips helped you the most? What language or languages are you learning at the moment?
17 minutes | 2 months ago
Focus Your Mind: 3 Powerful Concentration Secrets
Do you need to focus your mind? And while you’re at it, would you like to increase your concentration power? If so, I have 3 simple tips for you that are more powerful than a fistful of focus vitamins or a scientifically questionable brain training app. And I’ll even reveal what happened when I was attacked personally in an examination and needed these tips in order to keep focused so I could get my Ph.D.! Want to know the focus secrets that will help you perform even under the most hectic of situations? Here’s what this post will cover: 1. Focus Your Mind on the Body 2. Focus Your Mind on the Breath 3. Focus Your Mind… on the Mind? How Do You Mentally Focus? Let’s get started. 1. Focus Your Mind on the Body https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-zTkA8MW2k Did you know that you can’t effectively work on your mind without also working on your body? It’s critical to start here because a lot of people think their mind is somehow different than their body. In fact, your mind is produced by your brain, a clump of physical cells located in your skull. The quality and health of these cells directly shows up in your ability to focus and concentrate. To start improving, learn to relax your body every time you sit down to study. You can do this by performing muscle relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, and daily meditations. Let’s look at how to combine all three in a quick morning ritual: Get a foam roller or lacrosse balls to help relieve shoulder pain Use trigger point therapy to get knots out of your shoulders And release a tight IT band (Be sure to check with your doctor or a physical therapist before taking on any new exercise or physical program.) I have been using rollers like these for years, and they really set the stage for much greater mental focus than I thought possible. We all hold far too much tension in our bodies, and this is a simple way to help release a TON of it. Perform these exercises every day for five minutes before you read or study, and you will undoubtedly note a huge difference. And if you are a student attending lectures on campus, consider getting a therapy massage cane — you can easily put it in your backpack along with your lacrosse balls for use before lectures. If you can’t carry such items with you, a simple body scan and deliberate squeezing of your major muscles is another possibility. For example, before I sat for my dissertation defense – arguably the biggest exam of my life – I moved from my feet all the way up to my forehead, squeezing and releasing my muscles. No one noticed at all, and I waltzed into the room completely relaxed. In addition to muscle relaxation, I had two other secret weapons that enabled me to focus in the heat of battle where I was attacked personally and managed to do better than survive. Thanks to relaxation and memory techniques, I recited quotes and page numbers and pulled all kinds of abstract knowledge from my head. In fact, even after I was grilled intensively and even aggressively by one person on the committee, the head examiner said, “Anthony, the only guy cooler than you is Miles Davis.” What was my second secret weapon? 2. Focus Your Mind on the Breath My second secret for how to focus right now is breathing. My favorite breathing exercise is called Alternate Psychic Nostril Breathing. It’s called “psychic” because you imagine in your mind that you’re inhaling through just one nostril — unlike Alternate Nostril Breathing, where you actually use your hand. But I didn’t have the concentration and focus skills for that level of kinesthetic visualization in the beginning. So I just started with the regular version. When you’re ready to switch over to the “psychic” version, just pretend that the nostrils are blocked as you go back and forth. With practice, you’ll find that you can do it all day. And even if you don’t, you can drop back into it during a moment of tension or stress. For example, when I was told during my doctoral dissertation that an entire chapter I’d written on Nietzsche had no Nietzsche in it, I didn’t get stressed or choked or panicked. I just squeezed the muscles in my hands and feet and imagined I was inhaling only through my right nostril and out through my left. By that point, I’d been practicing the technique for a while, which is why it took such immediate effect. Don’t expect to try it once and suddenly be as calm as a Shaolin Monk! After this examiner made this accusation and I’d quickly centered myself, I calmly remembered the page number my Nietzsche chapter started on and asked everyone to turn to that page. Then I quoted Nietzsche in German, one of the most important passages he wrote about friendship, which I’d written about in my dissertation. That quote helped me establish the theoretical grounding I’d laid out, not just in that chapter, but throughout the massive document everyone was now focused on. But I didn’t have to look because I knew exactly what I’d written and exactly where in the document the passage was located. One thing I was reminded of that day: people attack each other for a reason, and one of them is because they know how easy it is to break your focus and cause you to make mistakes. But I don’t care. All that matters is that I was prepared by practicing these focus and concentration techniques. One key to my success with these focus strategies is to be F.R.E.E. That is, literally: Frequent practice in a state of… Relaxation and a spirit of… Experimentation and always letting these focus and concentration rituals keep you… Entertained These two strategies I’ve shared so far using the F.R.E.E. model – when practiced in advance – will help ensure that you’re not so quickly shaken. You might not be “as cool as Miles Davis,” but at least you’ll be moving in the direction of calm focus, cool clarity, and modesty too. Anyone who has the first world problem of focus and concentration issues while attending university (or reading books they bought off Amazon) can also bring in a bit of gratitude as a strategy too. Most of us just don’t realize how blessed we are. And that’s because we lack observation skills. This leads us to the third strategy for greater focus… 3. Focus Your Mind… on the Mind? Let me cut to the chase: There are lots of kinds of meditation, and tons of confusion out there. I won’t pretend to know the best kind of meditation for you, because it’s not as simple as systematically relaxing your muscles. But we do know that scientists have found that four times a week minimum is required for greater focus and concentration effects to take place. These don’t have to be hour-long marathons, either. Just ten to fifteen minutes of meditation will do. I suggest that you do some muscle relaxation and breathing first, and then just set a timer. Tim Ferriss advises that you should set your timer for two minutes less than you think you can sit for. For example, if you think you can sit for 10 minutes to just watch your thoughts, set it for eight. And that’s really all you need to do in the beginning. Turn off all the apps and other distractions. Sit just to sit. There are a variety of meditation techniques – including concentration meditation and visualization meditation – so try them on for size and see what works best for you. One of my favorites on Gary Weber’s channel is his Kirtan Kriya practice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehvokeZnXMM This simple meditation has been shown to help with memory, focus, and concentration. Kirtan Kriya also enables you to bring in a small amount of movement and sound. It’s also a step in the direction of longer meditations where you work with self-inquiry questions. But remember, research shows that you’ll want to practice at least four times per week to notice an effect. And be flexible with yourself. I have bad shoulder impingement issues and bursitis and sadly can’t sit for long meditations at the moment. I have to lay down instead or do them while walking. But thanks to muscle relaxation, breathing, and meditation, the pain is just something that appears in consciousness. And it’s a heck of a lot less painful than having a bratty professor in the room who just wants you to fail. And like that professor, both those attacks and this shoulder pain are something frequent meditation helps me simply observe, without getting emotionally tied up in them. Things in the world are just like waves of the ocean, rolling in and rolling out. They really don’t disturb the shore, which gets stronger and stronger the more you practice these three techniques. Before we wrap up, I have one more suggestion to help you focus your mind. How Do You Mentally Focus? If you’re having a hard time getting little rituals like these into action, here’s the solution that works best for me: Do all of these three exercises for better focus before you turn on the computer in the morning or look at your phone. Sometimes I’m not successful at doing that every single morning, but usually I am. If you’re new, even just a 20% success rate across a few weeks is a start. You can put your phone in a cupboard and make sure your computer is completely turned off. Designate a room in your home or spot where you can focus just on rolling out your muscles, practicing your breathing, and meditating. Anchor this place in your home with a mental image like the Buddha or Alan Watts, Gary Weber, or something you find peaceful like a tree or flower. Then go to that spot and practice. Later you can open the great avalanche of the connected world, and you’ll enjoy it with much more focus, concentration, and gratitude because you’ve completed these simple exercises. And if you want to learn more about my memory techniques – including meditations to help you focus your mind – grab your copy of my book, The Victorious Mind.
