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Anthony Metivier: Memory Expert, Entrepreneur and Author of 52+ Books on the Life Changing Power of Building a Magnetic Memory.

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Anthony Metivier Interview
Anthony Metivier
Anthony Metivier is a memory expert, entrepreneur and prolific author whose many excellent books and courses have helped thousands of people learn languages, pass exams, find more focus, boost their creativity and enjoy more success, faster and easier than they ever thought possible.

Find him at MagneticMemoryMethod.com

Anthony Metivier Interview (Video)


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Arthur Worsley:
Hi everyone. It’s Arthur here from TheArtOfLiving.com. Super excited to be chatting with my friend, Anthony Metivier, today who is probably the best living memory expert that I certainly know personally. An absolutely fascinating guy. So thank you for joining us today, Anthony.

Anthony Metivier:
Thanks, Arthur. And thanks for the kind words.

You may have exceeded there a little bit, but –

Arthur Worsley:
That’s alright. At least I can exceed on your behalf! But you do remind me a little bit … I was thinking about this the other day, Back to Future, the Doc. Like a more handsome version of the Doc, but for memory. If someone was going to invent the equivalent of the time machine for memory, it would be you I’m sure. For anyone who doesn’t know Anthony’s stuff over at Magnetic Memory Method, we’ll talk a lot about it today, but it’s refreshingly practical and real world.

And you say on your site and you can see it on your materials. There’s so much about memory stuff. It’s either playing games on your phone or it’s about winning memory championships. People have lost the art of just day-to-day practical memory. And I think that’s something that you do very well is this idea of how do you actually use this to improve your life in meaningful ways-

Anthony Metivier:
And Back to the Future is part of it, because the Doc stands for D-O-C, doing is the origin of competence.

Arthur Worsley:
Oh, nice.

Anthony Metivier:
And I often refer to that doctor when I give my live talks in the community-

Arthur Worsley:
Oh really?

Anthony Metivier:
… to help people remember, don’t get hung up on these techniques, just do it because it’s the origin of competence. The origin of creativity. It’s the origin of the courage that you need. It’s the origin of everything really that makes it great.

Arthur Worsley:
One hundred percent. Especially with something like memory palaces. There’s this fear of not getting it right. I’ve used them for myself and I’m like, “Am I doing this right? Is the memory palace going to work? Will my first memory palace be useless later on,” or that kind of thing. But you can only get to version 100 through version one. You have to start. Doing is the origin of competency. The origin. You have to just take the first actions. So let’s talk a bit about you because there’ll be people here listening to this who’ve never heard of you, and there will be people listening to this who’ve been following you for years and years and years.

But I guess the summary we talked a little bit about, but you’ve helped thousands of people basically learn practical skills, especially language learning but also getting better at math, getting better at topics which require a lot of memorization like law and medicine and things like that. And you’ve done that using memory techniques, many of which have been known for millennia, but you’ve done it in a way which is a new and super practical way of doing it. And your main focus, am I right in saying, is on memory palaces?

So it’s combining visual memory with declarative memory so that you can recall facts and things like vocabulary and very easy ways of using your visual memory. Is that right?

Anthony Metivier:
Yeah. And it’s a puzzle how to actually teach this well, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the words, memory palace, but we have to call it something. So really the unsexy term I would use is location-based mnemonic. And this is nerdy stuff, but people get hung up. They don’t like this term memory palace or whatever. So if you don’t like that term, call it a mind palace, call it whatever you want. But essentially what you’re doing is you’re using remembered space that you don’t have to work for to link information you don’t know together with some stuff like Doc from Back to the Future.

And then it just pops in your mind because you have a place to look for it. So, I do focus on that, but not because I have some fixation on this particular technique. It’s just a term for something that is much bigger and much more explosive than some castle in your head. And so that’s a real challenge, how to make that clear in a couple of minutes, especially when now we’re dealing with seconds in the twitchy Twitter world, the 21st Century. So that’s what I teach and I love it.

Arthur Worsley:
I love it.

Anthony Metivier:
I love it because there is no argument against it. People who say, “Well, will this work or not?” The evidence is not in their favour.

Arthur Worsley:
Absolutely.

Anthony Metivier:
It’s like going to the gym and saying, “Will this barbell exercise my muscle?”

Arthur Worsley:
It’s even more immediate than that. One of my favourite things is you read any memory book by Harry Lorayne or Dominic O’Brien or any of them, one of the first techniques they’ll introduce you to is the link method, where you use visual memory to link two words to each other, and you create a chain as you go through. And a lot of people read these books and they never do the acts of the exercises in that. You only have to do that exercise once to have your mind totally blown.

I remember the first time I did that and I looked through the list, I remember five things on that. And then I followed the exercise and literally 30 seconds later, I remembered all 25 things on the list and I could do it backwards. And I was like, “Wow.” And the same as true of the memory palace technique. If you actually just discard your cynicism or even just make that initial little effort and you make your first memory palace, even if it’s three stations in a room and you start tying things to it, suddenly you experience viscerally and firsthand how powerful that stuff is.

Anthony Metivier:
It’s real magic or it’s the closest thing to real magic that exists. And the only puzzle left to solve is exactly the one you proposed that many people just won’t do it. And then they’ll never get there. They’ll try to understand it. And the reality is that it is only understood through doing, because it … Not to sound mystical, but there is a mystical tradition that uses memory techniques. And what happens to you is indeed beyond name and form. It changes your neurochemistry.

And even Scott Young in Ultralearner, or Ultralearning, is it called? He has a passage there that’s just amazing. And he says, “There are people who are so into memory techniques that they’re really into them.” It’s almost like a religion. And I think that he doesn’t use that word, that it’s almost like a religion. But that fanaticism that those of us who use it have is because there’s a relationship to meditation, to mystical experiences, to real magic. If I can roll my art, it’s to accentuate it.

