Backwards

This is one of those “one weird tip” kinds of posts. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to do speeches, monologues, song lyrics, etc. this can help you.

Here’s the technique: if you have a speech, lyrics, poetry or a monologue to learn, you learn the whole thing backwards. Let’s just say that you want to learn the Gettysburg Address:

The way that I learned to memorize was forwards, so I would start with:

Four score and seven years ago…

then, once I had that, I would say:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent…

And then:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty…

And keep adding on layer by layer. This method did (and does) work, but requires more effort. Because you are going from something that you know well, to something you know a bit less well, to something you know even less well, and less than that, and so on. It’s like going someplace that you have been only a couple of times. It’s familiar near your house but then you get further and further afield, and more and more likely to get lost and forget your way as you go.

Memorizing backwards has the opposite effect.

…of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth.

— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, will not perish from the earth.

that this nation,under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, will not perish from the earth.

And so on. The way this works is like navigating from some place far away back home. Each line gets stronger and it pulls you through the entire text, because you’ve done the most repetitions at the end of the speech, your memory gets stronger as you go.

Of course there are other ‘weird tricks’ about mnemonics I may share as we roll forward. If this kind of thing appeals to you, check out “Moonwalking with Einstein” by Joshua Foer, or any of a number of books by Harry Lorayne or others.

The question is, of course, what does this have to do with putting my best practices in place?

Well, there’s some thought that we have a limited supply of willpower (…as well as some trouble replicating that research). Assuming it’s true, doesn’t it make sense to have our strongest habits at the end of the day? If it’s false, well… we have to start somewhere, don’t we?

We can burn up our willpower on the stuff we do at the beginning of the day, then we use less and less as we go through the day, much like “coming home”. That’s why I’m starting with the end. As Steven Covey might say, “Begin with the End in Mind”. For me, the end is going to bed at a reasonable time – 9:20 at night. So that’s my first habit to work on. The last one of the day.

 

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