At a few seminars this week, I was asked a lot of questions about motivation: how do competitors at memory championships keep up their motivation, when you have to remember a load of useless stuff? How can you better remember past experiences? Do certain personalities perform better in memory championships? What projects are you working on now?

Here’s a short version of my answers.

Motivation is important. In memory championships the competitors have to remember decks of cards, numbers, abstract images, and other useless things. Having memorised useless things for months or years most competitors will sooner or later struggle with their motivation. But at the same time, the satisfaction of getting faster and better drives us. It is a bit like bench press, where you are motivated by lifting heavier and heavier weights. Most competitors also get motivated by other interests, such as more useful things like languages, geography, quiz-answers, poker odds, etc.

Remembering past, everyday experiences is a different matter. Humans are made, and meant, to forget. We can’t walk around remembering which leg we got up on in the morning, where we placed the butter knife after buttering the toast or other trivial things. We are bombarded by images, smells and sounds every day. Our mind will ignore the unimportant – a critical survival skill. Just like the squirrel that forgets where it buried those acorns years ago. Much is forgotten, even important things. That also goes for pleasant experiences. But given that we experience so much, remembering a lot is hard, regardless. In memory competitions we learn that even though we can remember thousands of numbers, words, cards, it is very hard to remember these for a long time. The more you want to remember, the more critical repetition becomes. Not just in competitions, but also in every day life. If you wish to better remember experiences, repetition is necessary. This repetition can take several forms: thinking, talking, writing about it, or looking at photos. People that write journals usually remember more life events than those that don’t. You may also have noticed that during busy or stressful times, you remember less. That could be because you simply have had less time to reflect over what’s happened. There is no repetition to strengthen the recall.

Do certain personalities perform better in memory championships? First of all, there are a lot of single men, and women. As in all competitions, the more you practice the better you get. Bachelors have a lot of spare time, which partly explains their prevalence in memory competitions. But mostly, we are perfectly normal people. Still, the nerd factor is pretty high. Many are interested in slightly odd things like juggling, scrabble, chess, sudoku, othello and alike. Other traits I haven’t really noticed…

What projects are you working on now? I’ll add more later. Stay tuned. Please like this website or follow me on Twitter.