How To Improve Your Memory With 4x USA Memory Champ, Nelson Dellis.
Yuli Azarch | July 8, 2019 | No Comments on How To Improve Your Memory With 4x USA Memory Champ, Nelson Dellis.
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“…and you may not remember everything because you still have to have the intent. But the practice and how you turn information very quickly into these have mental images is very very helpful and crucial to having a fast and powerful memory.” — Nelson Dellis
Nelson Delis is one of the leading memory experts. He has been traveling around the world as a memory consultant and keynote speaker. Nelson is a 4x USA Memory Champion, a professional mountaineer, an Alzheimer’s disease activist, and an author. He received the elite Grandmaster of Memory title and also holds some US records such as memorizing the mores names and words within 15 minutes. He was able to memorize 10,000 digits of pi on an endurance challenge.
What we discussed about?
- Nelson Dellis’s Background. 02:09
- Starting on Competition and Developing Top Techniques. 06:30
- Technology vs Memory. 10:53
- Misconceptions about Memory. 13:12
- Techniques that can help improve memory. 16:03
- Advanced Techniques. 28:03
- Memory and Lifestyle. 35:49
- Using Technology. 48:34
- Show Notes.
Nelson Dellis’s Background.
Growing up, Nelson had a strong interest in mathematics. In college, he started studying math and physics and was fascinated by learning how the physical world worked and being able to describe it with equations.
Nelson was also fascinated by a lot of his teachers in physics who were very good at calculating numbers in their heads. That was what got him interested in exploring the world of mental gymnastics. By the same time, his grandmother got Alzheimer’s disease and eventually passed away.
All these things pushed Nelson to get interested in the mind and learn what could he do to make his mind sharper, faster, and better in terms of memory. Later, he found a memory championship which he decided to participate and win.
He started to research about people doing feats with their memory and heard of special people who were autistic savants like Kim Peek “The Rain Man”. But everything led back to “normal people” who were memory athletes competing in memory championships.
“For a long time, I thought at first, that it [the competition] was just for people who were gifted with memory and then I slowly saw that a theme kept reoccurring and that was that nobody in those competitions was gifted. They were merely training their memories with the right techniques.”
Nelson Dellis does not believe that you have to be gifted to win a memory competition. He thinks that you only need the desire or enjoyment when training your memory.
Developing Top Techniques and Competing.
According to Nelson, the techniques aren’t too difficult to understand. But you have to develop some systems to be able to memorize some of the difficult information like numbers, playing cards, dates, binary numbers, etc. And that takes a good amount of time and a good strategic effort.
Nelson believes that it comes down to how much time you spend sitting on your butt, just studying and training smartly.
“Things are memorable when they are interesting and not dry and boring.”
The first time that Nelson competed was in 2009. He went into the competition not yet ready to win but he was just fascinated by everything and wanted to explore the memory competition world.
When Nelson started, there was very minimal information on the Internet. But he found an audiobook by former Champion called Dominic O’Brien, called “Quantum Memory Power“, which helped him a lot. It was a really important book for Nelson, to develop his memory techniques.
Nelson Dellis also recommends his own book “Remember it“. He believes it is better because he wrote it for the general public, not just for people who want to compete in memory competitions. It is a book for people who want to improve their memory for work, for life, for studies, etc. It is a book full diagrams and pictures.
Technology vs. Memory.
Nelson always tells people to start with the intent. “Although it sounds so simple, it’s actually quite difficult to try to use your memory because if you’re about to do, you might say to yourself… why to memorize it, while I can put it on my phone or write it down,” said Nelson. “Now you just ask Siri and she’ll tell you what it is.”
According to Nelson, from a health perspective, while you are training your memory you’re exercising your brain.
Back when he was in high school he didn’t have a cell phone with massive amounts of contacts. He had to look up in a book and find his friend’s phone number. But instead of using this book, you could memorize it and then do it really quickly.