And we can look at brain studies that show this. You’re getting the production of dopamine, myelin, the opioid receptors are just firing like crazy to gather up all kinds of other chemicals, norepinephrine. Stuff I don’t even know how to pronounce properly, but it is playing positive chemistry in your mind for drug-like outcomes.

Arthur Worsley:
It is amazing stuff. Anyone who hasn’t experienced … I think something that you’re very good at is that, if people can listen to this and it’s like, it sounds too good to be true. And therefore people are busy, they don’t have time, they don’t do it. But I think something you do really well is you tie it always back to a practical application, like a gateway drug. You could explain to someone that memory palaces would change their lives and they’ll just walk right past you, but if you say, “Hey, I can teach you a technique that will help you learn a language in half the time that it would before,” and suddenly people are interested.

And I think you do that well with the way that you help bring it down to, “Okay, let’s start with the practical problem that’s in front of you right now.” And it becomes a gateway drug into the memory, but when you realize how powerful this is, you’re like, “Wow, I can use this to do so many different things.” I think there’s a second side to it. So I think there’s this mental, this inner journey. And your most recent book, The Victorious Mind which is fascinating, starts to talk about how all of those threads from the work that you’ve done in meditation, but also in visualization.

Building memory palace memory is an amazing tool for improving focus. Even if you don’t want to memorize a single thing and you’re someone who struggles with focus, learning to sit and visualize and think through, it’s super fun. And it also is a great way to train your brain into just sitting and actually seeing things. And in your most recent book, you talk about how that outer journey of memory and memory palace has actually helped boost that inner journey is I guess peace and equanimity and focus.

But the other thing I want to talk about is the fact that you’ve written 52 books, which is amazing. As someone who’s struggled to write my first book and it felt like pulling teeth the whole way, I would love to talk about how you’ve done that. Let’s talk about that. So you’ve done all this stuff, you’ve discovered these amazing memory techniques. You’ve written 52 books. And your most recent book talks about this, but it’s easy to see experts and think, “Oh, this isn’t for me. I’m not going to get there.” Talk to us a little bit about how you got there. Where did you start, and what did it take to go to this place that you are now, and where were you originally?

Anthony Metivier:
Well, there are many stories to be told, but just on the book thing, imagine a 14-year-old kid with a copywriter or a photocopier, sorry. And actually learning to be a copywriter. Those words are coming together in my head because I started to make my own books with a photocopier. And then I learned how to sell them at a very young age. And we’re talking zines where it’s 10 cents, 25 cents or whatever.

And by the time I get to university, I have my own small press and we’re selling out editions, my partner and I within a very short period of time because we do a hundred copies, and we’d make them by hand. And this was formal art as much as it was content-based art. So for example, the book would be called open letter closed book, and all the pages were sealed. And at the back taped inside was a plastic knife. So you had to cut open all the pages. We did all kinds of things. We had books that you had to destroy in order to open them, et cetera.

So that was really why I loved memory techniques so much is because it gave me all kinds of free time. I wrote three novels when I was in university, in grad school alone. I have no idea really actually. 52 is a number that is definitely true, but if you were to count fairly, it’s probably more than that because zines and chat books, there are just oodles of them that I’ve put out or been involved in over the years.

And that was also a strategy against depression, which is what got me into memory techniques in the first place. So I feel like these days people need trigger warnings. So I’m a pretty straightforward guy, and so it’s a grim thing, but when you’re in Canada, it’s deep, deep winter, you’ve got, or I had. I should put it in the way that it was. I had exams looming for my doctoral exams. So field exams. There’s two of them in total. Then you have different things that are going on between then and sitting for your defence.

You have to research for your dissertation and all kinds of stuff. And I get letters telling me that my student loans are going to be due early and the snow is so high. There couldn’t call in the military because municipalities can’t clear it. And I hit rock bottom. For years before that I’d been in and out of hospital because of psychiatric conditions, manic depression, with an element of psychosis, et cetera. They’re like, “Well, we’re not going to call you schizophrenic because you’re too self-aware of all this.” Because I used to have conversations with them about psychology, because I studied a lot of psychology and I knew the implications of what was going on. So I couldn’t be schizophrenic because schizophrenics aren’t self-aware or whatever.

I don’t know what they were saying, but I hit rock bottom. I was drinking my face off all the time, eating pizza and ice cream in the middle of the night, et cetera. And it was either fail my first field exams or not go to them, or jump off the bridge. That was basically the options, except I was at university one day and I saw, in this winter, it was just amazing because it felt like summer. Inside of York University in Toronto, there’s a place called York Lanes. I don’t know if it’s still there, but they build it out so it feels like a New York street in summer.

And so in the middle of winter, the street magicians come to do magic tricks as I’m on my way to the bookstore and something lights up in my head because I used to do magic when I was a kid. And they did a trick, and I grabbed the deck and I said, “Let me show you something.” They were totally surprised and I managed to pull it off, and I felt better, strangely. And I went home. YouTube was a new thing, and I spent probably the next two months just bingeing every magic instruction video that I could find, and then I found memory techniques that way.

Long story short, I learned to memorize a deck of cards. And I realized that if you could memorize a deck of cards, you could get French philosophy onto cards and use the same technique. And so I noticed feeling better and better and better. And then I passed all my exams. They gave me some special words at the end about this, that and the other thing. And then I got a post-doc research grant from a major body in Germany called the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft or German Research Society, I guess. You would translate it as … Then some other adventures happened.
And I kept writing books and doing all this stuff. And one of them eventually became a memory book that did quite well, and I’ve been at it ever since.

Arthur Worsley:
That’s amazing. What a great story. It’s so funny that you bring up the magic because I think it was David Allen when I interviewed him the other day, he was talking about how he used to do magic when he was a kid as well. I think there’s something about magic, which it makes you very aware of other people’s attention and therefore your own attention and the way the brain works, because you have to learn how to misdirect it and direct it and what people remember, and everything else.

