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  • Translator: Queenie Lee Reviewer: Tanya Cushman

  • So, I have a little test for you.

  • Don't panic.

  • I'm not here to judge you.

  • It's just a little test, OK?

  • First, you get 30 seconds to memorize 10 words in the right order.

  • After that, you get 30 seconds to write down what you remembered.

  • And then finally, you get 30 seconds to check your answers.

  • So, are you guys ready?

  • Well, we're going to start anyway.

  • So,

  • memorize 10 words in the right order in 30 seconds

  • in three, two, one, go!

  • OK. Stop.

  • Now write down what you remember.

  • OK, and stop.

  • Now quickly check your answers.

  • OK, and stop.

  • Very exciting; I heard a lot of grunting and moaning.

  • So I hope I didn't stress you out too much.

  • Now a moment of reflection.

  • I'd like you to ask yourself,

  • "How did I memorize this, and was it the best way to do it?"

  • Now, for the generation of my parents and grandparents,

  • being able to memorize something like this was an absolutely essential skill.

  • But nowadays, why would anyone want to remember a list of anything?

  • You just take a picture of the screen, and you're done, right?

  • it seemed as if memorizing has somehow become less important.

  • So why should we then, in today's day and age,

  • still want to get better at memorizing?

  • Well, to answer that question, I'd like to tell you a little story.

  • In high school, I flunked a grade, twice.

  • After seven years of torture, I finally got my diploma.

  • Sweet, sweet freedom!

  • What would I do with it?

  • I didn't know.

  • One thing I did know, however,

  • was that I didn't want to go back to school

  • because that old learning business,

  • it wasn't cut out for me.

  • So instead, I went to sunny California for nine months,

  • and there I worked as a bagger, not beggar - bagger.

  • So in a supermarket,

  • I had to put people's groceries in bags, and then I'd get a little tip.

  • Surprisingly, that year I learned so much.

  • I learned how to bag a bunch of groceries really, really quickly.

  • I learned how to drive a car.

  • And in California,

  • people are a little bit more open than they are in Amsterdam.

  • So I also learned how to have a little chat with a stranger,

  • just for the hell of it.

  • That year I discovered that I don't hate learning,

  • just the specific way of doing it.

  • So I decided to go and study psychology.

  • Now for the first time ever,

  • I was getting information that I absolutely wanted to know.

  • Now I was spending more time in the library

  • than I spent skipping school as a teenager, voluntarily.

  • The only problem was that I was spending all of my time in the library

  • because I'd never learned how to learn.

  • So I started experimenting with different methods of reading texts,

  • of memorizing texts,

  • and I got my reading time of three hours per chapter down to one.

  • This way of studying enabled me to do an honors program,

  • to get my degree,

  • and to fall in love with learning.

  • And now I happily work for a company called Remind,

  • in which we teach people the science and art of learning.

  • We're trying to bring back into education what we ourselves missed.

  • Now for the past three years,

  • we've also organized the Dutch National Memory Championships

  • for high schoolers.

  • We do this to show that everybody is capable of amazing feats of memory,

  • but also to show that memorization

  • is about a lot more than just learning your French or your Spanish words.

  • And today I'd also like to share this with you.

  • So, in the beginning,

  • I made you do this little test,

  • just to make you aware of how you're memorizing things right now.

  • Next, I'd like to give you a new type of memory experience.

  • This time you can even sit back and relax.

  • So I'm going to ask you to find a comfortable position to sit,

  • to close your eyes, and to take a deep breath.

  • Now, I want you to think of someone you know called John,

  • and I want you to see him.

  • Now, John just grabbed the sun out of the sky,

  • and he just threw it on your feet.

  • And now your feet are getting really big and red and swollen

  • because John just threw the sun on your feet.

  • Now you look to your knees,

  • and on your knees, you see 10 little guys playing basketball -

  • very strange sight.

  • And on their shirts,

  • you can see in brightly colored letters the "New York Knicks,"

  • so you have some Knicks on your knees.

  • Next, you look to where your thighs are,

  • but they're gone.

  • Your thighs have been replaced with Fords, the cars.

  • They could be Ford Focuses or Ford Mustangs.

  • Your thighs have been replaced with Fords.

  • Now, with your bottom,

  • you feel a hard plastic seat of a go-kart vibrating.

  • With your bottom, you feel the hard plastic seat of a go-kart.

  • Your belly starts rumbling very loudly.

  • So you follow your belly, and it leads you to McDonald's,

  • and there Ronald McDonald starts shooting rays of light at you

  • with a ray gun.

  • Ronald McDonald is shooting rays of light at you with a ray gun.

  • He hits you on your chest,

  • and now from your chest, a big bush of gray hairs is growing.

  • A huge bush of gray hair is growing from your chest.

  • So obviously, you hurry home to shave it off,

  • and on your doormat, you see a letter.

  • So you open it and it has good news.

  • As you read it, you feel a huge weight falling off your shoulders.

  • A huge weight falling off your shoulders.

  • Your shoulders get all light and tingly because you just paid all of your bills.

  • Big bills, little bills,

  • each and every bill has been paid for, and you have plenty of money to spare.

  • Now you proceed to the bathroom,

  • because now on your neck,

  • a bunch of tiny bushes of thin blonde hairs have appeared.