27 minutes | 2 months ago
How to Remember The Planets: A FAST & Simple Method
The center of our solar system is the sun. Moving out, we encounter… Mercury. Venus. Earth… But wait. There’s more than one planet that starts with M. What’s the difference between Uranus and Neptune? And what the heck happened to Pluto? If you find yourself wondering how to remember the planets, you’re in luck. When you need to know how to remember the planets in order, there’s an easy (and fun) way to memorize them. You can use an acronym or acrostic. But I recommend using the Memory Palace technique or method of loci. Why? There’s no perfect mnemonic for the order of the planets You can use the planets themselves AS a memory palace! But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at what this post will cover: Eight Planets, Or Nine? Acrostic or Acronym to Remember the Planets? What Else Can You Use as a Memory Palace? Ways to Remember the Planets with Ars Combinatoria Solar System Mnemonics Make a Memory Palace With the Planets in Order What Are the Best Ways to Remember the Planets? Ready to remember the planets in order? Let’s get started. Eight Planets, Or Nine? Back in 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet. You might not think something as simple as a planet at the very edge of our solar system could be a source of outrage, but the reclassification ruffled feathers around the globe. According to NASA, “Pluto isn’t considered a planet because it hasn’t cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of other objects.” So let’s just say – whatever your opinions, thoughts, beliefs, or fantasies about what a planet is or isn’t – that Pluto isn’t a planet. We’ll leave NASA in charge of the classification and leave the Pluto question out of today’s discussion! The good news is, the techniques in today’s post can extend to any and all astral bodies. And if you want to go even further, you can combine the power of the Major Method and using Memory Palaces to memorize vocabulary to memorize anything in our sky. These techniques will work for you whether you want to memorize: The order of the planets in our solar system, Stars, moons, and dwarf planets, Spacecraft, astronauts, and astronomers, or Celestial bodies in galaxies far away. And if you want to learn more about our solar system, I highly recommend The Planets — a companion book to the BBC series. According to the publisher, “Andrew Cohen and Professor Brian Cox take readers on a voyage of discovery, from the fiery heart of our Solar System to its mysterious outer reaches.” Now let’s look at one of the first ways people usually learn the planets in order. Acrostic or Acronym to Remember the Planets? For the purposes of today’s post, we’ll stick to memorizing the order of the primary planets in our solar system, in order from closest to furthest away from the sun. What if you could take a “backpacking” tour of the solar system as part of your quest to understand how to remember the planets in order? Or, you could use an acronym to remember the planets… but MVEMJSUN isn’t a very sensible one, right? Instead, what if you used an acrostic? An acrostic is a poem or composition that uses certain letters in each line to form a word. So for our planets, we might see acrostics like: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. A fun brain exercise is to think of as many different acrostics as you can using the first letters of each planet. Quite frankly, I think acronyms and acrostics are not good ways to remember the planets. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense, in my view. And I believe we can do better! I think that we can do it in a way that allows us to turn what we do to memorize the order of the planets into a memory palace. In fact, it’s not just the planets you can use to create a memory palace — let’s look at your other options. What Else Can You Use As a Memory Palace? In the image below, we supposedly see Giordano Bruno looking out beyond the known solar system to imagine all the stars that lay beyond. Photo credit: Flammarion woodcut of Giordano Bruno I particularly enjoy the work and writing of Bruno, and have incorporated him into a series about the Art of Memory on YouTube. His book De Umbris Idearum and Ars Memoriae: On the Shadows of Ideas & the Art of Memory (as well as other works) talk a lot about the stars and the constellations, and how to use them as memory palaces. If you go on to read The Hermetic Art of Memory by Bruno’s student Alexander Dicsone, you’ll discover a means of using the mansions of the moon as Memory Palaces. In part two of the Art of Memory playlist, I show you the quote where Bruno essentially tells us (here I’m paraphrasing), “My solutions are just examples. Go your own way. Make your own mnemonic examples. You don’t have to memorize what I have memorized or use my tools…” And if you really want to understand The Art of Memory you do need to understand something about the stars, what Bruno may have done with them, and what this practice is all about. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkZ2FGJhR5R9njWtWwRrkZKaq8j7OjDL3 Our takeaway from him is that we can use whatever symbols or objects we want in order to create a memory palace — so why not include the solar system as a memory palace to remember the planets in order? As we’re preparing to use the solar system to create a memory palace, we also need to discuss mnemonic devices for the planets. And this requires a little bit of discussion of Ars Combinatoria. But what’s that? Let’s see. Ways to Remember the Planets with Ars Combinatoria Ars Combinatoria translates to the “art of combination.” If you do a bit of research about it, you’ll find this definition on Wikipedia: “All concepts are nothing but combinations of a relatively small number of simple concepts, just as words are combinations of letters. All truths may be expressed as appropriate combinations of concepts, which can in turn be decomposed into simple ideas, rendering the analysis much easier. Therefore, this alphabet would provide a logic of invention, opposed to that of demonstration which was known so far.” We won’t dive too deep into Ars Combinatoria today, because it’s what I would call hidden-lost. Bruno was fascinated with the Catalan philosopher and theologian Ramon Llull (c.1232–1316) and some of the apparent contradictions around Ars Combinatoria. But without a time machine to go back and talk to these great philosophers, we get to reconstruct how they came about their discoveries. Instead, let’s look at something called the “coach effect” as an example. You can see this in lots of realms — sports, screenwriting, etc. The coach effect is that sometimes people are experts at getting performance out of other people, but can’t do it themselves. For example, when I was a story consultant it always amazed me how the best story consultants could get paid a million dollars to tell you what to fix about your screenplay… but they couldn’t write a screenplay to save their lives. They’re story mechanics who understand the topic so deeply but can’t operate on the other side of the pen. There is probably no other way for anybody to achieve the highest possible level except through Ars Combinatoria. If you’re feeling a bit lost with these concepts, be sure to sign up for the free memory masterclass to get the base knowledge necessary to be successful. Next, let’s work on the first step of our solar system memory palace: mnemonics. Solar System Mnemonics In our efforts to learn the planets in order (and make a memory palace out of them) let’s start with the planet closest to the sun and work our way out into the solar system. Mercury The closest planet to the sun is also the smallest. And the sunlight there would be up to seven times brighter than we’re used to here on earth! Buildings of the Campus Pierre & Marie Curie, Paris, France So how can we use Ars Combinatoria to help us turn Mercury into the first station of our memory palace? What magnetic imagery can we use to help us remember? One way is to think of Madame Curie. Maybe they’re working on a cure. MerCURy. Venus Have you heard the current debate about whether scientists have discovered signs of life on Venus… or if it’s just a weird chemical reaction? Whichever side of the debate you’re on, let’s look at our mnemonic example. “I’m your Venus. I’m your fire. At your desire.” The song by Dutch Rock band Shocking Blue can help you remember the second planet from the sun. Earth Did you know that the Earth is the only planet not named for a Greek or Roman deity? Instead, the germanic word earth simply means, “the ground.” When you want to remember our home planet Earth, how about visualizing an ear? Who has ears? Turns out, most living things “hear” in some way or another. But one sticky way to remember an ear is to think about our friends with giant ears — the rabbit. Mars Here on Earth, we have earthquakes. But did you know that Mars also has seismic activity? They’re called – not surprisingly – Marsquakes. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons One of the first things that comes to mind when I think about the Red Planet is Martians. And one of the most famous Martians is… Marvin the Martian. If you can hear his voice in your mind, even better! Jupiter Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is large enough to swallow the Earth — measuring about 9,800 miles across. Let’s switch primary colors, from red to blue, and think about juniper berries. Juniper is obviously not Jupiter, but it’s aurally similar. Plus, if you know Amphitryon (an early Latin play by Plautus) then you know that Jupiter comes down to impregnate Alcmena, and Alcmena’s child is Heracles — and this is the story of the virgin birth many, many years previous to the story of the other virgin birth. But even if you’re not familiar with ancient Roman theater, it’s still easy to remember juniper = Jupiter, right? Saturn Titan is Saturn’s largest moon — large enough, in fact, to have its own atmosphere. The writers at Astronomy.com even went so far as to pose a thought experiment: since an airtight spacesuit is not a necessity on the satellite, what would Titan smell like? Turns out, “a bouquet of musky sweetness, bitter almonds, gasoline, and decomposing fish would likely fill the air.” Yum. The Arch of Titus, Rome, Italy For our purposes, let’s turn to something closer to our home planet. In Titus Andronicus (a Shakespearian tragedy) there’s a character named Saturninus who is Son of the late Emperor of Rome. Saturninus is a gloomy, saturnine character, very full of “Saturn” visual imagery. And if you haven’t read or seen Titus Andronicus, I highly recommend it. It’s wonderful for a mnemonist — full of dramatic imagery you can use for your memory palaces. Uranus Fun fact about the 7th planet… it’s tilted so far on its axis that it basically orbits the sun on its side. This odd orbit means seasons on the planet are extreme and last for about 20 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN_AC9KHlM8 I know a lot of people might make jokes about Uranus… but for the purposes of our memory palace, we’ll think about Israeli-British illusionist Uri Geller and his spoon-bending illusion. He’s a great example of mnemonic imagery because he’s larger than life and filled with conflicting emotions. You can have cognitive dissonance with people like him, which makes him perfect for your memory work. Neptune Our eighth and final planet (sorry, Pluto) is Neptune, which has one large moon. Triton appears to be an object captured out of the Kuiper belt — and it almost destroyed the entire Neptunian system in the process of getting captured. While there are a few conceptual abstractions you could use to remember the final planet, let’s keep it simpler. Remember the Nebuchadnezzar, the hovership Morpheus captains in The Matrix? You can use the Nebuchadnezzar (nicknamed the Neb) to help you remember Neptune — maybe the scene where the Sentinels are attacking the ship. Now you have all your solar system mnemonics in place, let’s look at how to turn them into a memory palace. Make a Memory Palace With the Planets in Order You could make a memory palace with the planets in a number of different ways, but today we’ll put them into a two-room memory palace to keep things simple. You can even turn each of the planets into what’s called an “eternal station” so that any time you need assistance to help you remember something, you have imagery ready to go. In the Magnetic Memory Masterclass, I give you better ways to think about this and there are also some drills in the Card Memorization course based on this thinking. Although card memorization seems like an unrelated skill, it actually helps you develop a number of abilities that are useful across the board. For example, it helps you deal with repetitive words and ideas, as well as information types that have several units of meaning gathered together. In the image above, you can see each of the planets in their own corner of the memory palace. The whole point of the Art of Combination and memory techniques is your ability to get something going because you’re prepared in advance. It’s a very fun and simple way you can learn how to remember the planets. When you have a memory palace (or two) you can keep your eternal memory palace open so you can work with it for the rest of your life. Whenever you want to memorize more things, you have images you can work with and tie together. So where do we go from here? What Are the Best Ways to Remember the Planets? In the end, the best way to remember the order of the planets is to use the method that will work best for you — and the one you’ll stick with! You might decide to use a memory palace or learn how to memorize playing cards. Maybe an acrostic will work best for you. It’s up to you to experiment and find out. And if you want to learn more about how to create and use a memory palace, be sure to check out my free memory improvement kit. With the memory palace technique, you can memorize pretty much anything you want!