But anyway, from a young age, you were obviously incredibly creative. You have this creative spark inside you. I love the image of you in a library somewhere bootlegging copy-written books that you’ve written and things like that. It’s a very Stephen King image in my head. So you’ve got this writing, you’ve got this creativity, but then a lot of creative that I know, you were also plagued … And a lot of people in fact that I know, but certainly I think creativity maybe because they’re more in touch with how that’s all moving. You were also plagued with this sense of, I guess, depression, with misery, and you’re struggling to deal with that.

And you come against the hero’s journey, your crux point where there’s this moment of no return where you’re like, “Yeah, I have these exams.” And I still have nightmares about my final exam, so I know how you feel. And so you discover memory techniques by chance because of the passage of memory, but quickly you realize that it saves you a huge amount of time. But also that there’s something else going on because you’re starting … I guess you’re not only starting to feel better because you’re doing things better, but also you’re just starting to feel better in general. It’s going to be improving your focus, improving the way you relate to your mind and things like that. And then you start writing about memory and teaching what you’ve learned to other people around you. Does that sound …

Anthony Metivier:
Yeah. Obviously, the problem with these stories is confabulation. They change every time you tell them and so forth, but the way that I started to write a book, I had no intention to ever teach memory. I used to give my lectures, memorize all the names of the students. And I would say to them, “Would you like to know how I did that?” Because they’d be blown away, but they weren’t that interested. They were there to do film studies. And what ended up happening is after my research grant was done, I went to Vancouver, back home, and I was preparing curriculum for an after-school school, not teaching. And one day a teacher didn’t show up.

And so, Heidi who ran the place … And she’s amazing. Heidi Winfrey, entrepreneur. She was my first mentor of how to do business at a more elevated level. And she just said, “You got to get in there and teach because someone’s not showing up.” And I’m like, “What am I supposed to teach them? They’re high school people. I don’t know what to do.” Anyway, I went in there and I got through the high school stuff in 15 minutes. And I said, “What do you guys want to do next?” And they said, “I don’t know, you’re the teacher.” I said, “Okay, let’s learn how to recite the alphabet backwards.”

And that was the first time I ever taught memory techniques. And lo and behold, within 45 minutes, most of them could recite the alphabet backwards. So then they said, “What else can we do?” And so I was showing them memorizing cards and all this stuff. They asked me to write it down, so I did, and that became the first book. And just as I was thinking about developing different kinds of businesses, the Kindle revolution was going on. I threw this book up on the internet and I forgot about it. And a friend of mine who I was peer mentoring with, he said, “Hey, have you seen your book?” And I was like, “No.” He’s like, “It’s number one in two categories on Amazon.” And I was like, “Damn.”

So that’s really the start of it. And I just started to receive so many questions from people and then I needed eventually to turn it into a blog, because I got in trouble. I was emailing so many people that the email company, they closed my account and I had to apologize, “I’m sorry, but I’m getting so many questions.” And they said, “Well, you have to go to this company and pay this amount and then you can email people on mass,” blah, blah, blah. And I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to do a business.” Whatever. I had to go do all the stuff that business people do, counter scarcity mindset and yada, yada, yada, to make it happen. But it just was not practical to press reply to 700 people in a free email account. Because I was getting that many questions from this one book.

Arthur Worsley:
Wow. That’s an amazing story. So it just happened for you. So you obviously made the transition at some point towards talking about memory. And we know each other through an amazing guy called Jon Morrow. And I was reading the introduction of The Victorious Mind and I saw that you even referenced his amazing blog post that he wrote about his story and how he effectively built his business from a wheelchair. Only able to move as much. He’s just a very, very inspiring guy. You think, “Okay, I’m going to start doing this as a business.” At what point do you meet John, and at what point do you start really growing this into something?

Anthony Metivier:
I would say John enters the picture around 2014. And it’s good that you mentioned him because you mentioned this link between creativity and a downside of depression and so forth. I would actually challenge that. In fact, my first dissertation idea was going to be called the myth of the sick poet, because I really think that if you do the math, there are way more normal, balanced, creative, successful people than there are ill ones. And it just happens that we want some mystery solved about what creativity is. And so we go, “Oh, it must be those wackos because they’re the ones that stick out a sore thumb.”

And when I did my research for that original concept of the myth of the sick poet, I did analysis of Hollywood stars, for example. And the amount of them that have normal marriages, pretty well-balanced real estate businesses on the side, yada, yada, yada, there’s just nothing extraordinary going on. Yeah, yeah. But when we talk about John Morrow, if you listen to a recent interview with him and Alex Charfen, they say none of this has anything to do with the chair.

And I am very adamant that nothing that I’m doing has anything to do with creativity, and it has nothing to do with mental illness, even though I have a mental illness in the … It’s the fly in the ointment, in my life. But it is in no way an explanation or a driver or anything. And I could be wrong about that, but I think that the evidence is in my favour. It’s just pretty bland to be looking and saying, “Oh, well, most of celebrities are normal, married people with a business instead of this Nicolas Cage …” And all respect to Nicolas Cage. He’s just another guy.

But I just picked that as a story where the dude owns islands or whatever the heck, and castles and then the next day he’s bankrupt. That’s a pretty rare occasion, and that I wouldn’t peg on anything about him either. So it’s just the way it is in the world that these things happen to people, and it’s not an explanation. And this is really important for memory techniques because a lot of people think they can’t use them because they’re not creative. No, there’s no such thing as creativity in memory techniques. What you’re doing is assembling mental Lego.

So, you get fast at them precisely because you’ve removed creativity out of the equation. So, Nicolas Cage, you could probably think, well, that’s a good 27, because N and K sound for cage. If you know these techniques, then you know what I mean.

Arthur Worsley:
He’s actually my 93 using the Dominic system because N is nine and C is three.

