Just train your brain – and remember to memorise

An edited version of this interview was recently published in The Daily Telegraph and online (here). I liked the original so much that I decided to post it here in full:

Memory champion and Brain Awareness Week Ambassador Daniel Kilov / Pic: Jeremy Piper

Memory champion and Brain Awareness Week Ambassador Daniel Kilov / Pic: Jeremy Piper

SARRAH LE MARQUAND

IT’S not often you meet a champion who insists they are nothing special, but Daniel Kilov – who came second in last year’s Australian Memory Championships – is at pains to prove just that.

Despite being capable of memorising a shuffled deck of cards in less than five minutes, and holding the Australian record for correctly recalling 115 abstract images in record speed, the 24-year- old insists his skills are unremarkable.

“It’s really crucial that people don’t think I have any special ability or talent in regards to memory,” he said. “I’ve never met anyone who can’t do what I do with just a small amount of training.”

After struggling throughout school due to his self-confessed terrible memory, Kilov stumbled upon a range of techniques known as the Art of Memory which rely on the use of colourful mental imagery to facilitate an eerily accurate ability to hastily memorise information.

“When you tell people how you do it the reaction you often get is ‘Oh, is that it?’ and that is it,” Kilov said. “But although it’s simple it’s incredibly powerful”.

With today marking the beginning of Brain Awareness Week the Macquarie University graduate is encouraging Australians to become more conscious of maintaining the health of that most important of organs: the brain.

He also believes the incorporation of memory techniques into the school curriculum could solve the criticisms most commonly levelled towards the education system, namely that teachers are overworked, schools stifle creatively and children learn by rote.

“Our schools cater and teach in a very limited methodology towards a specific school set so any students who don’t have those specific skill sets are going to struggle and memory is one of those pre-requisites that schools expect students to have,” said Kilov.

“We all have long memories the thing is that a lot of people – and certainly I would have originally included myself among that group – just don’t know how to use them.

“The techniques represent a potential revolution in education. And they don’t require fancy equipment. They were being done by the Ancient Greeks so they don’t require the latest computers or projectors.”

Despite his capacity to almost instantly recall large volumes of data, Kilov admits he prefers to delegate some of the more mundane memory tasks – such as collating shopping lists and storing phone numbers – to a more traditional method.

“Not all things are worth committing to memory. To my mind leave the trivial stuff to the iPhone and use the memory techniques to enliven and enrich your life and your perception of the world by learning all the stuff you ever wanted.

“Who wouldn’t want to learn a language if they knew they could pick it up in months instead of years?”

Daniel’s top five tips on how to improve your memory:

1. Practice mindfulness – remember to remember. Most failures of memory are actually just failures of attention.

2. Think visually. Construct visual mental movies of things you want to remember.

3. Be creative. Bring colour to your mental stories to transform the mundane into the memorable!

4. Organise your memories. How we organise information (or fail to do so) dictates how easily we can recall it later. Use mnemonics and acronyms.

5. Look after your body. Regular exercise and sleep are vital for cognitive function, as is proper nutrition. As a vegetarian, I take Swisse Plant Omega 3 with life’s DHA to give me an edge in competition.

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3 comments

  1. Hi Daniel,
    What books should I read to improve my memory. I have a son that needs to work out in this area and I could do it with him to help myself. Thanks

    Andrew

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