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Improve Your Memory by Bringing Information to Life

This article was based on the TEDxPretoria talk, “Instantly Recalling Understanding,” by Kevin Horsley:


Instantly recalling understanding: Kevin Horsley at TEDxPretoria


Memory Strategy

Kevin Horsley has been studying the mind and memory for over twenty-three years.  He begins his talk by memorising a string of 54 random numbers. For twenty seconds, he is face to face with the flipchart of numbers and does not move. Then he turns around to face the audience and recites the numbers without a single mistake.  Even more impressive, is when he recites the string of numbers in reverse.


Improve your memory by bringing information to life 1


Horsley believes that there is no such thing as a good or bad memory. There is only a good or bad memory strategy.  Some people think they have a bad memory because they can’t remember where they put their car keys. That is not a memory problem; it is an attention problem. What happened when you put your car keys down, is that you didn’t pay attention to where you put them.


Create a Story

Perhaps you have trouble remembering where you’ve parked your car when you go shopping.  The key to remembering its location is to mark it with something in the environment. When you do this, you create a story in your mind that you will be able to recall when you need to find your car later. Most of the things we call memory problems are quite normal and can be solved with a bit of attention.  


Benefits of Memory

Reading and learning become almost pointless if you cannot recall what you know.  No matter how much you discover or experience, the value vanishes if you can’t remember it tomorrow.  Your thinking relies on short-term and long-term storage of information, and the quality of your thinking is determined by the facts you have remembered.

The more information you can process the more ideas you can generate. When you have laser-like focus, and you improve your memory, you also improve your speed of learning and recall. At the same time, you can increase your self-confidence, and you’ll be known as someone who is knowledgeable.


Experiencing Knowledge

Improving memory is about focusing on the brain and learning how to store information there. When information is on paper or on a screen, you are observing knowledge, but when it’s in your brain, you have an inward experience of that knowledge. The more memories you have properly stored in your brain, the more potential you have to make unique combinations and connections. The more you know, the easier it is to get to know more, and this is where the magic of creativity happens.


The Cost of Forgetting

The problem with poor memory is that most people and most companies are learning and forgetting. The average person only remembers 54% of the new information they learned the prior day. That’s a loss of 46 cents for every dollar spent on training. It gets worse with time. After 28 days, the average person only remembers 18%. Forgetting is expensive, but it can also be embarrassing if it makes you look foolish and incompetent.  If you forget key company policies and safety procedures, it can also cause serious damage.


Give Meaning to Information

The reason we struggle to remember information is that there are no classes taught in school on how to use one’s memory. What people often do when they want to remember something is repeat it over and over in their heads. The problem is that this is not very effective. The way to be effective is to bring information to life with our internal movie screen, so that information you want to remember has meaning. The more you bring information to life, that information will stick and the more you will be able to use it. Breaking down information and bringing it to life, allows you to quickly learn and remember new knowledge. This technique can make training more effective and faster because more knowledge is retained.


Engines of Innovation

Accelerating learning is not about doing more, it is about what you need to do less.  You need less judgment, less volume, and fewer excuses. Have a bit of fun with your memories as you make your mental movies because your memory is where your life is lived. If you didn’t have memory, you’d be totally stuck in time. You’d be unable to learn, grow, or change because there is no intelligence without stored facts.  We need to stop outsourcing our brains to devices, and we have to start coming back to the most powerful technology that we have between our ears because imagination and memory are the engines of innovation.


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