The next nonfiction book on my shelf is Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Perhaps you’ve the buzz about this book or seen or heard Foer interviewed recently. Here’s the story in a nutshell:
Foer, a journalist, was asked to cover the U.S. Memory Championships. There he met people who could do amazing things like memorizing 27 decks of shuffled cards in an hour or a string of 4,140 binary digits (0 or 1) in 30 minutes. To Foer’s surprise, he found that these people weren’t geniuses or savants, but had simply trained their brains using well-established memory tools. “Anyone can do this,” the competitors told him again and again.
And they were right. Just one year after covering the U.S. Memory Championship as a science journalist, Foer not only competed in the Championship, but was crowned the new National Memory Champion and set the U.S. record in card memorization (he memorized the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards in 1 minute and 40 seconds, and then recalled it within five minutes).
Here’s where I come in: I’m going to try a bit of participatory blogging here. My goal is to read the book and come back with a blog post in about a month and see if I can apply any of these tricks and improve my own memory—which, frankly, could use some work.
Like a lot of people my age (I’ll be 44 next month), I’m starting to see some cracks in the memory armor. Want me to recite word-for-word an obscure Hall and Oates song from the 80’s? No problem. Details on a client project from 15 years ago? Piece of cake (I’ve actually freaked a few clients out this way.) But ask me my daughter’s cell phone number or when their next softball game/orthodontist appt/school function is? Crickets chirping.
Part of it may be getting older, but I think it also has to do with today’s technology; we simply don’t have to memorize things like phone numbers if they’re right there on our smartphones. Again, I don’t know my kids’ cell numbers (I really should probably work on that) but I still remember my home number from the house I grew up in. I’m convinced part of it also has to do with the Internet and the way we now receive information (to read my blog on The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains click here.
So stay tuned to a future blog post for the result—or lack thereof. Memorizing a deck of cards might be a tall order, but I’m hoping to be able to report completion of some type of memory trick. Now where the heck did I leave my keys…