For most people, the inefficient and faulty nature of memory can cause frequent hassles, from forgetting to pick up dry cleaning to drawing blanks on important new names. Many people also regret how much they could improve their lives and businesses if they could only retain more information from reading materials.
Ron White, a top memory expert, believes that anyone can shock themselves with how much their amazing brain can store using a simple streamlining method.
“This method is famous around the world,” says White. “It is called the ‘Loci Method,’ with loci meaning places. Experts can use it to memorize a deck of shuffled cards in less than 26 seconds. Personally, I can now memorize a deck of cards faster than I can say ‘queen of spades.’ Your goal might not be to enter a memory competition, but you might have a simpler goal to be able to remember names and faces, or what you read in a magazine or a book, or to give speeches without notes or memorize product knowledge.”
White learned about the method in college when it helped pull up his GPA. “Ever since then, I have been amazed at how my mind is capable of using this system,” he says.
He explains the method by demonstrating how to memorize an entire issue of SUCCESS magazine. The method requires memorizing a foundation of information, visualization techniques and word association. Once you make room in your brain with the system, it can be used an infinite number of times as you acquire new knowledge.
Think of your brain in a new way.
The first step is simple: picture your mind as a computer. Now imagine taking all the files out of the folders in your computer and dumping them on the desktop. Programs, documents, videos, audio files—you put thousands of stored items randomly on top of each other. Now try to find the phone number of a friend.
An average untrained brain functions quite like this, according to White.
“Every time you get new information you want to remember, you’re simply throwing it on your desktop,” says White. “You meet somebody and their name is Steve. That information goes on your screen. Then when you meet someone six months or a year later, you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I know that person. What is their name?’ So you open up your computer, and you have thousands of icons you’re trying to sort through and you can’t find it. It’s really inefficient and it doesn’t work the majority of the time.”
Create new folders.
To train your brain, White explains that you must install folders on it. It’s an odd concept, but the folders are mental. “Trust me, you’re going to be fine,” White assures. “It’s completely painless.”
The mental folders can be any familiar object. White suggests thinking of a system of organized objects such as items in a home you are familiar with, or the place you grew up in as a child. The originator of the method, a Greek lyric poet named Simonedes who lived during the fifth and sixth centuries, used his town. He labeled 25 to 30 landmarks in a logical order before reviewing the locations and memorizing them.
White says this step is the crucial foundation for building further memory strength. “It’s going to take some time. It might take you 20 to 30 minutes, might only take you five minutes, but it’s going to take you a little bit of time. But this is a one-time exercise for a lifetime skill,” he explains.
The second part of the technique involves attaching the items you want to memorize, using what White calls “mental glue.” If your file is the stove, catch whatever you’re filing on fire. You want to create an action or crazy story so memorable with each file that your brain takes greater note of it than it would with a simple word or phrase.
White says you must create an image from each point and attach them to a file in the order that you have memorized them. The following example is for the February 2009 issue of SUCCESS magazine:
Suggestions for images for the first three sections:
Donnie Deutsch or a picture of Germany Jumping into a pile of books Patting your three file with your hand Construction of an airplane or ship with Legos Giant microscope with your family and friends inside Television with a sailboat on it Stock market with people raising their hands Wrapping your arms around a company and holding it close Giving yourself a paper cut with a margin of paper Being served lemonade on the stock market floor Batman throwing a punch and saying “Pow!” Sunrise Yourself jumping over a doormat An Eggo waffle popping out of a toaster with yourself saying “Leggo my Eggo” A tin can with bumblebees in it Yourself carefully considering which chess pieces to move A paper with a list of negative facts on it that you can’t get around Yourself as a marionette getting pulled around by strings Putting checks next to small things like monopoly pieces or a man on a house, a hat, a limo Giving a credit card to someone Squashing a pair of glasses Walking away from a group of people saying negative things Visiting the optometrists and there being two doctors, then three, and they continue to multiply
Take some time to memorize these 23 steps. If you forget one, don’t worry. The problem was that your “glue” wasn’t strong enough, so try to think of an even crazier and more vivid picture to adhere them more tightly.
This is all that it takes to retain three sections of SUCCESS magazine. Now you can look at what you memorized.
Adding the information.
Number one, Donnie Deutsch, was the first section. He talked about jumping into learning, which White associated with jumping over a book. Then he advised protecting or patenting our files, like the hand patting file number three.
On number five the image was yourself having a focus group with family and friends, with a microscope from that file. The sixth thing Deutsch said was to be creative and get out there and sell it. The sailboat signified that.
File seven began a new section with a market, or Mr. Market, Warren Buffett. The three points he shared were first that when you owned a stock you owned a piece of the company, corresponding with the company with your arms wrapped around it on file eight.
The next file indicated his advice to hold a margin of safety when investing with a piece of paper with a margin on it. His last point, that the stock market is your servant, not your master, was connected to the image of the person bringing you lemonade on the stock market floor.
“Do you see the trend here?” asks White. “We had Donnie Deutsch, and everything that came after that was what he said. Then we had a stock market, Warren Buffett and everything that came after that is what he said. Then we had “pow” on 11, and everything after that will be what Powell said.”
Associations for the remaining files.
- File 12: Sunrise—Don’t worry, everything will look better in the morning.
- File 13: Jumping over a file—Get mad, then get over it.
- File 14: An Eggo waffle—Don’t let your ego get too involved, because if the idea is attached to your ego, then when it fails your ego could go with it.
- File 15: A tin can of bees—It can be done.
- File 16: A chess piece.
- File 17: Negative facts standing in the way—Don’t let adverse facts get in your way.
- File 18: Marionette on strings—You can’t make other people’s choices, so don’t let them make yours.
- File 19: Bunch of objects with checks on them—Check the small things.
- File 20: Credit card sharing with your friends—You must share the credit.
- File 21: Pair of glasses—You must have a vision.
- File 22: Walking away from naysayers—You must do just that.
- File 23: Multiplying optometrists—Optimism is a force multiplier.
Now the information from three sections of SUCCESS is stored in an organized way in your memory. The rest can be memorized in exactly the same way, using your own images.
The beauty of the method is that you can repeatedly memorize things using the folders that will already exist in your brain. Keep the folders consistent and the information will always be easy to rapidly locate, making brain fog a thing of the past. Now, rapidly recalling valuable learned information will be much easier.
“When you’re driving to work you can be reviewing what you memorized,” says White. “Folks, your mind is the greatest computer ever created. You are the best computer ever invented.”
This article was published in May 2009 and has been updated. Photo by