So we all know that memorization is under valued in this day and age, and I want to improve my mental knowledge base. What things do you think are worth memorizing? I'm thinking of starting with the presidents, maybe a very basic timeline of world events, etc.  

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I'd start with your favorite poems or song lyrics. It will be more entertaining for you and an easier way to get started. That is, unless you have a passion for history, then the presidents would be right up your line.

What is worth memorizing falls into two extremely broad categories.

First, that which is don't want to be the person with the hundred PostIt notes at work because you haven't memorized anything.

This includes things that are not amenable to having notes all the time, such has how to field strip and maintain your sporting equipment.

That which is entertaining and or enlightening...A favorite poem or quotation, the name of a favorite author for examples.

Memorization of lists of information without a purpose can be useless.  Memorizing something that will be used repeatedly, such as the multiplication table or the "I before E" rule is useful.

How do we know that memorization is undervalued?  I don't know this.  We have books.  Why memorize for the sake of memorizing?  That's sort of like saying, I need to solve a personal problem -- can anybody give me one?

I can think of these uses.

* Something good to have in mind and in practice, to change the heart.  In that case, a psalm or a poem.

* Some area in which it's hard to follow what's happening unless you have in mind a structure.  For that, a timeline of world (or area-of-the-world) events would make sense.  A visual representation would help.  Knowing where things are in the world, also.

Memorization is not undervalued, it's just not done much anymore. Studies have shown that the older you are, the better you are at memorizing things. Why? Us old farts didn't have electronic devices that could store information. I've also noticed changes in the way science is taught in my state since I was in school. Once upon a time, we had to memorize things like metric prefixes, organic groups, physics formulas. Now we give kids reference tables-- that are 6 pages thick in some cases-- so all they have to do is look things up.

How to Memorize Facts

That professor has an awesome grasp on learning.

That being said, what to memorize?

Enough relevant news as well as trivial news to keep you casually conversational.

Mid range:

Enough relevant general knowledge as well as trivial knowledge to keep you capable of deeper conversation.

Long term:
Anything you consider deeply impactful on your personal philosophy. When called on how you live your life and how you make your decisions, being able to mentally refer to your source material before answering is damn useful. (also helps you live your life deliberately and not accidentally)


"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Never forget that one.


The poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

Beginning when I was six years old, my father began teaching me 42 prepositions of the English language (there were 42 at the time). In lieu of bedtime stories, I memorized three per night. I was given the next three after I could recite everything I'd learned, thus far. When we finished that, he taught me Kipling's "If", one line at a time in the same way. Forty years later, I don't have my dad anymore-but I have those memories. And, you'd be surprised how often I refer back to both the prepositions and the poem.

Start with "If", one line a day, and go from there. Good luck!

Good for you. Man after my own heart.

Go to

I suggest starting with...mnemonic peg systems...if you don't already know several. You'll also need to learn HOW to use them.

This book could help: The memory book: the clasic guide to improving your memory at work,...

Contrary to the title, it has little to do with improving your memory per se; it's about how to use mnemonic systems.

Once you have the Major System down, I suggest memorizing:

Credit card numbers with all 2ndary security codes

All friends' and relatives phone numbers AND BIRTHDAYS--no more losing your electronic phone book...

All financial account numbers

The late Vera Birkenbihl had a peg system that linked alphabet letters A-Z along with their numerical order. She suggested memorizing it in random access so that you would know off the top of your head that O is the 15th letter in the alphabet or that the 7th letter is G. It goes like this:

1. A Anchorman

2. B Bugs Bunny (don't blame me I didn't populate it...)

3. C Camping

4. D Dromedary (this was designed by a non-native speaker of English)

5. E Elephant

6. F Flute

7. G Garden


Notice they're all nouns. I think that is intentional, but it would make more sense to link every letter also with a verb, and maybe even an adjective, so that you could string together noun-verb-noun-verb into complex sentences. Contrary to some advice, verbs no harder to memorize than nouns, and actually synergistic with noun pegs because you can have a noun perform a verb to get more and more complex linkages.

To do an outline of history, along with all relevant dates, you could use the Major System to convert the date to a word, then link the word to the name of the event, and the place. I suggest making a redundant link to the century, so that you can rattle off events in somewhat random access order. You should probably also be able to go from event to place or place to event. Like rattling off French history versus British.

It might be worth your while to memorize sets of items/object/data associated with your profession...something you could rattle off in an interview, or in casual conversation with your boss (but take care of his ego so he doesn't fire you as an upstart and a threat...).

Slightly different, but oh-so-valuable: learn how to memorize people's names quickly. Imagine going to a big party with several hundred people, circulating, and being able to recall every person's name flawlessly. Now imagine going to a big business meeting, meeting dozens of people, and memorizing everybody's name and function, flawlessly. Imagine walking up to someone you met briefly, calling him by name, and asking him about something relevant to him, in a friendly manner, as if you were a good friend. This can be a lucrative skill!!

Have fun with it!

Michael, Rob and the others gave some pretty good suggestions.  If you'd like to add some patriotic/citizenship pieces to your arsenal, has a "Freedom in America: 41 Things Every American Should Know" page that has a list of poems, songs, famous speeches, important documents and quotes arranged in chronological order (@Michael including the Declaration of Independence).  Each item has a "Memorize Now" button that lets you learn it and test your memory.


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