[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:11.9] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success, the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than a billion downloads and listeners in over a hundred countries.
In this episode we learn the memory tactics and strategies of an international grandmaster of memory. We look at why there’s no such thing as a bad memory or a good memory, only bad memory strategies and good memory strategies. In real-time, we build a memory palace that you can use to memorize and effortlessly recall the 10 emotions of power. We go deep into the system for organizing and remembering huge chunks of information and much more with our guest, Kevin Horsley.
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In our previous episode, we went deep into the high performance habits of the world’s top performers. Looked at the only place confidence truly comes from. Dug into why we struggle to perform under pressure. Examine the habits, routines and strategies of the world’s absolute best and what they use to perform at their peak and much more with our guest returning to the show for a second interview, Dr. Michael Gervais. If you want to master the habits of the world’s top performers, listen to that episode.
Now for the show.
[0:02:55.7] MB: Today, we have another exciting guest on the show, Kevin Horsley. Kevin is an international grandmaster of memory and is one of the first five people in the world to obtain that title. He’s also the world record holder for the matrix memorization of 10,000 digits of pi. He’s also the bestselling author or several books on memory and his work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Time, Forbes, Inc. and much more.
Kevin, welcome to The Science of Success.
[0:03:22.6] KH: Hi. Great to be here. Thank you for having me on the show.
[0:03:24.7] MB: We’re really excited to have you on the show today. To start out, I’d love to hear a little bit about your personal journey and how you kind of got interested in memory.
[0:03:35.0] KH: When I was 8 years old, the school psychologist said that I may have a form of brain damage and he wanted to send me to a special class because I had dyslexia. So I wasn’t born with a good memory. When I was at school, I had a memory like a sieve and I couldn’t concentrate. I used to get my mother to read the information to me and friends to help with my homework. What I didn’t get, which is most of it, I just didn’t get. In 12 years of school, I never read a book from cover to cover alone. I always needed someone to help me to get through the information, and when I was in matric, I was reading at a top speed of 50 words a minute. That’s a speed, I’m embarrassed to say, of a 5-year-old.
My final year of school I still couldn’t read much better than when I started school, but to kind of long story short, in 1989 I managed to get through school and one night I was walking around the local bookstore and I found three books, one was a learning to learn, the other on memory and the other on speed reading and at that time I thought I was going to read the speed reading and read the other two quickly, but it didn’t kind of work out that way. I end up battling my way through the memory book.
For the first time in my life I discovered that I have a brain and I realized that if I kept on doing what I was doing, I wouldn’t be able to change my results. So I started studying psychology, the mind, memory, the brain, accelerated learning and started applying this information to my life and I was studying law at the time and applied it to that. I took myself to a point where I was reading and taking in 4 to 5 books a week. I overcame all my dyslexic issues and I could learn more in an hour than it would take the average person a month to learn.
In 1995 I decided to, again, take part in the World Memory Championships. Now, that’s where all the best memories in the world get together, and we fight it out in 10 different events and that year I managed to come second in the written word event, which is a proof that I overcame my dyslexic issues, and I came 5th overall and that same year Prince Philip [of Liechtenstein] and the World Brain Trust awarded me of the title International Grandmaster of Memory.
Ever since then I’ve broken a few world records. I’ve been studying memory and finding people super human abilities and finding out what are they doing differently and copying that and taking that into my life. I’ve also, as you mentioned, written a bestselling book called Unlimited Memory and I’m continually helping people to improve their memory and their life with the memory methods that I’ve been studying over the years. That’s a short story of how I got into it and what I’ve achieved since the school days.
[0:06:00.0] MB: It’s fascinating to me, we’ve interviewed a number of people who are kind of memory and learning experts and I think almost universally they share kind of a commonality of having some kind of learning disability or learning issue and then completely sort of radically transforming their brains. Why do you think that is?
[0:06:17.4] KH: I think it’s really just the learning difference and we have a deep desire to really improve. If you think about all personal development, it all begins with a desire. If you can’t do something, you need to fulfill that. Most of us are just studying strategies and ways to overcome problems we’ve had in our childhood and I think that’s really the biggest reason that you have, this deep desire and deep motivation to improve an area of your life that is not working so well.
[0:06:43.2] MB: I think it’s fascinating and a really important lesson for the people that are listening to this conversation that your current challenges or limitations aren’t necessarily condemning you to a life of a poor memory or dyslexia or whatever. You’re sort of a living proof that you can retrain your brain using things like neuroplasticity and truly transform into somebody who accomplishes superhuman feats and quite literally a world recorder holder.
[0:07:10.8] KH: You can never be more than your definition of yourself. If you consistently hold on to a label, you’re going to have to live according to that label, and we have to question these labels, because a lot of them aren’t always the absolutely truth. The more we question them and find strategies, then we can end up changing our results.
[0:07:28.8] MB: So I know you’ve talked in the past about the idea that there’s no such thing as sort of having a good memory or a bad memory. Could you tell me what that means and why you said that?
[0:07:40.0] KH: If you think about it through the thousands of hours of schooling and university, not one hour spent on how to improve your memory or your concentration, and everywhere that I’ve been around the world, that doesn’t happen. No one really teaches you anything about your amazing brain. So no one is telling you a strategy. It’s like we just see while you can think, you can remember. So that must be it. That’s your default system. You cannot improve it.
