How To Train Your Memory: Insights From World Memory Championships Champion Sancy Suraj

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Sancy Suraj is a well-known figure in the world of memory training and the CEO of Knowles Training Institute, a Singapore-based corporate training and development firm. With a long list of achievements in memory sports, including representing Singapore in the 2011 World Memory Championships, Suraj has made a name for himself as a top memory athlete and a successful entrepreneur. In this article, we had the opportunity to speak with Suraj about his experiences as a memory athlete, his training regimen, and the expansion of Knowles Training Institute on a global scale.

What inspired you to become a memory champion and how did you get started in memory training? 

Thank you for asking that question. I have always been fascinated by the human mind’s incredible potential and the untapped power of our memory. As a child, I was constantly challenging myself to remember things, and I would often spend hours reading books and trying to commit the information to memory. This passion for memory eventually led me to explore memory training and to compete in the World Memory Championships.

I first discovered memory training when I stumbled upon a book about mnemonics and memory techniques. This book introduced me to the concept of using visual and imaginative techniques to improve memory recall, and it immediately captured my interest. I started experimenting with the techniques in the book and noticed a significant improvement in my memory recall abilities.

After several years of self-training and practice, I decided to compete in the World Memory Championships to test my memory skills and to see how I would fare against some of the world’s best memory athletes. This decision marked the beginning of my journey as a memory champion and opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.

Over the years, I have continued to refine my memory techniques and to push the limits of my memory capabilities. I believe that memory training is a valuable skill that everyone can benefit from, and I am committed to sharing my knowledge and experience with others who are interested in unlocking their memory potential.

Can you describe your training regimen and how it has evolved over time? 

Certainly, my training regimen has been a crucial part of my success as a memory athlete, and it has evolved significantly over time as I continue to explore new techniques and strategies for improving my memory recall abilities.

In the beginning, I focused on practicing the fundamental memory techniques, such as the method of loci, the peg system, and visual association. I would spend several hours a day practicing these techniques and building up my memory muscle. As I became more experienced, I began to incorporate more advanced techniques, such as the Dominic System and the Major System, into my training regimen.

Today, my training regimen is highly structured and tailored to my specific needs and goals. I focus on a variety of memory challenges, including memorizing numbers, words, images, and playing cards. I also incorporate speed drills and practice sessions to improve my reaction time and to build my endurance.

One of the most significant changes in my training regimen over time has been the emphasis on mental and physical preparation. I have learned that mental focus and physical fitness are essential components of memory training, and I now incorporate daily meditation and exercise into my routine to help improve my focus and concentration.

Overall, my training regimen is a combination of tried and true memory techniques, cutting-edge strategies, and mental and physical preparation. I am constantly evolving my training regimen to stay at the forefront of the memory sports world and to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the human mind.

What are some common misconceptions people have about memory training?

There are several common misconceptions that people have about memory training. One of the most significant misconceptions is that memory training is only for people who have a natural talent or gift for memory. In reality, memory training is a skill that anyone can learn and develop with the right techniques, practice, and dedication. Memory champions are not born with extraordinary memory abilities but have honed their skills through practice and training.

Another common misconception is that memory training is only useful for memorizing lists or numbers. While memory techniques are certainly helpful for memorizing lists or numbers, they are also useful for remembering names, faces, and other information. Memory training can be used to improve everyday memory and to help people remember important details in their personal and professional lives.

Another misconception is that memory training is time-consuming and requires a significant amount of effort. While it is true that memory training requires practice and dedication, it can be incorporated into everyday activities and routines. Simple memory exercises, such as memorizing a phone number or a grocery list, can be practiced throughout the day, and they can help improve memory recall over time.

Finally, some people believe that memory training is only for the young or for people with exceptional mental abilities. In reality, memory training is beneficial for people of all ages and cognitive abilities. Memory training can be especially helpful for older adults who want to maintain cognitive function and for people with cognitive impairments who want to improve their memory recall.

Overall, memory training is a valuable skill that can benefit anyone who is interested in improving their memory abilities. With the right techniques, practice, and dedication, anyone can become a memory champion.

“Memory training is not just about memorizing information, it’s about unlocking the full potential of your mind and unleashing your cognitive abilities to their fullest extent.”

How important is repetition in memory training, and what are some effective ways to practice repetition? 

Repetition is a crucial component of memory training, and it is essential for improving memory recall abilities. Repetition helps to reinforce neural pathways in the brain, which allows for more efficient retrieval of information. Additionally, repetition helps to move information from short-term memory to long-term memory, making it easier to remember over time.

There are several effective ways to practice repetition in memory training. One of the most common techniques is the use of flashcards. Flashcards allow for quick and easy repetition of information, and they can be used to memorize anything from vocabulary words to historical dates. Another effective technique is spaced repetition, which involves reviewing information at specific intervals to strengthen neural pathways and improve memory retention.

