Saturday, December 09, 2023

You must remember this

| March 19, 2023 1:00 AM

I have often wondered if people are born with a photographic memory, or does it take time to develop?

While it's said that one advantage of having a poor memory is that you find all jokes funny, memory for many is no laughing matter. It's serious stuff and can help you a great deal in business and in life. National Memory Day is March 21.

You don't have a poor memory. You either have a trained memory or an untrained memory. If your memory is a concern for you, the good news is that memory can be improved. You can learn to remember anything if you practice some retention techniques.

Studies show that 20% remember by hearing, so say things out loud. Forty percent remember by seeing, and the other 40% by doing, so write things down to prove to yourself that you know them.

Like most people, I forget 50% of what I hear within hours, so I have adopted many techniques to help me remember.

Rule No. 1: Pay attention. If you are distracted when you are learning a new name or fact, you must focus on the person or information in front of you.

How many times have I preached that pale ink is better than the most retentive memory? Write things down, and just as important, remember where you put the information. I am constantly writing myself notes and leaving them where I can find them.

I also read my notes aloud because I've found that if I repeat the name or number, I will be able to reinforce my memory. Repetition aids retention. I say things three times, so they are firmly fixed in my mind.

Name association is another tool I use. When I meet someone and want to remember their name, I associate names with famous people. For example, if I meet a Michael, I think of Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Michael Douglas and so on. It also helps if I have a close friend with the same first name. Last names present a different challenge.

Remembering things is easier when what we are trying to memorize or store away in our minds is related to something we already know. That's why many memory methods involve trying to associate something new with something we know very well.

Visualization is yet another tool. Anything you can visualize is always easier to remember. In memory training, you are constantly associating, linking or connecting one thought with another. This quadruples your retention.

There are other ways that you can improve your memory other than the above tricks. First, get plenty of rest and exercise. I've found that socializing and eating the right foods also helps. Anything you can do to reduce stress and minimize distractions is a benefit. The main thing is to keep your brain active. Exercise your brain so your memory doesn't get flabby.

Remembering names, numbers and facts all comes down to desire. You must control the mind and make it do what you want it to do. Take time to realize the value of what you are trying to remember and reinforce it by reminding yourself that this memory can enrich your life.

Stop me if you've heard this one — or remember it — but here's my favorite memory joke.

A memory card walks into a bar, spots a piano, sits down and starts playing some incredible music. After several songs, mostly original, the memory card gets up, and the bar goes wild with cheers and applause.

The bar owner is so impressed that he runs up to the memory card and says, "Buddy, you were INCREDIBLE! If you come back tomorrow, I'll split the night's till with you!"

"No can do …" says the memory card. "I'm limited to one gig!"

Mackay's Moral: Put your memory where your mouth is. If you want people to know how much you care, show them how much you remember.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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