  • On your neck, a bunch of tiny bushes of thin blonde hair.

  • As you look in the mirror,

  • suddenly your mouth just starts talking all by itself,

  • and it's saying, "Yes, we can; yes we can; yes we can."

  • Now you turn around, and now suddenly your eyes are, ah,

  • because Donald Duck just poked out both of your eyes

  • with a trumpet made of pure gold.

  • Now you can open your eyes again and come back to this place.

  • Luckily, it's a lot safer here than where you just came from.

  • So, I just made you guys memorize

  • the past 10 presidents of the United States of America

  • in the right order.

  • Now I'm going to show you,

  • and then you can see how many of these you still know.

  • So with each body part, I'm going to ask you what happened there,

  • and then you could think of it.

  • Even better would be if you just shout it out.

  • Now, what happened to your feet?

  • John threw the sun, yeah - President Johnson.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, what happened on your knees? Knicks, yes - President Nixon.

  • OK. So what were your thighs replaced with?

  • Fords - President Ford.

  • OK, and what did you feel with your bottom?

  • OK, President Carter, yes.

  • Some people are ahead of the game.

  • Now, your belly led you to McDonald's;

  • what happened?

  • OK. Ronald McDonald shooting rays of

  • So Ronald Reagan.

  • He hits in your chest, and you got what?

  • Big bush of gray hairs - Bush senior.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, your shoulders got light, why?

  • Paid all your bills - Bill Clinton.

  • Now, what did you have on your neck?

  • OK, a bush of thin blonde hairs.

  • Bush junior.

  • What was your mouth saying?

  • "Yes we can" - President Obama.

  • And what happened to your eyes?

  • Yeah, Donald Duck, trumpet, pure gold.

  • Who else but Donald Trump?

  • So, if you memorized more this time than the first time, please stand up.

  • OK. So we have almost everyone standing up;

  • that's awesome.

  • Now, if you think this way of memorizing is more fun than the last way you used,

  • please stand up or remain standing if you're already standing.

  • Oh whoa, now we almost have everyone.

  • I'm very pleased to see this.

  • OK. You guys can sit back down.

  • Thank you very much.

  • Now, when you make bizarre images to memorize,

  • suddenly it becomes a lot easier.

  • If you tie these bizarre images to a place you know well,

  • like your body,

  • suddenly memorizing things in order becomes a lot easier.

  • OK. Well, cool.

  • But I asked you guys in the beginning,

  • "Why should we, in today's day and age,

  • still want to get better at this - at memorizing?"

  • Well, because by getting better in a skill like this,

  • you can also get better at a different skill:

  • the skill of experimentation.

  • By experimenting with different methods of doing things,

  • I found out that I can get better at anything.

  • I found out what works for me and what doesn't.

  • What if I'd never learned the skill of experimentation?

  • I may have never gone back to school;

  • I may have never enjoyed studying psychology,

  • and I probably would not have been standing here today,

  • because one of the things I thought I really couldn't do was public speaking.

  • Now, there are people of every generation not doing things that they might love,

  • that they might even be great at

  • because they think they can't do it.

  • So how beautiful would it be

  • if in schools we can teach kids that they can get better at anything,

  • and they can even get better at getting better at things, get it?

  • But not just the kids,

  • because the older generation is often seen as too old to learn.

  • But they're not too rusty.

  • Anyone can improve themselves by experimenting,

  • and I hope you experienced that today.

  • Now at Remind,

  • we break up this process of experimentation into three steps:

  • the check, the experience and the experiment.

  • The check is all about becoming aware of what you're doing right now.

  • So maybe during the first test, you became aware of the fact

  • that you just repeat the words over and over

  • and that that doesn't work too well.

  • The second step:

  • the experience is all about being open to new possibilities and trying them out.

  • So maybe during the visualization,

  • you realize that this works a bit better or at least you like it more.

  • And the third step is the experiment.

  • This is about taking something from that new experience that you had

  • and applying it in your own life to see how it works for you.

  • So, maybe you're one of those people

  • that when someone introduces themselves to you,

  • you just immediately forget their name.

  • Yeah, sound familiar?

  • And you want to use visualization to do something about that.

  • So far I've only taken you guys through the first two steps.

  • The final step is up to you.

  • So when I'm done here, I'd like you to take a moment for yourself

  • and to write down an experiment on the little card we've given you

  • and to put that in your wallet as a reminder.

  • By continually following these steps of experimentation,

  • you discover what you're doing;

  • you keep yourself open to new possibilities,

  • and you allow yourself to continually transform.

  • And regardless of what you're learning,

  • be it memorizing or martial arts or mathematics,

  • you'll get better not only in the skill that you're trying to develop,

  • but you'll get better at the process of learning itself.

  • And that's something that sticks.

  • It's something you could take with you to your new job, your new hobby,

  • your new relationship, your new whatever.

  • So this is something absolutely everyone should know,

  • and I believe we should teach it in schools.

  • But let's not just wait for it to be implemented in schools.

  • I also believe that the most important change starts with the individual.

  • It starts with you.

  • So, go out there and experiment.

  • Learn something new

  • or a new way of approaching something old

  • because there are few skills as valuable as the art of learning.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Queenie Lee Reviewer: Tanya Cushman