28 minutes | 3 months ago
How to Remember the Amendments in 3 Easy Steps
If you need to memorize the 27 Amendments to the American Constitution, you’re probably thinking it’s going to be a lot of work. Instead of indulging in overwhelm, consider the following fact: For thousands of years, people have been using memory techniques to commit far more than 27 pieces of information to memory. In fact, there are people alive today who have committed entire books to memory — including the Constitution itself! So if you’d like an easy way to memorize the amendments, today’s your lucky day. There are at least three ways to do it, and I’ll reveal all on this page by covering: 1. The number rhyme system 2. The pegword system 3. The Memory Palace technique Let’s get started. 1. How to Memorize the Amendments Using a Number Rhyme System Number Rhymes are very basic and visual, which is why they work so well. Basically, you will associate each number with an object or person. For example: 1 is a bun 2 is a shoe 3 is a bee 4 is a door 5 is a hive The trick is to make sure you make each rhyme and image much more specific than an abstract old bun. For example, I think of the buns you used to get with Kentucky Fried Chicken when I was a kid. (I don’t eat fast food anymore and haven’t for over a decade to protect my memory. I eat these foods that improve memory instead.) To create a number-rhyme system, get out a piece of paper and make a rhyme for each digit. Make sure you think about specific shoes and bees that you have a special connection with. Then, when you think of the first amendment, which discusses “Freedom of Religion, Assembly, Petition, Press, Opinion, and Speech,” imagine that specific bun you’re thinking of with a gag on it while it’s trying to give its opinion. If “one is a bun” doesn’t work for you, try RhymeZone for ideas. You might choose the sun, or combine a bun with the sun. For example, you can imagine your opinionated bun having his rights burned up in the sun. Let’s try the second amendment: “The freedom to bear arms.” You have to admit that it’s pretty unforgettable to imagine your favorite pair of shoes signing its application forms to purchase a new handgun. What about something a bit more abstract, such as the third amendment: “No military in your home except in wartime”? Provided you have some specific bee or bees in mind, this should be no problem. For example, I think of The Bee Movie, starring Jerry Seinfield. I have him and a swarm of bees dressed as soldiers trying to enter my home. I meet them at the door with the third amendment to remind them they’re not allowed here. Is this method the best? It certainly is effective because it tells you the number of the amendment, but it’s also a bit random. It’s also relying solely on the strength of two levels of association: a rhyme and an object or cartoon character. But what if you have to memorize the exact amendment word for word? We’ll get to that with the Memory Palace technique, but first, let’s consider a similar alternative to the number-rhyme approach. 2. How to Remember the Amendments with a Pegword System Pegwords are very similar to number-rhymes. It’s just that there’s no rhyme and people tend to use the alphabet. For example, let’s say you’re memorizing the fourth amendment, “No unreasonable searches or seizures.” Let’s use the letter D and assume that we’ve covered the first three amendments with A, B, and C. With this approach, you assign a person or object to each letter. For example: A = Al Pacino (insisting he has the right to speak freely) B = Ben Kingsley (registering for a firearm) C = Cookie Monster (refusing the military entrance into his home. For the fourth amendment, you might assign Dracula to the letter D and imagine him explaining to a cop that he has the right to be free from search and seizure without good reason. If we assign E and Ernie from Sesame Street to the fifth amendment, you could have him almost incriminating himself and then catching himself just in time. Can you spot the weakness with this technique? It has all the same problems as the number-rhyme approach — but in this case, you have to know the number of each letter of the alphabet. That said, you could combine the two. In fact, if you did, you would quickly learn the number of each letter of the alphabet. For example, if you decide that six is drumsticks, you could have a philosopher like Michel Foucault for the letter F in your association. He could be pounding away on drums and chanting that he has “the right to a speedy and public trial.” If you would like lists of all my images for number-rhymes and the alphabet, please see my post on using the pegword method. 3. Using The Memory Palace Technique to Remember the Amendments A Memory Palace is probably your best bet. It will allow for a few things: It helps you have a “canvas” for leaving your images so you can find them later You can remember the number of each station by using a number-rhyme You can use Recall Rehearsal to harness the serial-position, primacy, and recency effect to get all of the amendments into long term memory rapidly To create a Memory Palace, draw a home or office where you have space for more than 27 different items. This is important in case you need more space. For example, if you want to memorize the amendments verbatim, you’ll notice that some are much longer than others. Personally, I would probably link together two or more Memory Palaces for this task, as I have done in this illustration of one of my favorites. This Memory Palace has more than enough room for all the amendments. I actually think of it as three separate Memory Palaces that just happen to be linked. Magnetic Stations 1-9 are one Memory Palace, 10-20 another, and 21-33 the final MP. I know all of this can be a bit overwhelming to learn in one goal, so please consider getting my training program. It’s free! Let’s take a look at a few more examples. Memory Palace Example for the Amendments We’ve already covered the first six in this tutorial, so let’s imagine that we’ve got them covered and start with the seventh amendment on station seven. Station seven is the elevator in a building. It says that Americans have “the right to a trial by jury in civil matters of $20 and over.” In this elevator, I would imagine Oliver Sacks handing a twenty-dollar bill to a jury of my peers. Why Oliver Sacks? Because he’s my symbol for 07 using a 00-99 PAO (Person Action Object) system. It’s a bit more advanced than number-rhyme and alphabet memory systems. It’s built from something called the Major System or Major Method. Basically, you pair every digit from 0-9 with a consonant. Then when you put two digits together, you make a word. Here’s a handy chart that lays out the system: Since 0 = s and 7 = k, I chose the word “sack.” Since that’s a bit limp and lame without an actual reference, I landed upon Oliver Sacks to make the association more concrete. Then, when I needed to memorize the eighth amendment, I would simply proceed to the next station in the Memory Palace and use the symbol for 08 to memorize “The right to fair fines and bail. No cruel and unusual punishment.” (08 = Shiva in my system but there are many other options.) But what if you need ways to remember the amendments line for line? How to Memorize The Amendments Verbatim So far, I’ve described ways to memorize the amendments that will give you the gist of each one. But what if you need an easy way to remember the amendments all word-for-word? No problem! In fact, it’s with verbatim memorization that the Memory Palace technique really shines. Because you have a lot of space, you can make an image for each and every word. For example, my image for 09 is memory expert Brad Zupp. The ninth amendment is “Individual Rights. Rights that are not in the constitution are still rights delegated to citizens.” I might imagine that Brad is a Star Wars character who feels “individual” about his rights. To remember specifically that the next sentence starts with “rights,” I would imagine the Wright brothers from NoMeansNo playing on a knot instead of a stage to remember, “Rights not…” Then I would have the Dell computer logo crashing down on a poster for the movie, Citizen Kane. Listen, these images might make zero sense to you. Your mind is probably filled with a completely unique set of popular culture images. But the principles behind these techniques are the same: You make a word-by-word association and lay out the mental imagery on a wall or along some kind of journey. How to Remember The 27 Amendments For the Long-Term Now you might be thinking, “Hang on, memory man! All that associating… it’s going to take forever!” Actually, it won’t. Studies have shown that using flashcards will get you about a 44% retention rate, whereas using the elaborative encoding process I’ve just shared should get you a rate of 85%. That rate will go up or down depending on your willingness to experiment with the techniques. But it’s not just about making these funny associations. You also need to actively recall each of the amendments. For that, the Memory Palace helps you do this in a highly refined way. First, I suggest you encode only 5-10 at a time. Then, visit each one in a strategic pattern: Forward and backward Start at the end and move to the beginning Start in the middle and move to the end Start in the middle and move to the beginning Skip the stations (i.e. recall 1, 3, 5, 7, then 8, 6, 4, 2, etc) Why go to all this trouble? Because this harnesses the power of serial positioning, the primacy effect and the recency effect. Without it, you’re likely to only remember the first and last amendments you place in the Memory Palace. FAQ: What About Flash Cards and Spaced Repetition Software? You certainly can use these, but I would recommend you still have a Memory Palace and the association process in the mix. One way or the other, the brain needs active recall to learn and it’s so much easier when you have a Memory Palace and associative imagery in the mix. You don’t have to take my word for it either. Memory expert, neuroscientist, and memory athlete Boris Konrad will offer you similar setup steps. Now, we know from his autobiography that Benjamin Franklin sought out better forms of memory. And we also know that he was a staunch defender of the freedom to speak your mind. And he also wrote this about how he committed certain styles of writing to memory: “I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand.” This is an important clue to our final lesson: If you really want to get all 27 amendments locked permanently in your memory, write them down from memory. Literally test yourself and use active recall. First, call the Memory Palace back to mind. Then call back the association you made. Finally, allow the association to bring back the target information. Then write it down. You don’t have to recall it in order. If you can’t think of one immediately, simply move on to the next that you can and troubleshoot later. Troubleshooting All The Ways To Memorize the Amendments It’s very unlikely you’ll get through the process without making a mistake. The trick is to learn from our mistakes. If you miss a word, or an entire amendment, calmly assess the situation. Were your associations concrete enough? Again, I suggest you always push yourself to make it more specific. For example, if you use heaven for seven, ask yourself: Is “heaven” really a concrete image in your mind? Can you use characters from Highway to Heaven to make it more immediate? Or do you know a friend or celebrity named Evan you can use? Likewise when it comes to a Memory Palace. If you can’t remember which spot comes next, you need to remove the self-criticism and dispassionately assess the situation. Have you spent enough time creating a proper Memory Palace? Have you completed the free course offered on this site to help you through it? Is Any Of This Really Quick And Easy? Yes! I’ve seen people memorize far more than this amount of information in just days. It just comes down to a willingness to learn the techniques in a spirit of experimentation. Of course, some people get the knack for it faster than others. But anyone with skills enough to read this page can also memorize as much information if they want. And they can even learn to use memorization techniques to go much faster. But even if it takes a bit longer, so what? It’s the amendments we’re talking about — well worth it! In sum, it’s an incredible journey to memorize a list so central to the freedoms promised by one of the greatest nations on earth. My hat’s off to you for committing yourself to it and if you have any questions, just post them below.