There are many different strategies that you can use to improve it. So I don’t really like to call them memory techniques or pneumonics. I prefer to just think about it as a memory strategy and you either have a good memory strategy or you have a bad memory strategy. For example, people that are good at remembering names, they do something different to people that are bad at remembering names. So it’s really — Looking at what are the strategies or grand memory masters, copying them and taking them into your life and you can get the same results, and that’s what I mean by that.
[0:08:33.0] MB: Tell me a little bit about when you say a good memory strategy. What do those look like and how do they differ from the strategies or maybe lack of strategies of people who think that they have a bad memory?
[0:08:44.6] KH: If you think about it through school, we’ve just really been taught right memorization, using your auditory memory to repeat information over and over. Now if you’re using your auditory memory, you are often about 7 bits of information you’re going to start getting confused. With auditory memory, it’s always sequential. So if you have to memorize something, it’s like a song, like A, B, C, D, E, F, G that you keep on going and you can’t just jump in and out of information.
The key strategy of developing and improving your memory is to improve your visual memory, to use your imagination to hold on to content, because our eyes and ears don’t do the remembering. Your subconscious mind doesn’t pick everything up. Only when your mind gets engaged, and the best way to do that is by using your imagination. When you can imagine content and see it clearly in your mind and connect it something that you already know, then you will be able to remember it more clearly and you’d be able to use and recall that information effectively.
[0:09:47.6] MB: I think there’s two kind of fundamental components to that and you touched on both of them, which is the whole piece of the pie of kind of imagining content creating sort of visual markers or whatever term you used to describe them, and then the other pieces, how do you plug that information into existing kind of thought networks and the existing structure of your memories. I’d love to dig in to both of those.
To start with, maybe tell me a little bit more, for someone who’s not as familiar with memory techniques, when you say imagining content, what exactly does that mean?
[0:10:20.7] KH: Well let me just give you a strategy. There’s only really three keys to developing a super memory. You need a place. You need a unique image and you need to glue those two together. So you can remember the word pug, a little dog pug. You got place, unique image and glue.
Let me give an example. Let’s learn Tony Robbins’s 10 emotions of power. SO what we’re going to do, the first emotion is love. If you think about love, what do you think of?
[0:10:47.1] MB: I think about my wife.
[0:10:48.9] KH: You think about your wife. You could imagine your wife maybe standing on your feet or stomping on your feet or you could imagine a big red heart on your feet, so that could represent love. The next emotion is gratitude. So for gratitude it sounds a little bit like graters. I can imagine a cheese grater busy grating your knees. You have a place, you’re putting it in your knees. You have a unique image and you’re gluing them together with a bit of action.
The third one is curiosity. On your thighs, you could imagine a cat on your thighs because curiosity killed the cat. You could imagine a cat digging into your thighs and you can really see it, feel it and use all of your senses to connect to that specific place. On your belt, the next emotion is excitement. You can make your own image there. You can get your belt getting all excited.
What was on the feet? What was the first one?
[0:11:38.3] MB: My wife.
[0:11:39.9] KH: Which would represent?
[0:11:41.3] MB: Love.
[0:11:42.8] KH: Okay. Then on the knees?
[0:11:43.8] MB: The cheese grater?
[0:11:45.4] KH: Cheese greater, which represents?
[0:11:46.8] MB: Gratitude.
[0:11:48.4] KH: Okay. Then on the thighs.
[0:11:50.2] MB: A cat.
[0:11:51.7] KH: Which is?
[0:11:52.7] MB: Curiosity.
[0:11:54.4] KH: Okay. Then on the belt?
[0:11:56.4] MB: I forget what the image was, but excitement.
[0:11:58.8] KH: Excitement, because the belt was getting excited, so you got it there. Then on the stomach you could imagine maybe the terminator trying to get through your stomach, and I can go quite quickly now because now you have a terminator getting through your stomach because that’s determination. You could imagine that you’re trying to get a six pack with determination.
In your left hand you could imagine someone doing the slips, because that’s the emotion for flexibility. To see that image, see a unique image, make it whacky, make it outrageous because illogical images are going to stick in your mind. Then in your other hand you could imagine a super confident person for confidence.
So let me just go through we had at the bottom. So we had love, we had gratitude, curiosity, excitement, determination, flexibility and confidence. On your math you could imagine you’ve got a big smile and that is for cheerfulness. Cheerfulness, a big smile. On your eyes and on your forehead you could imagine putting vitamins in there, because that’s for vitality and energy. On the top of the head, you could imagine that you’re giving away a present or giving away money, because that’s contribution. You can use whatever image is in your mind for contribution. Put it on the top of your head.
So I’ll go through it one more time. So you got love, gratitude, curiosity, excitement, determination, flexibility, confidence, cheerfulness, vitality and contribution. Do you want to try and go for it? See if you got them in memory?
[0:13:22.9] MB: Yeah, I think I have them all memorized.
[0:13:24.5] KH: Okay. Let’s go for it. Let see how it goes.
[0:13:27.4] MB: All right. You want me to go — Now, this is the cool thing about these memory techniques. I could go backwards or forwards or I could go in the middle.
[0:13:33.2] KH: Excellent. Let’s go backwards.
[0:13:35.4] MB: Okay. Top of my head, I envision like a present or something, like a gift. That’s contribution. Then I have like vitamins sort of put into my forehead. That’s vitality or energy. Then big smile in my mouth, that’s cheerfulness. Then in my right hand, I envision like — This is kind of a weird image, but like a conman basically. It’s confidence. Then in my left hand I’ve got a woman, like a ballerina doing the splits, and that’s flexibility. Then I see the terminator like busting out of my stomach, and that’s determination. Then I see my belt as like an excited snake maybe, and so that’s excitement. Then a cat on my thighs, and so that’s curiosity. Then a cheese grater my knee, like grating my knee and painful, but that’s gratitude. Then on my feet is my wife. That’s all 10 of them, which is love.
