Read The Memory Palace Online

Authors: Lewis Smile

Tags: #Education & Teaching, #Studying & Workbooks, #Study Skills, #Self-Help, #Memory Improvement, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Education & Reference

The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace
Learn Anything And Everything
(Starting With Shakespeare and Dickens)

by Lewis Smile



"As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words."
- William Shakespeare

I am about to tell you a stupid story.

It begins with you in your warm and cosy bed, and ends with you taking your seat in your local theater (or cinema), moments before watching one of Shakespeare's plays.

Along this journey, you will see absurd images representing each play, dropped at specific locations. The images will be linked in some way to the names of each play, and your only task is to vividly picture each image, at the specific location. You are not trying to memorize anything, you are simply picturing each step in your head.

The actual journey we will be treading is loose enough for you to bend to meet an actual route in your real life. Please do this. Plop the route on top of an actual route from your house. You will be imagining the crazy things along the way, but make sure the route is real. Your journey will be mad, boldness will be our friend, and your job will be an easy one.

Wisely and slow? Ha! We will move at breakneck speed, on buses and donkeys and bicycles and tightropes, and at the end of our journey you will be able to fly back through in your mind and recite the names of every play. Just as if you had installed it in your head like a computer installing a program or document onto its hard drive. You will know the information so well, you will
it. You will not just know the information intellectually, you will know it spatially. You will have plotted knowledge along a spatial memory, which is the closest you'll likely ever get to simply installing knowledge directly into your brain. Until you can walk into a pharmacy and buy a protein-microchip-neural-prosthesis, insert it inside your head and have it latch onto your brain and install knowledge... this is the best we've got.

There is no such thing as a bad memory - only an untrained one.

The Memory Palace technique is not just about the specific information you memorize, however.

The list of plays will function as a timeline of Shakespeare's work. If you don't know much about his work (like me, before I started this journey myself) you will find the resultant list inside your own mind has become the perfect scaffolding onto which you can hang more information. Things come alive when you begin your educational journey into a subject with the Big Picture already installed in your head. It gives you an incredible perspective.

I'm excited that I get to be the one to share this with you!

There's no need for repetition. No need to make a song of the words. No need to write out the list a dozen times and stick it around your house, on your fridge, on the bathroom mirror, on the cereal box, on the dog, on your hand. None of this.

You don't need to write a single thing down, because this will work automatically. It will work for you because it can't fail to work. When presented information in this way, your brain can't help but learn it.

Your Mission for the next 30 minutes:
Read the story. Get used to punctuating memory journeys with weird images. Go forth and make your own to learn anything and everything.

Learn Shakespeare's plays from this story, but also learn how to make your own. You can apply this same technique to any other subject, and learn any amount of information you want. This will work because it is about imagination, and no matter how bad you may claim your memory to be, you can't possibly argue there's anything wrong with your imagination. Every day, innocently in your own private thoughts, you are vivid, crude, cruel, loud, and explicit... oh, there's nothing wrong with your imagination...

Walk through this journey in your own way. Inspect details. Picture yourself there. Talk out loud to the characters along the way if you want to. Just make it real.

It will take you 20 minutes to read this story, then 10 minutes more to run through the list in your head forwards and backwards (and then to high-five the nearest person). So in 30 minutes from now you will have absorbed the names of all of Shakespeare's plays, and you won't be able to forget them even if you try. From now on, you will be able to recite the list of plays to anyone who will listen. And my god, oh how they will listen.

"Isn't it interesting how this, one of his last Tragedies, is so vibrantly different from his earlier Tragedies? I wonder where it pivots..." - THIS can be YOU,
faking smart conversation, in 30 minutes from right now!

You get to talk to your brain in its own bizarre language - a language of color and volume and location - and learn faster than you ever have before.
And never forget.

The Memory Palace Technique

"Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved."
- Thomas Fuller

Memories are not made equal.