37 minutes | 3 months ago
Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory: A Complete Review
If you’re looking for a review of the Mega Memory program, you probably just want to know: Does it work? The answer is yes and no. If you’re a beginner, this book will almost certainly help you understand the basics of association and develop a peg system. If you’re an intermediate user of memory techniques, it might give you a few insights. If you’re an expert mnemonist, it probably won’t add much to your skillset. But you might find it useful and interesting for historical purposes. You can also consider it a chance to review core concepts and potentially think about the memory techniques from another angle. But will it “work”? No. And that’s because memory techniques are not things that do anything. It’s people who put the techniques into use. Just as no machine or dumbbell at the gym builds any muscle until the owner of the muscle puts the weight into motion, no memory technique does anything unless you put it to work. When you put any memory training to work, you can almost certainly expect: Better memory Increased focus and mental clarity Boosts in confidence But it’s you who does the work to learn the techniques and put in the practice. (How could it be otherwise?) With this core principle in mind (one that is true of all memory courses on the planet), let’s take a deep dive into what Mega Memory is and think about whether or not it’s worth your time. Here’s what this post will cover: Mega Memory by Kevin Trudeau: Everything You Need to Know What is Mega Memory? What Mega Memory Covers Who is Kevin Trudeau? Mega Memory Review: Can It Help You With Memory Improvement? Let’s get started. Mega Memory by Kevin Trudeau: Everything You Need to Know First, we’ll clarify what exactly Mega Memory is (and is not). What is Mega Memory? It’s important to know that there are multiple versions of this memory training. These include: Multiple print editions Multiple audio editions (Mega Memory and Advanced Mega Memory) Some of the audio editions may or may not include: A workbook A pocket guide In this review, I’ll be referring to the print and audio editions. For all intents and purposes, they are essentially the same. The audio program has the benefit of the speaker’s enthusiasm and asides, though some listeners may find these aspects tedious and even grating. The book opens with a very important list of acknowledgments and thank yous. I point this out because the creator, Kevin Trudeau, never claims to have invented or even innovated any of the techniques taught in the book. Instead, he places himself in the position of the learner, which is what all of us should strive to be for the course of our learning lives. Unfortunately, many reviewers often state that there is “nothing new here.” Such assessments are problematic for two reasons: If you don’t know these techniques, they are definitely new to you. There are innovations to the memory techniques all the time. Individual readers might not be able to spot them due to a lack of context. It’s dangerous to pay attention to such reviews because you simply don’t know what you don’t know. This raises the question: What can you expect to know about memory after you go through Mega Memory? What Mega Memory Covers The program opens with tips on how to make the most out of the learning experience. You are given ground rules, which are generally good to follow for many courses of study. These pointers include: Go through the lessons in order Study in short blasts Take breaks Schedule your practice Remove distractions Do not eat before reading or practicing Trudeau also asks you to self-test your “teachability.” This is important because some people just aren’t willing to do what it takes to get results from memory improvement courses. This point links to an insight given by David Berglas in A Question of Memory. In this book, Berglas describes memory not as a “unitary mechanism” or thing — instead, memory is a behavior. It is something we do and how we do memory matters a great deal. Next, you’ll learn: How to make associations How to chain associations together (sometimes called linking) Creating and using the pegword method Creating various lists that amount to using your body and home as a Memory Palace Applications for the memory techniques including names, numbers, vocabulary, and spelling How to memorize playing cards You also get lists of words for stimulating what amounts to your own 00-99 object list based on the Major System. You also get an extensive “name guide” to practice with — something that might be useful for even the advanced practitioner who wants to practice in a park without the distractions of a smartphone or other device that goes online. Who is Kevin Trudeau? Unfortunately, many people missed the opportunity to learn from this book due to a few colliding issues: According to Wikipedia, the FTC required Trudeau to stop marketing Mega Memory using infomercials. He made claims about photographic memory that are obviously false because photographic memory isn’t real. (Many uninformed members of the public have learned a false definition of eidetic memory as well, compounding the problems of gullibility in the market.) Trudeau was sent to prison for a variety of reasons, including contempt of court. Many people make the ad hominem fallacy that because of these troubles, the memory training Trudeau produced must be suspect or in some way inferior. As mentioned above, Trudeau hasn’t created any of these techniques or introduced anything “new.” It’s impossible for his behaviors to reduce the value of the techniques because they were never his in the first place. Will Kevin Trudeau enter the memory market again when he gets out of prison? It’s hard to say, but a recent report tells us that he’s been in touch with a judge to try and figure out how he’ll survive once he’s a free man again. Mega Memory Review: Can It Help You With Memory Improvement? The beginner who reads the book or completes the audio program thoroughly should walk away with a solid set of memory skills to practice. If you follow the program and bring your own information you need to memorize, the book should deliver what it claims. But if you struggle, that’s no reason to panic. The next book or program will help fill in any gaps you still have — as will practice. When you’re ready for more, I’d suggest some of these Memory Palace books. Frankly, I don’t think anyone should hang their success on just one book or course. In philosophy, you wouldn’t expect to understand Aristotle after reading just one book, and it’s not reasonable for most people to expect to understand everything after completing Mega Memory. In fact, as you’ve seen, Trudeau himself lists several teachers he’s benefited from. The fact of the matter is this: Who you choose as your teacher does make an impact. You need to connect with their voice (written or spoken) and the level of detail they bring needs to connect with where you currently stand with your skills. Whereas some aspects may be too pedestrian for you, others may be too challenging. This is normal. Some people will interpret Trudeau’s enthusiasm on the audio version as “hype.” A more charitable interpretation is to recognize that these techniques do take some effort and many people lack initiative, energy, and even the courage to take action. As one reviewer on Goodreads named Philip puts it, Trudeau “could charm a bird into paying for flying lessons. It is great to experience as rhetoric alone.” This comment is apt because memory techniques have historically been connected to the art of persuasion. I demonstrate this with reference to the marketing of memory in detail in my analysis of Rhetorica Ad Herennium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3rtsx8mvYU Fortunately, memory is not as tough a sell as it used to be, given the success of the World Memory Championships, Moonwalking with Einstein, and various specials like Memory Games on Netflix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gve0Y8cYAoo But even with all of these wonderful and encouraging demonstrations of the absolute validity of memory techniques for each and every one of us, many still need the tools of persuasion to get started and keep going with the practice. At the end of the day, Mega Memory is probably best considered as a product for beginners. But there’s no guarantee you’ll put in the effort needed to get the results. This means that the decision is not whether it “works” or not. There’s an abundance of evidence going back thousands of years that memory techniques are effective. This means that the real question is whether YOU are going to learn and practice the techniques. As I often like to say, carpe diem but caveat emptor. If you can get your hands on Mega Memory, I’d say you’ll do just fine and be able to spot patterns with how other memory training products can help you out. Perceiving the patterns could itself be the boost you need to start applying the techniques consistently. So what do you say? Is this a training you want to try? Or have you already gone through it and put its presentation of the techniques into action? And if you want a more in-depth look at how you can use memory techniques to improve your memory, pick up your free copy of my memory improvement course today!
37 minutes | 3 months ago
How to Visualize Clearly And Effectively: 7 Proven Tactics
If you want to know how to visualize clearly and effectively, you probably already have a vision statement written. You have written out a vision statement by hand, haven’t you? If the answer is “no,” then I’m here to tell you that your visualization is neither clear nor complete. And that means you’re still struggling to achieve your goals. If you’re still not living the life you want, study this page carefully. You’re about to learn how to visualize images in your mind that will make it impossible not to become the architect of your dreams and fantasies. Better? You’ll also learn how to be the builder of your success. Here’s what this post will cover: How to Visualize Clearly: 7 Tips For Success 1. Don’t Stop At The “Visual” 2. Have a Written Vision Statement 3. Mind Map Your Vision 4. Create a Treasure Map 5. Do a Visualization Meditation 6. Journal Daily 7. Plan Your Action Steps Visualize Images Based On Existing Competence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4WEO-8Wem8 Let’s dive in! How to Visualize Clearly: 7 Tips For Success Ready to learn how to visualize better? Here are 7 pointers. 1. Don’t Stop At The “Visual” Far too many people think that “visualization” is about seeing clear pictures in their minds. Not only is this single-sensory form of dreaming your way to success extremely limited — it also fails to really help you access all levels of your experiential brain. Instead, you want to tap into every possible sensation you can muster. That’s why I want you to memorize this simple acronym: KAVE COGS These are the eight most powerful senses of multi-sensory visualization I know: Kinesthetic Auditory Visual Emotion Conceptual Olfactory Gustatory Spatial Every time you visualize images, make sure you’re also feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing, and emotionally experiencing your goal. 2. Have a Written Vision Statement A written vision statement is a simple, 2-5 page declaration of what you want to achieve in your own words. Words are just as “visual” to your brain as images, with each word acting like an interpretable picture at the conceptual level. Plus, by writing out your vision you symbolically and literally signal to your brain that you value your goals. You “see” yourself taking action and it becomes a lived experience. Plan to write multiple vision statements. It is a repeatable activity and each time you it will serve you well. So too will these additional 5 visualization exercises. 3. Mind Map Your Vision A mind map, on the other hand, is more visual in the traditional sense. Here, you will use a combination of words and drawings to let yourself conjure up your goals at a glance. I was very fortunate to learn mind mapping directly from Tony Buzan. In fact, I mind mapped the Magnetic Memory Method mission under his personal tutelage back in 2016 and still follow the vision you see represented above. I find this approach very useful because mind maps are big, colorful and you can place them in your work area. This keeps you focused on the goal — and helps ensure you never forget what you’re working to achieve. 4. Create a Treasure Map To use this technique, which is similar to mind mapping, open a Word document and search for images that represent your goals. In the above example, I made it my vision to publish multiple books, travel the world, and play in a band. So I added images that represented these outcomes. Within a few short months, using a combination of all the techniques you’re reading now, I was out on the road — and I’ve never looked back since. The trick is to print out a couple of copies and keep them where you can see them. 5. Do a Visualization Meditation To experience a visualization meditation, sit on the floor, on the side of your bed, or on a chair. Close your eyes and bring your goal to mind using KAVE COGS. I like to go through each experiential mental image in that exact order because it’s easy to remember the stack. For example, if you want to master playing a musical instrument and have learned how to memorize a song, start with kinesthetic sensations. That means you might imagine the feeling of holding your instrument or the stage beneath your feet as you step in front of an audience. Then hear the music flowing out of you. See the stage next, including the lights, the audience, and your fellow musicians. Let the emotions roll through you and carry on with the rest. Powerful stuff, isn’t it? Add a walking meditation to the mix and the other varieties I teach in The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being and watch the results unfold. 6. Journal Daily When I was learning how to visualize effectively, journaling was key. In fact, I still journal a “Perfect Present” vision statement every day. It goes like this: I wake up healthy and strong. The worth of my being is great. I live in joy and abundance. I meditate, exercise and eat well. My passive income exceeds my lifestyle by 10x. I write and play music every day in joy and abundance. Again, writing things out makes your action visible to you. And you can run through KAVE COGS as you write out your goal. Not only is writing out a vision statement scientifically viable, research groups at schools like Notre Dame have been using texts formalized by other scientists and researchers (like Janel M. Radtke) going back to 1988. 7. Plan Your Action Steps I took a snap of this Japanese Proverb outside of a cafe in Vancouver, British Columbia: Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with daydreaming — so long as you’re willing to accept the suffering that comes from not achieving realistic goals. That’s why we need to break our goals down into milestones and individual steps or micro-actions we can take. These need to be charted out over time. As much as possible, these steps should be automated, or optimized, so they take place without the need for willpower or motivation. For example, every week I release new blog posts, videos, and podcasts. There’s a system behind how everything happens. It’s not exactly flexible, but not rigid either. It just serves the needs of my vision statement for the Magnetic Memory Method. And I plan, and replan, as you should too — including the time to meditate and visualize using KAVE COGS. Visualize Images Based On Existing Competence One last power tip: A lot of people visualize goals beyond their abilities. For example, I am in no way accepting a “limiting belief” when I realize that I am not going to become a world-famous musician. My musical competence was good enough to play on quite a few stages in quite a few bands and do some recording. But I’m just not going to put in the time and effort to reach that “next level.” And that’s why when I worked to visualize clearly what I wanted to achieve musically, I placed it within the realm of what I could actually accomplish. That way, my efforts to join a band and get out on the road were not wasted. I could learn songs quickly and perform them to a decent standard. But my psoriatic arthritis flared while I was on the road. No amount of visualization was going to make my hands performance-ready for recording on the album with The Outside I’d been preparing to produce with them. But I could help out with the lyrics and even write a short vocal cameo I had on the album. In other words, I didn’t give up on the vision: I pivoted. Expand Your Existing Competence Sometimes you can visualize beyond your competence. For example, I’m a decent writer and it was great that I could get The Victorious Mind to reach #1 in three bestseller categories on Amazon as an independent author. But I don’t want to be independent forever. So I have to visualize with radical honesty my existing competence and my dream of having a traditional publisher help with a book that will reach a larger audience. Then, I have to visualize all the skills I need to add in order to reach that next level — and write them out. Next comes the plan with all the milestones and individual micro-actions. Finally, the 7 visualization steps listed above are needed to make everything as clear and doable as possible. And it’s clear to me that the number one thing I need to expand is reaching out to editors and mastering relationship building with them. Sure, all of this takes mental strength. But it’s worth pursuing every ounce of grit you can get, and so I ask you: What can you do to visualize your existing competence related to your bigger goals right now? Never forget, every moment you aren’t taking action and visualizing based on the strongest possible multi-sensory models, you are leaving so much of life’s precious riches behind. Hopefully, by now you have more than a few solid ideas that will make your visualizations clearer than ever before. And if I’m missing any, let me know. I’ll visualize them into the mix! And be sure to pick up your copy of The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being and put the meditations in the book to use on your journey to visualize clearly and effectively!