[0:14:24.8] KH: Excellent. You have them all, because why did it work so well? You had a place. So you used your body. You had a unique image and you used your own unique experience for the images for each of them, because the more you can make it personal, the more it’s going to stick and you glue them together. By giving it action, feeling maybe the pain in your knees when the grater is busy grating your knees, but some people say, “Oh! But this is silly.”
In the beginning you make it illogical with a bit of review and thinking about the content, then it becomes logical, and then you can just hold on to it and you could use it in your day-to-day life and now every single morning you could wake up and say, “What I love in my life? What am I grateful for?” Now you can use it, because in your memory. You have an internal experience of the information and you’re not just observing the information.
[0:15:09.1] MB: Yeah, that’s great. I think that’s really practical, because anybody listening can go through that same experience and simultaneously not only learn those kind of 10 emotions of power, but also see how useful and interesting some of these memory techniques are. It’s something I’ve been sort of personally working on a lot, so I’ve been trying to kind of boost my creativity and my ability to do that.
I also want to get into, and this is more of a technical sort of specific question, but what happens when your sort of memory palaces get crowded and things like that? But before we get into that, I want to talk about the second point you made, which I think is really important, which is the idea or the necessary kind of component of connecting it to something that you already know.
[0:15:47.5] KH: Yeah. The formula that I use is long term memory plus short term memory equals medium term memory. You can use anything that’s already in your long term memory. For example, we just used the body because you know it really well. You’re in it every day. You can use anything. You could use your car and you can use that as a framework, or like you could imagine it as being the paper in your mind. Like the body was the paper. The imagery was like the pen and you’re just writing the imagery on that paper in your mind.
You could use anything that’s really in your long term memory, but all the memory masters are using more than anything else is journeys, because we have a great memory for journeys. You remember what your house looks like, and if you don’t, then I can’t help you with that memory problem. We remember journeys. We remember how we got to work. We remember the routes that we take.
While you’re listening to this podcast, if you’re in your car and you really listen to it later, you are going to remember where you traveled while you’re listening. It’s a natural thing that happens. Using journeys to be able to help you remember, and we have so many journeys in our mind that we could use to be able to connect information to it. That’s what I mean. You’re taking something, a place that’s in your long term memory, unique image to hold on to that short term memory. By reviewing, gluing it together becomes a medium term memory, and then by reviewing it, you got to be able to keep it for a longer time.
[0:17:07.6] MB: It’s a such a good example. It’s really funny, because as someone who obviously host a podcast, and I listen to a lot of podcast and audiobooks, I’ll sometimes be like driving by somewhere or think or a specific time and be like, “Oh! That reminds me of this passage in this audiobook that I was listening to at the time.
So I think anybody who’s listening to the show probably has had similar experience. It just shows you from an evolutionary standpoint, the brain was really designed for visual and spatial memory primarily to be the most important from a survival standpoint. So when you key your memory strategies around visual and spatial memory, you’re suddenly accessing a much richer and deeper toolkit than kind of just auditory memories.
[0:17:48.8] KH: Absolutely, and you need a place to be able to go and find that information again and we’ve all had this experience. You go to specific places, that memory just floods back. So what you’re doing is that you’re consciously using your memory in that way to remember key information that you need for your business and for your life.
[0:18:04.7] MB: So I’ve heard you in the past and I love the example of using journeys. I’ve heard you in the past talk about Google Maps and how you kind of integrate that into being a tool for storing and encoding memories. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
[0:18:18.9] KH: The strategy I get a place, unique image and glue it. You can go to Google Maps. So what I do, I enjoy running. I look at my running routes on Google Maps and I can get all the details with specific stations. What I mean by station is like what we did in the body, the feet would be a station, the knees would be a station and the thighs would be a station. Now you can go into Google Maps and have a look at places that you can put information. Then you have say 100 bits of information, you can turn into a unique image and put it on the Google Map, because you will be able to remember it.
Now you don’t always even have to be at that place or know that place well. You can just go to familiar tourists sites. You can go to the Statue of Liberty, Buckingham Palace or wherever you have maybe wanted to go, and you can walk through it using street view on Google Maps to be able to connect that information. It creates a wonderful place, because it’s really unlimited. You can go and use your entire town or entire city. You can go and use all the different tourist attractions around the world to remember key content. As long as you connect the unique image and glue them together, you can remember massive amounts of information with it.
[0:19:30.4] MB: Is it possible that our brains can get full or sort of jumbled and there’s so much information in there that it’s hard to remember or recall or anything?
[0:19:39.1] KH: I don’t think it could get full, but it can get overwhelmed if you’re using the strategy. If you are using an auditory strategy to try to hold on to content, you only got to be able to hold on to about 7 bits of information. When you are using a method like this, using the journeys or using your house or your body in there, all you’re actually doing is remembering one thing at a time. It’s a place, it’s the image, glue them together, move on.
I don’t believe you can fill up. So there’s no real limit to what you can do with your mind. The only limit is really time. Do you have time to learn all the content that we have out there? But I don’t think there’s any limits.
[0:20:18.2] MB: I’ve heard you say before, the more you know, the easier it is to know more. Can you tell me what that means?
