If you think being able to remember everything is a corner stone to winning in life, I am here to prove you wrong!! There is a beautiful upside of having a really bad memory.
Let me explain.
Benefits of a bad memory
I have a Bad memory. I really do.
Never thought there could be an upside to that. But trust me there is!!!
So if you have a really bad memory that’s stopping you from progress,
Different Ships, different stories
My ship is heading for the United states. I am expecting a detailed inspection at the arrival port of New York Staten Island, and normally the US Coast Guard is very thorough. They will check our knowledge, our operational readiness, standards of training and Documentation.
While I am running around, somewhere else in another part of the world…..
You are in an office preparing for a detailed Annual Audit. All records are to be set correctly. There cannot be a remark for missing documentation. This audit is going to decide whether you are fit for your next upgrade. Lot of things are stake. You are the Captain there!!!
We are getting bombarded with a plethora of information from all sides about how to prepare ourselves. Not one thing can be missed out. Every piece of information is important!! But your mind is only so much.
How are you expected to remember everything?
Arthur Conan Doyle and his inspiration
Anyone who has read the memoirs of Sherlock Holmes know about the Memory-Palace concept. It’s a way Holmes used to store his information in his mind’s Memory-Palace so that anything can be retrieved at any time by closing his eyes and entering this palace. Different rooms were for different experiences which were stored there and as he imagined walking through the palace Holmes could find anything that was useful.
Also, in his works Doctor Watson had once mentioned that the great Sherlock Holmes does not know that the Earth goes around the Sun.
He does not, because he thinks that’s useless and boring information. He would never use it. He would much rather know the smell of every different type of tobacco from one sniff. That will help him grow in his profession.
As a child these concepts inspired the hell out of me!!! I mean who else could have thought of that?
I have a specific and limited capacity. Why would I remember or even try to remember things which I do not think are useful, in place of things which are most definitely useful to me???
How to use your bad memory to advantage
Okay, now for getting down to business!
You cannot remember? Don’t have to!! You can remember…let go!!! Please try not to force yourself … listen to me closely and it will immensely help you in relaxing your mind filtering out unwanted information.
Our brain can process 7 sets of information at one time. That’s more or less the accepted standard. If you add an eighth piece of information, the least important one will automatically be filtered out. And this is a very cool brain with no other thoughts. Most of the time we have thoughts which we do not consciously think, they occupy a large part of our attention.
Imagine you are working on a project on your Computer. You are in the middle of something when the phone rings and your boss has called. He has asked you to logout of the project and immediately start a different one. Meanwhile the cell phone is sending you a message alert. Also, you remember your wife has asked you to come home early today, she has plans. There is a colleague who is annoying you from his desk. Information pile in your brain may reach a point where important information gets lost.
That you may not be able to afford.
Try memorising a few alphabets in this order:
D , A , B , S , I , Y , R , O , M , E , M.
Now say it out loud without looking.
This is 11 packets of individual information you are trying to remember.
Try memorising this word: DA-BSIYR-OMEM
Read it just once, close your eyes and try spelling it out alphabetically. It still may not be that easy.
You have shrunk the 11 letters into 3 words. That’s easier because the mind now has to remember 3 things instead of 11 things. But they are is 3 unfamiliar words. You cannot relate it to anything.
However, if I tell you that it’s ‘MEMORY-IS-BAD‘ spelt backwards, you cannot forget.
Now it is something easy to relate to. Bingo! That’s just one piece of familiar information.
Now you can actually arrange all the 11 alphabets in the same order without any problem.
Moral of the story –
Two great tools we can use in order to not miss out anything ever. Reduce the information to less number of packets, and relate them to something familiar.
Why we forget
There is an immediate memory and there is a long term memory – just like a Computer the Mind
has a RAM and a Hard disk. Both capacities are finite, limited. Well, strictly speaking they are not, but at least we still do not know how to use the unlimited capacity of the mind. If you overload them you will be frustrated. Don’t even bother.
What you need is to form an organized way which let’s you remember stuff.
