Here is an interview with ABC Darwin about my recent trip to the Northern Territory, the techniques of the Art of Memory and the AoM Schools pilot project. Enjoy!
In 2015 we launched the AoM Schools project with the aim of collecting data on the effects of the techniques of the Art of Memory on academic outcomes. This pilot program began with the training of a select group of school teachers in Darwin, Australia and will encompass a number of different research projects. The story was covered by the NT News (among others) and can be read below. More information on the research project can be found here.
Should we take a drug that improves our memory, makes us more alert, or actually smarter? Australian researchers are trying to find out just how many students and workers are using prescription ADHD pills, sleep drugs and beta blockers for purposes other than prescribed.
Meet a young professional who faked ADHD symptoms to get a Ritalin prescription (and, she says, two promotions), a philosopher who once took narcolepsy drugs, a former Mr Universe who admits to steroid use, and a “mental athlete” who hated the ADD prescription he was forced to take as a teen but now sees enormous potential in the drugs.
Hi everyone. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything but that’s because I’ve been busy with some very exciting projects. I’ll have more to share on these very soon but in the meanwhile, here is some footage from my involvement in the 2015 TEDxSydney event, along with illustrated tutorials on the Method of Loci and the Substitute Word Method. I teamed up with the Post-it brand to put on some workshops and to deliver a live demonstration of memory techniques at the Sydney opera house.
If you find these interesting and want to dig a little deeper, I discuss in greater details how to combine these two techniques for foreign language learning here.
One final note: If you haven’t done so already, please be sure to follow me on my new public Facebook page here for almost daily material on improving memory and creativity. I can also be found on Twitter at @DanielKilov
Tutorial 1: The Method of Loci
Tutorial 2: The Substitute Word Method
This article was written by Kathy Graham and originally published on the Happy + Well blog here under the title “The art of memory”.
I don’t remember a lot of things. I have a shelf full of books I’ve read that I could easily read again and experience as if I was picking them up for the first time. I can look at old diaries and find it incredible that I have no recollection of many of the events I’ve described that once clearly had a big impact on me. I can spend a week or two researching to death a topic that I have to write about and then once the piece is published, forget it entirely.
In other words, I have a crap memory though I would love dearly to change this state of affairs. Hence I’m very interested in hearing about any techniques that might help me do this, including those described here by accomplished memory athlete Daniel Kilov, who presented at our Mind & Its Potential conference.
But Kilov wasn’t always a star at remembering stuff. He says that at school, his teachers despaired of his sieve-like mind. Now, though, they wouldn’t recognise their former student. In 2011, Kilov competed in the World Memory Championships and secured second place behind his coach and mentor Tansel Ali, as well as broke the Australian record for the abstract images event, having memorised the order of 99 abstract shapes. He says this was only after a few months of practice, and convinced him of the power of what he describes as “a small set of very simple techniques.”
Kilov says that when he tells people he’s a memory athlete, many wonder why he bothers given it’s so easy in today’s world to retrieve whatever information we want by clicking on Google or Wikipedia. He believes their question goes to the “heart of the conception we have of memory and of the relationship that we think it has to learning”, a conception that’s formed when we’re at school and asked to memorise through boring repetition. “It’s a conception of memory as being a dull, impersonal and ineffective parroting,” he says.
His preferred conception of memory is that it’s creative, personal, fun and highly effective. Moreover, he espouses the value of memory techniques as a potential revolution in education. Not that this would be the first time excellent recall skills have enjoyed high status in academia. As a matter of historical fact, the art of memory has its origins in ancient Greece where, says Kilov, it was practiced universally by the great thinkers of the time who “recognised that creativity, focus and critical analysis were the kinds of things that could only happen in the minds of well-trained mnemonics.”
Kilov explains that such techniques, for example, the use of imagination to create links and associations, continued to be used right up until the time of the Renaissance “where they formed a cornerstone of the education system and were taught alongside grammar, rhetoric and logic. In fact, it was only with the Protestant Reformation that the art of memory was driven underground and replaced with the kinds of rote methods of memorisation that we know today.”
The good news is these techniques can be easily resurrected for use in the 21st century. Kilov says, “I think it’s time for the art of memory to make a return to our classrooms. Of course, learning isn’t just about memorising. It’s about being able to retrieve information, to critically assess it, to analyse it and to synthesise it. But none of these things can occur unless you have that information at your fingertips, unless you can see how it fits into a bigger picture and that can’t be done unless that information is stored in your memory.”
Many of you enjoyed my interview with Tansel Ali, the 3x Australian Memory Champion and human phone book. Did you know that Tansel and I have been good friends for many years? In fact, it was Tansel who first taught me memory techniques. Below is a clip from back when I’d only just started training with Tansel. Enjoy!
This article was originally printed in Issue 417 (May/June) of the Australian Mensa magazine, TableAus.
Tansel Ali is Australia’s most successful memory athlete. He is three-time Australian memory champion and holds a handful of Australian records. He is also the author of The Yellow Elephant and is famous for having memorised 2 Yellow Pages phone books in only 24 days. His work has been featured on a variety of media including the award-winning ABC TV documentary ‘Redesign My Brain’ with Todd Sampson. Tansel is also a dear friend and coach – It was he who first taught me the techniques I used in the 2011 Australian Memory Championships. I caught up with him recently at the Creativity and Innovation Conference in Melbourne and scheduled an interview. Fortunately, we remembered.