[0:20:26.3] KH: For example, if you have experience in a certain field and you and I both go to a seminar. Let’s say you are an engineer and we go to an engineering seminar and I’m not an engineer. I could use all my memory methods, my memory power, but you’re probably going to come away with more from that seminar because you have experience that you can connect information to, and that’s what I mean by the more you know, the easier to get to know more.
Let’s say for example, even if you just know all 45 presidents of the United States of America, if you have that content when you read more about them, that information will just naturally slide into that framework. Does that make sense?
[0:21:02.3] MB: Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. I think it’s a really important point, which is that the way the brain sort of works from a physical standpoint, is you have all these networks and nodes connected to each other and the more networks that you have and can kind of activate, the more knowledge and experience you have, you can kind of naturally hang these ideas on that lattice work of existing knowledge and plug them in really easily.
[0:21:25.4] KH: Yup, and some researchers say 86 billion brain cells and each brain cell is capable of making 30,000 to 40,000 different connections. So what that really means is that if you read and memorized a book a day and live to be 10 million years old, you’ll probably still never be able to fill your brain up. I mean we have a phenomenal brain. We know a lot about it, but we don’t really understand what’s really happening yet, but hopefully we’ll get there soon.
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[0:23:00.0] MB: I want to come back to something you talked about a moment ago, which is review and the importance of review as kind of a tool of encoding memories for the longer term. Tell me about that.
[0:23:10.1] KH: The first thing is you got to — When you’re learning something is first ask yourself, “Is this something that I need to learn for just in time or for just in case? If it’s for just in time, like for example if I have a presentation tomorrow and is content that I don’t need to keep on reusing, then I’ll just use a memory journey and I’ll hold on to it for a day. But if it’s stuff that I need to know for just in case, for example, I do a lot of business consulting stuff, business frameworks, thinking tools and different business models, now I’m going to have that information on a place, on a journey like what we did with the 10 emotions of power and then I’m going to review it over longer and longer periods of time. The minimum effect it does would be really that you need to review after one hour of learning new information, because your brain will start to let go of information that you don’t really need.
Then say you need to review it after a day or after — So it’s one hour one day, then after about a week, but for some people they need to go and review it after three days. It just depends on how memorable and how unique that content is. Then if you’ve done about the end of the week, then you can spread it out of a longer and longer periods of time, then one month, then two months. Then it will slowly begin to move into your long term memory.
The way that I do it to keep on reviewing is that I put the key information that I need for just in case. I put it into Evernote and I add reminders through the app called to-do-list and I get reminded. So every few days just to go and review this content to keep it alive, because with the methods, you store an information in an illogical way, so you need to get to a place where it’s logical, where it just becomes second nature. So you need to keep on reviewing to renew the information.
[0:24:54.2] MB: I really want to dig into the concrete specifics of this, because I’m a huge Evernote user as well and use it to organize pretty much my entire life and my thoughts and ideas, books summaries, etc. Tell me about — I have a number of questions about this, but tell me a little bit more about sort of how you use Evernote to, let’s say, remember something from a book. I love to even start with sort of the whole lifecycle. Let’s say you read a book, then what do you do in terms of creating a summary. How do you sort of create it in Evernote and then what is the process and how frequently do you review it?
[0:25:27.6] KH: Okay. What I like to do is read over Kindle. I’m using Kindle on my iPhone, and I’d take all of the underlines that I’ve used and I’ll put that into Evernote. Let’s just say, for example, we could use the example, you have these 10 emotions or power or you’ve got any key information. You would put that into Evernote as well. You’ll tag it. So tag it with 10 emotions of power, Tony Robbins. You’ll have tags that will help you to remember exactly what that content is. You can find everything within a few seconds just on Evernote. Then putting it in a specific folder for books that you’re reading as well.
You’d put all that content that you want to remember that you’ve put on journeys, because what I do when I’m reading is — So I’ll get a new book. I’d always have a journey in my mind first so that I can hold on to the key content and then I’d go and put that key content into Evernote. Does that make sense?
[0:26:20.3] MB: It does, and I want to get even more specific on this. Mostly, or just my own use, I’m kind of in the process of revamping a little bit the way that I review and store information and part of that is because I’ve been embarking on kind of a personal journey of using visual markers and memory palaces and stuff more frequently. But let’s even start before you — Let’s say you have a new book. What is your process for before you even read that book? How are you thinking about creating a memory journey or a memory palace? Before you do it, how many ideas are you going to place into that memory palace? What are you going to do kind of as you’re reading it and how frequently are you going to be filling that up, etc.? I’m really, really curious about the very specific details of this process.
[0:27:00.8] KH: Okay. It also depends on book to book, but the overall strategy would be this; I’d get the book. I would first do an overview and I’ll just overview the book, see what it looks like, have a look at the table of content. I’ll continually make predictions. What I think this all about? What I really know about it, because the more you know, the easier to get to know more. Once I’ve overviewed the book, then I do a preview of the book. I got to find out and see what is it that I would like to specifically know from this book.
If you’d think about — Remember when people used to read newspapers? You’d first overview the newspaper and then you’re going to preview what are those specific articles that you need to read, that are important to your life, that are relevant to your life that you really need to improve your business or any area. Then you would take that content and you decide, “Okay. Those are the ones that I’m going to read. These are the ones that I need to remember.” Then you do an in-view. This is where you’d go and get that content, put it on specific journeys that you’ve allocated for that book. You can either go and even remember the table of content if that’s going to help you to develop the framework.
