My memory is tremendous. For example, suppose I go to a party, where I know no one except the host, and the host then spends a few minutes quickly introducing the other 20 guests to me. Immediately after that, I can remember every name mentioned, and link it to the right face.
Next example. Suppose you recite to me a list of 20 completely random words - "love, Toyota, radio, blog, snake, Mexico, hurricane, hairstylist ..." and so on. Immediately after that, I can recite back to you all those words, without missing a single one. Furthermore I can recite them back to you ... in the exact order that you had told them to me.
In my previous post, I had said that rote learning plays an inordinately large role in our education system. You might be thinking now that since my memory is so good, I must have found school very easy. Unfortunately, my memory wasn't so good when I was a student.
My memory became so good only much later, when I had already finished school. It all started when I chanced upon a few books on memory techniques, the back cover of which typically made rather outrageous-sounding claims.
For example, the book might claim that you would be able to remember up to 100 items in perfect order, and it will take you no more than 20 minutes to do this. And the items could be names; addresses; telephone numbers; important historical dates; key points from your science textbook etc.
In fact the claims are not outrageous. They are genuine. You don't have to be a genius either. You just have to put in the effort to understand a few key principles and practise the special memory techniques - one famous one is the Roman Room method.
And hey presto, with a bit of practice, indeed you will have a memory that's simply phenomenal, compared to the average person.
You can see these memory techniques taken to their extreme, at events like the World Memory Championships (the mind equivalent of the Olympics). Here's one of their events - Random Words. Each contestant has to memorise 400 random words, organised in 20 columns of 20 words each. And how much time do they have to memorise? Just 15 minutes.
One might believe that a highly powerful memory is extremely useful in life. I don't really agree. It's good not to be absent-minded, but it's very easy to over-estimate the practical value of a highly powerful memory. I would say that a powerful memory is extremely useful, if you are a Singapore student. However, today I honestly have very little use for my memory techniques, powerful though they may be. Let me explain.
If I want to go shopping for groceries, I still make a written shopping list. Why? Well, the very process of writing out the list helps me to work out what I need to buy. And once I've written out the list, why should I bother to memorise it? I can just put the list in my pocket and take it with me to the supermarket. That takes no effort at all.
Suppose someone gives me his handphone number. I could memorise the number, or I could just store it in my own handphone. I choose the latter approach. Why? Because both approaches take the same amount of time - a few seconds - and if I store the number in my handphone, later I can speed-dial the number straightaway (no need to manually key in all 8 numbers).
At work, there is a set of standard legal documents which I constantly need to refer to. They relate to standard terms used by the international financial markets for trading in foreign exchange, commodities, credit risk etc. And each document consists of many pages of technical definitions and legal jargon, basically a lot of small print.
If I really wanted to, I could use my memory techniques to memorise the clauses. But why even bother? I can just put the documents at the side of my desk, within easy reach (and in fact, that's where they are). Whenever I need to, I can just reach out, take the right document, flip to the relevant page and check whatever I want to check.
I mean, I'm working. This is real life, not an exam. I don't score any extra marks for memorising documents that are already sitting on my table.
By now, you will see that in real life, a highly powerful memory is not that important. It's very valuable only in school, and that's because many things in school (especially Singapore schools) are accomplished by rote learning.
In real life though, rote learning is largely irrelevant. Because in real life, you don't waste time memorising information that's easily retrievable from your handphone, hard disk, emails or hard-copy files. You could also just open a textbook - and read it. Photocopy a page, if you need to. No need to memorise at all.