Ultimately, most situations take the shape of some form of competition. At all times you are pretty much competing against yourself, something, or someone else. As a result of this, when it comes to progressing and maintaining your career most people are looking for an edge. Because, if you want to land that next job or keep the one you have, you’ve got to perform well enough at all the stages along the way to secure that next opportunity. Well, what if it wasn’t necessarily an edge that you needed? What if I told you that what you actually need is a foundation? Then, what if I told you there was something that can give you both an edge and a foundation; then the type of competition you choose to engage in and how you choose to engage in it is exactly that, a choice? What if I told you there was something you can use to help better shape your own destiny and you can start learning and using it today? Mnemonics is that thing.
Mnemonics is the study of memory. In a way, it’s also the study of knowledge, perception, and performance. Because how you structure your memory will in turn shape how you structure your knowledge, how you perceive, and how you interact with the world. This is why mnemonics is so valuable when it comes to progressing your career.
So, whatever stage of your career journey you are at, just learning a little bit about mnemonics can help you massively. Let’s explore a little bit more about where mnemonics comes from, what is is, and how you can use it to help your situation.
Ancient Greece and Simonides
The story of mnemonics starts in Ancient Greece. The story is that Simonides (si-mon-ee-dees), a lyric poet, is at a banquet. Whilst at the banquet Simonides is asked to go outside to speak to some people. When he does this the building he was just in collapses killing everyone inside.
The authorities turn up after the disaster and attempt to identify the bodies of the victims so that the families can be informed. Unfortunately however, because the disaster was so devastating the bodies are damaged beyond recognition and they cannot identify them easily.
As Simonides was the only person still alive who had attended the event they decide to speak to him to see if he can help identify the bodies.
Mind Palace Technique, Memory Palace, Method of Loci
When the authorities speak to Simonides he uses a very special technique to help solve the problem of identifying the bodies. This technique later becomes known as the Mind Palace Technique, Memory Palace, and Method of Loci.
By using his mind’s-eye, Simonides is able to recall the layout of the banquet. He visualises the space where everyone was gathered. From here he is then able to recall who was sat where around the table at the feast.
This is a huge part of the history of memory training.
After these events Simonides realises that it isn’t just people and locations that he can see and store in his mind’s-eye, it’s practically everything; songs, stories, lyrics, speeches, and more.
You can do the same.
This is why mnemonics is so useful to help you progress and maintain your career. Because life can get stressful and confusing. But if you have a better way to store the knowledge and information on your head. Then you have a better chance of being able to do what you need to do in each and every moment; like job hunting, completing applications, attending an interview, performing in your job, and then maintaining and developing that performance.
Mnemonics is mindfulness
When we look at the etymology(origin) of the word mnemonics it is derived from the Ancient Greek μνημονικός (mnēmonikós, “of memory”), from μνήμων (mnḗmōn, “remembering, mindful”), from μνάομαι (mnáomai, “to remember”).
So, in a way, mnemonics is mindfulness. It has this meaning rooted in it’s historical definitions.
You already know a bunch of mnemonics
The truth is you already know or are familiar with lots of mnemonics. One of the most common uses of mnemonics are acronyms and abbreviations; a set of letters that represent another word or set of words. For example:
S.O.S. – Save our souls
V.A.T. – Value Added Tax
CPR – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
BOGOF – Buy One Get One Free
NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Association
NBA – National Basketball Association
FIFA – Fédération Internationale de Football Association
UN – United Nations
The list is huge. There’s no need to for me to write it all here. But you get the idea.
Mnemonics is a blend of art and science
You could say that mnemonics is a bit of a blend of the arts and sciences; which it is. But it’s so much more than that. Because can draw on every and any subject you want to help store information that you can use later on.
Ultimately, mnemonics is about the associations we make in our mind and how we use them to piece together parts of information. There is a bit of science to the process and there is a bit of art to the process of using mnemonics.
Logical and illogical
A key component about understanding and using mnemonics is that you are wise to embrace the relationship between the logical and illogical.
As you will see in some examples below, not everything needs to make ‘perfect’ sense for you to be able to store it in your mind. It just needs to make enough sense so that you can store it in a way that means you don’t forget the information.
Naturally however, when you hit those topics that really require clarity, like science, then you need to compartmentalise the factual bits of information carefully.
Types of Mnemonic
Acronyms, acrostics, and abbreviations
Acronyms, acrostics, and abbreviations, are the short words or groups of letters that stand for something else. For example, TBC meaning To Be Confirmed.
When you break it down, acr + onym, it actually comes from the words that mean tip + name.
So, an acronym does what the word itself describes. It provides the tips of other words(names) to help you link information together.
Acrostic is the same. It comes from the words that mean tip + line or verse.