Normally it’s just the whole lot of lists, 7 habits of highly effective people. You’ve got the 13 keys or the 13 keys of trust or the 17 keys of customer service or whatever you need, and then you put that on to a journey and you go and review by putting it into Evernote and then creating a review system for the information to continue to come back to you.
Every book is different and every book has a specific purpose, but the overall strategy would be overview, preview, in-view, what is the key content that I need, and then I’ll go and review by putting it on to journeys so that I can remember that content and then I’m putting it into Evernote.
[0:28:42.6] MB: So when you create the note in Evernote, is that just sort of a list of, let’s say, the 10 emotions of power, or is that like a more of a description of what your memory journey looks like?
[0:28:53.4] KH: It will just be the content, because if I’m reviewing one hour or one day, one week, I will know where I’ve put that content. Sometimes I can also just put a little note and say, “I’ll use this running route or I’ll use this specific place on Google Maps just an extra reminder.” Normally, the content will just remind me to go to this specific place that I need.
[0:29:17.3] MB: If you’d be willing to kind of go into details, I think the example of the 10 emotions of power was a really concrete way for people to think about how to encode information using visual markers or these kind of unique images on their body as a specific place, but I’d love to hear maybe a specific memory palace or memory journey of yours so that listeners can have a really sort of explicit understanding of how you think about those memories. Let’s say you start on a journey, where is that journey and how are you kind of encountering the markers throughout that?
[0:29:47.9] KH: Okay. Let’s say specifically I’m reading the book Bald, and in Bald they talk about 6 key things that are going to really — Six key trends for the next century. The first trend is networks and sensors. I would create a journey, let’s just use my house and we’d say the kitchen would be networks and sensors. In my mind, I would put networks and sensors in the front of the kitchen. The second area, I’m going to go through all six, just to give an example. Then we’d go into my lounge, and in the lounge we have — Is infinite computing. The front door of my lounge, I would have lots and lots of computers maybe jumping into the room or something, making it unique, making it illogical. Then say the third place would maybe be my office, and in the office we would have artificial intelligence and there I can imagine this big plastic brain to remind me of artificial intelligence.
Now I have three rooms for each of these keys. So anything that I read about networks and sensors, I’m going to store that all in the kitchen. If there’s four, five keys that I need to know there, then I’ll put that content in the kitchen. Then if I have anything with infinite computing, there might be four, five key things that I want to use to be able to instantly recall my understanding of the content. I can place a content there and the same with the office with the artificial intelligence. Is that clear enough?
[0:31:13.1] MB: Yeah, I think that’s great. Again, I mean I think you and I are both — I mean, you are obviously much more fluid than I am, but I understand these principles, but I want to make sure that like somebody listening can digest this. To a listeners that’s sort of thinking what is he talking about putting infinite computing into his lounge? What does that mean?
I think it sounds kind of goofy or ridiculous, but the example earlier with the 10 emotions of power I think is really pertinent in the sense that from sort of a neurological standpoint, when you create these vivid and unique images, your mind, your hippocampus specifically which is sort of a piece of your brain that helps encode memories and trigger things that are worth remembering or not, specifically says, “Oh! This is something really vivid, interesting and unique,” and so it remembers it.
When you create these ridiculous images, like a cheese grater on your knee. I know that stands for gratitude, and it’s much easier to use the natural language of your brain, which is visual and spatial thinking to encode these memories. However kind of goofy or ridiculous the visual markers, a.k.a. unique images that you create are, that is what makes it so that your brain kind of says, “Ooh! This is important information and it makes it sticky. It makes it easier to remember.”
I just want to reiterate that, because I think it’s really important for somebody listening that maybe isn’t as familiar with some of these memory strategies to realize that it sounds kinds of goofy and weird, but if you actually try it out, and I think if you just actually did the exercise we did with the 10 emotions of power, you’d be surprised in a week from now, you could probably remember all 10 of the just like that.
I was doing an exercise the other day where I was memorizing 20 random words and I could still remember probably 80% of them just because I can remember the sort of unique and ridiculous visual images that I created to remember them.
[0:32:54.8] KH: These methods are really simple, but they’re not easy. The method is really simple, a place, unique image, glue, but you have to practice it. You have to work with it. The first day you jumped into your car, you didn’t start driving. You needed to work with it. You needed to get those key fundamentals. Learn to become more creative, play with it. Don’t be one of those people that say, “This doesn’t work for me.” I don’t think this way. I don’t think this way naturally either. I’ve trained my mind to think this way, because it works and you can store an unlimited amount of information with this method. In the beginning it may be wacky, it maybe illogical, but with a bit of review, it will become logical and you’ll be able to instantly recall your understanding too.
[0:33:39.2] MB: You’re a testament to this. Literally, someone with severe dyslexia to a world champion memory expert, kind of living proof that it’s not the kind of thing that if you try these tactics once and you say, “Oh! It didn’t really work for me.” It’s something you have to train and improve.
[0:33:54.9] KH: Yeah. You have to keep on training, keep on working with it. Some of medical specialist students now can learn a whole book in three days just by — Because they’ve trained themselves. They had put the work in. If you don’t put the work in, it’s going to be slow at first. So you have to slow to smooth, smooth to fast, slow to smooth, smooth to fast.
It’s going to be a process. It is a skill. It’s something that you have to learn. But you can’t just do it once and then all of a sudden think, “Oh! This didn’t work for me.” Keep on working with it. Let’s say if you have some students and they have an exam, don’t go and try and remember all your content today with it. Maybe just try it with 10% and then the next week you’d try and add a little bit more and you just keep on building up until you get to a point where you become a master with this content.
