Geniuses recall one-way information


Recently, while driving my kids to school, I asked my son to quickly list 30 English words. As you might expect, he struggled. But I knew he could do it.

I agree with Lisa Genova, author of “Remember”, who said the average person can remember over 100,000 words. In my son’s case, he could remember at least 200 words in five minutes. He didn’t know it yet.

So I asked him to remember his three synonym lessons. (Every day, he must master at least three key words and at least two synonyms for each word. Which means he learns at least nine words a day.)

“If you take 10 keywords and list their two synonyms,” I told him, “you should be able to come up with 30 words in no time.”

He immediately understood the idea and began chanting “three synonyms: abandonment, desert, chauked, leave. Three synonyms: above, above, higher. Three synonyms: shrewd, intelligent, shrewd…”

In about two minutes, he had the required 30 words.

This means that you will remember information faster if you categorize it. I learned from a book or an article or a video (can’t remember which one) that this is a way geniuses process information.

At the heart of this idea is simplification. Instead of looking for a fancy way to solve something, you’re looking for an easier way. One way to do this is to group.

And it works. Try it yourself. Here is a question. How many plants can you name in 30 seconds? This is a task challenge. But if you categorize plants into vegetables, fruits, and ornamentals, I bet you can come up with many names. Simply exhaust a category, then move on to the next group.

It’s the same if you’re trying to invite people to your wedding or any other occasion. To avoid angry reactions from friends you forgot to invite, you can group your friends in different hometowns and you are more likely to retain more.

So if this is the way of genius, how do we define a genius? Nobody knows. Or, it depends on who you ask.

For example, in his 1904 research on genies, Havelock Ellis stated that genies are fathered by men over 30 and women under 25 and are usually sick children.

Some say it’s a high IQ. While Bill Gates, who deserves the label, has an IQ of 160, another genius and Nobel laureate in physics, Richard Fynmann, had an IQ of only 122. (That’s lower than mine.)

You may find that some people with very high IQs are actually not productive or making any significant contribution to humanity. Marilyn vos Savant is a good example. Although she has the highest IQ ever recorded (at 228), she is only a Q&A columnist for Parade magazine.

You see, nobody knows! Just use the technique.

Edit at least three times!

Facebook just showed me a post I wrote four years ago on December 21, 2017. In the update, I saw two embarrassing typos that caused me grief this morning.

The first typo was in the first sentence. Grrr!

“AEDC, in a believable display of monopoly power,” I wrote, “blacked out Minna for more than two days in response to a protest by our youth.”

The first sentence! The writer’s hand is blind; because in my head, I wrote “incredible” and not “believable”.

That’s why I’m always sorry for the author who complained that there was a typo on the cover of his book. The front cover! But what would you do after printing probably a thousand copies?

So the best thing to do is to proofread your article at least three times. Or leave it for a while. Once cooled, return to it. To learn more about this, read my article titled “The 24-Hour Rule”.

Sometimes I don’t send my columns to Daily Trust for this reason. No time to reread. And when the errors come out in the log, they are a permanent record.

But with social media, you have some flexibility. You can paste an “unedited version” into it and edit it later. Therefore, since last year I started doing it on social networks.

So please proofread your written copy three times. At least.


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