“I still remember a bunch of my friend’s phone numbers from when I was a kid, it’s ingrained in my head because I have to memorize it, the alternative was spending 5 minutes finding the book.”
Now, when you need to find a number, just search for a name, with your smartphone.
Misconceptions About Memory.
According to Nelson Dellis, there’s a lot of misconceptions about what memory is and what people think of their own memories. For example, a lot of people say they have a bad memory. But Nelson thinks that is not true. He is proof and many other people who compete, that memory is something you can actually improve on if you work on it.
“One of the worst things for your memory is saying to yourself you have a bad memory”
According to Nelson, if you say you have a bad memory and you don’t try, the prophecy fulfills. Just be using it, and having the intent, you’ll get better and gain more confidence in your memory.
So one of the things that people should get out of their heads, is that they do not have a bad memory, they just don’t practice enough.
Nelson thinks that another problem is that people think there are other people out there who have photographic memories. Although there are different scales in memory, Nelson doesn’t believe that photographic memory really exists. So that should help people level up their confidence because they can remove that self-doubt.
“I never had a good memory, I definitely didn’t have a photographic memory but I could beat anybody who claims that they have a photographic memory in any kind of memorization task.”
Techniques That Can Help You Improve Your Memory?
According to Nelson, practicing memory sounds boring. It may remind you of the stress and anxiety of studying at school. Nelson believes that you have to make memory practicing, fun.
Start asking yourself.
- What’s your goal?
- What would you like to do with your memory?
Whatever is that you like, that is what you should use to train your memory, for example, names, music lyrics, basketball players and their stats, poems, cards, etc. Otherwise, you’re going to get bored and it is going to become a task that you force yourself to do every day and you’re not going to enjoy it.
Train every day through little exercises, just like you would go to the gym. Once you find your goal and the things that you would like to memorize, take the following recommendations from Nelson.
- Start with intent. This will set you up for success.
- Create motivational nuggets. This will add fun and challenging to your practice.
- Follow the three-set process. See, Link, and Go.
A small reminder about the basic steps for memorizing anything: SEE LINK GO!
— Nelson Dellis (@ClimbForMemory) May 30, 2019
The See-Link-Go Process.
According to Nelson Dellis, this is how you memorize everything. With the “See” step, you want to try to see the thing you’re trying to memorize as a picture in your mind. Basically an association to something weird, out of the ordinary, and memorable.
The next thing is to “Link” which means attaching the picture you’ve created to something concrete that’s already in your head. This association will help you retrieve the information later. Nelson said that Richard Feynman, a reclaimed American theoretical physicist, always talked about, the best way you can learn is to attach things you don’t know to things that you do know.
When you trying to memorize names, Nelson recommends choosing something about the person that he notices, such a physical feature or the sound of the name itself. So if you can attach the picture of their name to that thing [feature], the next time you see them you’re going to notice the same feature and that is going to help you remember the name.
The last step is “Go” which means taking the image, taking the thing you’re attaching it to or linking it to, and mixing them together. Giving them a reason why would they interact together and then taking them out of the norm. Use all of your senses and emotions to really understand and imagine what those connections are. According to Nelson, those connections need to have a real reason in your mind.
“It sounds like it’s a lot of work but with practice, that process that we just talked through happens in an instant.”
Taking Memory to a Whole New Level: Advanced Techniques.
According to Nelson, other technics to memorize all the more complicated things like cards, numbers, and addresses, vary a bit on how you encode or see the picture, but they use the same principle.
“I have a system where I’ve already encoded every 3-digit possibility of numbers, so that’s thousand different images for every possible triplet and every time I see a three-digit number I already have a picture for it.”
When Nelson stores these numbers or links them, he uses the Memory Palace technique, which is basically using physical structures that he holds in his mind. He stores the pictures for the numbers along a path through The Memory Palace. “it’s very easy to recall those things because of the familiarity of that space in my mind,” said Nelson.
Although Nelson, tries to compress a lot of numbers into single images, he uses the same basic principles from “See-Link-Go”.
