The Memory Mistake that Gets In The Way of Mastery

by Nick Velasquez

Memory of Content vs. Memory of location.


With today’s easy access to information it’s common that we no longer memorize “content”, but instead we make mental notes only about where to find it. We dog-ear book pages, underline paragraphs, bookmark websites, save videos. Etc.


If there’s something we need to be reminded of we know where to look for it. This creates the problem of not committing information to memory. We feel like we no longer need to, that we only need to know where to get it. Our memory has become an index. It shows us where to find the knowledge, but never holds the knowledge itself.


While it’s good to remember the location of knowledge, not memorizing the knowledge itself limits our use of it. Imagine you saw a video on first aid. You bookmarked it and know where to search for it. But if you need to give someone first aid on the street, knowing where you have that video bookmarked in your laptop at home is useless. The same applies to other knowledge. Having only the memory of where to get the information gives us an illusion of knowledge, not real knowledge. 


Back in medieval times, it was difficult to have access to a book. If you came across one it was likely you would not see it again. So, whenever people had the privilege of reading a book they would do everything possible to memorize its content. This made memorizing a valuable skill that was often cultivated.


Unfortunately, today’s easy access to information makes us take knowledge for granted. And while videos, books, and all other forms of external memory are a great advance of our race -it allows us to share and record knowledge- being able to access them at any time has made us lazy at memorizing.


This approach to memory creates a problem. Learning and mastering a skill doesn’t happen outside of us, it happens inside. We need to internalize knowledge to use it, improve it, mold it, and combine it with what we already know. If there’s anything you are looking to learn or to incorporate in your life, you’ll have to start committing the actual information to memory -not just where to find it-.



In the upcoming articles we’ll be discuss the principles and strategies to develop a better momory. We’ll also discuss habits, learning, and mastery. Don’t miss a post, sign up below to get my newest articles in your inbox.

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