This blog refers to the best 5 books I read in 2020 and goes deep on the matter. You can find the list of my best readings here.
Complete title – The Victorious Mind. How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being.
Author – Anthony Metivier
I have always had the intuition that in life it is important to have a good memory. With it, we can think of our past and relive events, in our head. If we could not remember what we did yesterday or what happened around us, would we have the drive to plan tomorrow?
Memory is also the way we learn things. We collect information and data in any form and we store it in our brain, with the possibility to claim it at the due time we need it. Finally, it is something we can consider as incremental: we can add a bit more knowledge to the one we had storedm or even better, we can rework it.
Mostly, we memorize a lot of things unconsciously. Since our childhood, we take in data that shape our behaviors, drives, and even our inclinations because of non-conscious memory and tacit knowledge – the one we have but cannot put into words. Intuition and predictions are also a byproduct of memory. To learn things, we must first remember them; we memorize them first, and we reason upon them next.
Our memory is important because it makes us who we are, and therefore exercising it is important and even necessary to lead a good life. In my case, I always thought to have a better-than-average memory. However, I always had the feeling that it was not enough, and because my last three jobs required me to learn a lot of things I went looking for something I should have been taught at school.
Anthony Metivier is one of the greatest inspirations in what I do. I have already written several times about the benefits of his Magnetic Memory Method (MMM), and how I used it to give myself a boost when learning a language, programming, and even non-verbals. But an even greater revelation came to me when he published his latest book, The Victorious Mind, in 2020. I was already enthusiastic about the fulfilled promises of the MMM and so I ordered a digital copy once it was released.
Here’s what you’ll find inside the book:
Memory for Meditation
Anthony is an extraordinary person and teacher, and there is more than his method that you can learn from him. His history with memory and the swings of a challenging life are the two elements that connect all the learning techniques and suggestions you can read about in The Victorious Mind.
The most curious insight I have read about is the possibility to use our memory palaces to do meditation. Anthony is a long-time practitioner of both: meditation helped him cope with bipolar disorder more than drugs-based psychotherapy, and memory palaces are the foundation of his memory method.
It is worth noting that Anthony’s work deeply relies on effective practices that have been around for a long time. He loves to cite them often, from the writings of Giordano Bruno to the ancient scriptures in Sanskrit and the lessons of Gary Weber. All this provides a soul to the most effective memory practices I have ever encountered.
I found out that this practice is effective for two reasons. First, it puts you in the conditions to focus on places you have lived and have memories of, that do not necessarily relate with those we are purposefully memorizing. Second, is that aside from the use of spatial memory, many other things resurface, emotions in particular. It makes sense that my most effective memory palaces are the ones where there is a greater background of happy stories and events. Furthermore, they are the most profound and detailed. The mnemonic exercise helped me recall past events and reframe them under different perspectives.
This is an additional benefit that Anthony’s method provided me: not only do I use it to learn more, but ultimately I have been able to learn more about myself, too.
The art of breathing for improved focus
The practice of mindfulness allows us to increase our focus on what’s happening within us. Consequently, we are more aware of what is happening and what we are learning. The Victorious Mind introduced me to several breathing exercises that I am practicing since then on top of those I already know from my own practice of qi-gong and meditation.
However, these exercises have a double use. On one hand, they reinforce the meditative approach of Anthony to knowledge, learning, and self-mastery: these simple practices help you slow down, think better and make more efficient use of your time. On the other hand, they make our mind strong and aligned with our body in case of challenges, adversities, and turmoil. In my case, I use it in the most disparate situations, like when I sit to learn something particularly difficult, I am going for a shocking cold shower, or I am somewhat nervous and I need to calm down.
Being a scientist of the Self
Perhaps the best lesson that this book provides is about one’s identity in experimentation, and it aligns with the idea that rules and methods are useful tools to put us in the right direction, but not the final goal.
Mastering skills and discipline requires more than simply memorizing and retrieving data. It is a continuous process of discovery and testing, where knowledge is molded and perhaps new is crafted, and ultimately the process provides us with a new degree of wisdom.
Anthony Metivier agrees that there is no “one size fits all” and that after learning something we must be also able to adapt it for our purpose, but that our experience is only a part of the game.
We should therefore keep an open mind and keep learning even about things we already know about. Reading dozens of books about something does not make us experts, but surely an effective and efficient memory can make our journey a better one. As he puts it, we must perform as many experiments as we can in virtue of the one sample that matters: you. That is why the craft of memory is not just a series of techniques to improve our learning; it is, especially, the key to embracing our very existence. That’s graciously summed up in his formula: “n = 1”.
My favourite quote from this book
“What does it matter if you are going a million miles an hour if you’re headed in the wrong direction?”.Anthony Metivier
One thing about Anthony’s work, from memory techniques to meditation, is that it is designed for the slow thinker. To use his words again, it is for doers, not for triers: once learned, it must be honed on a daily bases, yet leaves you plenty of space to find out your preferred applications. The slow thinker benefits with quicker retrieval of information.
While Anthony consults with memory champions, namely people who learn how to memorize extremely long numbers, sets of cards, or poems in a few minutes, his methodology was not born for that, but to provide peace of mind. Anthony’s struggles forced him to slow down, many times slower than his classmates; yet, achieving the same or even better results as everyone else. The one of Anthony is a work of mindset, acceptance of limits, critical testing, and self-care.
That is why I loved The Victorious Mind so much. It is not a manual of memory techniques, but rather a guideline to get unstuck and win personal issues. As I already wrote once, if a simple device such as a Memory Palace can be beneficial to fight conditions such as depression, it is definitely worth a try.
What I learned from reading this book
Memory is a currency. These are, again, Anthony’s words. I read them recently, but they have much to do with his book. Memory is much more than the ensemble of cognitive abilities we are gifted with, and we can use it to find our space in the world, making a difference as individuals. Fast and deep learners alike.
More than a form of memory. Whereas Anthony’s method takes the distance of pure rote memorization, it is important to state that its effectiveness is especially given by the use of multiple types of memory at once. Because we learn through our senses, we must make use of any sensory information to strengthen our understanding and memory of things. Movement, sound, taste, smell, and even emotions are much more powerful than abstract ideas and words. This concept helped me learn to code Python and HTML faster than I would ever imagine. When comes to emotions, the meditative practice is even more useful to govern and let go of our thoughts.
Coming to terms with myself. Many of the insights provided by Anthony put me in a situation where I had to revise and correct some of my habits and my behaviors. For example, I learned how to plan big, but sustainable. Even 10 minutes a day but fully focused on something can be beneficial, if we are able to recall these 10 minutes later in the day, or even one month from now. No time is wasted, and each small step counts. Even the most unbreakable forms of knowledge can become accessible because of this mindset shift.