Your brain is great at remembering some things, and utterly terrible at remembering others. Can you remember a 20-digit number a day after hearing it one time? No. No you can't. If you are nodding your head right now saying yes, Yes, YES, then your yeses are lies. Your brain is bad at remembering dry data because it wasn't built for remembering dry data. Think of the millions of years of evolution of the human brain. We need to be able to remember smells. We need to be able to remember our way round our forests and caves and towns and cities. We need to remember routes and journeys. We need to remember physical things, not data. Objects, not lists. Three-dimensional space, not text on paper.

The solution:
Play to your strengths.

If the solution sounds surprisingly simple, that's because it is. Learn how your brain works, then learn everything you've ever wanted to know. That's the Memory Palace technique in a nutshell.

Do you know all of Charles Dickens' novels? Do you know all of Shakespeare's plays? Do you know the world's longest rivers? The most-populated countries? Can you name every President the United States has ever had? Can you list the entire British Monarchy all the way back in time to 757AD? Can you reel off the geological time periods? Can you name every 'Best Picture' Oscar Winning Movie since 1928? Can you reproduce the Periodic Table of Elements if asked to do so?

If not, why not?

Well, probably because you haven't fed the information into your brain in a way it can remember.

Instead of having memories "in there somewhere", with everything in your head swirling around like a shaken cocktail, you will have an organized library of information. Learning in this way means when you come to recall something, you go to exactly where that memory is stored inside your head. You can even look around at the related memories. A Memory Palace makes memories accessible, clear, vivid, and most importantly, unforgettable.

What is a Memory Palace?

A Memory Palace is a spatial memory. It is nothing more complicated than this.

A Memory Palace doesn't have to be a palace, or even a building of any kind, but is simply a series of locations you know very well. It could be your walk to work. It could be your trip from bedroom to car. It could be the stops on your bus route. It could be a walk around your local museum. It can be anywhere you can travel in your mind.

If you can close your eyes right now (wait until you finish reading this sentence first) and walk around your house in your mind, you have all the skills necessary to do this. You already have all the tools you need to devour any information you wish to learn. Let no book, course, or website tell you it is any more complex than this. The Memory Palace technique is simple in both concept and execution.

What we will be doing here is encoding a spatial memory with information we wish to remember. In this example, we will be learning the list of Shakespeare's 37 plays in chronological order. Not only will you then be able to list all his plays out loud to anyone who will listen, both forwards and backwards no less, you will also be able to apply your new skill to any other information you want to learn. We will be creating crazy, colorful, vivid images to represent each title and we will be dropping them along our route. When we get to the end, you will run through the journey in your mind, noticing how everything is still in the place you left it, ready for recall to impress willing listeners.

Sprinkling information in a spatial memory in this way, in the way your brain eats up like mars bars at fat camp, the otherwise dry facts and lists get stuck in your head and remain easily findable.

How many times have you said "I KNOW this, I just can't remember it!" in utter frustration when trying to recall something from memory? All too often, I'll bet. The trouble with the way you are probably currently learning is that those memories aren't stored in an actual physical location in your mind. To recall the names of the bones of the entire human skeleton, for example, you are just fishing around inside your brain trying to pull out words, hoping one thing triggers another, or unearths something. Instead of this haphazard crap-shoot approach to learning and recall, you are about to see how in future you can create a new Memory Palace route for anything you want to learn, then simply travel there in your mind to recall the information.

On with the fun and games!

Why Are We Starting With Shakespeare?

"It's never useless to learn something seemingly useless."

It may seem an odd choice. Why, of all the things to learn, would we learn Shakespeare's plays?

Of course knowing the full list is impressive to most unsuspecting people, but learning Shakespeare's plays serves more as a great example of just what's possible with the Memory Palace technique. The names of only a few of the plays are easy to convert into a memorable image, like The Taming of the Shrew or even Romeo and Juliet, but most of them have tricky words and are harder to imagine, such as Much Ado About Nothing or Troilus and Cressida, or Titus Andronicus. I will show you how everything can be broken down into memorable fragments and images, and placed along your memory route with ease.

Knowing Shakespeare's plays is just the beginning. Not only will we cover Charles Dickens' novels briefly afterwards, but you will be ready to move on to bigger, more ambitious projects. Maybe you want to know all the countries of the world, or maybe you want to pass a class Biology test, or maybe you want to apply this technique to learning a new language. You are about to learn how your brain best learns. What you learn next is up to you.