Anthony Metivier:
Now you get to the magic, right? Oh wait. There’s different spells?

Arthur Worsley:
Yeah. Everyone’s system is very personal.

Anthony Metivier:
It’s personal, but it’s the systematicity that we need to notice. So whether you use this system or that system, the thing to notice is that there’s a system here and the system is the reduction of creativity so that you reduce decision and you just make associations. And that’s why it’s so magical. You just got to show up and develop it.

Arthur Worsley:
Which is really the essence of creativity. I think there’s so much myth around creativity as being this magic thing. It’s a divine inspiration, but creativity is really the assembling of many, many small Lego bricks in a way that no one else has assembled them before. But if you don’t have the Lego bricks … People always say, “Why would I memorize things?” I’m like, “Think of how you use language creatively. Now, imagine that you had to look up every single word before you could use it when you were having a conversation. How creative do you think you could ever be?”

The reason we use language so creatively, the reason poets write poetry, the reason screenwriters write scripts, the reason we have this conversation is because the building blocks are memorized. The little Lego bricks are memorized, and therefore in our brains, we construct them however we want. And the same is true for everything. If you want to talk creativity, if you want to be creative, when you’re an artist, the reason that artists are creative is because they’ve mastered these tiny little building blocks that are by themselves not creative at all. Whether it’s perspective or lines or shading or shadow, or even you see the studies by artists where they religiously are just doing the satin. The way light hits satin.

And when you see their creativity, it’s all of those memorized things that come together that creates creativity. And so I think what you’re saying is so true is that the act of doing memory palaces doesn’t require creativity, but it’s the catalyst, it’s the very fundamental … The ability to memorize and internalize things is the foundation of all creativity afterwards.

Anthony Metivier:
I don’t mean to sound like I’m opposed to creativity as being a thing, but-

Arthur Worsley:
You’re a creative person, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

Anthony Metivier:
I don’t want to get into the semantics of it, but I do think it’s an important distinction that can be very helpful for people because it really doesn’t have to do with having to invent things. It’s the opposite. And unfortunately, a lot of the books in the memory tradition, including my own, I’ve even made this mistake. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the subtleties, but I learned over time as authors do if they are self-reflective in any way is that we can fix this. We can actually improve this. We can pay more attention to how we describe it. And then we recursively learn more about the tradition, and just strength upon strength and iron sharpens iron.

Arthur Worsley:
Very cool. So there are several journeys that I’d love to explore. The first is your entrepreneurial journey, but I think let’s leave the entrepreneurial journey for now because what I’d love to focus on is the memory journey that you’re going through. So at the same time you’re building this business, you’re teaching people, you’re learning all of the important skills from people like John Morrow. You’re building a blog and you’re helping more. You build your course, and that’s why we’re talking today. We find you through your books and things, but then there’s the memory journey. You start out discovering memory palaces. I assume you’re using basic systems like mnemonic systems and linking systems and all this stuff. How has that changed over time? Have you found that your understanding of how you improve your memory has changed over time or did you get the foundations very early and then it was just a case of applying those with more and more skill as time went on?

Anthony Metivier:
I think it’s a bit of both. And I’m not even sure how you divide it from the entrepreneurial thing, because with all respect to all the people that I learned from, it’s really frustrating when you’re trying to learn these techniques, because I had to pick up some biblical Hebrew as part of the doctoral journey. And I’m reading Harry Lorayne, The Memory Book. And there’s two pages on memorizing vocabulary. And I’m thinking, “What.” It just on its face does not make sense, so I have to research some more.

And then as I recall it, there’s a certain mystery. Lorayne says, “Well, I was in the library and I found all these old books.” Well, my first thing is, which books? And it doesn’t take that long to find Rhetorica ad Herennium, Summa Theologica. And I can go on through a whole list of the ancient books. But the thing to find there is that those guys were hardcore. And they said, and we don’t know who wrote Rhetorica ad Herennium but he says, “You want to know how to memorize anything, learn how to memorize words.” But then he doesn’t really say that much about how to do that. It’s just like five stations in room, golden hand on fifth station.

And I’m just like, “That doesn’t make sense either.” What do you need a gold hand on the fifth room? So basically what I’m doing is I’m inquiring into the what, the how, the where, the why, who’s doing this stuff. And I start to build it in my own head, which is what everybody needs to do. And I get really deep into this idea of systematicity, not the system, because you’re not going to get anybody else’s system, but how do you build the system? And then you realize you get into this, or I did anyway, this Bruce Lee flow.

And I’ll never forget actually one of my books, a reviewer said, and that’s why I’m thinking of this. She said, “This is the Bruce Lee of memory.” And in a way it makes sense because you’ve got to have the structure, but it’s got to be like grass. You’ve got to be able to blow, and it’s got a bend. So how do you do that? So the answer is, I think I got it pretty early on and all that’s changed is that I just teach it better. Nothing fundamentally has changed in what I’m teaching other than that more practice leads to more insight, and more practice teaching leads to more insight into how to explain it to more people and just learning more about how people process, not only the words that I say, but the information I display. And just innovating.

So I don’t know if you divide it from the entrepreneurial question at the end of the day. Another way to think about that is I’m teaching people to be like entrepreneurs of their own minds, which is to say, you want a return on your investment so you’ve got to learn certain rules and principles, and then you got to make them your own. And then you got to do analysis. And how are you going to optimize this, that, and the other thing, do you choose this or that to optimize? And some of the questions you framed earlier about productivity. How do you do that? Well, you build the laboratory, you show up in your science coat and you run the tests, and then you do the analysis, and then you do another test. It’s all testing basically at the end of the day. And the beauty is that the test results are your memory. So you get to learn as you go.

