This article was originally printed in Issue 442 of the Australian Mensa magazine, TableAus.
Tansel Ali is a four-time Australian Memory Champion, Managing Director of the Tansel Institute and organiser/licensee of TEDxDocklands
Daniel Kilov: This isn’t our first interview. Memorious readers may recall our 2015 interview wherein we covered how you memorised the Sydney Yellow Pages in only 24 days, your attempts to bring memory techniques into the classroom and the School Mind Games event, and your use of memory techniques as meditation. However, I didn’t ask you about how you initially discovered memory techniques, or why you wanted to compete. So, what’s the story there?
Tansel Ali: I discovered memory techniques through curiosity really. A friend of mine back at uni had told me he could memorise a list of forty random items and I didn’t believe him. I naturally had to test him and surely enough he memorised every word I gave him in random order perfectly. I thought he was playing a trick on me, however he advised me he used memory techniques and to read up on it.
So, I went and did my reading and discovered a whole new world of self-development that actually worked. I always thought I had a pretty bad memory until I learned these memory skills myself. I wanted to learn more as I was excited about the benefits of having a better memory gave me, like learning and reading faster, and I stumbled across the Australian Memory Championships one day Googling memory training. I asked my friend to join me to enter the competition since we knew a few techniques. To our surprise we both did really well, broke (more…)
This article was originally printed in Issue 443 of the Australian Mensa magazine, TableAus.
Gwendolen Noronha is one of the world’s leading mental sports coaches and a board member of the Mental Sports Olympic Federation. From 2006 to 2008 she organized Cambridge’s MaRRS International Spelling Bee, the first spelling competition in Asia for school students. She is a founding member of the Indian Cube Association. Busy as she is, Gwendolen found time to share some of the insights that have led her students to break 21 world records.
Daniel Kilov: Gwendolen, you’ve been involved in one way or another with just about every mental sport, from spelling bees to speed cubing to memory and mental calculation. Can you tell us a little about how you developed an interest in these competitions?
Gwendolen Noronha: As a young school girl, I was very competitive. I loved the whole feeling that a competition would bring—the challenges, the rush within to do something extraordinary and the self-motivation. I used to participate in a lot of competitions in school and that interest carried on. When I began working and established an educational firm, I decided that apart from providing quality education to students globally, I also wanted to give them a platform to showcase their talent. I wanted them to experience the thrill and enthusiasm a competition brings while simultaneously being able to promote the awareness of brain health. There needs to be a purpose to everything we do and that was mine. While I was working in the United States of America, I discovered my interest for the field of mental calculations and memory and took it up as a challenge to offer the subject knowledge to more people and to provide opportunities to more mental sports athletes.
It is hard to keep the interest as strong over the years but if today I still feel the same enthusiasm it is simply because there are millions of students by now who believe in (more…)
I have successfully qualified for the WCA world cubing championships to be held in Melbourne this July!
I competed at my first speed cubing competition on the 13th of April. I was pretty nervous. But there was a real sense of comradery and even the really young competitors (who were all waaaay faster than I was) would introduce themselves and chat away while we were waiting for our turn to solve. So I relaxed pretty quickly. I also met some local competitors and will be catching up with them for cubing and coffee.
Rubik’s cube is among the most popular and enduring toys of all time. What accounts for it’s popularity? Here is an answer from Rubik himself (From Ian Scheffler’s excellent book ‘Cracking the Cube’):
The Cube relates to human universals in a very simple and immediate manner. It crosses all cultural or age barriers and disregards socio-economic differences. It is languageless: it never needed a users’ manual, anyone who touches it understands the challenge instantly. The Cube also embodies the tension of our most basic contradictions: simplicity and complexity, dynamism and stability, pleasure and frustration and so forth.
This article was originally printed in Issue 440 of the Australian Mensa magazine, TableAus.
Daniel Kilov interviews Ben Pridmore. Pridmore, from Derby in the UK, is a three-time World Memory Champion winning the title 2004, 2008 and 2009.Pridmore achieved this by winning a 10-discipline competition, the World Memory Championship, which has taken place every year since 1991. He holds the prestigious title of Grand Master of Memory.
