An Update for the San Francisco Bay Memory Club

This blog post is an update for new members of the SF Bay Area Memory Club that I run every weekend at locations around the Bay. I thought that it might be helpful to have a page of information that I could send new members to.

Where to Begin with Memory Techniques

Two techniques that everyone should know are the memory palace technique and a number memorization system.

Memory Palaces

Memory palaces (a.k.a., the Method of Loci) help one remember large amounts of information in a fixed sequence. This technique is good for remembering shopping lists, numbers, playing cards, history timelines, facts, or anything else that you want to recite back in a certain order.

Over time you will build up a collection of memory palaces in your mind where you can store various things. One memory palace might be reserved for the US Presidents, another palace might be used just for memorizing numbers, and so on.

Number Memorization

Every memorizer has a set of fixed images that represent numbers. Visual images are much easier to remember than abstract numbers.

Every memorizer has their own set of images, but here’s a quick example: a piano has 88 keys, so the number 88 could be represented by the visual image of a piano.

You could store that image of a piano in a location of your memory palace to remember 88. Other numbers would be represented by other images in different locations of the memory palace. Since you always travel through a memory palace in the same order, very long strings of numbers can be remembered this way.

Piano keyboard

A piano has 88 keys, so the number 88 could be represented by a piano.

The most common number systems involve creating 100 visual images for all the numbers from 00 to 99. There are several number systems out there, and if you aren’t sure of what system you want to use, try the Dominic System. It’s relatively easy to learn, and it’s powerful enough to use in memory competitions. (Its creator won the World Memory Championships eight times.) In the Dominic System, every digit is turned into a letter and then the letters become initials for persons.

So if the digit 5 is represented by the letter E and the digit 3 is represented by the letter C, then 53 is an image of someone with the initials E.C. — Eric Clapton is a common choice.

For those of you who have already started creating your Dominic System images, check out this list of persons that can help you finish creating the system.

Here’s a video that provides a quick introduction to some of the common number memorization techniques:

Memorizers also frequently have mnemonic images for single digit numbers from 0 to 9. Having these extra single digit images allows you to easily memorize numbers of uneven length, like 3 digit or 5 digit numbers. A good method for single digits is the Number Shape System.

Once you have mnemonic images for all 100 numbers from 00 to 99, you are ready to memorize numbers of virtually any length.

Step by Step Plan

If you aren’t sure where to begin, here is a suggestion for a step by step plan that will introduce techniques that you can use both in memory competitions and in daily life:

  1. Create 100 mnemonic images for numbers 00 to 99 with the Dominic System. Later, you’ll be able to use the same images to memorize decks of playing cards.
  2. Create 10 mnemonic images for numbers 0 to 9 with the Number Shape System.
  3. Create at least three memory palaces with at least 30 locations each.
  4. Watch the short videos on the Names & Faces wiki page to get an idea about how the technique is done.

If you have a question about any of those things, leave a comment below, ask me at one of our meetings, post in the forum, or we could set up a time during the week to go over your questions via webcam.

The Benefits of Memory Techniques

A question sometimes comes up: “What can you use memory techniques for?”

Here are some ways to apply the techniques:

  • Remembering names and faces
  • Learning new facts for business or school
  • Remember shopping lists and directions
  • Increasing creativity
  • General brain training
  • Memorizing speeches
  • Learning new languages
  • Preparing for business meetings or job interviews
  • Becoming a mental athlete or even a memory champion…

Where to Learn More

If you’re looking for more information between our meetings, there are over 1,000 pages of free content on this website. Check out the Getting Started Guide in the wiki. Head over to the forum and type some things into the search box or start a new discussion there.

Also, I highly recommend two books:

  • Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer — this book provides background on the world of memory techniques.
  • Quantum Memory Power by Dominic O’Brien — this audiobook is a great place to get an overview of different ways to apply memory techniques.

Leave a comment below if you have questions! 🙂

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