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Nelson Dellis on Becoming a Memory Champion (Deep Dive)

Elizabeth Filips

In this Deep Dive I have a chat with 4x USA Memory Champion Nelson Dellis. Some of the highlights of our discussion can be found below, as well as time-stamps if you fancy listening to us talk :)

Nelson Dellis is one of the leading memory experts in the world, traveling around the world as a competitive Memory Athlete, Memory Consultant, Published Author and highly sought-after Keynote Speaker. As a Memory Champion, Mountaineer, and Alzheimer's Disease Activist, he preaches a lifestyle that combines fitness, both mental and physical, with proper diet and social involvement.

👱🏼‍♂️ Nelson   🎬YouTube / 📸 Instagram / 📚Facebook / ⛓LinkedIn / 🐤Twitter

🖥 Nelsons's Website:

📖 Nelson's books


00:25 - Background and Career
01:00 - Becoming A Memory Athlete
03:00 - Competing In A Memory Competition
04:20 - Benefits To Life Beyond Competition (CLIP)
06:50 - Photographic Memories - Are they a myth?
10:50 - The Foundation of Memory Techniques
19:20 - The Peg System + The Mind Palace
20:00 - The Peg Method
23:55 - Using The Peg Method As A Student
26:30 - Peg Systems
29:00 - Are novel techniques/systems valuable?
30:10 - Ali's Experience of Peg Systems
31:45 - Memory Techniques as a Superpower
32:45 - The Mind / Memory Palace
35:40 - How Many Memory Palaces Do You Need
38:00 - Organising Memory Palaces
40:00 - Memory Palaces 2.0
43:30 - The Key to Learning New Content
45:00 - Long Term Retention
48:10 - Intelligence & Memory
50:25 - Memorisation in the Digital Age + The Second Brain
55:30 - Memory, Alzheimers + Brain Health
59:30 - Which memory techniques should be taught in school?
01:01:20 - Reading
01:01:45 - Reading Faster + Reading More
01:04:20 - The 80/20 of Reading Faster
01:08:55 - Speed Reading and Retention
01:12:20 - The Benefits of Speed
01:13:50 - What we're currently reading...
01:17:50 - Magic and Memory
01:21:55 - Life Advice and Teaching
01:28:20 - Identity
01:30:40 - Health + Fitness
01:42:00 - Daily Routine
01:44:30 - Ali's Travel/Don't Travel Conundrum
01:48:00 - SkillShare Discussion

Live Blog

On health and fitness

  • There are foods you need to cut out of your life to improve your appearance and fitness: processed food and sugars
  • Define your goal: do you want to be fitter (faster, stronger) or look better

On reading faster

  • Use your finger to follow your reading
  • Don’t read from margin to margin, your peripheral vision can allow you to see more words than you’d think
  • You can make visuals of what you’re reading in your mind simultaneously

On school education

  • You could build off associating numbers and letters with images to children, and enable them to have better memorising techniques during their life
  • Early visualisation techniques would be amazing to work with from the start

On intelligence

  • You don’t have to be a genius to be able to use these memory techniques
  • This is the way our brains should work, no-one just teaches us to do it

Memory palaces

  • We remember spatial information very well, and we are in spaces all the time - so we have these already memories
  • You can use these spaces to encode information
  • And they are essentially endless, you can always find new ones
  • It is a route you can imagine in a space you are familiar with (your home, a scene from a movie, a video game etc), you chose locations along the way and you place images along the way too
  • It seems like a complicated way to store memories, but it makes it stick extremely effectively
  • If you want to learn something short term (you don’t care to remember it again), you can reuse your memory palaces (by the time you reuse it, you’ve probably forgotten the information anyway)
  • If you want to store something forever, you do not reuse that memory palace - there is no interference with other information
  • Are best use for things that have order to them
  • Memory techniques will get information in your head, and they will be quite sticky. Reviewing is what will get that information to stay there
Memory techniques are shortcuts, but you still need to practice

Dominic system (for numbers)

  • You can use people instead of consonants: 15 - AE - Albert Einstein

Major system (for numbers)

  • You learn a consonant sound for each digit 0 to 9
  • You can therefore construct words by adding in vowels

Creating images for memorisation

  • The stronger those images are: bizarre, sexual, unordinary - the more likely you are to be able to memorise them
  • As soon as something happens that is incoherent with your current model of the world - that is when learning happens
  • How to memorise George Washington was the first president: Washing - washing machine, one - is an apple from your memory system, so you think of a washing machine washing a ton of apples

Memory techniques

  • Memory Techniques focus on being able to access information rather than committing it to memory - memory problems are rather filing and recall problems
  • You often get an ‘aha - I remember that now’ moments - shows that information was that somewhere
  • So focus should be on encoding and organising of information

Photographic memory

  • No-one has claimed they have a photographic memory and has won a memory competition
  • Nelson doesn’t believe photographic memory exists
  • Autobiographical memories (people who can remember very detailed, very specific details in their life) are still not better than the average person (when both untrained) at memory competitions

What being a memory athlete is

  • The effect of Alzheimer’s on memory what initiated his interest in memory
  • Memory championships: who can memorise the most things in the shortest amount of time
  • You can use the same techniques you use in a memory competition to commit anything in your life to memory
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