Ahead of Eran Katz’s masterclass on improving memory techniques, Kiripost’s Managing Editor Bun Tharum sits down with him for a conversation on how he has developed his expertise to help students and business people enhance their productivity.
In this interview, he also talks about how he has further developed ancient memory techniques for the modern time, his brain skills, and digital distraction.
The memory guru, from Israel, has spent more than 30 years working in this area of expertise to help global companies. He said most lectures, seminars, workshops, and studies are boring. So, how to get the best out of them? “It's hard to remember. That's why memory techniques come in handy because that's when we use them to recall and remember something that is not so interesting; that is not so emotional,” said Eran, who will give a two-hour class on the secret of super memory and brain skills today at Raintree in Phnom Penh.
“Everybody's memory is good when they have good experiences or bad experiences. If you think of your life, you remember the good things that happen to you and the bad things that happen to you,” he told Kiripost on Wednesday.
The talk from the best-selling author is part of Cambodia - Israel Chamber of Commerce’s initiative to bring the best of know-hows to Cambodia. This interview was slightly edited for length and clarity.
Tharum: Before we get into this brain and memory topic, just quickly talk about yourself and your work. I read on your website that you wrote five books that are available on Amazon.
Eran Katz: I have 10 books translated to more or less 20 languages, not all of them are in English, that's why they're not on Amazon. Mainly they’re about memory and brain power, also for kids’ brain power.
I'm also a partner with an Israeli start-up company called Effectivate for brain training that helps older people aged 60 and onwards to remember and use their cognitive skills better. I'm also a partner of language school in Israel called New School that helps students learn languages faster and more efficiently.
Tharum: You worked in a different field, but then you got into this, which is interesting.
Eran: I became interested in memory improvement because I was not a good student. I was a lazy student. I grew up in Haifa, not far from where Yasmine [of CICC who sits next to us] grew up. The problem with Haifa is that they have a beautiful beach, so I went to the beach instead of school. I also wanted to succeed in my exams and I understood that I needed to learn a shortcut on how to remember lots of information because I missed school a lot. I became interested and read about memory techniques. Then I started implementing and doing memory stunts. I can show you a memory stunt tomorrow.
I realized that these techniques really help you remember a lot of information that you need. It's not fool proof. By the way, there is no such thing as a photographic memory. It's a myth. It doesn't exist.
But I can read a book and I can remember the main ideas after I read it, a lot of ideas. This is what I'm trying to do to help people use these techniques and brain skills to remember what they want to remember, names, faces, languages, actually lots of information for exams for students and presentations.
If you're a businessman, you deliver a pitch, you're delivering a presentation, you want to remember everything, many people have what you call a stage fright, public fear. They're in a conference where you have 1,000 people and you are afraid, you have fear of the people. So, what you are afraid of is not remembering what you want to say.
Tharum: You have given lectures to multinational company such as Google and a lot of big companies. What do you see in common?
Eran: Exactly the same; really no differences. People are mainly interested in their own self-conduct, confidence, and insecurity. A lot of that has to do with memory, so people are complaining about actually remembering names and faces because they don't remember clients. Business people must remember clients. If you have a business, and you have a client and you see the client after several months and you don't remember their name, you lose a client. So, you must utilize your memory to enhance your own business. Of course, businesses are interested in profits. Now think about it to gain profits, it's about people, and that's why the skills that you need are not business skills, but human skills because when you are wonderful to a client, to a person, when you show that you are not about profit and money that's when you make profit and money. That's when people appreciate it more.
A lot of people get confused with that and they do it very technically and that's where they missed. I see the companies when I come to give a lecture. I know which company is successful or not only by looking at the employees and how they interact among each other. I see because some employees come, and they come and listen. You see they don't hardly talk to themselves and I know this company cannot do well. Something is wrong inside the company. They don't have a teamwork mentality. Then there are those who are happy and they drink and you see that they are working for each other; they are working for a purpose. You could see where you have good people and teamwork, they are successful.
Tharum: There is this keyword called digital destruction. A lot of things, such as instant notifications. What do you think?