“I use this technique to memorize 10,000 digits of pi and My Memory Palace was huge.”
To remember a whole path, Nelson uses common sense. He doesn’t have to think about it. He usually starts at the front door of the place and just goes through something in a clockwise manner in his head.
According to Nelson, it is very easy to remember the spatial information like the blueprints of your house in your head which you already know. You don’t need to memorize your house, our brains are good at memorizing that stuff automatically, so Nelson believes that is one of the most effective ways to store a lot of information.
Memory and Lifestyle.
If you could follow the See-Link-Go with everything you memorize, it will turn into an instinctive habit that you do every time you try to learn something.
Nelson Dellis recommends to practice everywhere and anytime. When you’re driving or walking around there’s so much information around you that you could try to picture and try to encode into some funny way in and connected to something you know.
Aside from techniques, there are a few environmental or physical things that may affect your memory.
- Diet. Specially Keto diet.
- Sleep. An average of 7 hours of quality sleep.
- Block out distractions while training.
According to Nelson, diet is a big one. So what you put in your body definitely will affect the way you think. Nelson believes that processed foods, sugars, etc, are killers for your memory. When you eliminate those kinds of foods you’ll feel a lot sharper, which will lead you into being more focused.
Nelson eats certain foods to help improve his memory, such Omega-3 DHA which is a fatty acid. He also recommends taking antioxidants (foods or supplements) to help you reduce inflammation in the body.
“I’ve been really interested and happy with the results of the Keto Diet. Taking high fats, reducing carbs, modern protein. I’ve never felt better and sharper in my life.”
During championship days, Nelson strengthens up on the Keto Diet as best as possible. But the same day, he goes into the competition he tries fasting. He tries to actually be a bit hungry because he found out that at that state, he is better at memorizing.
Good brain foods are blueberries, spinach, fish oil (omega-3), dark chocolate, and (moderate amounts of) red wine. DO IT.
— Nelson Dellis (@ClimbForMemory) November 19, 2010
According to Nelson, before a competition, sleep is super important. “I definitely noticed when I don’t get a good night’s sleep, it is difficult for me to keep all these images in my head,” said Nelson. “Nothing runs as smoothly when I am missing sleep.”
If it’s one night a week where he sleeps 5 hours, but the other days are between 7 to 8 hours he is ok. Nelson averages 7 hours of sleep.
When Nelson is training, he blocks out everything else that might be a distraction, that includes his own distracting thoughts. He believes that it is similar to a meditative state. “It’s a great relaxing escape from me as well after I train, I really feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and also more confident because I’ve exercised my memory”, said Nelson.
Nelson relies on memory, but sometimes he also uses technology to help him remember things. He spends many hours just training for competitions that by the time, he tries to remember his to-do list and appointments, he is already exhausted.
Although he uses his smartphone to try to attain a more productive life, there are still some things that he does on a daily basis that will always start with a memory, for example, names and phone numbers. He also memorizes daily things like grocery lists.
“Technology is great. I am not saying “don’t use it, it is the devil”. Maybe use it more than not. But from time to time, it is ok to try to use your own smartphone (the one that is in your head).”
Nelson recommends having fun with memorizing things, don’t stress out when trying to memorize something. Look at it as a game and do what excites you. The more you do it, the more you’ll gain confidence.
- According to Nelson, anybody can just go to (https://www.usamemorychampionship.com/)and sign up.
- The book that got Nelson started, “Quantum Memory Power“.
- His own book, for the general public, “Remember it!“
- The three-step process, See-Link-Go.
- Richard Fayneman
- Memory Palace Technique.
- Omega-3 DHA and the Keto Diet.
- World Memory Champion Alex Mullen.
Thanks, Nelson Dellis!
To know more about Nelson Dellis, find him at nelsondellis.com. You can subscribe to his newsletter. Find more tips and tricks on memory and how to do specific things go to his youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/punknellis14, or check out his book call Remember it!
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