Arthur Worsley:
We talked about the fear that people have around getting started with some of these memory techniques because they worry what if it doesn’t work? What if the first hundred hours are a waste of time? That kind of thing. And I think the way that you say it as an experiment is so interesting, but the difference between a lab experiment and this is that when you do a chemistry experiment, you throw away whatever it is you’ve created at the end. But with the memory experiments, every experiment is a productive thing. Your experiment could be a practical experiment, like I’m going to learn this … It’s going to be a means to learning German, or it’s going to be a means to …

I love that you studied difficult Hebrew in your PhD using this. A very practical one that people often want to do is just memorize the people who they meet in a room so that they can … How many of us have awkwardly not have said hello to someone because we can’t remember their name, and potentially lost out on a valuable and fascinating relationship as a result? So you can run the experiments. And it’s not academic. When we start talking about systems it can feel very academic, but it’s so practical. It’s stuff you can do day to day, even if it’s memorizing a phone number that comes your way or whatever it might be.

Anthony Metivier:
Absolutely.

Arthur Worsley:
And I think the most fascinating or one of the most fascinating things that we’ve talked about is, I guess, the sense of peace and equanimity and the increased focus that you talk a lot about in The Victorious Mind, which is in and of itself, a fascinating reason to start getting into memory techniques. Was that something you expected to happen as you went along? Was it totally unexpected? How did you have that realization that this was something that your memory techniques were bringing you towards?

Anthony Metivier:
Well, it’s kind of one of those problems of memory where you feel like you maybe noticed it more than you did all along, but I did notice when I first got into memory techniques, this boost. It didn’t cure my depression, and it still hasn’t cured mental illness that’s for sure. But there was a noticing, even just the confidence of being able to, “That’s on page 72,” that kind of thing, in an exam situation, because these exams, somebody said to me, “Where’s the Nietzche in your dissertation?” And I was like, “Well, that would be on page 72,” kind of thing. And it’s just flipping to that page and there it is.

But the thing is that when I started to seriously get into memorizing content for meditation, that’s when it switched on. And when I got my head out of my butt about certain things that just weren’t for me, because there’s not enough science. So I’ve always been a pretty scientifically literate person, but I wasn’t what you would call maybe pataphysical. And pataphysical means virtual science. The science of what could be if you were to flip things on its head and run the experiments anyway, even if it doesn’t sound scientifically sound to you, which was really where things started to happen.
Because I never thought that yoga, for example, had anything to do with me. And I never thought that memorizing mantras would be for me. And by the way, I learned recently that you’re supposed to say “muntra”, not mantra. And it’s “chokra”, not chakra.

Arthur Worsley:
That’s it. You discovered the secret ingredient. Now that was what was holding you back.

Anthony Metivier:
Well, but that teacher was very, very, very, kind enough to say that the pronunciation is probably not the secret, but anyway, I just add that to remind myself, to build my own memory. But that’s actually part of the thing is that when you pay attention to those granular details, that is the secret. And when you are willing to try things that you might not believe in, because you are the one who has to produce the evidence, then that’s when things really change.

So as I talk about in The Victorious Mind, I think there was a compound effect because I had been meditating for quite some time, but by the same token, I don’t think this thing that people sometimes call an awakening would have happened if I hadn’t made the change and started to explore things that I had been adamant against. I really had my foot down against anything that even remotely smelled of religion. And now I haven’t flipped the switch, but I’m glad I was skeptical of my own dogmatism there because it’s changed a lot, even if it hasn’t changed anything.

I’m still the same skeptical, scientific-minded individual, but I don’t know. As I talk about in The Victorious Mind, when I started to feel this bliss in my head, the first thing I went to was the doctor to make sure I don’t have a brain tumor. And I started to double down on the research, because I had heard Sam Harris in a conversation with Daniel Kahneman mentioned some research where he says, “Meditation can start to look like heroin without the needle.” And that just didn’t satisfy me. I like Sam Harris, but I’m not going to take this blissful feeling in my head on his word that it can be like heroin. This could be a serious problem.

Because it’s one of those too good to be true things. I really feel way better than I should. And plus I have medic depression in the mix. So I go to the doctor, rule it out. Am I just in a very long manic phase or what’s going on here? Because there’s no free lunch, but Occam’s razor would suggest that, if you meditate as much as I do and you memorize as much Sanskrit as I do … I didn’t get it for free, and it will go away if you don’t keep showing up.

Arthur Worsley:
Well, it’s a form of fitness. I think that we have shied away from it in modern meditation practice because it’s hard work, but the first phase of meditation, which is not necessarily compulsory according to which teacher you look at is a deep, deep level of focus. There’s many reasons that we focus on the breath, but one of the reasons you focus on the breath on your upper lip is the ability to keep your mind focused. And I assume that both your meditation and also all of the visualization practices that you’ve done over time gave you the tools that then when you were ready to start thinking about this stuff, that then you were equipped already with the toolkit that you needed in order to start experimenting with this stuff.

Anthony Metivier:
I think that’s true. And something compelling I heard recently … Actually Chris Wallis is the person who, and not the Fox News’s Chris Wallace, but a different Chris Wallis who wrote The Recognition Sutras. He’s the guy who is very good about the pronunciation of Sanskrit. He made a point that I’d never realized that perhaps the whole development of tantra is for people with busy minds like me. So yes, breathing and I was able to develop a certain amount of focus, but that monkey mind that just doesn’t shut off, that was never going to shut off without giving it something to do.

And so it can be that other people, they don’t have such a busy mind and they don’t need to memorize a bunch of Sanskrit or anything. And so one of the exciting things that I discovered, it’s probably been there longer and just people need to find it. It’s just the realization that there could be meditation types that you just haven’t explored yet that are going to help you hit the ground running. But if you just, as I did, pigeonhole it and, “Oh, meditation is this. Alan Watts is right. It’s sitting just to sit,” blah, blah, blah. Then you’re locking yourself into the prison you’re trying to escape.

