Here’s the Moonwalking with Einstein summary. Learn actionable techniques on how to improve and extend your memory. Also learn how to make the act of memorizing a fun activity.
Moonwalking with Einstein author Joshua Foer explains the techniques he used to win the 2006 USA Memory Championship. He also provides the lessons that helped him accomplish great feats such as memorizing a deck of 52 cards in less than 2 minutes.
He also explains that our memory skills are actually declining. We rely more and more on storing the information outside of our brains. We rely on computers and other digital storage systems. Contrast that with how the ancients live. They have to remember and memorize a lot for them to survive and thrive.
About the Author
Joshua Foer has written for National Geographic, The New York times, and other popular publications. He specializes in writing about the hard sciences. As a science writer, he has also written about the science of memorizing.
He used what he has learned in winning a memory championship and memorizing a deck of cards in less than 2 minutes. He has also founded websites and organizations that are about learning and his curiosities.
Main takeaways: Moonwalking with Einstein Summary
Let’s discuss the key takeaways from his book:
- The importance of storing information in our brain has diminished.
- Our memory skills can still be improved.
- Chunk information and use the Memory Palace if you want to improve your memorization skills.
The importance of storing information in our brain has diminished
Hundreds of years ago people rely much in their memories. Books (and even paper) were not much available back then. They had to memorize details and transactions. They also had to remember details as accurately as possible.
Contrast that to the present day. We can store the information outside of our brain. We can write the details or just store the info in our computers and mobile phones. It’s easier than memorizing.
That’s why there’s not much incentive in memorizing anything. We have easy access to information. We can just Google everything or pull out our phones to look for more information.
With that reliance on storing the information outside of our brains, our memory skills suffer. Notice now that for many people it’s a struggle to memorize a couple of digits such as their phone numbers or even their families’ birthdays.
Our memory skills can still be improved
There’s still hope. Even for us adults, we can still improve our memorization skills. It doesn’t matter even if we were not champions in spelling bees during our school days. What matters now is that you should be willing to adopt new practices if you want to improve your memory skills.
Our brains have a level of plasticity. It means our brains can be continuously rewired. We can always learn new habits. We can also unlearn some if these don’t help us.
The same goes with our memorization skills. If we always practice, our brains will be rewired so we can store more information in a more efficient way. This is true especially when you’re immersed in a certain field.
For example, chess masters can memorize the exact positions of each piece during a game. Some can even play blindfolded. They know the position of each piece even without seeing the board.
But those same chess masters won’t actually perform better in general memory tests. They just have become better at memorizing chess pieces. That’s because with tons of practice, they’ve started seeing the board differently.
You can also do that in other fields aside from chess. For example, you have years of programming experience. It’s now easy for you to memorize new programming-related concepts. You might also find it easy to learn new programming languages.
Chunk information and use the Memory Palace if you want to improve your memorization skills
The masters use specific techniques that make memorizing easier. You might have used a few techniques yourself during your studies. At school, you’re required to memorize a bunch of stuff in almost all the subjects. During those times (especially before an exam), you might even have used techniques that you didn’t learn anywhere else.
For example, you might have used the acronym technique in memorizing a list. Some exams have an enumeration. If you can make 7 items fit an acronym, it becomes easier to memorize the whole list.
Some students also became creative in storing information in their brains. For example in identifying whether a certain bacteria species is gram-negative or gram-positive. They draw a circle and write the gram-negative bacteria in the left side. Then they color it red. They do the same in the other half with the gram-positive bacteria (but this time the other half is colored blue).
Another common technique is chunking. Instead of memorizing a long string of information, you break it down into smaller and more manageable chunks. For example try memorizing 10091986. It’s a struggle isn’t it?
But if you break down that long string of digits into chunks, it becomes much easier. You can make it 10/09/1986. Notice how you can easily memorize that.
You can also apply that to other bits of information. The key here is to break down long strings of information into smaller and more manageable parts. This is to avoid overwhelm and to help us feel that it’s more manageable than we thought.
Another technique is the Memory Palace. Basically, you mentally associate things to physical locations. For example, you have a long list of grocery items to buy. Imagine each item being put onto the kitchen table. Then when you come into the grocery store, you just have to remember the kitchen table and the items on it.
That’s just a simple example. You can also apply the same principle to huge amounts of information (such as a deck of cards) to memorize. You can mentally associate each card into a specific item in your home or locality. Then when it’s time for you to recall each card, you imagine the location and what card is put into each specific location.
There you have it. You still have lots of opportunities to improve your memory skills. You can just do it for fun so you can impress your friends. You can also do it to improve your academics. Either way, having a strong memory is always impressive.