"HaHaHa! LOL! HaHaHa!"

Ok, that's weird. Your alarm clock doesn't usually sound like laughter. Slowly, cautiously, you open your eyes. Your bedroom. Everything looks normal. Desk, cupboard, window, clothes all over the floor, two guys standing in the corner. All seems normal. Wait, what? Two guys?! You should probably be worried, but their laughter is kind of reassuring, don't you think? The two men, who just not-so-rudely awoke you, are dressed in the finest suits and are wearing the nicest bowler hats you have EVER seen. How posh. The bowler hats each have a big letter
V on

Ah, of course! Today is the day we learn all of Shakespeare's plays, in chronological order, no less. These dressed up
gentlemen with the V on
are obviously to remind us of our first play,
The Two Gentlemen of Verona

You clamber out of bed and start to head for the door because, even though these guys seem nice and you'd love to stay and chat, you really must get moving. Today is the day you see the Royal Shakespeare Company performing in the theater! At last! You've been waiting for this day for so long, remember? You wouldn't miss it for the world. Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

You quickly get dressed into your Shakespeare costume (because who doesn't have a Shakespeare costume?), complete with a big neck ruffle and quill and WS emblazoned across your chest like a superhero. You look extremely snazzy, well done you.

As you open your bedroom door to strut straight out of your bedroom, you see the hallway has been filled with several hoops. Hoops for jumping through like in the circus. It's fair to say this bizarre scene does not usually greet you every morning, but you don't seem fazed one bit. You have no time to waste, remember! You crouch down and leap through the first hoop only to notice you are not alone...

Leaping through the hoops ahead of you is some kind of mouse. Mouse? Shrew?
Obviously this is a
tame shrew
, pulling these kinds of tricks, and is put here to help us remember that our second play is
The Taming of the Shrew
. Bored of this shrew now and its fancy tricks, you hit it out of the way and quickly leap through the remaining hoops on your way to the bathroom.

Surprise surprise. Your path through the bathroom door is blocked. By a GIANT
. She's got to be at least
6 feet tall
, and she's completely blocking the doorway. There is an egg box on the floor, and the hen is trying to lay eggs straight into it with precise aim. POP POP!
2 eggs
shoot out and land perfectly. POP POP POP!
3 eggs
, straight into their egg box slots. POP!
1 more egg
, perfectly placed. 2, 3, 1. This 6 foot Hen will be very useful in helping us remember what comes next, and it's three different plays...
Henry 6th Part 2
Henry 6th Part 3
, then
Henry 6th Part 1
. This must be why the eggs were laid in that order. 2, 3, 1. Why oh why didn't Shakespeare just write them in the correct order! DAMN YOU SHAKESPEARE! Oh wait. Maybe he did. Don't worry about the order of these 3 too much.

"I literally can't imagine this day getting any weirder!" you announce naively, to no one but yourself.

This day WILL get weirder, I promise you.

Take that for example. That thing. At the top of the stairs, going down. That's a
isn't it? With the bathroom blocked by the giant Henry Hen, you can do nothing but climb aboard the tightrope to get downstairs. You are in a hurry after all. You teeter and wobble as your make your way down, but you are not the only one aboard the tightrope. You are joined by
Ron Weasley
! He's teetering and wobbling from the other end of the tightrope. You and Ron. He's struggling to balance, rocking the whole thing, and he's got his standard acting "worried" look on his face. You know that thing he does, with his eyebrow? Typical Ron. So it's you and
Ron on a tightrope
. This has got to be our next play,
Titus Andronicus
! Get it? You and Ron, on a tightrope. Get it? Get it? Get it? You probably get it.

What an odd morning this is turning out to be.

You slide down the second half of the tightrope, and smash straight into...
Richard Nixon
! He goes flying backwards with the force of the hefty shove you just gave him, you ol' brute, you don't know your own strength. Looking closer, you notice this is no ordinary Richard Nixon. He appears to have
3 heads
! This must be
Richard the 3rd
, the next play on our list.

