The memory palace technique will allow you to enter into a world of champions.
Champions who have used this technique to remember the order of a deck of playing cards in under 20 seconds, remember thousands of numbers in an hour, and remember more people’s faces and names in a single night than you or I will meet in a year.
But none of that matters as you will likely never need to remember the order of a deck of playing cards, or over 3,000+ binary digits.
However, if you have to remember all of the bones in the human body, all of the elements in the Periodic Table or all of the countries in the world, memory palaces will allow you to instantaneously, and immediately, increase your memory capacity up to 1000%.
Mastering memory palaces is the single most important thing you can do to improve your memory.
Memory palaces have increased the memory capacity of countless others and they will help you as well.
The concept of a memory palace has been around since 2000 B.C., that’s longer than Shakespeare’s plays.
There’s a reason the technique hasn’t gone anywhere and there is a reason people continue to use it.
There is no other technique that is as powerful as this one.
What is a Memory Palace?
In Chapter 5: The Journey Method, I introduced the concept of memory palaces without you knowing it.
A memory palace is a metaphor for any well-known spacial environment you’re able to easily visualize.
As you walk through your memory palace in your mind’s eye, you implant images at locations throughout the journey.
When you return to the memory palace and follow the same journey, you will remember the images you implanted.
Memory palace was coined because, especially for beginners, the easiest memory palace to use are buildings.
But, memory palaces don’t have to be buildings!
They can be a familiar park you take your kids, a football stadium, or a journey around your city.
The only rule is that you need to be able to walk through it in your mind as if you were walking through it in real-life.
This is a very important rule:
The effectiveness of this technique relies, in part, on your ability to mentally visualize your memory palace.
That is why Chapter 2 was all about visualization techniques.
A good level of detail is required because as you walk through your memory palace there are distinctive features you need to recall.
If you are in in your living room you might have a TV against the wall, a couch opposing it, perhaps you have a lazy boy as well.
On the adjacent wall you may have a clock and a painting.
It doesn’t matter what the objects are, they will serve as locations you will implant images to remember.
Let’s learn how to actually build a memory palace.
Defining Your Memory Palace
Start with something small, perhaps your apartment or your office and analyze it methodically for distinctive features.
Distinctive features can be anything from furniture, decorations or unique architecture.
If you begin with your apartment, the first obvious distinctive feature is the front door.
Pass through your front door into whatever space exists.
Stand there in your mind and picture as many details about the space as you can.
Move on to your next location and repeat the visualization process.
Continue this for the remaining rooms in your space.
If it helps, write down a list for each room so you can organize your thoughts better.
Now that you have a list of distinctive features, you need a route through your memory palace from one feature to the next.
Begin at your front door and pass into the first room.
Define a standard procedure such as always looking from left to right.
The order in which you visit each feature is paramount.
If you can’t remember the order then you can’t remember things chronologically.
I suggest writing down all of the features in order as you mentally walk through them.
It may also help to physically walk through the route noting each distinctive feature as you encounter them.
Take a look at this diagram.
This shows you can you can use a single room in a house to store 11 different images.
It may be difficult to follow for every room, depending on your memory palace’s architecture, but you can use this as a reference.
Once you are confident that your route is ingrained in your mind, you’re set.
If you are having difficulty visualizing in great detail and everything seems fuzzy or blurred, don’t worry.
As you continue to visualize images in your mind and walk through them, everything will start to become clearer.
If you find it difficult, I recommend reading Chapter 2 about how to visualize and do the exercises every day.
How to Use Your Memory Palace
Just like the Peg and Link Systems, memory palaces work by associating a known sequence with items you want to remember.
In our case, the known element is each distinctive feature in your memory palace.
A visual association is a visual representation of an item, not the item itself.
This is important!
The effectiveness of this technique relies, in part, on your ability to mentally represent each image you are trying to remember.
Make your images crazy, insane, offensive, extraordinary, perverted, or just plain unusual.
After all, images like these are the ones you never forget.
Involve as many senses and emotions as possible.
If you are picturing food, imagine how it tastes.
If you are visualizing yourself by a train station, think of how the train sounds as it goes by you.
The best part is that no one is inside your brain, so you can make images as disgusting and memorable as you want and no one will know.
The only rule about visual associations is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.
Organize a list of list of items you want to memorize.
To demonstrate how to use your memory palace, I’m going to use the fictional room above to memorize the first 10 elements of the periodic table:
Follow along in my fictional world and you will learn how this technique works (and you will memorize the first ten elements of the periodic table).
To memorize this list I would transport myself to the first location in my memory palace, the door of the room.
Standing at the entryway is a red fire hydrant that has eyes, little arms and legs.
Hydrant sounds a bit like Hydrogen, which is how you will remember the first element.
The hydrant doesn’t want you to enter the room, so it’s trying to close the door as you open it.
You push the door open and step into the threshold of the room.
The order of the sequence is to look left to right, so look left into the corner of the room.
Helium is the second element and to memorize it we will use helium balloons.
There are a several helium balloons attached by a string to a light switch on the wall.
The Helium balloons are pulling so strong that the light switch is being pulled from the wall and you can see the electrical wires.
The balloons pull so strongly that the light switch snaps and the balloons are free.
The balloons float, with the light switch still attached, into the next location in the sequence: a painting.