33 minutes | 3 months ago
How to Use Guided Visualization to Diminish Stress and Anxiety
It’s hard to find a decent guided visualization, isn’t it? That’s because too many people focus on the “visual” part, when really good guided meditations always include multisensory experiences. Without integrating the visual with the kinesthetic, auditory, emotional, conceptual and senses of space, taste, and smell, using your mind’s eye on its own can never be as powerful as what I imagine you want to achieve. So let’s look into this topic a bit deeper and give you a guided visualization and tips on how to build your own. Here’s what this post will cover: What is Guided Visualization? The 3 Key Benefits of Guided Visualization 3 Guided Visualization Exercises That Reduce Stress and Anxiety Other Forms of Guided Visualization You Can Try Let’s get started. What is Guided Visualization? Humans have been guiding each other’s mental states since the dawn of language. Plato’s Dialogues are filled with stories like the Allegory of the Cave and the Tao Te Ching uses many metaphors to teach us how to live better in the world. Although these texts are typically read (or heard as audiobooks), they rely upon similar techniques in order to guide us to certain conclusions. Perhaps Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) is the person who really started working with guided visualizations. Mesmerism evolved from “animal magnetism” and the use of magnets on the body to a practice that involved the “mesmerist” staring, waving hands, and using language to try and induce healing for the sick. We now classify mesmerism along with other pseudosciences like phrenology and alchemy. According to Sabine Arnaud in On Hysteria: The Invention of a Medical Category between 1670 and 1820, it is possible that Mesmer’s greatest influence was on other practitioners, not patients. He was known to tell people, “Go forth, touch, cure.” This suggestion directly influenced the development of hypnotism. Although discredited, to this day people still use pseudoscientific techniques that resemble Mesmer’s strategy, including bracelets, crystals, and forms of touch they believe to have an effect on the “animal magnetism” of the human body. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) later developed the hypnotism spawned by Mesmer and used mental imagery in psychoanalysis. Inspired by his teacher, Jean-Martin Charcot, Freudian concepts of “free association” encouraged patients to generate and describe their own mental imagery. They were typically guided by the analyst’s encouragement to speak “whatever comes to mind,” and overcome their inner objections or “resistances” to sharing their thoughts and fantasies. Guided visualization really hit its stride with figures like John Grinder and Richard Bandler, who arrived in the world of hypnosis around the same time the mass production of audio and video distribution became possible. As these men worked on developing neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), they drew heavily upon the ideas and therapeutic work of Milton H. Erickson. One of Erickson’s main observations was that not all people respond to the direct commands of hypnosis. For example, direct commands will involve statements like, “When I end the count of three, you will close your eyes. One… two… three…” As an alternative to this kind of command structure, Erickson developed a number of “passive” or “indirect” statements that led individuals to follow commands as if it was their own idea. “Whenever it feels right, you may like to close your eyes, if you feel your lids growing heavier along with the sound of my voice.” These statements not only make you feel as if it is your choice to follow along, but they are multi-sensory. For the purposes of this tutorial, guided visualizations involve a mixture of: Direct suggestions (or commands) Indirect suggestions (or passive commands) Multi-sensory images and feelings (like feelings, the images of eyelids growing heavier and references to sound) Now you have a brief history, let’s look at the benefits you’ll get. The 3 Key Benefits of Guided Visualization Given the questionable history of these techniques when it comes to real results, are there any benefits to practicing any kind of visualization? Yes! There’s a catch, however. There always is. Perhaps a personal story will help explain the benefits and encourage you to experiment with an open mind — but not one so open that your brains fall out. 1. Defining Outcomes and Creating Action in the Absence of Motivation When I was completing my Ph.D., I absolutely did not want to write my dissertation. I spent a few years gathering research, but my graduate supervisor told me something that completely deflated my ambition. Whereas I had big plans to become a professor who would teach my heart out and write many books, Jamie felt called to give me a wake-up call. We were walking along Bay Street in Toronto on our way to a cafe. He told me that academic jobs were drying up, and even if I published dozens of articles, it was going to be nearly impossible for me to get a tenure-track job. At that moment, I puffed out my chest and swore that I would build my own university if that’s what it took. Now, it turned out I sort of have built my own university on the Magnetic Memory Method website, but shortly after his talk, I fell into a slump. Fortunately, I’d studied hypnosis and even gotten certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists through the Ontario Hypnosis Centre. (I didn’t take the course to become a hypnotherapist, but rather as part of my dissertation research on friendship.) Thanks to the training, instead of moping around and doing nothing back in my Manhattan apartment, I recorded a guided visualization for myself. My script included multi-sensory ideas, images, and feelings that helped me mentally experience the accomplishment of finishing my Ph.D. and visualization taking the specific steps that still needed to be done. 2. Increase Positive Thoughts Day after day I listened to my own voice each morning before sitting down at the computer. I no longer have the exact script, but it was written in the present-tense and went something like this: As I sit at the keyboard, I feel the ideas and words flowing effortlessly through my fingers. With each keystroke, I can see my degree materializing in a frame on the wall. The sound of typing inspires electric energy as I look forward to submitting the finished document. The more I focus on the task at hand, the more my interest and energy grow and the taste of success fills my mouth. I enjoy the smell of victory as I continue to organize and refine my ideas, making sure to pay attention to the journey and cherish every moment. This form of guided visualization helped me center myself, focus, and just get the job done. I believe it works because it follows the immersive, multi-sensory KAVE COGS formula: Kinesthetic – words like flow, feel, energy Auditory – words like sound, typing Visual – imagining the degree itself, phrases like “look forward” Emotional – words like victory, cherish Conceptual – reference to the ideas I was working on Olfactory – phrases like “the smell of victory” Gustatory – references to taste Spatial – sitting at the keyboard, the act of organization Would I have written my dissertation without all of this “self-hypnosis”? Perhaps, but I doubt it. And if I had, it would have been a much more miserable experience than it was. But because I had a guided visualization to get myself started, I was able to immerse myself in the task with a positive outlook despite my supervisor’s grim outlook. 3. Reduce Stress In reality, my supervisor was both right and wrong. I never did get a formal academic position, despite having many publications. However, I did wind up winning a Mercator research grant that kept me very busy teaching Film Studies in Germany. And that was not only on the strength of my dissertation and the fact that I got my doctorate done. It was also because I knew how to be calm, cool, and collected when applying for such grants. In fact, I used a very similar guided visualization before going to defend my dissertation and before getting each and every teaching job I’ve had in the years since. It’s a very simple visualization meditation that involves a bench, a lake, and a bike. There are many more benefits. For example: Many athletes use visualization to increase their performance. Entrepreneurs use business plans to help create vision statements for their companies. Students use mental images of their future careers to help keep them moving forward. The trick is that you need to visualize accomplishments that are within your current range of skills. For example, if you have no skills in developing websites, you can visualize yourself as a millionaire enjoying the beach until you’re blue in the face. But it’s very unlikely to happen. However, if you create a visualization that helps inspire you to complete a web development course, this simple and realistic practice can provide what amounts to a simple ego boost. Exactly the kind I needed to shut up my monkey mind and its objections and keep my focus on the tasks at hand. I still use such visualizations to this day! But please note that I also always catch myself when visualizing — I make sure that I have the competence to actually accomplish what I’m visualizing. If I don’t, I correct the vision so it’s within the realm of my current abilities. Or, I make sure the goal involves taking a course or completing a practice regime that will get me the competence I need for the next milestone along the way to the goal. 3 Guided Visualization Exercises That Reduce Stress and Anxiety Another form of visualization I’ve benefited from involves guided meditations that tackle discomfort arising from stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of both, particularly during high school and university. Important Disclaimers: Never use guided meditations while driving or operating any kind of machinery. Use of the following exercises is not to be considered medical advice or as an alternative to seeking professional medical help. Even if you don’t think you need it, leaving stress and anxiety unchecked is not advised. I personally have always sought proper, medical help even when I’ve explored alternative therapies. To make the most out of these guided meditation examples, I suggest you: Rewrite each script in your own words Include as many KAVE COG elements as possible Use the present tense Add in your own goals Record each script you create in your own voice Listen to your guided visualizations while seated or lying down Experiment with having your eyes open and closed Here are 3 of my favorite guided meditations. 1. The Field and the Sky As I breathe deeply, in and out, I center my mind on an expansive image of a field. I walk lightly along a path through its center, my hands brushing the soft tips of wheat. I feel each and every one, relaxing deeper and deeper as I move towards an opening in the field beside a tree. I sit beneath the tree and feel a comfortable breeze. I lay on my back and stare into the wide-open blue sky. With each breath, I feel more and more connected with the earth, the wind, and the colors of the sky. I pull the cool blue into my body, and circulate the sky itself through my body. The air flows through my body, and as it does I clench my fists, hold and release them. Each time I clench my fists, my body relaxes and I feel more and more connected with the earth and the sky. 2. The Volume Adjuster With each and every breath, I allow my ears to tune deeply into the sounds around me. I connect with each sound as a physical sensation. I notice the volume and feel the sound as sensations deep in my ears. Each sound and feeling relaxes me, flowing in synchronicity with my breath. As I breathe and listen, I imagine a music recording studio form around me. On a monitor, I see a graphic readout of the sounds in the world around me. On a control station, I reach out and feel a volume dial beneath my fingers. I control each and every sound, and as I make the sounds around me louder and quieter, I feel more and more deeply relaxed. 3. The Mirror In a room, I breathe deeply and walk towards a full mirror. As I look at my feet, they become deeply relaxed. With each breath I take, my eyes travel up my body. My calves, thighs, hips all become deeply relaxed. I realize that my body and the body in the mirror are becoming relaxed in uniform, and this realization relaxes me even more deeply. My belly, chest, hands, arms, and shoulders all relax deeply, just by looking at them in the mirror, twice as relaxed as I share the relaxation with my image. The muscles in my face all relax as I allow the tension in my jaw and cheeks to release. All tension around my temples and forehead completely falls away, each breath melting the tension and stress out of my body. When the moment is right, I breathe deeply and step into the mirror, doubling my comfort and relaxation yet again as I fuse with the perfect realization of myself as a deeply and completely relaxed person, feeling whole and complete in every regard. 4. BONUS: The Infinity Visualization As I breathe in and out, I become aware of my awareness. I notice my consciousness as a substance flowing through time. To become more intimate with it, I ask the following questions without expecting any specific answers. I accept anything that arises, including ‘I don’t know.’ When did my consciousness arrive? Where exactly is my consciousness? Can I find the easternmost point of my conscious awareness? The westernmost point? The southernmost? The northernmost? As I breathe and relax, I imagine an infinite line projecting out into space in front of me. I imagine another projecting behind me, more to the left and the right and directly upwards from my head. Although I accept that infinity is impossible to imagine, I feel each of these lines extending outward without end. On the line projecting in front of me, I place a hotel. In this hotel are infinite rooms, each filled with a relaxed version of myself. The more I think of each version of myself extending into infinity, the more relaxed I become. When I am ready, I make room for myself in the hotel by asking every other version of myself to move one room down. All of infinity moves to make space for me, and as I move into the room, a new me emerges from the infinite line behind me to take my place, making me deeper and deeper relaxed. Note: The hotel part of this exercise is inspired by David Hilbert’s Grand Hotel Paradox. Other Forms of Guided Visualization You Can Try Not everyone finds guided imagery easy. Although I’ve always allowed myself to “go along” with visual suggestions, I don’t actually see images in my mind. Many people with “aphantasia” don’t. But that has never stopped me. I’ve used recordings from others and watched videos. But ultimately, writing and recording my own has worked by far the best. If you don’t feel confident about making your own recordings and want to buy programs from others, many will do. It’s just important that you align your goals with reality and take everything with a grain of salt. There are a lot of sharks out there — and, as with my dissertation, all the visualization in the world wasn’t going to get it written. I still had to show up and turn my research into sensible sentences and paragraphs that fulfilled the requirements of my degree. Other kinds of visualization you can try involve mind mapping. For example, set a goal for relaxation. Then, start by drawing a central image of what that state is like for you. From there, draw a number of branches and free-associate. The process itself is deeply relaxing – especially if you find task-oriented projects like language learning anxiety-inducing. You can also seek out adult coloring books. I even created one for you called the Creativity Kickstarter. It’s a fun and easy way to throw on an episode of your favorite podcast and relax through a kind of visualization that is guided in a completely different way. I highly recommend coloring while listening to any positive audio programming that relates to goals you want to achieve. Just remember: Everything you visualize should always start from the basis of your ability to achieve the goal in question. That way, you simply cannot fail.