[0:34:38.8] MB: How much time — This is another thing that I’m really curious about personally. How much time do you spend either daily or weekly on the consumption of new information versus the review of existing information? Because I feel like especially as someone who is consuming such vast amounts of information as you are, how do you have the time to go back and review all of it?
[0:34:59.3] KH: I make the time. I do an hour every single day where I am just training my memory and I’m also doing things like remembering cards and numbers. It’s like being exercise bike. There’s no real — It doesn’t really get you anywhere, but it helps to train your memory. It helps you to become more creative with content. I also spend an hour a day reading a new book. I try to get through as much book, as many books as I can and sometimes I can do up to three, four hours I try to get through a book a day or to hold the key content from the book every single day. I’m scheduling time in my diary. I think that’s the problem, is that most people try to manage time and not control time. When you control time, that you make a discipline. Every day I go to the gym I spend an hour, every day I would run, every day I would do my memory training. Discipline is also a key with all of these. That’s a whole other topic on its own.
[0:35:52.5] MB: I’m also curious, as I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge Evernote user myself and I know you’re a very avid user of Evernote as well. How do you think about the balance between a tool like Evernote that kind of externalizes your memory and your information versus storing it in your own memory?
[0:36:11.0] KH: One of the things that I do is that I outsource all those things that are not a priority, that I have reminders for things like take out the trash, or reminders for all these things that are not key to my life. Evernote and to do list and Dropbox and all of that, that’s great for that. I use my memory methods to remember key information that I absolutely need to have an internal experience with like a specific business framework or something that I’m using for coaching, for writing or speaking and I use my memory for that specific content. Evernote, I outsource all of the things that I don’t really need to hold in my mind. I keep all my review lists in there as well so that I can constantly keep that information alive overtime.
[0:36:57.8] MB: For somebody who is listening who thinks between something like I can basically Google anything and I can store the rest of the information I need in Evernote or bookmarks or wherever, why do I need my memory at all? What would you say to them?
[0:37:11.7] KH: Imagine I took your memory out of your brain, who would you be? You’d be nothing. In fact, everything you are today is because of your amazing memory. The more memories that you have properly stored in your brain, the more unique combination and connections you can make. But if you don’t have anything in your brain, you can’t make those unique combinations and connections. Yes, we can look up content, but you’re not bossing your general knowledge. Now if you’re thinking about reading, if you’re reading something like the cat sat on the mat, but you don’t know what a cat and you don’t know what a mat is, you are not going to be really reading that information. You’re not going to be really taking that information. So that is the danger about observing information compared to having this internal experience that you can only do with your memory, because memory is not about just learning content or remembering content. It’s about boosting your creativity with content that’s already in your mind.
[0:38:05.0] MB: I think that’s such a key thing to remember or understand, is that it’s not just about sort of filling your mind with facts and figures and random information, but once you have that information in your working memory, these subconscious can start to recombine and process and you can have these novel and creative insights. Without having all that information downloaded into your brain, you’re robbing yourself of the ability to see connections where they may not be and create kind of novel and new insights.
[0:38:33.9] KH: If you don’t know content, you’ve got no control over that content and if you have no control over that content, you get bad results. If you get bad results, you’re not going to like what you do. If you don’t like what you do, you’re not going to really get to know more and you don’t want to keep on going. That’s why it’s so important to know content, because when you have it, it’s absolute control.
I mean would you hire someone for the ability to Google information? You wouldn’t. You want people with experience. You wouldn’t allow someone to operate on you if they had to continually look at a video to see how it’s all done. You want people with information on their fingertips and that they have absolute control of that content.
[0:39:11.7] MB: So do you find that — And I know we’ve touched on this already, but it’s something that I still kind of at least sort of a limiting belief or fear that I have about these memory strategies. Do you find that your memory palaces get too cluttered or crowded or sort of stuff full of ideas, and how do you deal with that?
[0:39:31.5] KH: I have two keys. I have information I need to learn for just in time and I have information I need to learn for just in case. My just in case journeys would be a specific location. For example, if I’m learning the 17 key customer service principles from the book The Kindness Revolution, then I would go and store that at a specific business and I’ll leave that content there and that is the only that that content will be. I won’t override that or put any other content there. So I can always have that as the location for that specific content.
For information that I want to remember for in just time, so like just for a presentation I maybe need to tomorrow and then I need to do a different one a few days later, then I put the content on a journey and 72 hours later I can reuse that journey again. You just let that information go. The journey will naturally clear out and then you can keep on reviewing that content.
The secret would be to go and find journeys that you need for just in time and then have specific journeys for just in case. If it’s key content that you need for your business, for your life or for your studies, go and put it at a specific shopping mall and leave it there, keep on reviewing it and that will only be the place where you can find that content.
[0:40:46.4] MB: How would you distinguish, and maybe you wouldn’t distinguish, but I’m curious between a memory a palace and a memory journey.
[0:40:52.5] KH: I think it’s really just words. They’re really same thing. The memory palace, I think it became popular from the TV show Mentalist, the guy kept on saying about memory palaces. Memory palace would be any house, journey, any place that’s in your long term memory that you could use to store content. Some people [inaudible 0:41:12.2] specific palaces, but you don’t need to do that. It’s just using journeys, using house. If you think about how much place and how many places you have in your mind right now, you’ve got your house, you’ve got friend’s houses, you have shopping malls, you have university schools, holiday resorts. I mean there’s just so much place in your mind that you can use to store content.