Slumped against the wall, our three-headed Richard Nixon croaks one of Shakespeare's most famous lines... "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!". With Richard the 3rd thoroughly defeated, you make a few tentative steps to the front door. You've got to get out of this mad house!

Just before walking out the door you peer into the living room, just to make sure nothing strange is going on.

There appears to be some kind of rehearsal for a play going on, in your very own living room! A
rehearsal gone wild
. There are 4 people in there, 2 sets of twins, practicing their lines, but laughing hysterically at each other. They
keep getting their lines wrong
falling into each other
, and knocking things over. The room is getting wrecked! Perhaps they're drunk? This is another play to check off our list. It's got to be the
Comedy of Errors!

Onwards to the front door. You really don't have time for drunken parties or rehearsals or whatever is going on in your front room. You open the door, and slip out, closing it behind you.

Big mistake.

There's a woman on your doorstep,
giving birth
! She's all red faced, she's breathing in-out-in-out-in-out in that deep manic way women do when they're giving birth. A woman
in labor
on your very own doorstep. Oh. She's spotted you. Here comes trouble, surely...

"I love you! I love you! I love you!"
she shouts. At you. Really loudly. What
the neighbors think. Well, they'll probably think she she loves you. Just as you are about to say something back, the baby she is giving birth to shoots out of her with a loud pop! It shoots across the street like some kind of missile and lands in a hedge. Argh!
The baby is lost!
This is
Love's Labour's Lost
, of course. Unfortunately, you've got no time to worry about super flying vanishing babies. I'm sure he's ok over there in that cosy hedge. We have other things to worry about. Like getting to that theater before the play starts.

You rush over to your bike that's locked up outside the house, and... THE DISHONEST WRETCH!
Richard Gere
, another Richard, this time with only
2 heads
, is trying to steal your bike! That's so typical Richard Gere. You kick him out of your front garden, watch as he tumbles back onto the road, hop on to your bike, and start pedaling. You ride over Richard Gere's 2 heads for good measure. Why not? Two headed Richard Gere is obviously
Richard the 2nd
, the next play on our list.

Maybe now that you are on your bike, pedaling away from this crazy morning, you'll get some peace and quiet. "Please!" you blurt out breathlessly, "No more weird stuff!"

At the end of your street you stop to let some people cross the road. Nothing strange about that. All normal. All normal. Please stay normal. A boy and a girl from opposite sides of the road start crossing in front of you. Normal. Normal, normal. As they get to the middle of the road, next to each other, they hug. Slightly not normal. These are clearly the star-crossed lovers,
Romeo and Juliet
. You smile, because what a romantic way to start your day, seeing these two happy souls.


Oh gosh.

They both just dropped dead, at the same time, right there in the middle of the road!

Hmmm. Not such a good moment after all.

You look around and notice you were the only person who just saw that happen. You should probably call for help, or phone an ambulance or the police or something. Or maybe just wake up that
sleeping Knight
over here next to you. Wait, what? A Knight? What's a Knight doing on your street? Sleeping in the gutter, no less. You see him twitching in his sleep, like a dog
. Twitch. Twitch. That's so weird. We have a
dreaming Knight
, which is so very convenient for our list of plays, because the next play on our list is
Midsummer Night's Dream

In the corner of your eye you spot movement. You really haven't had a moment to rest this morning! What is it this time?

A little boy, a really little boy, is dancing his way across the road toward you and the Knight, who's still sleeping in the gutter. The little boy is wearing a crown on his head, and he's actually dancing pretty well. He seems to be
getting older
right before your very eyes. It's a scientific miracle! He's getting taller, the crown is getting tighter on his head as he gets bigger, and he - wait a minute! That's
John Travolta
! He's dancing the Night Fever, is old John. And old he certainly is. He's getting older even faster now. His hair is gray. He's doing hunched-over dancing (still dancing though), and as he gets close enough to the Knight he collapses down on top of him. Dead. He went completely through the whole process of ageing right before your very eyes.
The Life and Death of King John
, the next play on our list. Excellent! Well, not for King John.