61 minutes | 3 months ago
5 Memorization Techniques That Help You Learn Faster
Are you looking for the perfect set of memorization techniques? Yet, you keep getting frustrated? Well, don’t blame yourself. Because it is frustrating, isn’t it? I mean… everywhere you go people are using different terminology. Linking… P.A.O. … Mind Palace… Roman Room… Journey Method… Mnemonic Peg System… How Real Are The Promises Of Memorization Techniques For Students And Mature Learners? Very real! But we still have to deal with a lot of different terms. I mean, lets face it: All those terms sometimes make the whole memory improvement world feel a bit like a hoax. After all, even if science backs up the memorization techniques we talk about on this blog 100%… Why the heck can’t people get their terms straight!?! Well, let’s get the painful truth about the world of memorization techniques out of the way: Whether you want to know how to memorize a speech fast or are desperate for memorization techniques for studying… You’re going to come across a lot of different terms. That’s just the way the world of memory improvement ticks (and other professions that rely on terminology). Things have been this way since humans started developing memorization techniques to help them survive. And it’s only getting more complex! But in reality, a lot of those techniques are essentially the same. Each and every one has a location-based element in one way or another. That means that all memorization techniques are spatial. And as Thales, the first person in the West to be considered a philosopher and scientist in the same body, said: Megiston topos hapanta gar chorei (Space is ultimate for it contains all things) That’s the very cool thing about the discoveries here at the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast. Once you understand this and practice with memorization techniques from this basis, your results will accelerate. And the complexity eases down, even if there will still be ins and outs to consider. And if you’re interested in more about the history of where mnemonics come from to help humans deal with complexity and how they used space to do it, please check out Lynne Kelly’s The Memory Code. Just as we do here on this blog nearly every week, Lynne’s book will show you exactly how learning these techniques will help you deal with extreme complexity in modern life. My course which you can subscribe to at the bottom of this post will take you through everything too. It’s free. For now, let’s persist and do our best to get past all the confusing terminology. Let’s talk instead about the… 5 Memorization Techniques You Can Use To Learn Anything Faster 1. The Memory Palace Technique Ultimately, the memorization technique that will help most people the fastest is the Magnetic Memory Palace. You’ll hear this technique called by different names, such as the “method of loci” or the Roman Room. All you’re doing with this mnemonic device is turning a familiar location into a mental “journey.” You then place associative images along this journey so you can revisit them later according to a specific pattern. This pattern is known as “Recall Rehearsal.” It lets you get information into long term memory quickly and with a high level of accuracy. This outcome happens because the Memory Palace technique lets you harness the power of: The Serial Positioning Effect The Primacy Effect The Recency Effect The Von Restorff Effect Using all of these techniques combined can take a bit of practice, but if you’ve ever wanted to know how to to improve focus, this combination of techniques is the ultimate way to do it. Of course, it helps too if you know about motivation in learning too, such as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. 2. Multi-Sensory Association Imagine walking into an exam that you know you will pass with 100% certainty. It’s totally possible if you have the right memory techniques on your side. Like the Memory Palace technique. (In this episode about Giordano Bruno, Scott Gosnell talks about how you can create a Memory Palace out of the examination room itself.) But in order to use the Memory Palace well, you have to know how to place the best possible associations inside of them. To do that, you need to look at the spellings and sounds of words and then creating links or stories in your Memory Palace. This website is packed with mnemonic examples showing you how association works inside of a Memory Palace. Have a look at these details tutorials for a number of visual examples: How to Memorize Anatomy How to Memorize the Periodic Table How to Memorize the Presidents How to Memorize a Song How to Memorize a Speech How to Memorize Vocabulary 3. Acronyms As one of the supporters of the Magnetic Memory Method once said: Use the right memorization technique for the job or go H.O.M.E. The acronym stands for: Huge Outcomes Means Exercising And let me tell you, if you want to know how to remember things you read or learn a new language, you’ll want to use acronyms often. 4. Memory Techniques For Language Learning Did you know that there are truckloads of proof that bilingualism is a brain and memory health strategy? Not only is language learning an ongoing source of mental fitness, but you get the benefits of more socialization. You can literally meet more people and get to know them more deeply. This exposure to people enriches the brain with chemicals. And the best part is that you can use the Memory Palace technique to help However, you also want to add what I call The Big 5 of Learning. This is based on the levels of processing effect, first identified in 1972 by Craik and Lockheart. To benefit from it, you want to memorize vocabulary and phrases using the memorization techniques outlined above, and also: Read Write Speak Listen From memory and into memory Without using all of these levels, you won’t be getting enough of what scientists call “active recall.” It’s absolutely essential to making sure the techniques you choose work flawlessly. 5. The Major System & The Pegword Method Start with the foundations of memorizing individual words and you will quickly learn to memorize entire phrases. From there, you’ll want to add the ability to memorize numbers too. The Major System is fun and easy to learn. It lets you turn any number into a word. Start by committing this simple system to memory: Then practice turning two-digit numbers into words. For example 22 could be nun and 35 could be mail. It’s ideal to come up with a few words per two-digit combination. After that, it’s just practice. Next, add the pegword method. This memorization technique will let you have an association for each letter of the alphabet. You can also use the number of each letter of the alphabet for some “next level” learning at speed. How To Benefit From The Abundance Of Memorization Techniques Yes, there are a lot of terms out there as more and more people teach their favorite memorization technique. But now you don’t have to get lost in the terminology. Just find memory training and memory improvement courses you resonate with and trust. Give those memory experts your attention. Follow the instructions and recommendations. Experiment. You’ll be amazed by the memory improvement you experience. Better: You’ll be thrilled by the additional benefits using memory techniques brings. Are you ready to be thrilled? Let me know in the discussion area below and then grab the Magnetic Memory Method Improvement Kit to get started today!
