Translator: Carol Wang
Reviewer: Zsófia Herczeg Three years ago,
if you invited me to a dinner party – let’s say ten people – I wouldn’t have remembered the names
of nearly anyone around the table. I wouldn’t have remembered the facts
from the interesting stories they told, and so if I wanted to retell
any of those stories, I kind of couldn’t
without those credible details. And I really didn’t try
to remember any of it, because I knew I had no chance. I, like many of us, had an average memory. Fast forward to today, and I’m a two-time
Australian memory champion. I’m the first female to hold this title,
and I’ve got several Australian records. So my memory for remembering
new information now, when I apply myself, is no longer slow or good – it’s fantastic. I’ve always been physically fit. When I was 15, I moved into [inaudible], went to the Australian Ballet School, and then graduated into a career
of ballet and contemporary dance, touring across the world. After my dance career,
I went to university. The problem was I really didn’t have
any senior high school. I had no study skills, and I couldn’t remember any maths
past about primary school level. And I had an average memory
for facts and maths. And I was studying economics,
which has facts and maths – (Laughter) lots and lots of maths. So I might have felt physically fit,
but I certainly did not feel mentally fit. Well, I survived uni,
and in fact I did well, but only because I worked harder
than everybody else. I was so paranoid about my inability
to learn new information quickly that I consciously did
three hours of study for every one hour
that had been recommended. It worked. I got a perfect GPA, and I was awarded a Prime Minister’s
Australia Asia Endeavour Award. Everybody started to say
I was really clever, which I liked. But I felt like a fraud because I knew that I had succeeded simply because I worked harder
than everybody else. I hid an average memory
through over-preparation, and I lived in fear that some new job or challenge
that required quick learning would reveal this weakness. And unlike a good bottle of wine,
I wasn’t improving with age. (Laughter) Then, about three years ago,
I read a book on memory sports, I was enthused. These athletes could remember
amazing amounts of information quickly, and most of them claim to have been born
with average memories. But these were skills that had acquired
through a little bit of hard work. Well, hard work was something
that I knew how to do, so I decided to turn my focus
towards memory techniques to see if it would make a difference. Five months later,
I was the Australian memory champion – after all that university though. (Laughter) In memory sports, athletes train themselves
in memory techniques and then use these techniques to achieve remarkable feats
of memory in competition. So for example, the world record for correctly remembering
the exact sequence of numbers simply read out loud is 456. That is hundreds of digits
are spoken out loud at a one-second interval, like … three, eight, nine, four. And the athlete
recalls them all perfectly, only making a single little error
on the 457th digit. Imagine that, most people max out
at about one phone number. (Laughter) There are equally
astounding range of records in all the different disciplines, so there’s names and faces, words,
abstract images, binary. I remember when I first started
training these techniques, I felt completely liberated. I was astounded to see
that by using these techniques, I could remember new information
far faster than I ever thought possible and retain more of it too. In fact, the more I trained,
the faster I got, and the more able
I was to take those skills to translate to other areas to learn. It almost felt like how your body responds
to physical fitness, you know, you do the work, and you get the results. I remember thinking
after a couple of weeks that I was learning so quick. It was almost like I could get a USB
with information on it, put it into my head, and there it was – it was incredible. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible if someone had told me
I’d be able to do it. So for someone who loves learning,
this is an amazing gift. I wasn’t avoiding events that might have
some quick learning anymore, I was seeking them out. And dinner parties had become a blast. But there are many parallels that I see
between mental and physical fitness as a professional dancer. We get physically fit because we want to live
a happy long healthy life – you know, get a big existence. But if we’re just physically fit,
it’s not the full package. We need to exercise our minds as well. So, I want you to imagine if you could take new knowledge,
facts, processes, and quickly and truly remember them. You can. You can improve your ability
to remember, given the right tools. And this isn’t just
for competitions, you know. It’s for anything that you want to learn: languages, university courses, the names of all the football
players in Australia. The world is your oyster. How good is that? And it’s for everyone: it’s for students, overworking high achievers, or all of us who just want to get
a little bit more out of our existence. And yet memory techniques
are an unknown skill. They’re rarely taught in our schools,
universities or anywhere. The techniques used by the athletes
are simply about translating information from something
that we can’t easily remember into something that we’re going
