How I Do It – Ron White

UPDATED: January 6, 2009
PUBLISHED: January 6, 2009

Have you ever met someone, shaken their hand, and then 30 seconds later realized you couldn't remember the name? Most of us have. But author, speaker and memory marvel Ron White says we are all capable of so much more.

White has amazed audiences around the world with his ability to memorize long strings of numbers and huge chunks of information at a moment's notice. Since discovering he had such incredible potential for memory, he has taught countless people how to tap into the same potential.

How do you help someone who has always had trouble with their memory? Your memory is not nearly as bad as you might think. A few years ago, I was a guest at a radio station. The disc jockey wrote a 50-digit number on a sheet of paper. As the listeners enjoyed a song, I memorized the 50-digit number. When the song was over, I proceeded to say the number forward and backward. The disc jockey looked at me in utter disbelief and said, "Ron, you are incredible!"

"You know, you are right!" I said. "The greatest computer ever created does not come from Dell or Gateway. Instead, you and I are the greatest computers ever created. And yes, you are right. I am incredible… but so are you."

So are you saying we all have this hidden potential? The human brain has the ability to memorize a Shakespearean play word for word or memorize the stats of every baseball player for the last 100 years. And the human memory is capable of recalling every single name after meeting 100 people in 20 minutes! I am currently training to be able to retain a 400-digit number in 5 minutes! The current world record is 405 digits in 5 minutes. The potential for a trained memory, however, is not simply memorizing long strings of numbers. It is building your confidence in public speaking; building relationships and your business by recalling names and faces; and memorizing product knowledge, information from business or success books, knowledge from workshops and much more.

Is memory training something new or has it been around awhile? Two thousand years ago a Greek named Simonedes developed a memory method called loci. With this method, Simonedes numbered locations in his home. He started in the doorway and then logically proceeded around his home. He reviewed these items so many times mentally that if you asked him what number 25 was, he could instantly tell you what piece of furniture corresponded with that number.

How can people apply this method to enhance their success in business? In Simonedes' method, the locations in his home became mental files for him. Then if he had a list of items he wanted to recall he would place them mentally on these objects in his home. Let's say that you are a professional who wants to give a speech without notes. Simply turn the key points of your speech into pictures and then file them to your "house files." When you are called upon to speak, mentally walk through the house and give your talk without notes.

Anything you want to recall, simply turn it into a picture, place it in your house files and get ready to be amazed! Personally, I have 1,400 files, but for many years I only had 50 files. Take the time to draw a map of your home and practice this method to give speeches without notes, memorize chapters of books, recall product knowledge or deliver sales training. Your productivity will skyrocket!

What are your tips for recalling names? Carnegie wrote in his best-seller that the sweetest sound to a person's ear is the sound of their own name. When you recall the name of someone you met five minutes, five weeks or five months before, you have made a lasting positive impression. Zig Ziglar tells us, "People don't care how much we know until they first know how much we care." The person who demonstrates he cares by recalling names will have an endless supply of customers.

How do you recall names? The answer lies in the five steps mentioned above with the only difference being that you don't file a name to a piece of furniture but instead to the person's face. Observe the face and select a "file" on the face that stands out. Perhaps they have large ears, big nose, bushy eyebrows or pretty eyes. This becomes the file for that person. Then have predetermined pictures for each name. For example: Lisa = Mona Lisa; Steve = stove; Barry = berry; Karen = carrot; Michelle = missile; Kerry = carry; Ron = running; Kyle = tile; Hilary = hill of trees; Linda = window.

The next step is to visualize the predetermined picture for the name on the person's outstanding feature. For example, if Michelle has pretty eyes. I mentally place the missile in her eyes with a ton of action and emotion.

Sound like a lot of advance work creating the pictures for names? You are right—it is. However, when I was 18, I spent six weeks turning names into images and have reaped the rewards ever since. If you will spend six weeks doing this it will impact your life forever. Is your business success worth 10 minutes of practice a day for six weeks? I think it is. Remember, you are the greatest computer ever created!

Ron White has written three success books— including Memory in a Month—recorded eight audio programs, and delivered tailored workshops for General Motors, Microsoft, Toyota, Honda, American Airlines, Cisco Systems, the Boy Scouts of America, Lexus , Coldwell Banker, Pfizer and Century 21.

Amy Anderson is the former senior editor of SUCCESS magazine, an Emmy Award-winning writer and founder of Anderson Content Consulting. She helps experts, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs to discover their truth, write with confidence, and share their stories so they can transform their past into hope for others. Learn more at and on Facebook.