Since the balloons are trapped they get angry at each other and start yelling.
Since they are filled with Helium, everything they say is with a “lisp”.
‘Lisp’ sounds like ‘lithp’ for Lithium, the third element.
Move, now, to the fourth location in the corner of the room where there is a lamp.
The fourth element is Beryllium.
Insects love light, so a bee is flying towards a light bulb in the lamp.
It sticks its big tongue out and licks the light bulb.
“Yum!” it says, “this is really yummy!”
Bee-really-yum sounds like Beryllium.
While the light bulb from the lamp tasted really good, it burned the bee’s tongue.
The bee gets really angry and needs to take its anger out on something.
It flies to our next location, the sofa, and starts to bore a hole in the cushion with its stinger.
Material from the sofa fly everywhere.
Bore is part of Boron, so you will remember the fifth element.
The next location is a lazy boy sitting in the corner and the next element is Carbon.
The lazy boy doesn’t look like a normal lazy boy, though, it looks like a car that you can sit in.
All of a sudden, a bomb falls from the ceiling and blows up the car.
Car-bomb sounds like Carbon, so this is how you will remember the sixth element.
Our next location is where we are going to store Nitrogen, the seventh element.
If we break Nitrogen apart phonetically, it sounds like night-row-gen.
To memorize this element we can picture a general rowing a boat at night.
It’s so dark that the general can’t see where he’s going, so he runs right into the window in our house.
Part of the boat is sticking through the window and the shattered glass covers the floor.
As we continue to look to the right to our next location, a bookshelf, an ox bursts through the wall and knocks the bookcase over.
The books cover the floor and the ox stares at you angrily determining whether to charge or not.
The ox gets so close that you can smell its warm breath on your face.
Oxygen begins with ox, so you will remember Oxygen as the eighth element in our series.
The ninth location is the television.
As you stare at the television, it falls from the wall and crashes on the floor.
It totally breaks the TV and the floor screams in pain.
Fluorine, the ninth element, begins with floor, which is how you will remember this element.
Our final element is Neon and we are going to store it at the coffee table in the middle of the room.
The coffee table has human legs instead of table legs.
Each leg is bent at the knee, making a right angle.
The knees lift the table up and down so it’s never in the same position.
Neon begins with ‘Knee’, so you will remember our final element with this image.
See how you can take even the most mundane list of items and turn them into something visually stimulating?
Notice the level of detail I used for each image and how I tried to include as many senses when it made sense.
I used all of the strategies mentioned in previous chapters, like adding motion to make things more memorable or linking images together to make them more memorable.
Notice how some of the images were stand alone, like Nitrogen, while others, like Helium and Lithium, acted more like a story.
It’s totally perfect to use whatever strategy you like and combine the images in whatever manner you like.
However, it’s a good rule of thumb to lead the first image into the second image if you can.
I lead the first image into the second image by adding the Helium balloons from the second image into the painting of the third image.
That way, if I were to forget the first word in my list, I could picture the second image and be reminded of the first image.
When you are going through your palace, make sure you visualize the list in the order in which you memorized your route.
Otherwise, you will get confused as to what item is next.
Retrieving a List From Your Memory Palace
Research shows us that we are most forgetful minutes after we learn something.
If you’ve ever read a page in a book and wondered what that page said the second after you read it, you just illustrated the point.
Therefore, once you learn your list you need to immediately review it to make sure all of the images ‘stuck’.
The trick is to mentally walk through your memory palace and each of the images you implanted at your distinctive features will instantly come to your mind.
Write down what each visual representation represents, so you can be sure that you won’t forget the list (sometimes your images may get so crazy that you remember the image but forget what the image represents!).
What you will find when you first start out is that when you forget an image you can skip it and go to the next.
Since you know the journey through your memory palace by heart, you will know exactly which images tripped you up.
If you can’t remember an image, skip it and try and remember the next.
If you can, search for clues as to what the previous image was.
For any images you couldn’t recall, spend a little more time focusing on them and adding more detail and senses.
You want to review your list immediately after you remember it, about an hour after, one day after, and one week after, and one month after.
If you have a short list of less than fifty items, this entire process will likely take less than ten minutes of your time, so do it.
Memory Palaces Help Memory Retention Significantly
What I find most incredible about the memory palace technique isn’t the sheer size of the lists you can memorize, it’s how long they stick in your mind.
I’ve memorized lists of items that I never revisited for days only to later realize that I retained over 75% of the list.
The best part of this technique is that instead of being in the world of legal, medical, or historical jargon, you find yourself in a world of the strange and unique, which is far more fun.
You can create as many palaces with as many locations as you like.
You can get as creative as you like and transport from location to location to create a long string of distinctive features.
You can use parks or routes around your city to act as memory palaces instead of physical architecture.
The possibilities are endless.
With a little practice, you can significantly and instantly increase your memory capacity by using the memory palace technique.
Did you have any difficulty developing your own memory palace?
Any tips and tricks that you think people can benefit from?
Leave a comment below explaining what helped you.
You just finished Chapter 6. Congratulations! Now it’s time to shift gears a bit. We aren’t remember lists anymore. No, we are going to ensure you never forget another person’s name ever again using the Name Face Method. No more awkward conversations with someone who knows your name while you don’t know theirs.