Better your brain … for bigger career prospects.
“But he was like, ‘no way’.”
The ad for the memory improvement course showed a picture of a man with the tagline: “an IQ of 140 but he can’t remember peoples’ names”.
Chris Lyons, aged seven at the time, was intrigued.
“The course was … really expensive and I only had pocket money so I nagged my dad, and said ‘I really want to do it’,” the now self-made memory guru says.
// Lyons had to wait a few more years before indulging what started off as an interest and became a vocation.
“I was at university in my final year doing an honours degree and I was finding I was overwhelmed with all the information,” he says.
“I started looking for techniques that would help me study more effectively and I came across a number of books about memory and effective reading.
“I just basically taught myself a lot of those techniques and over the years I’ve played with them and refined them.”
Whatever he did must have worked.
In 2006 Lyons set a national record for memorising and reciting the first 4,400 digits of the mathematical ratio pi. (That record was broken in 2009 by a Melbourne student who was able to memorise more than 10,000).
But he insists he wasn’t born with an exceptional memory.
“My memory’s pretty much the same as everybody else’s – it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exceptional either,” he says.
“This is one of the myths about memory. People think,’oh I’ve got a bad memory’ or ‘I’ve got a good memory’.
“But you should think of memory as a skill. Learn a few basic rules, apply them, and do a bit of practise, and like anything you can become pretty good at it.”
Lyons now sells memory skills to people hoping to get a competitive edge in business, studies and even social situations.
He says we can all get better at remembering things by learning and applying some basic techniques.
Having a good memory isn’t all about stunts and party tricks, the author and memory workshop presenter says. It can also make us richer and more successful in the workplace.
“Whether it’s remembering peoples’ names or being able to stand up and give a presentation, and deliver it and know all your material and be confident, that creates a perception that you are competent,” he says.
“Remembering information helps you avoid making mistakes, and being able to access information is time-efficient.
“Of course the big one is remembering people’s names.”
But Lyons says no amount of training will turn you into a walking supercomputer or bestow perfect recall.
“It’s a myth that people can remember everything,” he says.
“Even people at the top level of the world memory championships, they forget stuff, and they forget because they have the same brain as everyone else.”
HOW TO REMEMBER THINGS
Learning a language: When you’re learning a language memory techniques can help you quickly master a core vocabulary, Lyons says. The key is in forming a visual association. For example, the French word for bread is pronounced “pan”. Lyons suggests imagining a frying pan with a loaf of bread in it. “Then when you hear the word ‘pan’ you say, what was the image?” he says.
Remembering names: First, on actually listening to the name, Lyons says, create an image related to the name. “If the name was ‘Bill’, maybe you can picture them with a bill in their hand, and they’re jumping up and down and they’re not very happy; maybe they’ve given you lots of dollar bills,” he says. “Or you think of Bill Clinton in the oval office – you could have Monica (Lewinsky) in there as well.”
Remembering where you put your keys: Once again, focus is the key, Lyons says. “You might just say out loud, ‘I’m putting my keys on the table’,” or you might imagine putting them on the table and then they explode and blow up the table. Then when you ask yourself ‘where are the keys’ you’ll remember, ‘well they blew up the table, didn’t they?”‘
Remembering appointments and tasks: There are several ways of doing this and one is by using the number rhyme technique, Lyons says. Firstly, you need to take numbers and create an image for each one – for example 1-gun, 2-shoe, 3-tree. Then you associate each image with a task. “For example, if the first thing you have to do is go to the dry cleaners you might imagine going in with a gun and holding them up. If the second is a radio interview, you might imagine being late and the radio announcer banging his shoe on the desk in anger.”