You’d never even know …
Memory masters walk amongst us, unnoticed. They don’t look any different from you or me. They go about their business in the normal way, attracting no special attention from anybody. But these people are different … oh boy, are they different!! (spooky, huh!)
The thing is, they have chosen to be different, most of them. They have focused on one of the most important of all our mental faculties and sought to perfect it. And by not deviating from their goal, they have achieved amazing levels of skill.
In some cases they have been born different from others, or developed differently, and in this way have more of whatever it is that allows them to excel in terms of memory. But who can say we can’t all improve our memory, and do things ‘normal’ people would consider almost impossible? The limits of what is possible are changing all the time, or at least our perceptions of those limits. No-one knows the true capabilities of the human brain, but for now, at least we can take a look at a few of these Memory Masters and see what can be learnt from them.
The power of persistence
One of the main differences between the memory masters and the rest of us is that they are persistent. They stick to it. Endlessly. They practise their art every day, honing their skills, learning new ones, searching for better and more efficient ways to achieve startling results. And as they learn and master new ways to memorise things, they put that skill to good use, committing to memory vast amounts of data, hungrily, eagerly, voraciously.
This steady, persistent, endlessly patient attitude isn’t the sole faculty of the Memory Masters; we can all take a leaf out of their book and adopt the same methodical manner. In the end, you see, it’s not innate skill that separates us from them (at least not usually), it’s the willingness to stick at it, no matter what. To learn memory techniques, to study them, to practise them, to make them a part of our everyday lives. And to decide, firmly, that we can do it – to have that unshakeable confidence in our own ability, instead of giving in to all the negative self-talk and self-doubt. And that really is a matter of choice. You can make a conscious decision to make the most of your memory, and to believe in your own ability – or you can give up, as we all do so very often, in so many matters.
The alternative, and it’s exemplified perfectly in those who have chosen to master their memory, is to strive to reach an uncommon level of expertise in memory skills, and in so doing, achieve something truly extraordinary.
Kim Peek, one of the great memory masters
Among the modern masters of memory, and standing head and shoulders above practically everybody else, was Kim Peek. Kim was very unusual, even amongst the élite, in that he probably had some physical differences to the rest of us, due to his early medical history. He had many limitations in his life, but he dealt with them heroically, and he mastered his memory to an almost unheard of extent.
There are some phenomenal facts about his life and his abilities that will amaze you, and you can read more about him on this page. Sadly, Kim died quite recently, but he did an amazing amount to make people realise that people with mental disabilities sometimes possess astonishing powers of memory. He wasn’t just a man with a phenomenal memory though – his mental powers and in-depth knowledge of a wide range of subjects put him at the genius level, and beyond.
Dominic O’Brien was no more than an average student and had no special talents in the memory department. But seeing a ‘memory man’ on television was enough to spark his interest in the subject, and the rest is history. To many people, the name Dominic O’Brien is now synonymous with memory mastery. He’s written several books on the subject, and his innovative memory techniques are widely used.
He is one of the most amazing memory masters of modern times, and a serial winner of the World Memory Championships. Could you remember the sequence of a shuffled pack of cards? He can do it with multiple packs! You can read more about him here.
Daniel Tammet – autistic, yet among the great memory masters
Daniel Tammet was born with autism, a mental condition that makes it difficult to interact with other people, along with several other limitations. When Daniel was a boy he used to retreat into his own little world and focus on numbers, which he found strangely comforting.
He counted everything and calculated things when there was no earthly reason to. It just became a consuming obsession. His skills eventually developed to the point where he could do complex arithmetical calculations faster in his head than others could with the aid of a calculator, or even a computer.
Oh, and he can learn a language in a matter of months (or even much less, if challenged!). Read more about the amazing Daniel Tammet on this page.
Tony Buzan has authored or co-authored over 100 books on memory and other mind skills, and is widely regarded as the originator of mind mapping. He has devoted his life to developing his mental skills and teaching others how they can do the same.
He has advised major corporations and governments on improving the mind skills of their high-flyers, and he was the driving force behind the World Memory Championships, run annually since 1991.
His groundbreaking BBC television series, “Use Your Head” was first broacast in the 1970s. Read more about Tony Buzan here. But it’s not just memory champions that Tony Buzan is interested in – he believes we all have the potential to excel in terms of memory. He cheerfully says,
Age is no excuse either, he says.
