Every New Year, the promises about being a better student, a better dieter, lover even a better taxpayer are made around the world. But by the end of January, the promises are forgotten, and the problems continue.
It doesn’t have to be this way. “Living With A Phenomenal Memory: How an Ordinary Man Developed Amazing Memorization Skills” uses simple tricks to help people keep their memory — and their sanity — straight. For the author the techniques explained began as a simple way to keep busy.
While away from school and sick at home, 5-year-old Frank Healy memorized a calendar his uncle Bill gave him to keep himself occupied. Looking at the days of the week, Healy visualized the prime time shows that fell on each night and sang the theme songs in his head. (The year was 1966, so Sunday was The Wonderful World of Disney. Wednesdays and Thursdays were Batman.) Healy had been staring at the pages for a week when he realized he remembered what day of the week his birthday was that year and what day Christmas fell on. Before he knew it, he had memorized the entire calendar.
"I know that’s not typical behavior for a 5-year-old," said Healy.
In his book, Healy shares his memorization techniques and ends his chapters with exercises to help readers practice the skills he taught himself.
His study of the calendar was the only time Healy ever sat down to memorize anything. He now uses techniques involving association and mind relaxation to help him memorize. Throughout his school years, Healy found uses for his techniques, memorizing facts for his lessons in biology and government.
"I even created a story for habeas corpus and bills of attainder," said Healy.
Healy also used his memorization skills for his own entertainment. Weather, dates, Beatles trivia and the Asian zodiac are all subjects Healy has memorized.
"When I am interested enough in something, I’ll memorize everything about it," said Healy.
Healy now spends his time acting as a life coach and helping people improve their memories. He works with everyone from people who want to memorize information for their jobs to people who have recently suffered head injuries.
"It’s teaching people to have the right attitude," said Healy. "If you just change your beliefs about what you can achieve, you will be more motivated to work toward your goals."
The techniques Healy shares with readers in "Living With A Phenomenal Memory" are simple and straightforward. He advises readers to simply relax and concentrate. The reason we forget people’s names when we first meet them, he says, is because we are not concentrating on that information. Instead, we are thinking about the impression we are making and what we are going to say next.
"You do better when you’re in a relaxed state," said Healy.
Another tip Healy gives to readers in his book is to incorporate multiple mnemonic techniques when they need to memorize something.
"The more techniques you use, the more likely you are to remember any given thing," said Healy.
Healy includes a calendar of celebrity birthdays in the back of his book as a tool for remembering dates. For example, if readers need to remember the date for a dentist appointment, Healy recommends they look at the calendar to see which celebrity was born on that day. Then, Healy says readers should imagine that celebrity as their dentist. These are the kinds of simple associations Healy believes will help readers improve memorization.
Healy plans to tour the places where his techniques are surely needed, college campuses. Bookstores and libraries where he could reach a population of people who would benefit from his memorization techniques are also on is tour list.
"People can do a lot more than they think if they believe they can," said Healy.
The book is available online and bookstores for $13.95.