We met three-time USA Memory champion Nelson Dellis while he was visiting Manhattan recently.
How did winning the USA Memory Championship change your life?
I won it for the first time in 2011 and at the time I just did it as a hobby and kind of when I won I got a lot of attention for it and it allowed me to do it as a job, teaching people how to do it and helping people improve their memories.
Would you ever want to be able to forget anything that you remembered?
Because I train a lot, and because I have a lot of information that goes in my head and a lot of it's like decks of cards or long numbers that have no meaning, it's not like phone numbers of people I care about. So because I train a lot, I actually get good at forgetting quicker.
Do you think mental and physical fitness rely on each other?
Yes. I like to climb mountains, and to climb mountains you need to be very fit and I remember when I first started memorizing and training and I was getting into climbing as well and would train every day and I would notice that my memory training scores would be way better when I had a workout that morning.
Do you think mental and physical exercise will help you retain your memory?
Yes, I try to keep my brain active. That means eating right too. I was going to say this earlier: A lot of things I like to eat that help my brain are DHA Omega 3. That's kind of the main thing. You find it in fish, supplements that you can find. It's kind of from the algae that the fish eat. And that's really good for your brain. I eat tons of that and antioxidants and things like blueberries, blackberries and that helps my brain too.
Why do kids draw a blank right before a test?
That's a good question. I guess because memory is something that's really hard to hold. While it works to memorize stuff by repetition, in a test if you draw a blank, which could happen -- stress, no sleep, you're nervous -- memory is all related to that. But if you draw a blank the thing is you have no way of actively getting that information in your brain. That's where these memory techniques come in because what they do is they allow us to take information that you're memorizing and turn it into something in your head where you can pinpoint where it is.
What tricks would you give students our age for tests?
So when you're learning new information when you want to memorize it, turn whatever you're trying to memorize into a picture. So something you can imagine in your head. Something very bazaar or funny or silly.