I was really excited when it was announced that the “Memory Games” documentary (trailer here) would be shown on Netflix. I was happy that I would finally get to see it, but mostly I was hoping that it would push many people to start learning those same skills. The documentary by directors Janet Tobias and Claus Wehlisch follows the journeys of memory champions Simon Reinhard, Yanja Wintersoul, Johannes Mallow and Nelson Dellis while they prepare to compete at the 2017 IAM World Memory Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia. You see them and other memorizing seemingly impossible quantities of digits, cards, names and words in just a few minutes. You also see beautiful computer animations attempting (not an easy task) to visually represent the vivid and wild memory palaces that are used to memorize those seemingly boring pieces of information.
I wish the directors had gone beyond the world of memory competition and spent at least some time exploring the huge potential benefits of memory techniques for school and life learning. I wish they had talked briefly about the rich and absolutely amazing history of the memory techniques used by all non-literate societies. And I wish the explanations given about how one should memorize digits had been a little less confusing and intimidating (there are much simpler ways to proceed!). But it doesn’t matter overall. I really enjoyed the documentary and I’m extremely grateful that it was made.
Don’t just watch, learn!
Those crazy memory feats might seem superhuman, but they really aren’t. You don’t need to be born with a great memory and you don’t need to be super smart. You just need to learn to use the memory palace technique, you need to believe that you can do it and you need to train long enough. How long? At least 1 or 2 years and probably more if you want to become a world-class memory champion. Only maybe an hour if you want to experience building a memory palace and get a glimpse of its potential. A few weeks for about 20 minutes a day if you want to become what I would call “good enough” at the art of improvising images to represent difficult information. You’ll need slightly longer, though not that much, if you want to be able to brag that you can memorize 100 digits of a full deck of cards in 5-minute or less. By the way, the “good enough” skill level is what I think most people should aim for. I think it occupies a sweet spot right in between minimum time investment and maximum rewards. And just to be clear: if 2 hours over 2 days is all you’re willing or able to invest, it’s still totally worth it.
What’s the point you might ask? I think the answers to that question should be obvious enough. But if you disagree, if you’re not sure or if you’re just curious to hear what I have to say, just click here to read my long rant on the subject.
But since you’re here already, you probably don’t need to be convinced. If you’re ready to learn this awesome new skill, you’ve come to the right place. Head over to this page and use any of those free resources!