I have 250 friends on Facebook. 8 years back I used to try and remember my friends’ birthdays to wish them. That’s 250 spaces of information occupied in my brain. Now Facebook gives me that information without any trouble. Now, I have to remember to check Facebook whenever I need. That’s just one piece of information!! Great, isn’t it?
If I ask you to remember the first twenty elements in the periodic table, that’s twenty bits of information which will occupy the brain capacity.
My chemistry teacher in the seventh standard taught us the weird phrase:
HHE NOF NENA MGAL SIPS CLAK CA.
Those are chemical symbols for Hydrogen – Helium – Nitrogen – Oxygen – Fluorine…etc till Calcium with Atomic number 20.
That happened, and after decades I still remember the first twenty elements on the periodic table.
We really forget because we try to remember too much. It’s not needed.
If you can organize your thoughts, its a simpler world.
Do not worry about memory. You can get all pieces of information by either
1- Organization: Organizing and shrinking your information into bits instead of taking them up individually, or
2- Creating a Relation – If we can get it to relate to something.
6 Proven Skills to Organize your brain’s information layout
Bad memory is not the real curse, ignorance is.
Get into some good habits for organizing your thoughts.
1- Have a pen always in your pocket. No negotiation there, You have to have this!!!
2- Write: Get into the habit of writing down every new thing you have thought about. Even lesser mortals like us have so many thoughts passing through our minds. Many of them are useful. Just by capturing them you can change your life. Believe me, you will be leagues ahead!!!
3 – Make a fair copy of these bits of information into something better, where you will feel like writing. I have a big black book which I use as a Master to jot down my plans and all my thoughts about the ship. Its of great quality, I love black and it looks really professional. I actually like opening it!!
4- Use Devices: Use your phone to advantage – There is an app called “Ink-pad” on my android device. This is a lifesaver. At times when I don’t have a pen and paper, or its not easy to write, I jot things down in this app. It’s just as good. Make a file on your desktop PC and keep noting them down while you are working. While replying to emails during the day Send a mail to yourself jotting down the thoughts that crossed your mind just now, with that little piece of information.
5-Do not leave stray pieces of paper lying around. One of the most common mistakes – jotting down precious ideas in pieces of paper and then losing them. This defeats the very purpose. Once you fair your thoughts out into a permanent notebook, you can throw them away, but I still preserve those pieces of paper. Imagine the things we could have learnt if we found post-it notes from Albert Einstein or Nelson Mandela!! For all those thoughts from them which has changed the world, I am sure so many equally precious thoughts have gone missing.
6-Now – forget about it! This is another common mistake. Letting go is just as important!!
People do not know how to let go of the information which is irrelevant. After you save someone’s phone number in your cell-phone do you still try to remember it? You don’t!!
It’s futile. Let go of the information the moment you have written it down. It will be there for you to come back and read when you need to !!! Compartmentalize your brain and make space. Make space for fresh information, fresh ideas. Do not get caught up in meagre stuff.
I once had troubles because I used to forget pieces of information very easily. Now I handle people who have good memories, and yet find that I need to remind them things everyday.
No matter who else forgets, I simply cannot afford it, being the Master of the ship. I am the last line of defence.
The stakes are too high.
Such organizational skills come up when you get continuously bombarded for having a bad memory. Once they are in your grasp, they will take the pressure off you. You will never miss out one single piece of information and will be that confident and proficient in your profession. I see it everyday. While I have my awfully bad memory (and am now proud of it!!) I have the responsibility to pull off humongous tasks involving several people.
They require everyone to work in perfect sync.
But in having a system in place to remember, much like Facebook Birthdays, I keep getting my reminders from various places automatically, without ever feeling helpless. That gives me ample time to enjoy myself while my job is on Autopilot.
In the beginning I also mentioned about personal gratification.
Letting go of your memories at will is a skill which is indispensable to achieve fulfilment in personal life. You must learn to forget in order to be happy and to remain happy!! I shall talk about that in greater detail some other time…… I have a lot to say about that.
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