Daniel Kilov: Am I correct in saying that your first foray into the world of competitive memorizing was something of an accident? I’ve heard that you didn’t know about memory techniques and even trained yourself to memorize a deck of cards without any system. What led you to enter the memory championships, when you did discover the techniques, and what about them caught your imagination?
Ben Pridmore: Yes, it was a complete accident. I got into memory sports thanks to an event called the Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO), which started in 1997—a big gathering of all the ‘mind sports’ you can think of, including board and card games as well as more abstract things like the World Memory Championship (WMC). I went there for (more…)
It’s always great to see exciting new ways of thinking about memory techniques. It’s even better when that material comes from a fellow Australian. Here is a recent TEDx talk by Anastasia Woolmer. She’s an incredible mnemonist but also an accomplished and skilled dancer. Here she shows off both sets of skills at once. Keep an eye out – we will be seeing more of Anastasia on this blog in the coming months.
If you can’t wait that long, you can check out her website here.
More attentive readers may have noticed that I’ve fallen behind on my goal of providing new content every week. I’ve been pretty busy with some cool projects (including this interview) and can finally take some time to update you all. So you can expect a bunch of new posts over the next couple of weeks as I make up lost ground.
I was recently interviewed for the Uncommon Podcast. We covered heaps of stuff and it was really fun. Their summary of the episode, and the full interview, are below:
Daniel Kilov is an Australian Memory Athlete, Speaker, Writer and a Philosophy PhD student at The Australian National University (ANU).
Daniel is capable of memorising a shuffled deck of cards in less than two minutes, over 100 random digits in five minutes and placed second at the Australian Memory Championships in 2011.
When I learnt about Daniel and his mentor Tansel Ali – through the best-selling book Deep Work by Cal Newport – I knew I had to get him on the podcast. The use of memory is probably one of the fundamental tools we have as humans, aside from communication through language. Yet we are in an age where we’re handballing a lot of former memory tasks to our smart devices – foregoing the classic techniques of mnemonics is becoming all too common. As Cal Newport says in his book, the “Art of Memory” is incredibly important to becoming a “Deep Worker” who can not only increase performance but also your attention through the process.
This article was originally printed in Issue 441 of the Australian Mensa magazine, TableAus.
Jairam Hathwar won the 2016 US Scripps National Spelling Bee. As the younger brother of Sriram—the 2014 champion—13-year-old Jairam had a model for excellence as a mental athlete. He and his brother have even co-authored a book which they hope will inspire the next generation of competitive orthographers. In this interview, Jairam shared his stories and offers insights into the training regimen required that allowed him to dominate the world’s most competitive spelling bee.
Daniel Kilov: How did you develop your interest in competitive spelling?
Jairam Hathwar: Seeing my brother participating in many spelling competitions at a very young age, and him finally hoisting the national trophy was a huge inspiration for me to attempt competitive spelling. The perks of being a national champion were abundant, whether it was being on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Kelly and Michael Show, ESPN, etc. That made me want to follow in his footsteps and receive the recognition that he was given as well.
Daniel Kilov: Is it the sportive aspect that drives your interest or do you have a love of languages more generally?
Jairam Hathwar: Personally, I enjoy a friendly competition because it motivates me to succeed and makes we want to become better. It is definitely both aspects—I love being challenged, as well as learning language patterns, and (more…)
I was recently interviewed for the Zoë Routh Leadership podcast. Her summary, and the full interview, are below:
Edge of Leadership UnConference speaker Daniel Kilov reveals some amazing tips and tricks to enhance memory for reading books, recalling information, committing information to knowledge, and remembering names at networking functions.
Daniel shares critical mnemonics (memory) techniques, explains how these techniques are the single best predictor of top performance in any field and how we can create generations of geniuses.
For those who would prefer it, there is also a video version (unedited, so far as I can tell) available here: