“Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.”
We have seen in the preceding chapter, that poor memory is common, and that there is an almost universal need for practical memory training. Now what is the reason back of this condition? What is the underlying cause of so many weak memories? My answer is that it is primarily due to the fallacies or false beliefs which are generally held in regard to memory, and memory training.
FIVE FALLACIES AND FIVE FACTS
First among these is this one, ” It can’t be done.” Many people think that they are doomed to go through life with the inefficient memory that they have, and just so long as they hold that belief they are not likely to improve the memory. They believe that a good memory is exceedingly difficult to attain and in most cases an impossibility. It can be done, and I cannot state this too emphatically. In fact, I consider the memory to be one of the easiest faculties to develop; far easier than building up a large and discriminating vocabulary; much easier than the development of a clear and resonant speaking voice; infinitely easier than developing a high-class ability in public speaking. And in making this assertion I speak from wide experience. You will be surprised to find how readily your memory will develop under the right method of training. So we may as well make a pleasant approach to the subject, with the assurance that the task will not be too hard, but rather enjoy-able. On every hand there is proof abundant that it can be done.
The second fallacy is the common belief that a good memory is a gift, something that you must be born with. What a delusion; and how many well-meaning people are deluded by that fallacy; it is a sort of camouflage to cover lack of ambitiona smoke barrage to conceal our own laziness as we slide down the line of least resistance, saying, ” No use to study or to try to cultivate that faculty. I wasn’t gifted as some people are.” Do not fool yourself. The ability to remember is there, it is ” up to you ” to make the most of it. As a matter of fact, a good memory in nine cases out of ten is the result of training and development along right lines. Frequently we see a person with a very weak or sluggish memory far outstrip one who is ” Naturally Bright.” I sometimes think that there is hope for almost any one except those who are so ” Naturally Bright ” that they don’t need any special training. Those ” elect ” who are so ” Naturally Bright ” freely admit that it is not necessary for them to dig and delve and study and work like ordinary mortals. That is a very hard handicap to overcome. If I may paraphrase a certain passage from Scripture and make a modem application, I will say that it is easier for an auto to pass through a knot-hole than for a ” Naturally Bright ” person to enter the portals of the muse of memory. This belief that it requires particular genius to acquire a good memory is a false belief. It requires chiefly a genius for persistent application and hard work, and I make this assertion, not only to the average individual but also to those who have the most remarkable memories in the world. Berol, himself, tells us that in developing his marvelous memory he spent many hours of patient, assiduous toil and practice in mastering the different parts of his work. I can see him back there in those early days, haunting the library at Cooper Union, searching the book-shelves for the material he needed to file away in that receptive brain, disciplining his mental powers, until the day came when he was hailed as one of the greatest memory experts in the world. [(See Esenwein, Chapter on Memory, for elaboration.) ” No individual is born with a good memory,” says Robinson in his book, Memory and the Executive Mind. Roscoe Pound, Dean of the Law School of Harvard University, possesses a wonderful memory, but when interviewed by a writer on the staff of the American Magazine he scoffed at the idea that it was a natural gift. ” Genius? Nonsense; I remember because I must; I worked to develop my memory.” Then he went on to tell how weak eyes forced him to train his memory, until to-day he has a memory filled with specialized knowledge, which he is able to recall when needed, and in his lectures to give thousands of important citations accurately, without straining his eyes by reference to notes or legal documents. ” The simple truth of the matter is that every normal person has an excellent capacity for memory. If it seems poor, inefficient, as inattentive to what is going on round about as a messenger boy reading a dime novel while he loiters on his way, it is because the memory is not given a fair chance. Every time it is the fault of the owner, not of the memory. The memory needs exercise, training, just as does the hollow chest. It will respond gratefully to treatment, as surely as the lungs to deep breathing. And the response of the mind is swifter, subtler, far more splendid.
The third fallacy which many people hold, is that a memory course is a matter of freak-work or a bag full of tricks, a demonstration of wizardry or a sort of mental hocus-pocus. All nonsense; a sound system of memory training is the most practical thing in the world. It is founded on the bedrock of modem psychology. It offers a sane and sensible plan of the workings of the human mind. There is no marvelous key, no trickery about it. There is no royal road to a good memory, but there is a way, and in this short volume I hope to point out the right way so clearly and definitely that any one with aver-age ability and persistence can follow it and arrive at the goal.
The fourth fallacy which I often hear is this: ” Quick to learn, easy to forget. Most minds which are most receptive are least retentive.” In other words, that one who memorizes easily and quickly, forgets easily and quickly. As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. I have proved this point time and time again in my classes by actual test.- Almost invariably, those students with a quick, keen memory, who were first to master a problem or paragraph, were also the ones who could reproduce the same thing accurately a month later, while the slow ones were the weakest in a test of retentiveness. Laird, too, finds in his experience, that ” the slow memorizer makes most mistakes and for-gets quickest.” Are you slow to remember? If so, take his advice: ” Take your memorizing coolly, but speed it up.”
Another fallacy, or mistaken belief may be stated in three words, ” Dependence on Crutches.” So many people are unwilling to trust their memory or to depend upon it. They think it is necessary to lean on crutches in the form of notes, manuscript, or promptings, and they cling so tenaciously to this false belief that the memory never has a chance to develop strength. It is like a child who is never allowed to walk alone without assistance. Never will memory grow strong till thrown on its own resources, never will it respond till you trust it. The belief that it must have props or crutches must be discarded.
Such, very briefly stated, are the five fallacies which are chiefly responsible for so many poor, weak, groping memories in the world. These errors must be overcome before any one can give his memory a fair chance to develop or hope to acquire the memory he ought to have. No better beginning can be made than to empty the mind of these false beliefs. Then make a pleasant approach to your study by affirming that it will be not irksome but enjoyable.