I decided to write this blog after a realisation I’d had not so long ago about the process of learning. The realisation had originally occurred to me 9 years ago while I was trying to explain the fairly complex system flow of a trading platform to a new graduate we’d taken on at a former employer. Then fairly recently the same realisation came back to me which I’ll explain shortly.
I spend much of my free time training. At the moment this usually involves either lifting weights or memorising random bits of information. I’ve spent many years training physically for one event or another, be it running, swimming, or weight lifting, but only recently I started to get involved in training my memory. Before becoming involved it had occurred to me that I really ought to be spending an equal amount of time, if not more training my mind as well as my body (I have some fairly ambitious goals in the background which need me to be at the top of my mental game so to speak), and so I started looking for places to learn.
My dad had a book about the brain by Tony Buzan which I remembered reading as a child and I started going back through some of the pages. Some of the things in the book seemed so far from my current standing that they seemed completely unattainable and I lost interest again for a while. Then some months later I did a bit of googling and I came across an e-class written by my now former coach and mentor Mark Channon. This was my initial step into the realms of belief that it was possible to utilise some of the techniques Tony had first mentioned. The course was brilliantly designed and it took me right the way through to learning the major memory system and then applying it to remembering some real facts and dates. It almost had my enlisted into training but I didn’t quite have the mental momentum to keep going forward at this point and my interest waned again.
Maybe a year or two later something in the spirit of my desire to improve must have kicked in again because I remember trying to find Mark’s e-course again. The site was no longer available so I reached out to Mark and he provided me with a hard copy the course and later asked me whether I’d be interested in any coaching. This was the next step on my road to really improving my memory. For the record Mark is probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with, and in my world then of extremely limited free time, long working hours and slightly better off finances it seemed like a good decision.
It was. Mark managed to take me from the place where I constantly needed to remind myself why I was training to the place where I now train because I like to, and where I actually notice the day to day benefits of doing so.
However, it wasn’t until I attempted to explain some of the stuff I was learning to my parents that the realisation I’d had all those years ago hit me again. In the process of learning it seems to me that we occasionally struggle with certain concepts, then suddenly we have a kind of epiphany moment where a light comes on and one nerve in your brain seems to connect to another in a way that it all makes sense. In the conversation with my parents I realised that some of the things they were asking were questions I had previously wondered over and yet for some reason I hadn’t seen it fit to fill in that detail in my initial explanation.
Ironically I’d forgotten to explain some of the epiphany moments I’d personally had which helped things make sense, and would really have helped in my explanation to someone starting from scratch. It was then I that I realised I was in a fairly unique position. I decided to start documenting some of these moments so that I could at least give it to the rest of my family should any of them become interested and want to try for themselves.
At my former employees office, sitting there as the expert to the graduate I was teaching, I was explaining things in the way that I currently understood them (from the experts perspective). In many ways this is great provided the expert has a good handle on communication and teaching. However it seems to me that sometimes as I experienced when trying to explain some mnemonic techniques to my parents and in being taught myself over the years, you occasionally overlook the significance of some of the breadcrumbs which lead us to that place of understanding. As the expert they are no longer significant, but to the learner they are the difference between grasping a subject and switching off completely.
So, feeling inspired by the blog of the memory genius Ben Pridmore and fired up by the creative master mind of my former coach Mark, I decided I might try and share some of these epiphany moments as I go along and start building that path of breadcrumbs as I find them. I’m still very junior in comparison to the vast majority of those I compete with but I’m a long way from where I started. A great place to start documenting from! With any luck the trail of crumbs will end up like a bungee cord on a steak laden super highway (replace steak with favourite food of choice).
Oh, and I may occasionally write about some of my other interests, like weight lifting, nutrition, etcetera but they will be suitably categorised.