Another way to practice repetition is to use mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices are memory aids that help to associate new information with something that is already familiar. For example, a common mnemonic device is the method of loci, which involves associating new information with specific locations in a familiar setting, such as a house or a route to work.

Finally, incorporating repetition into everyday activities can also be an effective way to improve memory recall. For example, repeating important information out loud several times can help to reinforce neural pathways and improve memory retention. Additionally, incorporating physical movements or gestures into repetition can help to strengthen associations between information and muscle memory.

Overall, repetition is a critical component of memory training, and there are several effective ways to practice repetition. Incorporating techniques such as flashcards, spaced repetition, mnemonic devices, and everyday repetition can help to reinforce neural pathways and improve memory recall abilities over time.

Can you explain how your memory techniques work, and why they are effective? 

My memory techniques are based on the principles of visualization and association, which involve creating vivid mental images and associations to help remember information. These techniques work by tapping into the brain’s natural ability to remember images and patterns more easily than abstract information, such as numbers or words.

One of the most effective techniques I use is the method of loci, also known as the memory palace technique. This involves mentally placing pieces of information in specific locations within a familiar setting, such as a house or a route to work. By associating information with familiar locations, it becomes easier to remember the information in a specific order.

Another technique I use is the peg system, which involves associating numbers with specific words or images. For example, the number one could be associated with a pencil, and the number two with a swan. By associating numbers with memorable words or images, it becomes easier to remember longer strings of numbers in a specific order.

In addition to these techniques, I also use visualization and association to remember names and faces. For example, I may associate a person’s name with a physical characteristic, such as their hairstyle or clothing, or with a word or image that sounds like their name.

Overall, my memory techniques work by tapping into the brain’s natural ability to remember images and patterns. By creating vivid mental images and associations, it becomes easier to remember abstract information, such as numbers and words, and to recall information in a specific order. These techniques have been proven to be effective in improving memory recall abilities and can be applied to a wide range of information, from names and faces to numbers and historical facts.

“Memory techniques are like keys that unlock the vast potential of our minds, allowing us to explore and remember the world in ways we never thought possible.”

In our interview, Suraj shared insights into his journey as a memory athlete, discussing his early inspiration and the evolution of his training regimen over time. He explained the common misconceptions people have about memory training, and highlighted the importance of repetition in effective memory training. Suraj also described his memory techniques in detail, and how he uses them to remember names and faces. He also shared examples of how he has used his memory training in his personal and professional life.

As the conversation turned to Knowles Training Institute, Suraj spoke about the challenges and rewards of expanding the company on a global scale. He shared his vision for the future of the company and the importance of adapting to the changing needs of the workforce. Suraj also spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the corporate training industry, and how Knowles Training Institute has adapted to the new reality of remote learning.

How do you maintain focus and concentration during long periods of memory training? 

Maintaining focus and concentration during long periods of memory training can be challenging, but there are several strategies that I use to stay on task and minimize distractions.

One of the most important strategies I use is setting clear goals and objectives for each training session. This helps to focus my attention and ensure that I am making progress towards specific milestones. I also break up my training sessions into shorter, more manageable intervals, with frequent breaks to help maintain focus and avoid burnout.

Another important strategy I use is to eliminate distractions and create a conducive environment for learning. This might involve finding a quiet space to train, turning off my phone and other electronic devices, and minimizing any other potential distractions, such as background noise or interruptions.

In addition, I find that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also essential for maintaining focus and concentration during long periods of memory training. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular exercise. These habits help to support optimal brain function and promote overall well-being, which can help to improve focus and concentration during training.

Finally, I also find that practicing mindfulness and meditation can be helpful for maintaining focus and concentration during long periods of memory training. These practices help to cultivate a calm and focused mindset, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall cognitive function. By incorporating these practices into my training routine, I am better able to stay focused and maintain concentration over extended periods of time.

Overall, maintaining focus and concentration during long periods of memory training requires a combination of goal-setting, minimizing distractions, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and practicing mindfulness and meditation. By using these strategies, I am able to stay on task and achieve optimal results in my memory training.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face when training your memory, and how do you overcome them? 

One of the biggest challenges I face when training my memory is staying motivated and engaged over long periods of time. Memory training can be mentally demanding and require significant effort, and it can be easy to become discouraged or lose interest. To overcome this challenge, I try to mix up my training routine and incorporate a variety of different techniques and exercises. I also set realistic goals and track my progress over time, which helps to keep me motivated and focused.

Another challenge I face is dealing with distractions and interruptions during training. This can be especially difficult when training in a busy or noisy environment, or when dealing with external factors such as family or work responsibilities. To overcome this challenge, I try to find a quiet and secluded space to train, and I communicate with others about the importance of minimizing interruptions and distractions during my training sessions.