Arthur Worsley:
For sure. And my understanding of the old Pali scripts or the Sanskrit is that even in the original teachings, there was a sense of, there are different kinds of people. Some people need to attack it from a more mental thought … And that’s where someone like Sam Harris is amazing, because it’s direct revelation in terms of the approaches, but he’s very science-based. And then there are some people who are much more emotional, some people who are much more visceral and sensation-based. And finding which one if you … If you’re someone who has a busy mind and yet someone forced you to sit still and not use your mind, then that’s going to go crazy. Instead, you need to learn to tame the mind and give it something, so I totally agree.

So, I guess there are at least three journeys that you’ve been on. And they all interweave. They’re not separate. The first is the memory journey where you discover this as a tool. I guess before you really realized what it is that you were going to be doing with your life, you’re doing your PhD, you’re studying film studies, you’re doing your creative stuff. And you discovered this fascination with the magic and the memory techniques. And the memory goes one way. And then you have the entrepreneurship where you start the business and you’re building the business and that goes the other way. And then you have this meditation side of things, which has also proceeding along at the same time.

And they’re all obviously linked, and none of them would be what they are without the other ones. And we’ve talked a lot about people who’ve inspired you over the years. For each of those journeys, if you were to give someone … I’m going to restate this question a few different ways in a second, but if you were to give someone, who were your heroes within each of those journeys? Let’s start with memory. What was it who inspired you most in memory? Who’s been your hero in that sphere?

Anthony Metivier:
That’s a tough one. Probably I would put Harry Lorayne and Tony Buzan together. And I was very fortunate to have some time with Harry on the phone at the beginning and get some great advice about the work. He told me two words that changed everything, which were Gene and Schwartz, which you may know those names. And I’ll leave that for people to explore if they’re interested, but wow. That’s a gift if ever there was one. And then when I met Tony Buzan, he told me how important Harry Lorayne had been to him in terms of figuring out how to make this work as not only a book, but pedagogical enterprise, but something that actually grows and feeds itself. So that was a very interesting thing.

So I would say those two people precisely because … Here’s the thing, and it’s an image I have for my own future should I be so fortunate is that they both seem so tremendously happy in their old age. And I’m quite certain that consistent memory practice is the answer above all. There may be other things, but that’s a common denominator. So they’re definitely hero status for multiple reasons. And they themselves have woven together science with entrepreneurship, with memory-

Arthur Worsley:
I see. They would your heroes for the other categories as well, you think?

Anthony Metivier:
Well, yes and no, but in terms of-

Arthur Worsley:
Entrepreneurship?

Anthony Metivier:
… entrepreneurship, again it’s the normal person. The person who just manages to not be this display, but they just have a life and they’ve developed their assets, they own cashflow in different areas and so forth. And it doesn’t have to be these wizards on the internet, right?

Arthur Worsley:
Sure. Sure.

Anthony Metivier:
So along those lines, I just think of people that I’ve met in the community. One of them, Damian Patterson here. He told me this great thing. He said, “Just use luck,” which means learn using correct knowledge. It’s just amazing. And he has an incredible business or a set of businesses actually.

Arthur Worsley:
And by the community, do you mean Jon Morrows, smart bloggers only community, or do you mean the entrepreneurial community in general?

Anthony Metivier:
I’m just thinking here in Brisbane.

Arthur Worsley:
In Brisbane. Awesome.

Anthony Metivier:
When you take away the flash and you just look at the gas, it’s everywhere. There are people who are successful in business all over the place, probably on your street. If you really poke into it and you look at it, your little neighborhood probably has a czar. And that person is deeply invested and it has all worked out and yada, yada, yada. So I don’t necessarily have any individual to name, but Jon Morrow obviously came up, and he’s the man. I spend quite a lot of time with him. And he’s the man for lots of reasons. And one of them is he helped me understand to focus on one thing, and I focused on his training above all.

And that’s a lesson for everybody. And I’m as susceptible to it as anybody else is there’s a shiny new thing every five minutes. But if you haven’t exhausted the one thing … Now I hire from Jon’s writers that he trains, because I’m just practising that, well, this is the one thing. And partly it’s maybe bhakti devotion to the teacher, but I don’t think so. It’s just the incredible power of being in one thing and really milking it for all it’s worth. So going back and reading or rereading rather a Tony Buzan book probably would do more for most people than it would to get the next new thing, or better said, both of those things.

So it would be like revisiting a Jon Morrow course, or getting a recording of one of our one-on-one sessions or whatever just to milk it as opposed to the next thing. Or if there is going to be a next thing, review the old thing and in the context of the new thing. Because when you talk about point A to point B, there is no point A if you don’t get to point B because all the riches of point A are over in point B.

Arthur Worsley:
I see a lot of the time, especially out in Bali, but all over the place that there’s an addiction to taking the first three steps on the journey. Because the first three steps on the journey are the easiest. They say the first step is the hardest, but they’re the easiest in that you learn the most from them and they tend to be done so they’re very easy and they don’t require a lot of work. So the beginners, very easy scale that you get. And then things start getting a bit harder and so people switch to someone else.

And then they do the first three steps with those guys and they switch to someone else. And they meet these people, and they’re constantly working on themselves, but they’re constantly working on the first three steps of another guru’s journey. And so you meet them and it’s like someone who edits. And we’ve all done this, especially when we start out. Your first paragraph of your essay or your article becomes the most beautiful part of this article and the rest of it just never happens. So, yes, I definitely resonate with that idea of that I think it’s important to have both, to be a little bit discovering, but also early and soon to pick a mentor and to also be going deep, as well as breadth. Depth is very, very important.
There’s something to be achieved from depth that you simply … Quantity has a quality of its own, but you also need quality.