Eran: That is the biggest problem. I think humankind has this as such a major distraction. I'm talking about myself. It's called electronic cocaine. We are addicted to cell phones. We don't even pay attention anymore; we just look and then we check. When you have Facebook, you look at the news feed. When does it end? It never ends. There is a certain point that we put our phone down and that happens. I will also talk about it tomorrow when our logical brain sends information to our emotional brain saying you know you're wasting your time right now, do something more important or efficient, or something that you really want to do right now.
This will never be. Instead of the human brain, people never say, “Why do I have to remember things if I can find everything on Google?” So, I tell them if you have to have an operation, which kind of doctor would you like to be operated by? The doctor that can in the middle of the operation, check, okay I have to put the renal vein into the Basilica archery and then there's no internet so the patient dies, or a doctor that learned and relies on his memory. So, this will never take the place of the human memory. This will always be an additional help to find information or when you meet a friend.
You need your memory and you talk about things, you don't read everything. This will not be instead of the human brain; this is an enormous distraction and especially for kids and young people.
Tharum: The first thing is about having a good technique to remember, to memorize. But on the other hand, they say knowing how to ask questions, knowing how to ask Google to get knowledge is important. Some people also talk about the traditional way of learning, one way is learning by memory, by memorizing, and another way is they try to move away from that. What do you think?
Eran: I think you have to combine both. You have to combine those because reciting is important. Can you imagine a businessman giving a presentation just by reading, not by remembering his information. It doesn’t impress you that somebody reads something instead of talking about it.
An actor on stage must use his memory to remember lines and for his acting, of course. So, searching for information is very important, especially nowadays when you have a lot of fake information, it’s important to search it in the right way.
Tharum: In one of your books, ‘Where Did Noah Park the Ark?’ It describes Ancient Memory Techniques for Remembering Practically Anything. It is like your new experiment, your newly found technique.
Eran: First of all, these are not my techniques. These are techniques that you discover or techniques that have existed for thousands of years. Why?
Because back then, the Ancient Romans, Greeks, Asians, Jewish people had no internet. They had no computers back then. They had their brain, that's what they had, and they are the ones who developed the memory techniques because they had to remember.
So, it's really called like the Roman room system and others. What I did is I took these techniques and with all the experience I have – a lot of experiences, 30 years of experience working with people on their memory. I see what works and what doesn't work. Some of them I upgraded to techniques I thought would work also better. So, the ancient techniques are the basics. They are the ones that invented the Roman room system that you remember according to locations of the associations.
Ancient wisdom is wonderful. By the way, in all cultures I personally think that we lost a lot of technology. I'll just give you for example in another area in Israel you have a place called Masada. [Masada] has stone walls created by Romans with such good material that you don't have them today.
Nowadays the material they use is not as good as the Roman Empire used. This is a secret that's lost and they had to develop a lot of things that they had at the time. They had more experience; they were more skillful because that's exactly what they did.
Nowadays, we do many things. We do a little of this, a little of that. We jump from one thing to another. It’s very distracting. So, in a certain sense, they were better than us back then in terms of brain power because they concentrated and deepened their thoughts and philosophy into certain areas they didn't scatter around with many things. I'm using these ancient techniques to show how they used it and show how we can implement it in our daily life nowadays.
Nothing has really changed from back then. We had to remember languages, they also had to remember names and faces. They had to remember appointments, presentations. You have speakers like [Marcus Tullius] Cicero from Roman who could talk hours and hours about subjects using these memory techniques. That's so wonderful.
Tharum: Let's say after attending your Master Class, what do you think people will bring back home and can you give me some examples of any changes or improvements or how they jump from one level to another?
Eran: The answer is yes. In my lecture, I not only teach, I prove that it works. In the lecture itself, you will see you remember things that you never believed you would be able to remember not after, but during the lecture. I will teach you the techniques tomorrow, I will show you how they work, the rest is up to you. There is a really nice saying I like that nobody lost weight after they read a book about diets. And nobody improved any skill after attending a seminar, if they did not try to implement it in their daily life. I will prove to you that it works. What you do with it, it's your decision.
I know for example that students love this lecture because they have no choice, we have to remember lots of information for exams. They have no choice so they use the techniques. They have just two choices, one of them is just to read and try to remember or use the techniques and remember twice as much material in half the time.
It works, if it didn’t work, I wouldn't do it for 30 years. You will see it's fun, it's very humorous. I gave these lectures to many. It had a lot of humour. I think humour is very helpful for remembering.