We were barely functioning adults when we were in our early twenties, but Ed Cooke is different. When he was 23, he was crowned Grand Master of Memory, which means he was able to memorize the order of 10 decks of cards and 1,000 random digits in under an hour, among other feats.
He outlined these techniques in detail in his first book, and later, not content with all his achievements, he started Memrise.
The language-learning app boasts a fun, gamified, easy-to-grasp system based on the techniques Ed perfected to such a breathtaking degree.
So, given that we sometimes walk into rooms having forgotten completely why we did so, we asked him for his five most important tips to help us – and more importantly, you – learn anything. Over to Ed:
1. Divide and conquer
“The brain loves bite-size, and everything can be learned when divided into little chunks, no matter how difficult it may first seem. So when you begin learning something, first chop it into digestible morsels. Your brain will thank you later.”
2. Make connections
“Memories are connections, and every memory must link to something already known. So when learning something new, always ask: What does this remind me of? What can I connect it to? How can I make that connection vivid?”
“We are visual creatures, and most of our brains are devoted to sensing. So turn what you’re learning into an image. The brighter, more colorful, and more fun the image, the more memorable – almost by definition.”
4. Test yourself
“Recalling knowledge is the best way to strengthen it. So constantly test yourself as you learn, which helps beef up your memories and makes them faster and more reliable.”
5. Create stories
“Of all ways of connecting knowledge in our minds, stories are the most powerful. So if you have a collection of ideas to learn, try linking them into an entertaining narrative. And don’t forget to practice saying the narrative our loud. That’s the best way to strengthen it.”