Anthony Metivier:
And things like your TRACKTION Planner reminded me of that recently. So I put on there, revisiting a course, retaking a course and it’s just magic. It can be a bit of a psychological slug because you’re like, “Oh, I’ve been through this before.” And you have to be aware of your brain’s craving for novelty and just make it novel. Breathe a little bit, get a different notebook, different color, whatever it takes, mind map instead of taking notes, but there’s so much treasure in what you already got.

Arthur Worsley:
One hundred percent. And I see books that I love, like Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Even Getting Things Done by David Allen, even things like The Memory Book, or Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek, whatever it might be. I’ve re-read those books four or five times each. And every time I’ve read them, it’s been like reading a new book because I grew with the book or the book grew with me. And so things which I read but didn’t sink in the first time, sunk in the second time and third time. And that’s the sign of a fantastic book or a great course is that every time you revisit it, it is a new course because bits of it that weren’t relevant before jump out. So there’s a lot of value in revisiting old content.

Anthony Metivier:
Absolutely.

Arthur Worsley:
I think we might have to save productivity for another time, because you’re obviously a super productive person. You can’t write 52 books and build the business that you have and do all the things that you’ve done without having a good handle on destroying distractions, beating procrastination, prioritizing on the things, knowing where it is you even want to go and setting good goals, and also not burning out. The fact that you’ve been doing this for so long means that you have a good rhythm, you know what works, what doesn’t. I know you’re fantastic at outsourcing and slowly getting things done.

So we may have to do another productivity system breakdown. I’m curious, what advice, if you could go back to 18-year-old Anthony who’s thinking about going to university. He’s still doing his zines and his books and publishing. What advice would you give to that Anthony, and what advice would you tell him to ignore?

Anthony Metivier:
Well, I probably say that the worst vice is advice. And I would advise myself to take that to heart because I’ve taken a lot of advice that was not good because I wasn’t scientific enough. And that may have led to a trap because when I became more scientific then I got dogmatic. Everything had to be science as such. So I would caution myself about that. And I would also tell myself to really double down on Sanskrit-based meditation so that I didn’t think that my mind was real.

So that would be the main thing that I would say. And just to care more, treat myself like a pet, treat myself like a friend and forgive myself more often, et cetera. In terms of productivity and systems, I think you can sum it up very, very quickly, which is that you’ve got to realize that time is not your enemy. It is your friend and it’s not managed. It’s not shaped, it’s not dictated to. It actually doesn’t exist. Time is a fantasy with which you play magic tricks. And so that’s almost all I have to say about it, because the rest is just casting spells, and then we’ve already said it.

Experiment. Experiment and find out what works. And you have lots of ideas about finding your why and so forth. That never made sense to me. I don’t know why. I really don’t. I have no idea why any of this is happening. I don’t even think I want to know why, but the thing is you want to just understand that none of this really is what it seems. It’s just a splurt of energy and matter, and you get to witness it. And the more you punish yourself for not getting what you want and so forth, that’s a call to really think about what it is you want.

Because you had said something very compelling. You already are fine. You already are perfect. You already are the thing that you seek. And that’s what I wish that my younger self would have known. And I think my younger self knew it all along. I think we do know this. We all know this, that this is it. And so I think that that’s the advice that we all need to hear is just, wake up. Every movie we watch at some level is trying to tell us this. And that’s what I was really doing as a film professor. I was trying to wake up to the fact that films, literature, philosophy, religion, all that stuff, is all pointing at the same thing, which is you are it.

Tat tvam asi as they say in Sanskrit. You are that. This is all there is. And when you get that, then I think you can legitimately say you’ve escaped the matrix. There’s many versions of that. You’re free, you’re free. You’re just free. And anybody can do it. You just got to carry around your meat tube as James Schwartz calls it. That’s a minor irritation at the end of the day.

Arthur Worsley:
It doesn’t always do what you want. Fascinating. I think two themes that came out for me, from what you were saying, which I think is super valuable. Everything you said was super valuable, but two things that resonated with me were the idea of acceptance, that what will be, will be. And also this idea of playing. I love that idea of play there. And I think play also comes … They’re all intertwined with this idea of you being enough just as you are. Once you accept that what is is, and that actually if you never improved or never achieved another thing in your whole life, that you are great just as you are, and you’re already awesome, then you can see time, like you say, as a friend.

You go, “Oh, well, if I’ve got all of this time, how would I play with it? How would I do things which are exciting and interesting and fun.” And once you get that in your head, and once you start seeing it more playfully, then you actually become more … You achieve far, far more in a way that is far, far more pleasurable than if you’re constantly grinding away and fighting it.

Anthony Metivier:
And even if you are, this is something that just appears in your consciousness. It’s a configuration that is appearing to you. And so that’s where things get really exciting and interesting. And I think that’s where we can just point back. We already this. But anyway, that’s Sam Harris stuff, Douglas Harvey stuff, on having no head. You do? [crosstalk 00:51:05].

Arthur Worsley:
I know that there’s a journey that we have to go through though where talking about that stuff can be very overwhelming to people who are just very practically like, “Oh, by the way, I’ve got an endless to-do list, and I don’t know what to do next week. How do I set next week up for success, and how do I actually get what I want to do tomorrow?” And you go, “Guys, don’t worry about it. This is all an illusion.” And then that is literally the last thing I wanted to hear. Just tell me how to get my schedule sorted. Different levels as you go through it.

And I always say, there’s an inner and an outer journey. There’s the outer journey in productivity where you … But there’s also this inner journey that you’ve described very beautifully there which is understanding that no matter how … But you have to go through both journeys in order to understand. And you are clearly already saying this from a very productive place. You don’t get as much done as you have got done without having some basics sorted.

Anthony Metivier:
Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t know that I have an explanation for why it’s happening. And that’s back to the myth of the sick poet thing, where I look around in the world and I see productivity everywhere. It’s just that I see a lot of people who are out of alignment in what they’re producing. So often two people inside, your inner world, outer world. But I’d say in the inner world, there’s what people say they want and then what they do, which is often contrary. Now, that’s a whole discussion about Freud. It’s a discussion about at least three primal anxieties.