You pedal on, round the corner at the end of your road. Let's leave this mad street. Surely things will calm down the further away you pedal from that mad house.

Oh look, a boat.

The madness has clearly spilled beyond your street.

There's a boat being rowed by a
right in the middle of the street, with no water in sight. A mermaid! In your neighborhood! She's even wearing two shells instead of a bra. Ooh la la. Clearly, our really sexy mermaid is lost. In
, you know, they have roads made out of tasty tasty water, but this isn't Venice! You can't just row a boat down a concrete road!

Well you clearly can, because she's doing it, right before your very eyes.

This mermaid from Venice is undoubtedly
The Merchant of Venice
, our next play.

Just as you are beginning to seem rude, standing mouth agape, staring at her mermaidness and flowing blonde locks, there is a noise above, getting louder, and getting closer. You peer up into the sunlight and squint to see. You may not believe this, but
4 giant hens
are hurtling towards you from the heavens above, and they're gaining speed. Clearly taking inspiration from Angry Birds, the 4 hens are targeting our mermaid in her boat. No! Not our really really sexy mermaid!

You try to warn her, but she's not listening and you are too slow. They slam into the boat, probably killing our mermaid (boo) and destroying the vessel into thousands of splinters.

As you'll remember from our first giant hen, this must be a Henry, and as there are 4 of them here dive-bombing the boat, this must be
Henry the 4th

Wood blocks everywhere. Every. Where. That Henry the 4th smashed up our Merchant of Venice quite severely.

So shaken as we are, so wan with care, we continue on our way. Quick. Get pedalling that bicycle before anything else unwelcome arrives.

As if on cue...

You hear them before you see them, but only for a brief moment before they burst from the driveway next to you. A happy, jolly, joyful,
merry group of ladies
. They are all skipping about, being all merry, carrying a
each. A dangerous saw! They are collecting up the wood from our exploded boat and chopping it down into splinters with their saws. The merry ladies, these productive saw-ers are getting rid of the now-smaller bits of wood by hurling them up into the sky to get blown off in the wind. Aha! These must be
The Merry Wives of Windsor
, our next play.

They keep collecting the wood, sawing it up, and hurling it into the wind, until it seems they have angered whatever Angry Bird gods there may be. Again, from the sky above, the
same 4 hens
have come back for a
go! This is Henry the 4th Part 2, our next play, and it looks like our 4 hens are heading straight for our Merry Wives, scaring them back into their driveway.
Henry the 4th Part 2

The 4 hens do indeed smash into the Merry Wives, scattering them in all directions, and you decide it's finally time to get moving. These birds have been really aggressive today. You should have worn a helmet, you fool!

You pedal your way down to the corner of the next road, observing all the relevant Cycling Proficiency rules to stay out of trouble of course. There's a definite whiff of weird in the air and you are not taking any chances.

Across the road, for example, there... on the corner... it's a mini wedding!

There are two sets of twins, all getting married. The two standing on the left are shouting
"I do! I do! I do!"
and bouncing around all excited and annoying. The two on the right remain silent. They're shaking their heads wildly like two exaggerating silent movie actors, afraid to say yes. The wedding has turned into a one-way shouting match. This could well break out into something a little more heated!
The "I do!" and the nothing
, must be our next play,
Much Ado About Nothing

Take cover!

Oh no. Not again. More birds from the sky, this time
5 of them
, are hurtling in your direction. 4 birds aim themselves at the 4 people getting married, and the extra one aims himself directly at... you! As they're flying at such a high speed, you leap out of the way with barely a split second to spare. Your bike, unable to leap without your help, is not so lucky. It is completely crushed underneath the
5th Hen
. This must be
Henry the 5th
. These blasted hens! The four people getting married are now nowhere to be seen underneath the four giant hens, there is literally nothing left of them, and your bike under the fifth is mangled and broken. You are stuck now with somewhere to be and no way to get there. How can you have possibly anticipated that your shiny new bike would be taken out of commission by a giant hen from the sky? This is completely and utterly unforeseeable.

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