Daniel Kilov: Aside from being the 3x Australian Memory Champion, you are probably best known for memorizing the entire Sydney Yellow Pages in only three weeks. How did this opportunity come about? How did you learn such a huge volume in such a short time?
Tansel Ali: A PR company contacted me wanting me to memorise the Yellow Pages as marketing for their display advertising. Initially I thought it was a crazy idea, however after some basic calculations I decided I could be up for the challenge. Once I accepted to do the memory feat I was informed that I only had 24 days to memorise everything. After 24 days I was flown to Sydney and tested at a large convention as well as several live TV and radio interviews. In order to learn such a huge volume in the time that I had, I had to develop a thorough plan and analysis of the feat. This included finding out how many ads to memorise, which techniques to use, duration of memorisation, the number of times for review, recall period, as well as the type of sacrifices I had to make like taking time off work, finding quiet memorisation spots, and so on. Once the plan was developed then I had to make sure I executed it accordingly.
Daniel Kilov: The title of your first book on memory, The Yellow Elephant is definitely evocative of the Yellow Pages. Is there a link there?
Tansel Ali: The yellow represents the yellow from the Yellow Pages and elephant symbolising memory. It is also the term I used to form my own memory concept, which is to take abstract data and encode it into meaningful information. By naming something that is visual, it helps the person remember the book title, rather than a bunch of words that may not make sense. It is very much like an icon. As they say, a picture is a thousand words.
Daniel Kilov: You’ve been involved in competitive memory sports for over ten years now. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the sport?
Tansel Ali: There are many more people around the world that are involved in memory sports today, and it is much more competitive. When I first started, the world championships used to have 20 odd competitors. Last year saw 169 compete in China. Records have been consistently broken and it is a lot tougher to crack the top 20 than ever before. The interest has definitely grown over the years and it will only be a matter of time until we have full-time memory athletes vying for prestigious titles and huge prize money. Not only are we seeing a growth in memory competitors, but also memory coaches training the next lot of superstars. I still find it very interesting what the human mind can do and believe we still haven’t reached anywhere near our capability in memory competitions.
Daniel Kilov: What’s been the most memorable experience of either the Australian or World Memory Championships for you?
Tansel Ali: I’ve been fortunate to have competed in a number of Australian and World memory championships since 2002. The first ever memory championship will stand in my mind the most. My friend Metin and I were so excited about our new discovery and we would train until 4am at his place, often not really remembering much and mucking around most of the time. Come competition time, we ended up breaking a number of memory records together and coming second and third in Australia. My first world memory championships were in Malaysia in 2003. Training once again with Metin we both ventured into Kuala Lumpur for the first time and had an unbelievable experience. We met our memory heroes and hung out until very late with the world’s best memorisers. I went for the experience, however found myself in 13th position overall having broken 5 Australian memory records for a total of 6.
Daniel Kilov: You’ve recently begun exploring all kinds of new uses for memory techniques outside of the competition room. What are the most surprising and successful uses you’ve found for your memory techniques?
Tansel Ali: Memory techniques are extremely versatile. The more you delve into it, the more you learn from it, the more you can play with it to suit your lifestyle. Initially my interest was using memory for enhancing learning. Speed reading, which is also in the class of memory techniques, was a revelation for me as I was never a big reader and it gave me the confidence and ability to read like I’ve never been able to before. As I read more, I discovered that memorisation is a type of narrative visualisation. You make up stories with your imagination. The same can be used for meditation. Hence, memorisation can be used as a meditative tool. I’ve used it to manage extreme pain and things like stress. If you can visualise well and have a great imagination, then I believe you can untap amazing potential in yourself, and others as well. Getting your own visualisation out externally into the real world can also be called a ‘vision’. If you are good at memory, then you will have the ability to understand how to communicate better with others and relay your vision. Hence, memory is a great leadership skill to have.
Daniel Kilov: In line with your call for memory techniques to be put to practical uses you’ve recently masterminded and run the first School Mind Games event. Could you tell us a little about what this event involved? What are your plans for this event?
Tansel Ali: Usually when seminars and training are run in schools, it’s great on the day. However as time passes, usually the next day, students and teachers have forgotten the skills and generally go back to their usual ways of learning. I wanted to create something that engaged the students’ new skills throughout the year. I wanted students to not just learn memory skills, but apply them regularly so that it became strong studying habits. Along with the help of a young leader Raquel Woods, we spent almost a year planning and preparing our event. We trained three schools in memory, speed reading and Mind Mapping skills. By the end of the year, these students came together in the school mind games event and competed in the three skills they were taught. The first was to speed read a 200-page book, which they all did collectively in 15 minutes. They then created a large Mind Map on a wall of the whole book and presented that back with great detail. And finally, memorise your 11 minute TEDxManly talk almost word-for-word. It was an incredible display by everyday students. The event proved that grades do not matter and that anyone can utilise the skills and perform exceptionally. There are plans to make it even bigger this year with more schools competing. I’m looking forward to it.