to struggle to forget, by creating a memorable story. So it’s about learning differently, learning using imagery and creativity, that thinking outside the square, and then linking
that information together. So we create an exciting visual story rather than remembering
a boring list of numbers or words. Now, humanity has been surviving
with visual memories for millions of years, and we’ve only been verbal
for around a hundred thousand. So thanks to this past, we all have fantastic memories for images, faces – but not the names attached to those – movement and journeys or locations
that we’ve travelled to. It’s just a matter of hacking in
to that existing power, using our creative minds
over boring matter. I want to show you
how I create exciting memories out of something abstract and boring: a list of numbers. Take pi, the longest list
of boring numbers there is. It’s the ratio of any circle
circumference to its diameter; it’s an irrational number
of infinite decimal length, so memory athletes, like me, love it
because it’s endlessly random. It took me less than two minutes
to learn a hundred digits of pi. How? A string of numbers
is just abstract and boring and therefore impossible to remember. So I don’t remember a string of numbers; I remember a story
that’s full of visual creativity, and it’s exciting and therefore
easy for me to remember. So I’ve attached a movement
to every three-digit number from 000 to 999. So for example, if I see or hear a 777, I just as equally see in my head one of those good-luck little cats
you see in your local sushi bar, swinging its arm like this. (Laughter) In my head, I simply build a sequence of movements
as I read or hear the numbers, and because of my dance background,
I can remember the choreography. I’m simply attaching
or scaffolding on new information onto something that’s already easy
for me to remember. So a hundred digits of pi is just a short contemporary dance story
of around 35 movements. In my head, it looks something like this: three point one-four-one-five, nine-two-six-five, three-five-eight, nine-seven-nine, three-two-three-eight, four-six-two, six-four-three, three-eight-three, two-seven-nine, five-o-two, eight-eight-four, one-nine-seven, one-six-nine, three-nine-nine, three-seven-five, one-o-five, eight-two-o, nine-seven-four, nine-four-four, five-nine-two, three-o-seven, eight-one-six, four-o-six, two-eight-six, two-o-eight, nine-nine-eight, six-two-eight, zero-three-four, eight-two-five, six-four-two … Ah, that was wrong! One-one-seven, zero-six-seven-nine. Excuse me, this has really thrown me. (Laughter) (Applause) Easy, right? (Laughter) Okay, so what’s going on here? A “three.” If I see a three on my own,
I’ll just as equally see this. Actually, I see Kim Kardashian
doing that – flashing her booty. (Laughter) A “one-four-one” is this,
a “five-nine-two,” so on. I simply build a sequence in my head
as I hear or read the numbers. To recall them,
I simply go over the sequence. So that’s just my technique
for remembering numbers, and it draws on my dance background, but there are other techniques that will have you quickly remembering
a string of numbers as images – there’s other techniques for words, names, anything that you want to remember. But they all tap into the same
underlying methods of using creativity and imagery
to create a story, often with locations, or linking on new information
onto something we already know. But practicing these memory techniques
is not about remembering pi – as exciting as that is. It’s about exercising our creative
and visual minds and improving our overall ability
to remember and learn. It’s kind of like going to the gym
and pressing weights. We don’t do that because we expect that during the day
a random weight is going to jump out and attack us in the street, it’s because we expect
to use our muscles everywhere. Likewise, training memory techniques will improve our memory
and learning outcomes everywhere. The best bit is that it only takes
small amounts of training to start to see a difference. In fact, regular daily training,
just like with physical fitness, is the best way to go about it. You can learn how to remember
and become the quick learner, and it is life-changing. You get an increase in your confidence,
which has a snowball effect because the more confident we are, the more able we are
and receptive to learn new information. You can be that person who remembers
the names of everyone that you meet. You can ace exams with less study
or be the gun at work, and you can recall more
of the information, too, if you like. So find the memory techniques
that suit you and exercise your mind. But don’t make my mistake. Don’t wait until after you embark
on university study. (Laughter) If I’d spent just a small portion
of the time I’d allocated to study and instead learnt memory techniques, I would’ve had
the same results at university within a fraction of the time. And I would’ve had a lifelong skill
that I could apply to anything that I wanted to learn. So no matter how old you are
or where you’re at, it’s not too late to learn
how to learn quickly. Just as you don’t need
to be a professional dancer or athlete to get the life benefits
that some fitness training brings, you don’t need to be a top mental athlete to get the rewards
of a little memory fitness. Memory fitness adds another
dimension to your fitness, so don’t forget to fit your memory
in your training schedule. And I promise, you’re going
to love dinner parties. Thank you. (Applause)