He is the tripple Norwegian Memory Champion and author of the international bestseller book “Memo”. The 28 years old Oddbjørn By is famous for his memory in Skandinavia. Memory-Sports.com spoke with him about his book and creative ways to use memory techniques.
Memory-Sports: Have you been good in school?
Oddbjørn: Before I started with memory techniques I was just a normal student with poor motivation for learning. That changed in January 2004. Since then I’ve been using the techniques for many things like studies in university and salsa dancing for example.
Memory-Sports: What has been your first contact with memory techniques?
Oddbjørn: I read about some techniques to remember numbers on the Internet. It was similar to the Dominic System. Then I started to compete with a friend in Speed Numbers. Via email I came in contact with former world memory champion Andi Bell and he convinced me to come to his World Memory Cup in Weinheim. There I learned a lot from other athletes.
Memory-Sports: The Memory World Cup has been a one time only event and it happened outside of the rules of the World Memory Sports Council. Please tell us about it.
Oddbjørn: It’s been my first competition so I had no experience. But I felt it was very nice. We have been only a few competitors so it was a small and friendly gathering. Although there was a lot of controversy about that competition but it was a nice alternative back then.
Memory-Sports: What has been your next step in Memory Sports?
Oddbjørn: I went to the World Memory Championships Manchester in 2004. Later that year I started writing the book because I felt it was something every student in Norway should know about. I spent one year to write it. And then it was published in January 2006.
Memory-Sports: Your book is called “Memo” and one of its topics is Speed Exams. Please describe what you mean by that.
Oddbjørn: This is what I was doing mostly for fun. I was trying to test the memory systems as much as possible. So I signed up for exams in subjects I didn’t know about. I got some summaries from friends who have been participating in that subject. And then I just memorized summaries and went to exams. It went really good. So I’ve been doing that quite often at my university ever since. Not mostly for fun. It is also very motivational to learn stuff very quickly. But of course to go really into that subject you should follow the lectures. Therefore this is probably not a perfect approach for a student. But sometimes they should try this just for fun.
Memory-Sports: You are writing about the three big different number systems in your book: The Dominic System, the Triple System (or Ben System) and the Major System. What are the main differences between those three in your opinion?
Oddbjørn: For competition the Triple System has huge advantages especially for Historical Dates. But the drawback is that it takes a long time to master. Therefore I think that a Double System is very good for beginners. But in the end I don’t think that it is such a big difference between the systems. It’s about that your method becomes automatic and that your associations are coming quickly. The slight differences doesn’t matter that much.
Memory-Sports: What would you tell someone in a few sentences who wants to improve his learning but never heard of memory techniques before?
Oddbjørn: First of all I would say that it is impossible to remember everything. Of course you can remember the whole Bible or Koran if you spent thirty years of your life. But we don’t have thirty years for our exams. So even if we cannot remember everything, we can use these techniques to remember a lot. The way to do this is for example to use the Journey Method. I would recommend to write down important keywords and to memorize them. For an exam about the Second World War you could memorize keywords like “The Marshal Plan”, “The Blockade of Berlin” and “The establishment of NATO”. You could then memorize a marshmallow (Marshall Plan) outside the front door of your house and so on. In the exam you just walk this journey and pick out the keywords. But also a very important thing is not to write down everything you memorized like a robot. Maybe some of those keywords are simply not necessary for this particular exam.
Memory-Sports: Have you learned a lot using memory techniques?
Oddbjørn: Yes I have been really hungry to learn after I learned these methods. For example I learned seduction techniques with it.
Memory-Sports: Seduction? We should talk about this again with a nice cup of coffee when we see each other in London.
Do you make a special journey for every subject you want to memorize? Or do you use them twice or even more often?
Oddbjørn: If you want to memorize something for a long time you should use new permanently information in the same journey. But you can use it again to memorize temporarily information like a deck of cards.
Memory-Sports: Can you give us some advise in how to create a journey?
Oddbjørn: I would really recommend to use buildings and having one point in each room. The walls of each room are deviding the single stations of the journey from each other. To avoid ending up with an empty room after memorization you should make your associations close to the wall or interact with the room in some kind of way. Also I would recommend to walk through the walls or the roof. To get more points you could start outside of the building like the garden. In my experience the journey shouldn’t be too long. It is better to seperate the journey into several smaller ones. Personally I prefer something around thirty. But a good length could also be about fifty to hundred stations. Than you have better control of the points. Finally you should’t have too similar journeys because you could get confused.
Memory-Sports: Let’s talk more about memory competitions: You are the thrice Norwegian champion. When will be your next national event?
Oddbjørn: The next competition in Norway is in 2010. It is hold every two years. I hope it will be an Open the next time.
Memory-Sports: It’s been a while since your last championship outside of Norway. When are you entering the world stage again?
Oddbjørn: Hopefully in this years World Memory Championship in London. The last years I was busy with publishing the book in Sweden and Denmark. Now I fianally have the time to compete again. If I am in shape I will maybe come to Sweden as well.
Memory-Sports: Speaking of which: How are your skills these days?
Oddbjørn: I think it’s very good in Spoken Numbers but in Binary Numbers for example it is rubbish.
Memory-Sports: Which is you favorite discipline in Memory Sports?
Oddbjørn: That is Spoken Numbers because of the drama. If you memorize a hundred digits but you forget the second one you face dramatic consequences. And I like that you are forced into that speed.
Memory-Sports: What kind of system are you using?
Oddbjørn: I use the Double System for numbers. Only for recreational porpuse I use the Triple System from time to time. I am quite slow with it.
Memory-Sports: For what did you use memory techniques in your daily life?
Oddbjørn: I’ve been learning languages because if you remember a lot of vocabulary you get really motivated. You can come really far if you remember for example 1.000 words in Spanish, Italian or German. Also I’ve been using the techniques for presentations. So instead of just reading from a paper I used to memorize my speeches. Even for Salsa dancing I used it to remember the steps and moves. As I told you before I memorized seduction techniques with it. Finally I used it for daily situations like having an idea when I am on my bike. It is really painfull to forget a good idea. So I used to memorize it in an idea journey. When I come home I can recall it and write it down. It is not that I usememory techniques every day. Some days more and some days less.
Memory-Sports: Did your general memory improved even if you don’t use your techniques?
Oddbjørn: Since I became famous in Norway I HAD to remember. Because if I forget the name of people they will start with jokes about it. But I also think that forgetting in the daily life has something to do with being on autopilot. For example if you forget to post a letter on your way home from work, it’s probably because you’ve been driving on autopilot. I have been into really big trouble with girlfriends who think I should remember better when I forgot what they have been talking about during dinner. That’s how it is to be a memorizer.
Memory-Sports: Oh yes, I know that problem. 😆 It’s not that we don’t listen on porpuse but sometimes we are just not concentrated enough to memorize everthing they are saying.
Oddbjørn: I think girls should write down any important information, hand it over and give us five minutes to memorize it. 😉
Memory-Sports: Indeed! Thank you for your time.