A third challenge I face is maintaining consistent performance over time. While I may have a breakthrough training session one day, I may struggle to achieve the same level of performance the next. To address this challenge, I focus on maintaining a consistent training schedule and avoiding large gaps in my training routine. I also track my progress over time and use this information to adjust my training regimen as needed.

Finally, one of the biggest challenges I face is dealing with mental fatigue and burnout. Memory training can be mentally exhausting, and it can be easy to reach a point where it becomes difficult to concentrate or remember information. To overcome this challenge, I incorporate frequent breaks into my training routine and take time to rest and recharge when needed. I also make sure to get enough sleep and engage in other healthy habits that support cognitive function and mental well-being.

How do you use memory techniques to remember names and faces, and what advice do you have for people struggling with this skill? 

One of the most useful memory techniques for remembering names and faces is the “linking” technique. This involves creating an association between the person’s name and a visual image that is easy to remember. For example, if I meet someone named “Sarah,” I might imagine her wearing a hat with the letter “S” on it. I then create a mental image of Sarah wearing the hat and repeat it several times until it is firmly anchored in my memory. The more vivid and memorable the image, the easier it will be to recall the person’s name later on.

Another useful technique is the “memory palace” technique, which involves mentally placing people’s names and faces in different locations within a familiar place, such as your home or office. This technique is particularly useful when trying to remember a large number of names and faces at once. By associating each person with a specific location within your memory palace, you can quickly recall their name and face when needed.

One piece of advice I have for people struggling with remembering names and faces is to focus on being present in the moment and actively engaging with the people they are meeting. When we are distracted or not fully present, it can be difficult to remember the details of a conversation, including the person’s name. By actively listening and engaging with the person, we are more likely to form a strong memory of their name and face.

Another helpful tip is to repeat the person’s name back to them when you first meet them, as this reinforces the association between their name and face in your memory. Additionally, it can be helpful to use a mnemonic device or visual image to associate with the person’s name, as this can make it easier to recall later on.

Overall, remembering names and faces is a skill that can be improved with practice and the use of memory techniques. By actively engaging with the people we meet and using visualization and association techniques, we can quickly improve our ability to recall names and faces.

Can you share some examples of how you’ve used your memory training in your personal or professional life? 

As a memory athlete, I use my memory training skills in both my personal and professional life on a daily basis. One example of how I have used my memory training in my personal life is by being able to remember important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries without having to rely on a calendar or reminder. I also use memory techniques to memorize shopping lists, directions, and important phone numbers. This has helped me to become more organized and efficient in my daily life, and has also reduced my reliance on external devices such as phones or computers.

In my professional life, I have used my memory training skills to improve my public speaking and presentation skills. I often use the memory palace technique to memorize the key points of my presentation, which helps me to deliver the material more confidently and without relying on notes. This has also helped me to engage more effectively with my audience, as I am able to maintain eye contact and focus on delivering my message without being distracted by notes or slides.

Another example of how I have used my memory training in my professional life is by being able to quickly recall important facts and figures during meetings and discussions. For example, if I am presenting data on a particular project or initiative, I am able to quickly recall the relevant numbers and statistics without having to refer to a spreadsheet or report. This has helped me to be more effective in my role and has also increased my credibility with colleagues and clients.

Overall, memory training has had a significant impact on both my personal and professional life, helping me to become more organized, efficient, and effective in all areas of my life.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in improving their memory, but doesn’t know where to start? 

If someone is interested in improving their memory, but doesn’t know where to start, I would recommend starting with some simple memory exercises such as memorizing a short poem or a list of numbers. This will help to develop the basic skills required for memory training and provide a good foundation for more advanced techniques.

I would also recommend reading books on memory training, such as “Moonwalking with Einstein” by Joshua Foer, to gain a better understanding of the various techniques and strategies used by memory athletes. It’s also helpful to watch videos or attend workshops led by memory experts to learn more about the different memory techniques.

In addition, it’s important to practice regularly and consistently. Memory training is like any other skill – it takes time and effort to improve. I would suggest setting aside a specific time each day to practice memory exercises, and gradually increasing the difficulty level as you improve.

Finally, it’s important to stay motivated and stay focused on your goals. Remember why you wanted to improve your memory in the first place, and keep track of your progress to stay motivated. Celebrate small successes along the way and don’t get discouraged by setbacks – just keep practicing and pushing yourself to improve.

Overall, improving your memory is a challenging but rewarding journey. With dedication, practice, and the right mindset, anyone can improve their memory and achieve their goals.

“Memory techniques are like keys that unlock the vast potential of our minds, allowing us to explore and remember the world in ways we never thought possible.”

Overall, our conversation with Sancy Suraj was both informative and inspiring. His insights into memory training and his experiences as an entrepreneur provided valuable lessons for anyone looking to improve their memory or start a business. Suraj’s dedication to his craft and his passion for helping others succeed is truly admirable. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for Knowles Training Institute and the continued success of Sancy Suraj.