59 minutes | 3 months ago
Scott Gosnell On Giordano Bruno And The Composition Of Images
Giordano Bruno wrote many fine books about the art of memory. Sadly, most of them were unavailable in English for the longest time. Things are different now. My guest today, Scott Gosnell, is the man to thank. He’s spent the better part of a decade translating Bruno’s books for modern English readers. The latest release in a very fine series is Song of Circe and On the Composition of Images. Scott is also the CEO of Windcastle Venture Consulting, a public speaker, part-time college lecturer and the author of Startup Geometry. In our conversation today, we talk about Bruno’s enduring importance for students of mnemonics. We draw out the core ideas of balance and how you can craft a relationship between imagination and memory and get the most out of Bruno’s theory of confabulation. We also discuss Bruno’s techniques for the Memory Palace and just how advanced his approach was for his time. Thanks to Scott’s work, these “next level” approaches are even more relatable for the here and now. So if memory techniques have you intrigued, but you want more, this episode is for you. Or if you’re having trouble fitting into the mold of how you “should” be committing complex information to memory, you’re about to find encouragement. Or if you’re seeking a fresh start along your career path and you’re overwhelmed by a lot of material to learn… Why not give the advice of a “heretic” a try? Want to know more? Just press play above and to learn more about: The dual-role of student and teacher in academia…and the need for both The reason learning language out of necessity, not desire, can be of greatest motivation How variants of singular truth and dual, or even multiple, modalities can exist in harmony, and what this means for committing that “truth” to memory Bruno’s philosophy of a three-level universe (and how it’s even more relevant today) Why organization is subjective, and how you can make it work for you, even if to someone else it looks like a “jumble sale” The differences between copying and composition, and the reason the latter can be both more beneficial and easier Why memorization is not always a perfect recollection, but instead a simplified reimagination (and why it’s perfectly natural!) Why memory benefits both judgement and decision making How we simply break down Bruno’s ideas of subject, abject, and intention, to easily incorporate them into memory work The proven method for describing philosophical ideas – where, if we’re honest, we all can get stuck trying to memorize them Why Hermeticism is so attractive, especially to students of memory The Clavis Magna, perhaps Bruno’s greatest mystery Further Resources on the web, this podcast, and the MMM Blog: Bottlerocket Science – Scott’s blog and his own podcast Scott Gosnell on Twitter Windcastle Venture Consulting The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt – referenced in this podcast Scott Gosnell Talks About Giordano Bruno – our previous interview John Michael Green on Giordano Bruno, Memory, and Time More Memory Palace Books You Should Read The Art of Memory Playlist on YouTube
47 minutes | 4 months ago
Nelson Dellis On Developing Your Memory Superpowers
My biggest mistake as a kid was asking for cliche abilities like x-ray vision instead of the memory superpowers I really needed. And if you made mistakes like that too, it probably isn’t your fault. After all, we’re taught to daydream about easy solutions far more than to enjoy deep training. The question is… Why is it that our global societies don’t prioritize learning to use our memories better at a younger age? To help answer that, and help all of us correct course for the future, I sat down today with Nelson Dellis. Nelson is a four-time US Memory Champion and Grandmaster of Memory. He is an author, world memory record holder, co-founder of the Memory League competition, and founder of the Alzheimer’s awareness charity Climb For Memory. Today we discuss Nelson’s latest book, Memory Superpowers!: An Adventurous Guide to Remembering What You Don’t Want to Forget. This excellent follow-up to Remember It! is geared towards helping younger students enhance their memorization skills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF_vOuyIx2A In our conversation, we delve into the benefits memory training creates. These include: Thinking freely through the lens of memory Discarding the self-imposed filters we utilize in our daily lives to truly revolutionize our work The joy of letting our imagination run wild and boundless It’s been said that parents learn as much from their children as the child does from their parent along the journey of growing up and growing older…perhaps even those who aren’t parents can embrace those same lessons, viewing the world through the eyes of a child once again. So if you’re searching for an out of the box way to grow your memory practice… If you’re tired of the rules and the “shoulds” of how things should be done… If you’re a student and think memory work is something only grownups with “bad memories” do… Get this book, go through the interview and become the teacher of your children you need to be so you can learn from them a.s.a.p. Ready to dive in? All you have to do is press play above and listen in as we explore: The concept of “active” reading, and the more fitting title for anyone who turns the pages of a book The importance of engagement and immersion in learning How dialogue is an effective training method Why creativity is crucial in memory work (and how anyone can be creative…yes, you!) Perspective for memory training – because “easy and fun” is not always realistic The usefulness of simplicity (back to basics using the alphabet) …and in contrast the case for the “complicated” modern video games as memory palace inspiration The benefit of familiarity in constructing paths in The Journey Method Possibilities for linking ancient memory practices with modern technology…benefits for the screen-oriented An argument that mastery isn’t necessary for memorization, but instead, just the opposite! Yes, really! The demonization of memorization in the educational system, and why we should be praising its virtues instead. And so, so much more. Further Resources on the web, this podcast, and the MMM Blog: Nelson Dellis’s official website Nelson’s YouTube Channel Follow Nelson on Twitter Find Nelson’s books on Amazon (including Memory Superpowers!) Extreme Memory Improvement With Memory Champion Nelson Dellis How to Win the USA Memory Championship Memory Improvement Techniques for Kids
54 minutes | 4 months ago
Thomas Krafft On How To Craft And Deliver World Class Presentations
Do you want to give a presentation that everyone in the room remembers? I know I sure do. That’s why I did one thing first after getting the invitation to give a TEDx Talk: I picked up the phone and called Thomas Krafft. I’d seen Thomas give a presentation about a year earlier and knew he was good himself. I also knew about his company and the help it offers people around the world through the Presentation Boss Podcast. I learned a ton as a result of working with Thomas. Plus, it looks like my talk really hit it out the park, setting the stage for even better talks to come. Now… if you’re a regular here, you might be thinking… Hang on, Anthony! You’ve been speaking for years! What do you need a speaking coach for? Good question. Here’s the low-down: Although I’d been writing and delivering lectures at universities around the world for nearly ten years, not to mention oodles of videos and live streams, I was humble enough to realize that this particular stage was new to me. It’s also a huge opportunity and I didn’t want to “wing it” as I’ve done so many times before. Thanks to the help I got from Thomas, it’s been a tremendous success, though ultimately you have to be the judge of just how successful… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvtYjdriSpM It’s NEVER To Soon To Learn How To Present Better Frankly, I could have used help to become a better speaker during my earlier career too. Speaking actually isn’t that difficult for me, and neither is writing talks or presenting based on notes. What is difficult for everyone is being your own critic and seeing things from an outside perspective. For me, that is excruciatingly difficult… and all the more so as my meditation projects reduce the amount of thoughts in my head. In other words, without the external feedback of an expert… just because you might be able to crank out lots of writing, memorize it and speak easily in front of a crowd doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. In fact, without expert help, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be far from world class. And that’s what you want, right? To be understood, and above all, remembered. A Good Presentation Changes Lives You also probably want to know that you’ve touched lives too. You probably want to receive feedback like this: Dr. Metivier, I wanted to thank you for helping me release an immense amount of tension and negative thoughts in a manner of seconds. I was sitting on my couch two days ago with a heating pad on a massive knot in my neck. I don’t generally have physical manifestations of stress, and this was new. This knot came from stress related to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and what that will mean for the US and the upcoming election. My Youtube recommendations are mostly cooking or travel related and the very rare Ted talk mostly related to topics i can use in my classroom. Self-help is not a topic that I think of much or watch videos related to, ever. Something made me stop at your TedX talk that appeared in my feed with an incomplete title “Two Easily Remembered Questions That Help Silence Negative…” So I watched it, then watched it again. Then I tried it. My stress and negativity released almost immediately. And then the tears started. a middle aged man, with a heating pad on his neck, bawling on the couch. It was glorious. It was so easy. Thank you for that. Thank you so much for giving me this small tool, these questions and this mindset. Stay Well and Stay Safe. Chris Drake San Diego, CA USA Do You Want Your Next Speech To Create An Impact Like That? The important points in Chris’s email, and in many of the comments on the presentation video are these: The content was good enough to go through twice The content was good enough to create a response My listener took action and got results. There are rules that govern how and why good presentations create such results. If you want to discover these simple rules, let me introduce you to my new “secret weapon” for giving world class presentations that reach and help positively transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people: About Thomas Krafft Thomas Krafft is the co-founder of Presentation Boss, Australia’s premiere communications consulting firm, he has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses refine their communication, specifically presentations, and, more specifically, the visual tools used in those communications, to share a message effectively, making it unforgettable. Our conversation moves swiftly, as we cover such a wide range of areas of the art of public speaking, but, at the same time, it’s casual enough as a listen-anywhere, anytime topic. Thomas is a wealth of information, and in our time spent together the insight he delivered was both a challenge, and encouragement – the best of both worlds. Having delivered hundreds of talks to thousands, with audiences big and small, he has mastered the art of balance, both in preparation (believe it or not you can be overprepared), and presentation (knowing how to truly cater to your listeners for maximum impact). Whether you have an upcoming presentation that you’re struggling to prepare for, racing to make a deadline for that first draft of notes. Or you want to freshen up your presentation style because your last talk didn’t go as planned. Maybe you just want to be a more effective communicator in your everyday life with your peers. Whatever the motivation, Thomas can help. So press play above and listen in as we discuss: The secret to taking what’s inside your head, and with clarity and confidence, deliver that to an audience (very high level, I know, but it’s true!) How speeches are really judged and evaluated – and it may not be as subjective as you think The questions you must ask about your audience before even putting a pen to paper The real purpose of any presentation you deliver, bridging a gap, and how exactly to construct that bridge Where people “fall down the most,” in speaking How to handle “blind dates” for your audience – without context – and how to avoid them. Why you need to incorporate Aristotle’s Pillars of Rhetoric into every presentation you give, and why the right mix of the three elements is crucial Rethinking the idea of audience participation and engagement – it can take many different forms The reason using tools, or not using them for arbitrary reasons, can be your biggest downfall The pros and cons of verbatim vs. topic based speaking styles (you might be surprised here!) The keys to making good communication skills translatable to any medium How comforting a reality check can be – understanding the process that skills are learned (bring on the learning curve as it’s perfectly natural) Why being terrified of public speaking is okay, but the real reason overcoming it is necessary…and possible. For anyone. Enjoy this episode and make sure to give Thomas a call before you give your next presentation! Further Resources: Presentationboss.com.au How to Memorize a Monologue: Your Quick and Easy Guide How to Memorize a Speech Fast (Without Sounding Like a Robot) The ancient art of giving persuasive speeches from memory is also covered in the Rhetorica Ad Herennium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3rtsx8mvYU
33 minutes | 4 months ago
Mnemonic Devices: Everything You Need to Know (And How to Use Them)