[0:41:33.2] MB: Even sort of virtual locations, and I know, obviously we talked about earlier about how you use Google Maps as one of these kind of tactics, but as somebody who plays video games, and I’m sure many of our listeners play video games as well. These virtual maps and worlds from video games, I could still vividly remember the tiniest details of a lot of these places. Even if you ever were to run out of physical spaces, which is almost impossible, you can start to kind of get into these virtual spaces as well.
[0:41:58.9] KH: You can use anything that’s in your long term memory. You could anything that is a place for you and you could store the content there. I personally don’t like to use the virtual video games and that because it’s not as real as using a Google Map or actually being on that physical locations.
First price is always to have the physical location. Next, you could use a Google Map. If you play a lot of video games, you can also maybe use that if it works for you. The secret is if it works, keep it, if it doesn’t work, then just let it go and try something else.
[0:42:33.3] MB: That’s sort of 72 hour memory journey that you use or the one that resets in 72 hours, for the kind of just in time information. I guess, how is that distinguished from a place? Like let’s say we stored a bunch of memories in a shopping mall that we wanted to always have be in that specific location, or we stored them at the Taj Mahal or whatever, what are these sort of shorter just in time memory journeys? Are they in your house? Are they walking down the street? How do they differ from these really permanent places?
[0:43:01.5] KH: It depends. For example, with my presentations, I always open up my presentation remembering a 60 digit number in 20 seconds. I need a journey for that and tomorrow I’m going to need a journey again. I have set out that Monday would be this specific journey and I actually give it a week for the journey to clear out. But these are journeys are different places. It would be best friend’s houses. It would be specific malls that I like a lot, and then each day I would have a different journey, a different place of a different palace that I can use.
[0:43:34.1] MB: Basically, places that you go more frequently where the memories are kind of being washed over regularly. These are the ones you use for sort of shorter memory palaces.
[0:43:42.0] KH: That I use for shorter ones, then I decide and allocated them specific days. Monday would always be this friend of mine’s house, then Tuesday would be that place, that shopping mall, Wednesday would be that. So that I could just keep on going through and it will just naturally clear out.
The key to accelerate learning is getting super organized. It’s getting organized with your journeys, creating places. It’s bit of hard work in the beginning, but you’re creating a super system that you can hold on to an unlimited amount of content.
[0:44:08.6] MB: Tell me a little bit more about the importance of organization to becoming sort of a super learner.
[0:44:14.2] KH: Getting journeys in your mind, getting houses in your mind. Making lists, making maps, maybe putting them into Evernote or into a storage system that you prefer. Going like let’s say around my office. So the first place maybe the cupboard, then the printer, then the stapler, then the watch, then the computer. I’d write that in and get to know those journeys really well so that I don’t have to ever think about the journey, because it has to become like paper, that when you’re busy writing on paper, you don’t think about the paper. You’re thinking about the content that you want to put on that paper.
You would go and organize journeys, put them into Evernote and have places for specific content that you would want to learn. If you’re reading a book, you find a book and if a specific book happens to be Awaken the Giant Within You, think, “What place does Awaken the Giant Within remind me of?” Then I’d think about a theme park where I saw this giant and now I’ve got a journey that I could use with that. In that, you’re organizing content but you’re also giving yourself flexibility to be able to learn any information that you want to learn.
[0:45:18.1] MB: That makes a lot of sense, and it’s really helpful. I know we’ve been kind of getting into a lot of the specifics and kind of really concrete questions about this stuff, but I think it’s really important as somebody who’s trying to implement a lot of these strategies in my whole life, these are the questions I have. I think for listeners who are interested in developing a super memory or leveraging some of the tactics of the world’s memory champions, this has been a great exploration of a lot of those kind of key learnings and challenges.
[0:45:44.0] KH: It does take a bit of work. As I said, it’s simple, but it’s not easy, but just break it down slowly. Make small changes overtime and you will be able to get it. You can’t change your destination overnight, but you can always change your direction. Just decide I’m just going to go and learn the news tonight and watch the news and get keywords and have that in your memory. Go and learn the street names. Go and learn a shopping list. Have a bit of fun with the information. Play with it until you get to a place where you can learn any information. You really can. In the beginning it’s hard, but as you work with it, it’s going to get easier and easier every single day.
[0:46:21.7] MB: I think that’s another great point. I’ve heard you say this before as well, but there’s no such thing as kind of a quick fix or a magic strategy. It’s really just putting in the hard work. The tactics are simple, but they’re not easy.
[0:46:34.7] KH: As Jim Rohn said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. It’s the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” The fundamentals are really easy. All the memory masters are going to tell you the same. Place, unique image, glue, or long term memory plus short term memory equals medium long memory. You keep on working with that, you are going to get results and take your memory to a new level.
[0:46:58.1] MB: I love that quote. It really succinctly kind of captures — One of my core beliefs and ethos is about just life and success in general. For somebody who’s been listening to this conversation and wants to kind of take the first step and implement some of these memory strategies into their lives, what would be kind of an action item or a piece of homework that you would give them to get started?
[0:47:19.4] KH: Really start small. Go and find specific books on memory. I have a book on memory as well. You can go and learn more about it, but a smaller action will be just create a journey, think about maybe your house or think about a running route or maybe a shopping mall, and just let someone to write down 10 words and let them call them out and try to use a unique image. You might get all 10, you might get 5 out of 10, but more that you practice with it, the easy and easy it’s going to get.
