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Here's a little secret you might never have guessed: The people who can accomplish incredible mnemonic feats like memorizing the order of a shuffled deck of cards or hundreds of random numbers in minutesdon't have photographic memories. They have normal brains like you and, yes, me. This past weekend I competed in the 15th annual USA Memory Championship—an olympiad of sorts where "mental athletes" test their power of recall. Lucky for me, I learned a few tricks from the reigning champ for the second year in a row, Nelson Dellis. Here are the techniques Nelson taught me that you can start incorporating into your everyday life to make your memory stronger.
Memory Techniques Anyone Can Learn
Although my memory is fine in general, I have to admit, I'm horrible with names. I am so bad that I forget a person's name before he even finishes saying it—it's like I don't even want to hear it. After one conversation/training session with Nelson, however, I was able to remember dozens of strangers' names in a couple of minutes.
Nelson, a 28-year-old former software developer turned "mnemonic mountaineer,"was an average student in school with, he says, an average memory. When his grandmother Josephine started losing her memory—and memory of him—to Alzheimer's disease, he was prompted to learn more about improving memory. Now he has two national memory competition wins under his belt and the record for memorizing 303 random numbers in five minutes (beating his record last year of 248 numbers). His message is that anyone can do it. It's all in the training and technique.
My Memory Training Boot Camp
My boot camp for this event started two weeks before the competition. I received two bottles of brainstrong DHA supplements (from the event's sponsors), a t-shirt, a training manual, and a list of the events, which included: a 15-minute memorization...