Saturday, October 27, 2012

Moonwalking with Einstein

The book I read this week was Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. Can you picture it? Moonwalking with Einstein? I sure can, and I don't think I will ever be able to forget what it looks like... because it's ridiculous. This is a book about remembering. Joshua Foer was interested in the USA Memory Championships and he was preparing to write an article about it. Well he got so interesting in the concept of remembering that he dove deep into the subject. It was a year long journey for Foer. He was most amazed by the fact that it was not a bunch of savants at the Championship, it was a lot of normal people with just normal people level intelligence. I'll let Joshua tell the story from here... Listen to the whole video, it's absolutely one of my favorites. This is a TED talk that Foer did this past year... Hilarious too.

I was introduced to this subject by a friend of mine from college. He sent me this video in an email because "it looked like my type of thing"... it was. I had been very discouraged lately by the general population not having the ability to remember anything.With easy access to Google and Wikipedia, no one tries to remember anything. I feel like the world is getting a little lazy in that respect. I, on the other hand, love to remember things. I like to remember people's names (because it makes them feel important to you), I like to remember historical events (because it makes me not sound like an idiot in social situations), I like to remember things from these books I read (because it would be a waste of time otherwise). To be successful you have to remember things. I see it as a testament to perceived intelligence. It's an especially important tool to being successful at a young age.

Foer illustrates to ease of remembering within the pages of this book. Remembering a number is tough, but remembering a specific person that smell like garbage riding a unicorn and associating that image to a number makes it super easy to not forget that number. I particularly like the example of Baker vs baker in the video. If you meet someone with the last name Baker, you may have a hard time remembering their name because you have no hooks into that word- Baker. However, on the other hand there is a baker, a person that bakes bread, wears a goofy hat, and smells like fresh baked deliciousness. With a baker you have multiple hooks in that word. The idea of remembering is using an association that your mind can have multiple hooks and therefor remember it much easier. You need to change you Bakers into bakers.

Ever since learning the ways of remembering I have been using them. To do it at Foer's level is way beyond what I plan on doing i.e. remembering a ridiculously long sequence of numbers or pages out of a yearbook or multiple decks of playing cards in order after being shuffled. But I hear people all the time tell me that they aren't good with names and that's why they don't mingle very well. Then get better! Try the techniques laid out in this book. Come up with an association because, especially in the business world, being able to connect and build relationships is one of the most important things you can do. Not only in a "I want a promotion" way but in a "you are going to do a hell of a lot better on this project if you have a good team" way. I think that building relationships is even important in your personal life.... when it comes down to brass tacks, what I am saying is- remember people, their stories and their names.

This book is excellently written. I have never read Foer before this book, but am incredibly impressed with his writing style especially his approach to teaching this concept. I really recommend you check this book out. It's funny, smart, and enlightening, something that is hard to find in a book. Learn to remember things, and if it catches your fancy compete in the USA Memory Championship and win like Foer did. Great read, I recommend you pick it up!


  1. There's our old Trevor!

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