Brain power guru Eran Katz talks about his new book and the importance of training young minds to remember
Best-selling author and speaker on memory and intelligence, as well as the Israeli Guinness Book of Records Holder for Best Memory Stunt, which he earned by reciting 500 numbers forward and backwards after hearing them only once, Eran Katz firmly believes that we all have the ability to memorise facts and figures, it’s just a question of training the mind.
His books “Secrets of a Super Memory”, “Jerome Becomes a Genius”, and “Five Gifts for the Mind” have been translated into Thai by Nanmeebooks and the publisher has just released the Thai-language edition of his latest, “The Memory Master”, which encourages young readers to take up some fun memory challenges.
He recently sat down with XP to talk about his new book and took the opportunity to challenge our readers to remember three facts from this article.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE A BOOK FOR CHILDREN?
I write in a way that’s simple and humorous so in fact all my books are for kids but grown ups tend to read them. Joking aside, the earlier children know these techniques, the better. As we grow, our minds become more fixed and we stop trying new things. Children are open to new ideas, concepts and techniques and if they realise they have these skills, it will change their lives when they become students and need material for exams.
WHAT AGE IS THE MOST CHALLENGING FOR MEMORY TRAINING?
All ages. Older people do not believe that they can do this. They say memorising is over for them but it’s not. You can improve your memory at any ages. You just have to try. The worse case scenario is that you fail. At every age, we should believe in ourselves and improve.
CAN YOU LIST SOME OF THE INTELLIGENCE MEMORY TECHNIQUES?
First of all, pay attention. You cannot remember if you don’t pay attention. Many people say they forget a name when in fact that didn’t remember it because they weren’t paying attention.
Second, be interested in what it is you want to remember. We remember what interests us. Try to be enthusiastic because if you’re really enthusiastic about something, that is the best way to remember.
Third, be organised. If you always place your belongings in the same location you will always find them. If you spread them all over the place, they’ll be difficult to find. Organise your shopping list into groups –milk products, vegetable, fruits. Grouping helps.
Create a story. Link information you want to remember to information you already remember – like a location– and you’ll be reminded.
Many tips are related to life. For example, try not to be the best at school but instead work to be number 2 or 3. Because being number one brings a lot of pressure that creates anxiety. Those striving to be number two or three are likely to succeed. They just want to be successful, they don’t want to be the best, and they enjoy their studies. School is not a TV competition where there is only one winner. Everybody can win at school.
HOW CAN WE TRAIN CHILDREN WITH YOUR TECHNIQUES IN THEIR DAILY LIFE?
“The Memory Master” is the first in a series of books and the first Israeli children’s book to be translated into Thai. It uses basic memory principles to create the story. It is a fun detective book and we have to look at the characters. Yoger wants to win the ice cream memory campaign. In order to win, and his friend must find the famous memory master. Along the ways they are given clues to remember and they must trust their memories to remember the clues; that’s the first technique. Then they have to remember the list of market items and then the names of the ice creams. The second book, which will come out next year, is how to remember languages easier. The third book will cover how to remember codes and numbers. So each book targets different kinds of memory skills. I had one email from a mother said she went to the supermarket with a list and her daughter said, “you don’t need the list. I remember the list for you”. That’s the wonderful thing about children, once they discover that it works they say, “let’s do it”. So I’m not worried about children, they will do it, and discover later on how basic technique will help them.
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER THESE MEMORY TECHNIQUES?
When I was a student. I was looking for way to succeed in my studies without working too hard; remembering more and have a good time. It became a hobby to collect good memory techniques and I would perform magic memory tricks.
HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO WIN THE GUINNESS WORLD RECORD?
I used the ancient Jewish system. Actually most techniques can be found on the Internet and they were all created by ancient Greeks or Romans. Basically what I do is I convert numbers to letters and then I create words. So every two numbers is a word and I actually remember words not numbers. I’ve been doing it for 30 years and that’s why I’m fast. But I also practise a lot. I’m not special. I practice, that’s all.
Like the characters in the book. After reading it, children can practice by associating things like a story. For example, try these three facts. First, when the cat falls from eight floors up, it will land safely because it’ll make itself like parachute with front and back paws stretched. Second, the kangaroo cannot go backwards. And third, let’s say ice cream was create in China.
The same in life, when you read something interesting you highlight it with a marker. You hear something interesting; you highlight it in your mind. Now connect it to locations – the ceiling, stairs, bookcase. When you look at the ceiling, imagine lots of cats are falling. It will remind you when they fall from eight floors up that nothing happens to them. The kangaroo climbs up the stairs and cannot go backwards; it has to make the turn. And lastly, imagine a Chinese boy making a mess on the bookcase with ice cream cone, and destroying the book. Try it at home. What you have to do is remember locations – ceiling, stairs, bookcase.
PEOPLE TODAY ARE CONSTANTLY BEING DISTRACTED. WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST THEY SHOULD DO?
Do one thing at a time. Practice not to look at the phone when you are working. Most accidents happen because of texting while driving. Because we human, we have this illusion of control. Let’s say I’m driving. I’m looking here, there, at this and that and the road, all the time. But the brain takes two seconds to process information. So if you drive on a highway, two seconds at 80 kilometres per hour is maybe about a hundred metres. You cannot stop the car. You don’t realise what happening. The accident happens when the car in front of you suddenly stops. You think that the traffic is flowing but it is not. That’s why it’s so dangerous.
WHAT IS THE KEY MESSAGE THAT YOU WANT TO CONVEY TO CHILDREN IN THIS BOOK?
That no matter what you think about yourself, you can do things as well as anybody else and you are as clever as anybody else. The main character doesn’t have much confidence and doesn’t believe in himself, but as he learns more techniques, his confidence rises and he wants justice because they are not allowed to have ice cream and he thinks that’s not fair. If he wins the competition, he will change the law. Because the law says the winner is responsible for the ice cream for the whole town. So he has a purpose, using his new skill for the benefit for others. I think this is the biggest message from the book. Use your talent to develop other people and make them happy.
A good memory is an important skill for success but good forgetfulness – erasing bad memories – is also important because memories of failure, disappointment, trauma, prevent us from moving on in life. And we should erase them or put them in the recycle bin like in our computer and move on. There are more good things in life than bad things but people tend to take them for granted. That’s the problem.
However, if you are forgetful, the most important word is “awareness”. To prevent losing things, pretend they are sensitive to light. My telephone and wallet cannot be exposed to light. Don’t leave them on the table. That’s where we lose them. Keep them in the dark then you won’t lose them.
SHOULD PEOPLE LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE?
The second book in the series is very special because it teaches how to remember words in different languages. “Spaindinavian” is a make believe country. The book begins in the Thai language and ends in Spaindinavian. Kids will be amazed that there is a newspaper in Spaindinavian and they can read and understand it. They have learned the Spaindinavian language throughout the book but without being aware of it. That’s the beauty of the book. It’s coming out next year!