Book Review: Moonwalking with Einstein

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Why would a practical business person want to spend a few dollars and a few hours reading a book about how to improve memory? As it turns out, there are several good reasons. Let’s start with one practical application.

I’ve been told that I’ve got a good memory. Years of parochial school helped me develop it. But for years I thought of memorization as a brute force, repeat it over and over, very hard, very boring and mostly pointless undertaking. After all, even Einstein said he didn’t see the point in memorizing his own phone number when he could look it up.

Then, during the 1990s, I wrote a couple of the early books on e-commerce and business uses of the net. Naturally I was asked to give speeches and I wanted to do that work well. I noticed that many of the speakers I admired spoke without notes. That became my goal.

I had to memorize a lot of material, since my speeches ran about ninety minutes and changed quite a bit from audience to audience. Then I discovered the “memory palace” method that Joshua Foer features in Moonwalking with Einstein. If you’re searching for a way to deliver speeches, presentations, and briefings while looking like an expert who has truly mastered the material, spend the time and money to buy this book, read it, and put what you learn into practice.

The method is fairly straightforward. Our brains don’t remember everything equally well. So all memory systems have you turn what you want to remember into things our brains are wired to remember: images and locations.

When I was giving a speech, I imagined a walk about my house, always in the same order and always stopping at the same places. That’s the location part of the memory palace. This technique has come forward to the 21st Century in the phrases “in the first place,” in the second place,” etc.

Then at each place I would create a visual of whatever I wanted to remember. The more ridiculous, the better. “Moonwalking with Einstein” is the verbal expression of one of Foer’s images.

That’s the basic technique. You’ll also learn what makes things memorable. The things we’re most likely to remember are “rhythmic, rhyming, structured, and above all easily visualized. “

You’ll learn some techniques to make the process easier. One of those is chunking. It’s a way to remember more easily by remembering fewer, bigger chunks. You could remember the mileage on your care by remembering five numbers, as 2-5-9-3-2. Or you could chunk those five into two as 25-932.

All this comes wrapped Foer’s story which is fascinating and well told. But it’s a mixed blessing. He tells the story in a way that makes reading easy and which explains each point well. But he doesn’t really give you much of a strategy for putting this to work on some real-world challenges.

The methods are simple and based in our human neurowiring. You’ll just have to do a little work to make them work for you. That’s not a big deal. As you work on specifics (like using a memory palace to remember a presentation) you’ll also pick up tips on remembering people’s names and coming up with new ideas.

Bottom Line

You can develop your memory skills like you can develop most other things in business. This book will show you the way.

Get more of the big ideas from Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything with a free 4-minute video summary. Click Here to get it now. In addition to being really helpful, the video summary is a good example of how visual memories are brain friendly.

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