Instantly memorizing what you need to know is the ultimate dream for many people. But for many, their inability to remember anything is the ultimate nightmare. One reason people struggle is that there are so many terms. It can be confusing. But the facts are that anyone can use mnemonic strategies to learn faster and remember more. You just have to find the approach that works best for you. Here’s what this post will cover: What Is A Mnemonic Device? Mnemonic Device Examples – Personally Created Flashcards – Acronyms – The Memory Palace Technique – Associative Imagery, Linking, and Pegwords – Story Method – Major System and Dominic System – 00-99 PAO – Mind Maps Mnemonic Techniques and Strategies for Remembering Things So if you’re ready to dive in, let’s get started with… What Is A Mnemonic Device? The best mnemonic device definition we can start with is this: Anything that helps you remember better is a mnemonic. Even the dictionary says that a mnemonic device is anything: “assisting or intended to assist the memory.” For that reason, it’s a highly adaptable term that works as an umbrella to cover a wide range of activities including: Personally created flashcards Acronyms Memory Palaces (sometimes called a Mind Palace, the Method of Loci, Journey Method, or Roman Room) Associative imagery, linking, and pegwords Story method Major System or Dominic System 00-99 PAO Mind Maps … and more Given this adaptability, it’s little wonder there’s so much confusion over the term. But here’s what I’d like you to notice: None of these are really “devices.” They are processes. As memory expert David Berglass made clear in A Question of Memory, memory is not a unitary mechanism or a “thing.” It is a behavior. And that is how you use mnemonics. You understand them as processes and then you sprinkle them into your life so they become part of your behavior. Let me make that more concrete: When I gave a TEDx presentation, I not only memorized my talk — on that day, I memorized all the names of the people I met. I used a wide variety of techniques (see how to memorize a speech) and chose the specific mnemonic devices I used based on the circumstances. With practice, using mnemonics happens almost on autopilot! Mnemonic Device Examples Let’s dig a little deeper using our list of mnemonic examples above. Personally Created Flashcards My friend and language learning expert Gabriel Wyner inspired me to give these a try after reading his book, Fluent Forever. Basically, instead of downloading software put together by a stranger, get some paper and colored pens. (Obviously, you also have all the information you want to memorize organized too.) Next, use the paper and colors to help you create images. These images should remind you of the target information you want to recall. Flashcards as mnemonic devices for Chinese characters Now, there’s a whole lot more going on in this example, so please keep it in mind. I’ll go deeper into it later in this post. For now, if you’re worried about having a bunch of cards flying all over the place, don’t be. You can wrap them up in a Memory Palace drawing just like this: I used simple and elegant combinations of mnemonic devices to pass level III in Mandarin last year Next, let’s look at how abbreviations can help. Acronyms Have you ever asked… what is it called when you use letters to remember words? As usual, there’s no one answer, but the first method is called an acronym. For example, when I teach memory improvement in a live setting, I usually talk about how following the rules will set you F.R.E.E. “Free” is a word that helps me remember the meta-rules students need to make learning with memory techniques easy and fun: Frequent practice in a state of… Relaxation and a spirit of… Experimentation so that you can be… Entertained Just follow those rules as you use mnemonics and you will truly be free to memorize as much as you want. The best part? You can lay out acronyms inside of a Memory Palace. The Memory Palace Technique The Memory Palace is an ancient technique. It essentially involves using space as a mnemonic device. You do this by thinking about a familiar location. Then, you chart out a logical journey that does not take energy from your memory. If you have to memorize the journey, it is not a good Memory Palace, so pick something else. For example, I visited a bookstore in Zamalek, a part of Cairo, Egypt. To keep it simple, I used only the parts of the bookstore I remembered. To help my brain reduce the cognitive load even further, I made a quick drawing of the space: A Memory Palace drawn on an index card to maximize its value as a mnemonic device Notice I’ve actually drawn the Memory Palace on an index card (or flashcard). I do this because it makes it easy to store many of them for quick reference if I ever need them. I also write down the number of stations and name them. I find this helps me “set and forget” the Memory Palace and ensure I’ve gotten it right the first time. I believe scientists call this kind of activity a means of harnessing the levels of processing effect. Associative Imagery, Linking, and Pegwords Inside of these Memory Palaces, place a list of mnemonics you create. These will be a kind of mnemonic that are multi-sensory. For example, think back to that first image I shared above with the flashcards for Chinese. Those colorful drawings help me remember the sound and the meaning of the Mandarin words. But those mental images aren’t just on the flashcards! They’re also mentally situated on stations in the Memory Palaces I use. (Some people call these stations “loci.” It’s basically the same thing, but “Magnetic Station” is my preferred term because recent advancements make them much more powerful than the ancient teachings suggest.) To make such imagery, you will want to complete a number of exercises. For example, go through the alphabet and think of an image for each letter. The pegword method is a great way to explore this technique further. If you’re really serious about mastering the Memory Palace technique, you can explore having an image on each and every station. For example, when I memorize cards, I always have images on the stations to help me “trigger” the row of cards I’ll be placing and later recalling on a Magnetic Station. Basically, what I’m talking about is multiple levels of linking all at once. Some people talk about the linking method in a very weak way, that amounts to just “this links to that.” I don’t find that approach is strong enough. What most of us need is for our association imagery to combine: Sound and meaning links at the granular level of the alphabet Multi-sensory links that are concrete and specific, not vague and abstract Tied tightly to space so that we are working from the foundations of the strongest level of memory: spatial memory Furthermore, the real trick with these associative images is that they must: Actually associate in a way that triggers what you want to memorize (for example, the barber symbol I used on the card above triggers the ‘ba’ sound). Help you get back the meaning of the content (where relevant). Have a Memory Palace so you can mentally “find” the imagery. Some people don’t need the Memory Palace, but in my experience, they are few and far between. And when you think about what mnemonic device means more holistically, each card is a kind of station in a Memory Palace. Story Method Using a story (with or without a Memory Palace) is not much different than using, links pegs or associations. The only difference is that with the story method you’re adding the extra step of creating a narrative. For example, let’s say you want to memorize a list of names at an event: Haley Allan Sharon Andrew Edward Angela Sam If you were using pegs, you would look at “h” when seeing Haley and associate her with something like Halley’s comet or a hat. Allan could be associated with an Allen key. You can also spontaneously produce associations or have stock characters. For example, every Sharon could be Sharon Osbourne. The story method, on the other hand, requires us to add a narrative to the association, such as: Halley’s comet is crashing into an Allan key in the hands of Sharon who finds it burning hot and hands it to Andrew. The story method can possibly be used without a Memory Palace. However, stories have parts. And those parts exist somewhere in your brain which means they are inherently spatially located. I think you’ll find it a lot less mentally taxing to lay out any narrative elements you use in a Memory Palace. Another way to approach the story method is to use a movie or novel plot you know well. For example, let’s say you have mentally reduced The Matrix series down to three scenes: the hotel, the desert of the real, and Neo’s cabin on Morpheus’ ship. For the first piece of information you want to remember, you would use the first room and perhaps Trinity doing her flying kick. Then you would move on to the next location for the next piece of information. This example shows how stories are always spatial in nature from another angle… after all, if they don’t take place somewhere… how can they be stories? Ultimately, there is no right or wrong to this application. It basically comes down to your level of skill, the context, and the nature of the information. I personally would not add a story step while memorizing names in a live setting — and tend to create my associations on the fly rather than draw upon stock images. But if a stock image makes sense, I’ll certainly use it. Major System and Dominic System When it comes to associative imagery, the alphabet is a great tool. But it can also be mixed with numbers. The Major System (often called the Major Method) helps you associate a consonant with each digit from 0-9. This mnemonic device has been in use since the Katapayadi of ancient India. A more common approach that has been in use since the 1700s looks like this: A more recent innovation is the Dominic System. It has some key differences, so make sure to study both. 00-99 PAO PAO stands for Person, Action, Object. Basically, you’re taking the Major System and using it to help you make words from numbers. Here are some examples from mine: 01 – Sad (tragedy mask) 02 – Sun (from the movie Sunshine) 31 – Mad Magazine mascot (often dressed as a maid) Notice that I’ve put some concrete indicators in parentheses. This is because “sad” is not very evocative. It’s just a concept. But when I think of a tragedy mask, it still links to the concept of sadness. To make it even more specific, I think of the tragedy mask worn by William Shatner in Oedipus Rex. Mind Maps Tony Buzan is one of the greatest innovators of mind mapping, but he says in Mind Map Mastery that he abandoned this technique for improving memory back in the 70s. He focused more on using keywords that help with creativity, problem-solving, and planning. I feel that the conclusion to remove their use as a memorization tool was premature. If you would like to learn how to combine mind maps with Memory Palaces, for example, here’s a simple way to also add in the Major System for incredible results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIhHKBRoy8E As you can see, it’s fun to mix keywords with the Major Method on paper in a way that turns the mind map into a simple Memory Palace. And this is really just the beginning when it comes to learning how to remember things. It’s not just that there are a TON of mnemonic devices to choose from. It’s that we get to delight in how they can be mixed and matched in so many ways. Mnemonic Techniques and Strategies for Remembering Things Now, you might be wondering… how do you apply all of these techniques strategically? Good question! The answer is that you need to explore on your own, ideally based on a clearly defined learning goal. That said, here are some suggestions. Mnemonic Strategy #1: How to Memorize Numbers For learning numbers, you’ll want to have either the Major System or the Dominic System. Nothing will be lost if you develop skills with both. In fact, that is highly recommended. You can even consider learning another version called The Shadow if you’re really ambitious. My friend and fellow memory expert Braden Adams talks about this technique here. Mnemonic Strategy #2: How to Learn a Language For learning languages, a solid Memory Palace Network is advised. This means having one Memory Palace per most letters of the alphabet. (Skip x, y, z, etc. if you can’t come up with solutions. Just gather as many together as you can.) If you have a Major System prepared, you can use this to help with memorizing words, such as using your image for 90 when you encounter a “bas” sound, etc. Mnemonic Strategy #3: How to Memorize Names For memorizing names, some people like to have prepared associations ready to go. For example, if they meet a Ron, they’ll use Ronald McDonald. However, the world has evolved a lot and we’re increasingly in contact with people who have diverse names. For that, you’ll want to make sure your peg system is very robust. Mnemonic Strategy #4: How to Memorize Music For memorizing music, the Major System will be a must. Here’s how to memorize a song — the post is very detailed and shows you how to turn your instrument into a Memory Palace to combine with the number system you choose. Mnemonic Strategy #5: How to Memorize a Speech For memorizing a speech, you can use acronyms or a Memory Palace. I’ve done a combination of both over the years, and sometimes will place acronyms in a Memory Palace. Memory Palace using an acronym as a mnemonic device For memorizing playing cards, most people take a Major System and develop it into a 00-99 PAO. For example, in my system, the Ace of Spades is 11. Using the Major, the image is a toad. To make it more specific, I use the Warner Brothers toad. Each card has an image like this and then I lay them out in a particular Memory Palace I prefer for memorizing cards. Guess what? there are even more mnemonic strategies you can learn (not to be confused with memory strategies). Treat them like missions and practice consistently. You will succeed. Please don’t think all of this is too difficult or complex. Frankly, the problem with the memory world is that so many teachers out there dumb it all down. But when someone finally shows how all of these mnemonic devices work together in unison, you wind up getting great successes like James Gerwing winning the 2019 Canadian Memory Championship — as a retiree! I Love Using A Combination Of Mnemonic Strategies — How About You? We’re incredibly lucky. Although it can be confusing, the Internet has enabled dozens of memory competitors, memory athletes, and plain ol’ memory fanatics like me to create tons of free content for the world. Even though it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies, remember: Memory is not a thing. It is a behavior. Dive into each of the approaches you learned today. Really dig deep into their nuances through practice. Let me know if you found this guide helpful and comment below. If there’s a mnemonic device I missed, please share it so I can update this post. All of us will be eternally grateful. And if you want to learn more about how to make the most of your new mnemonic strategies using a Memory Palace, pick up your free copy of the memory improvement kit today!
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