So just every single day, just try and crate journeys, try and play with this body list, maybe putting information in your car and keep on looking for a place, unique image and glue and just play with it first and then you can start to get a bit more advanced, get bigger journeys, start to learn more content using it for learning, for studies, for personal development or any area of your life that you want to improve.
[0:48:11.8] MB: I actually had one other point that I’d love to just clarify and get a little bit better understanding of, is I think I have a really good understanding of place and unique image. When you say glue, is that just making it sort of so vivid or ridiculous or kind of over the top that the brain remembers it or is there something else there that I haven’t sort of fully described?
[0:48:31.9] KH: The glue would be making of the top. So using your sensors, using your sight, your sound, touch, feel, everything, exaggerating the information and adjusting the information and giving it action. You can see that greater. You can feel that greater. You can see the cat. You can touch the cat. It’s maybe a big hair, furry cat and you can see that. The more that you do that, the more it’s going to glue the content to the place.
[0:48:57.3] MB: Perfect. Kevin, for listeners who want to find out more about you and your work, where can they find you? Where they can find your books, etc. online?
[0:49:06.5] KH: The book is available on Amazon.com. So it’s Unlimited Memory and my website is supermemory.co.za, or in the U.S. that’s co.za. Supermemory.co.za.
[0:49:21.5] MB: Kevin, thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing all these wisdom. I love how kind of practical and tactical we got. I think for listeners who actually went through the exercise of placing those 10 markers on their bodies, I think you’d be surprised how effectively you’ll be able to remember that marker days or weeks later without any sort of work. If you actually review it, you can really, really encode it into your memory and have a great grasp of the 10 emotions of power.
Kevin, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all these wisdom.
[0:49:48.0] KH: Thank you very much for having me on this show. Thank you.
[0:49:51.1] MB: Thank you so much for listening to The Science of Success. We created this show to help you, our listeners, master evidence-based growth. I love hearing from listeners. If you want to reach out, share your story or just say hi, shoot me an email. My email is email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you and I read and respond to every single listeners email.
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Oh! You’re still here? You’re still listening to the show? That’s exciting, because there’s something special I want to share with you. Today, you’re going to get a little behind the scenes peek at what are conversations look like after we wrap an interview. This one was particularly fascinating and demonstrates the power of the memory techniques that Kevin shared in the episode, but you’ll also get to see our producer, Austin, will be joining us and it will be a nice little conversation. We decided to throw this in as something for listeners who stay and listen to the end of the episode.
So without further ado, here is our secret end conversation with Kevin Horsley.
[0:52:36.3] MB: All right, cool. That’s a wrap.
[0:52:38.3] KH: Awesome. Thank you.
[0:52:40.3] AF: Well done guys. That was great. I hear I missed some incredible content. I’ll have to go back and listen to that here in a second.
[0:52:45.8] MB: Yeah, Austin, you missed like the key piece of the whole conversation, which is Kevin taught me the 10 emotions of power using visual markers. So now I have them all memorized.
[0:52:58.3] AF: Oh man! Can you read them off right now?
[0:53:00.9] MB: Yeah, so I’ll tell you the markers too, but you kind of had to go through the exercise to get the full thing. We won’t waste Kevin’s time, but I’ll tell them to you.
[0:53:08.6] KH: It’s fine. I’m want to test you as well.
[0:53:10.8] MB: Okay perfect.
[0:53:12.0] AF: Let’s do it.
[0:53:12.9] MB: Giant present on top of my head, and that’s contribution, and then there’s vitamins being like dumped into my forehead, that’s vitality or energy. I’ve got a big smile on my face, like an oversized smile, almost like a fake plastic smile, and that is — Oh my gosh! What is that one? I can see the image, but I lost —
[0:53:33.8] KH: Cheerfulness.
[0:53:34.6] MB: Cheerfulness! That’s right. Cheerfulness. Yeah, that happens to me sometimes. I remember the image, but I can’t remember what I encoded to it.
[0:53:40.1] KH: I just want to stop you with that. When that happens, you’ll only really make the mistake once. When you do that, it will encode — It will become even stronger, probably stronger than all the rest, because you made a mistake. You fixed it and it will be there forever.
[0:53:54.4] AF: That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s cool. All right.
[0:53:56.2] MB: All right. So anyway, on my right hand I have like a little miniature con artist, and that’s confidence, and on my left hand I have a tiny ballerina doing the splits, and that’s flexibility. Then I see the terminator like busting out of my stomach, and that’s determination. Then there’s like an excited snake, belt, that’s excitement. On my thigh is like a cat, it stands for curiosity. Then there’s a cheese grater like grating my knee, and that stands for gratitude, and then there is like my wife, like a miniature version of my wife standing on my feet, and that’s stands for love. That was backwards [inaudible 0:54:29.2].
[0:54:30.9] AF: Well done man.
[0:54:32.4] MB: That’s backwards. I could do it the other way too.
[0:54:35.0] AF: That’s incredible. Yeah, I love — Kevin, doing the research on you, I love the 20 numbers — Or not 20. How many numbers was it in 20 seconds?
[0:54:44.3] KH: There were two, but the one that I did on that one TV show is 27 digits in 4 seconds, and then the other one —
[0:54:50.7] AF: I saw the one on TED.
[0:54:52.3] KH: On TED. That was 60 digits in — 54 digits in 20 seconds forwards and backwards.
[0:54:59.8] AF: Incredible. When I was watching that the whole time, I was like fingers crossed. I was like, “Come on, man! Come on!” No. This is great. Matt, well done. That was backwards even? So obviously, learned that there.