Then I saw another TED talk -
What Josh and Idriz were claiming was that you could train your memory to learn names. That you needn't be a genius. So on a whim I had decided that I'd try and learn the order of a deck of cards. So the steps I needed to follow were -
1. Come up with a name association for each card. This way you have a face to apply to a card and it helps you remember.
I found this website Memrise. They already had the card-name associations pre-defined but more importantly, they gave a lot of challenge exercises so you could really work on learning the associations. There is no short cut for this and you have to put in the repetitions. Surprisingly, it took me only 4 days to learn the associations for all 52 cards. While it wasn't an instantaneous recollection, I could recall all of them. I must confess that I did go a bit overboard. In a few days I racked up 87,000 points to reach 'Memgineer' status.
2. To remember the order of cards, you need to come up with a Memory Palace. Basically, you come up with a series of locations and you place the characters in it. So I started from my driveway and went all the way up, into my house, to the deck etc. Then I got a tip from my colleague David Shoup, that I could place multiple people at the same location. This was great, so I went from 52 locations down to 13 as I put about 4 people in each location.
3. I then realized that if I had multiple people at a location, I could create some activity that they all did jointly. So it made it stick even more.
So last night as I was getting ready for bed and I was working on recollecting the card-name associations, on a whim I decided to try and remember all 52 cards and the order. So I shuffled the pack and went through all of them and created the story and memory palace. To my surprise I was able to recollect the entire order of the cards.
What I was able to do was create some really funny stories at each location -
1. 4 Clubs (David Copperfield), A Spades (Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore), Jack Hearts (Jimi Hendrix) - David Copperfield was doing a magic trick where every time Adam Sandler tried to hit the golf ball it would disappear and hit Jimi Hendrix while he was playing Purple Haze.
2. 6 Clubs (Sean Connery), 6 Hearts (Stephen Hawking), 2 Spades (Bart Simpson), 10 Spades (OJ Simpson), 3 Clubs (Charlie Chaplin), Ace Diamonds (Al Davis) - Sean Connery was standing at the bottom of the stairs ready to chase Stephen Hawking (in his wheelchair) who was halfway up, chasing Bart Simpson who was mooning Stephen Hawking, and OJ was running after a waddling Charlie Chaplin and Al Davis was waiting for all of them while admiring his rings.
3. 8 Spades (Howard Stern), 3 Spades (Charlie Sheen), 10 Diamonds (Oscar De La Hoya), 9 Spades (Norman Schwarzkopf) - I have a ping pong table in the guest room and I had Howard Stern playing ping pong with Charlie Sheen while Charlie Sheen was snorting coke on the table, against Oscar De La Hoya wearing boxing gloves and Norman Schwarzkopf in uniform.
As you can see, each snippet is quite memorable and the only thing that relates each snippet to the other is that they follow a path that I remember.
So I was very impressed that in a week I was able to remember the order of all 52 cards but what impressed me even more was that my stories were so vivid that I could remember the order of the cards a full 24 hours later. In fact I think I will never forget the order of the cards.
So just wanted to put it out there, that this isn't that complicated and Josh and Idriz were not exaggerating. Happy cards to anyone else who wants to try.