Abbreviation is a word that when broken down comes from words that basically mean ‘to shorten’.
Songs and nursery rhymes
Songs are mnemonics. Popular songs are often very memorable in the first place; which is why they are popular. They are ‘catchy’.
Think about all the nursery rhymes children learn. The Alphabet. Once I Caught A Fish Alive. Ten Green Bottles.
The list is huge. But all these songs help children, and adults, store information in their minds.
Chunking is a useful memory storage technique. Think about the way that people might give you a telephone number. 12345678910.
To tell someone a number like that isn’t particularly helpful, or at least as helpful as it perhaps could be. By breaking the number up into chunks you give the receiver a much better chance of processing and storing the information. Then you can also add rhythm to the way you tell then.
The peg technique is a more complex technique that starts to use visualisation and creativity a lot more. It is especially good for learning lists. You start by assigning something you can visualise to each number.
One = Sun
Two = Shoe
Three = Tree
and so on.
After this, when you have a list of things that you need to remember you blend the object you need with an object from the list.
So, for example, you need to go to the shops to get bread, milk, and toilet paper.
This is one way you could use the peg technique.
Imagine a loaf of bread flying through the sky into the sun. (Remember embrace the balance of logical and illogical. The purpose here is to store information).
Then imagine a shoe or pair of shoes with a bottle of milk sat inside of it.
Finally, imagine a tree with toilet paper draped all over it.
Now, if you like, take that whole picture and stick it all together. A landscape with a big sun with a load of bread flying into it. A pair of shoes with a bottle of milk sat inside of it. Finally, a tree with toilet paper draped all over it.
That is your picture. And that is your shopping list. It’s crazy and a bit weird. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s probably so crazy and weird that it’s memorable and you will get everything you need when you go shopping.
Phrases and sayings
Phrases and sayings are also hugely common ways of storing information. A good one is used when remembering the ratio of how to cook rice.
“Cooking rice? Water’s twice.”
This is basically a way of remembering the ratio you need to use when making rice. Two parts water to every one part rice. So, 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice.
My first proper encounter with mnemonics
I believe my journey with mnemonics actually started many years ago when I was about 5. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was introduced to it by my keyboard teacher, Gail Gritts. She taught me how to remember the notes on the Treble Clef musical stave. Every Good Boy Deserves Football. E G B D F. These are the lines and the spaces spell out the word FACE.
It wasn’t until many years later that I started to properly realise what these techniques and skills were. Like a lot of us, I think I probably just accepted it as a cool thing that I could use to help remember something.
Linkword by Dr. Michael Gruneberg
Fast forward several years later and I rekindled and started to clear up my understanding and use of mnemonics. My family have had a house in Spain for many years. But, I struggled to learn Spanish. It wasn’t until I found a book at my Mum’s house that really resonated with me and helped me massively to learn the language.
That book was Linkword by Dr. Michael Gruneberg. What I also enjoyed about the book was that the foreword(introduction) was done by Paul Daniels(Yes, the legendary magician Paul Daniels). Which totally spun me out. But in many ways made a lot of sense to me.
‘Can I improve my memory?’ TV Series
One of the most recent forms of media that I’ve seen that explores mnemonics is a great TV Series called, ‘Can I Improve My Memory?’ on Channel 4.
Gok Wan, Joey Essex, and Valerie Singleton all take part in a stand alone episode where they are supported by memory specialist Mark Channon.
In the first proper series Chris Eubank, Len Goodman, Amber Gill, Anna Richardson, and Nina Wadia are supported by memory specialist Edward Cooke (Co-founder of language learning platform Memrise) and Dr. Tharaka Gunarathne.
It’s a fantastic show that really demonstrates the true power of mnemonics.
JAWS Job Search is built on mnemonics
JAWS Job Search is genuinely built on mnemonics. I created JAWS Job Search because I wanted to see if I could come up with a way to generate an income by sharing the skills, knowledge, and experience I have gained from my varied career. I like to believe I have plenty of it. Hopefully I can help lots of other people in the process avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made and get closer to achieving the things they hope to.
In recent years I’ve written two books based on a mnemonic coaching/self-help model I have developed. You can find them here:
S is for…Something: Short, sweet, simple, silly, serious, stupid, smart, self-help
S is for…Sports Coaching and Performance: For Parents, Players, and Pedagogues.
JAWS Job Search is basically a portal that provides people with a range of knowledge on, and links to, training and employment opportunities. JAWS stands for Job and Work Search. Job and Work being two of the most commonly searched for terms in respect to people looking for employment. Yeah, Job and Work Search Job Search does sound completely ridiculous. But as has been explained earlier in this article. If you want to get the best out of mnemonics you need to balance and blend the logical and illogical.
Keep JAWS Job Search in mind when thinking about your next career move.