So … there’s hope for us all then!
Derren Brown – great showman, and among the memory masters
Derren Brown is a supreme showman, and certainly amongst the best in the business. Many of his breathtaking skills have their foundation in a well-trained memory. He combines magic, illusion, suspense, showmanship, artistry, and a never ending quest for pushing the boundaries ever further, to produce some of the most jaw-dropping acts ever witnessed on stage or screen.
He has taken the old standards of magic and memory and totally re-energised them, and brought them to a new level, and indeed, a new audience – many who would previously have had no real interest in the subject are now confirmed afficionados.
You can read some more about Derren Brown on this page.
One of the first memory masters I ever came across was Harry Lorayne. I read a couple of his books many years ago and tried to emulate his methods.
I learnt a lot from Harry Lorayne, but my success in duplicating his skills was woefully lacking – sadly, I never had the persistence to keep studying and practising the skills I learned. And now, regretfully, I have a medical condition that limits my attempts!
Reading his books, though, gave me a terrific boost. It made me realise that anyone can do amazing things with memory; that even someone as outstandingly skilful and accomplished as Harry Lorayne used the very same memory techniques that ordinary people like you and I could learn.
I do believe that a phenomenal increase in memory power is possible for the average person, as long as he learns some appropriate memory techniques and commits to practising them on a regular basis. Persistence really is the key to success!
Read a bit more about Harry Lorayne to see what a phenomenon he really is.
Life is so cool for Stephen Wiltshire! He just does what he loves to do, and that is grab a pen and start drawing. And his drawings have brought him fame and independence. What started as a hobby, something that absorbed him and motivated him, has become his life’s work.
The thing about Stephen Wiltshire is that he was drawing complex and detailed pictures before most of us had got to grips with stick men and spiky suns. Although Stephen was born autistic, his natural grasp of form and perspective have made his artworks unique and his draughtsmanship ultra professional.
Stephen Wiltshire often draws from memory. Even complex cityscapes don’t faze him. For an autistic lad he hasn’t done too badly – his artworks sell for anything up to several thousand pounds each, and he has his own gallery in London. To say he has a good memory isn’t doing it justice – if there really is such a thing as a photographic memory, he has one!
Derek Paravicini didn’t have the greatest start in life. Born premature, he was diagnosed early on with severe learning difficulties. He was also blind and autistic. Luckily, he got his hands on a tiny keyboard when he was just a toddler, and that gave him the opportunity to express himself musically. From being trapped inside his own body, lonely and unable to communicate with anyone else, suddenly he was able to do something that fascinated him – make music, and make people happy.
Today, Derek is recognised as a musical savant. He has perfect pitch, and not only can he play any musical composition, he can play one that he’s only heard once before. And do it note-for-note perfect, every time. And he remembers them all – countless thousands of them! He was performing with an orchestra before he was ten years old, and today he has his own dedicated website, and has had a biography released, telling the story of how he went from the individual prison that is blind autism, to performing on stages worldwide.
If Derek can achieve such things, having had such an inauspicious start in life, just think what each one of us is capable of.
Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Harry Nelson Pillsbury was such a remarkable chess player and memory master that he could play the game blindfolded, and against several opponents at the same time. Although he didn’t learn to play the game till he was sixteen, by the age of 22 he was invited to the Grand International Chess Tournament in Hastings, England, which was the foremost chess tournament in history at the time (this was in 1895).
He went on to play at several major tournaments around the world, often against grand masters, and he went on tour across America demonstrating his skills. Despite his amazing abilities, he sometimes lost his concentration and consequently his games, but nobody could ever say he was anything less than a chess and memory grand master.
Scratching the surface
These few Memory Masters are hugely impressive, and the things they can do are breathtaking, but they are just a few of many. Their skills are well documented and inspirational. Memory improvement is a skill that virtually anybody can undertake successfully, and countless people have done so.
Nobody is saying you’ll be a World Memory Champion if you practise the memory techniques you’ll find on this site, but then again, who’s to say you won’t? What will happen when you make the decision to undertake memory improvement is dependent solely on you, and your levels of skill and commitment.
Never be put off by the thought that you could never emulate the Masters’ astonishing skills. Instead, determine to make the best you possibly can of yourself, in terms of memory improvement. You’ve got nothing to lose, and a whole world of skill and achievement to discover.