As an example in this post we will work with a person facts. Consider the bio snippet of Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness from Wikipedia:
Halldór Kiljan Laxness [ˈhaltour ˈcʰɪljan ˈlaxsnɛs] (born Halldór Guðjónsson) (April 23, 1902 – February 8, 1998) was a twentieth-century Icelandic novelist, poet, and essayist; author of Independent People, The Atom Station, and Iceland's Bell. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.
|0||s, z, soft c||z is the first letter of zero|
|1||d, t, th||d and t have one downstroke|
|4||r||last letter of four|
|5||l||L is the roman 50|
|6||j, sh, soft ch..||script j looks like upside 6|
|7||k, hard c, hard g, q||capital script K looks like a pair of 7's|
|8||v, f||think of a script f (which has two loops)|
|9||b, p||p is the mirror image of a 9, b is a rotation of 9|
|-||vowels, w, h, y||WHY+vocals: use them anywhere to fill the gaps and form words|
For a while I had tried using another system: mobile phones assign to each number any of 3 letters, except for 0, 1, 7 and 9. The first two are for special signs, the two last have 4 letters. What I did was moving s to 1 and z to 0. To further simplify, I used only consonants and left away the vocals in this. But the major system is in some sense simpler, as it assigns sounds and not only letters. Let's try to use it here.
Let's start then with the date of birth, 23rd of April, 1902. The day and month are trivial to remember: it is the international book day, linked to Cervantes and Shakespeare's death dates. It is also Saint George, a special day in Catalonia. For the year, we can assume we know it is in the 20th century and only encode 02 which result in s/z/soft c + n. Two-letter combination can be tricky to come up, but we can form a few words: son, zone, ozone, sin... If we needed also the century (setting aside the fact that we could create a fixed image for 10 up to 20 to use as century indicator), 1902 would give t/d+b/p+s/z/soft c+n. As you see, forming a word with 4 letters can be even trickier: you should split them in groups of two letters.
Now, add an image to Saint George fighting the dragon. Which word to use? I'll use zone. And what is the image? Saint George (wearing a bib) is playing 1-1 basketball inside the zone being heavily guarded by a big, green dragon. The bib part is to remind me this is birth.
Now, his death 8th February 1998. We can encode month-day combinations (which are not as easy as before: always use tricks if you can) as DMM (0802 or 82) or MMDD (0208 or 28). There is some ambiguity in both choices, and as such you have to play it safe and be consistent. As a Spanish speaker, the natural way of date sorting for me is DDMM, thus I'll use 82: v/f+n. Now 1998, 98 gets b/p+v/f. An anthropomorphic phone eating beef, using as a table a tombstone.
To remember when he was given the Nobel Prize, 55 is l+l, and our writer is named Halldór Kiljan Laxness. Which happens to have two L's in the name. Here I assume I will always remember this, too and create an image of him with his prize, as a reminder that the date is hidden in him.
Let's start to form the images: Laxness sitting in the driver's seat of a pearly white Jaguar, typing furiously in a typewriter, with a Nobel prize in his lap. Behind it Saint George wearing a bib is playing a 1-on-1 basketball game, fighting to get a good position inside the zone against the dragon. Behind the car a big, anthropomorphic phone is eating beef (picture the beef as you enjoy it, taste it mentally... medium, rare?) and using a tombstone as table.
If there is some possibility of forgetting his nationality, use some strong related image to add to your mental placeholder. For Iceland, I could use any image of my road trip around Iceland, but a good one even if you've been there are the images of Eyjafjallajökull erupting just above the car.
We just need to place all these images around the pearly white Jaguar. We can place them in the car's back seats: the painting, a big reproduction of the church and a big red toy bus, each laying in one back seat. I'm counting here on remembering the atom part just from having the image of the Atomium and the bus implicitly. This can also lead to easier forgetting, but sometimes you have to trade off simpler images with perfect recall.
Develop your own keys
Can you still recall the images we have used? And still remember the major system? Remembering the major system can be the tricky part, just keep trying! If you found this post useful, please spread the word!
In case you want to read more:
- How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week: 52 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Memory Skills (Dominic O'Brian)
- Quantum Memory Power: Learn to Improve Your Memory with the World Memory Champion! (Dominic O'Brian)
- Maximize Your Memory (Jonathan Hancock)
- Learn to Remember Everything: The Memory Palace Technique (A post in this same blog)