And I think anybody can explore that stuff, but if you’re ultimately not able to figure out the system that produces the outcome that you want, then the issue is maybe not productivity. I don’t know for sure. Everybody has to figure that out, but it could be that you’re blocked because you don’t feel good enough from some psychological thing or it could be a nutritional imbalance and so forth. And I guess I’m not trying to dodge it, but I just don’t know that I’m the explanation for it, because it just seems to me that it’s just normal to be as productive as I am.

It’s just that productivity is not always leading to the kinds of outcomes that people like ourselves make. But I think we’re not equally productive, but we’re all productive. We’re machines of production. It’s just, what are you producing? And how aware are you of that in a grammar or an equation of joy in the doing and the being and the having, or better said being, doing, having. And that, I think anybody can also figure out. And the beauty is working on productivity and figuring out schedules and systems is a being and a doing that is itself a having if you just keep showing up and working on it.

So I don’t know if that is a practical statement or not, but I think that is the ultimate practical statement, is if you feel like you need a schedule, work on a schedule. Get a TRACKTION Planner or whatever. Make it happen, because that is what’s going to make it happen. Action begets action. Doc, right? The doctor from Back to the Future. If I can take us back to the beginning. Doing is the origin of confidence. Doing is the origin of the clarity that you need in order to become the character that you want to be in the theatre play of your own life. So just do and you’ll get there.

Arthur Worsley:
I think that has a huge amount of really… If you’ve listened to this and it went totally over your head, not to worry. I think for a lot of people that will really resonate. And there’s definitely something in there. I always talk about productivity, but I think Brian Tracy, and I’m sure he took it from someone else. I talk about productivity as being efficiency and effectiveness. And efficiency is getting stuff done, but so often effectiveness is doing the right thing. It’s the most important thing.

People feel frustrated because they don’t feel attuned or they don’t feel authentic, or they don’t feel like they’re doing what feels right. And it’s not because they’re doing it wrong. It’s because they’re climbing the wrong mountain. They’re putting one foot in front of the other and that’s what they’re doing imperfectly, but they’re on the wrong path. And part of what you’ve talked about in terms of this self-knowledge, this emotion, this mindfulness, the meditation, that’s the inner journey, which I talk about is understanding, what do I even want?

Sometimes you have to try a lot of wrong things to work out, and that’s okay. Sometimes the only way to work out with the right mountain is to climb the six wrong ones and then memorize is the seventh one.

Anthony Metivier:
This is where the memory equation comes in, and I’ll plug this in. because I think it’s the game-changer for so many people. And this is in a lot of books on productivity and so forth. This is just not worded this way necessarily, but you need to figure out what your competence is so that you can expand it. And so when we talk about the six wrong mountains, well, you don’t have to climb any wrong mountain. If you would just figure out where is your competence now and then memorize the stuff that expands that competence. Then not only will you climb better or more appropriate mountains, but from that mountain top, you’ll be able to spot the more appropriate mountains for wherever you are in your own matrix or configuration of how you entered the universe.

Not to get into philosophical things about free will, but we just don’t choose how we enter this place. And so there’s going to be constraints, but constraint is the thing that makes productivity happen. So figure out where your competence is and then figure out how to expand it. And if you learn memory techniques, you will accelerate your knowledge, that leads to the expansion of competence. And then you have that experience of flow because what you’re doing is oriented towards the outcome that you’re looking for.

Arthur Worsley:
And memory is a force multiplier, and that’s why I love your work, and that’s why I love what you do. And that’s why I think it’s so important this idea of accelerated learning that whatever it is, whatever mountain you decide to climb, the ability to analyze and acquire that, the experience and to learn faster, it will help out with everything no matter what it is you do in life. The best guests are the ones where you get to the end of your hour and you think, “Gosh, I wish I had another couple of hours,” but we have more time to talk off the record about this.

Tell me or tell us, just to close out. Two questions. The first is if you were to recommend three books to 18-year-old Anthony Metivier, which books would you recommend? And they could be your own books that you’ve written in the future, that weren’t around then, they could be old books. You choose.

Anthony Metivier:
The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, Happiness Beyond Thought by Gary Weber, and probably Love and Death in Psychotherapy by Robert Langs.

Arthur Worsley:
Great!

Anthony Metivier:
Something like that.

Arthur Worsley:
Awesome. I’ve not read any of those three books. I love book recommendations as everyone knows, so I will one hundred per cent be putting those on my reading list. Thank you.

It’s a good question and you asked me last time, and it’s the classic Tim Ferris end of interview question, but if you had a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it and you could make that the message that you broadcast to the universe, to the world, what would it be and why?

Anthony Metivier:
“Remember, remember”. Just that. I would say the quality of who you are is the quality of what you can remember on a dime. That is what life is. It’s what comes to mind when you need it to come to mind, not the blanks, that’s the suffering. But when you can have a memory that just produces what you need in a flash, because you’ve trained it to be reliable, even if … You want to be like the samurai who’s prepared to execute any last move, even with his head cut off. And the only way that that happens is through memory. Because we are memory if we were to boil things down. So remember, remember.

Arthur Worsley:
Remember. Great. Love it. So powerful. Super, super powerful stuff. I will put notes to everything that we’ve talked about underneath this interview. You’ll be able to find it on theartofliving.com or it’ll be on YouTube. And I’ll also put a link to Anthony’s amazing website, the Magnetic Memory Method. Another great thing. If you’re searching for him, he has a profile on Amazon. And you’ve got your newest book, The Victorious Mind on there, as well as one of my favorite ones of your books, which is the secrets to writing disaster movies, which at some point I definitely want to read.

Anthony Metivier:
That’s another story.

Arthur Worsley:
But is there anywhere else, Anthony, that if people want … And you have, by the way, an amazing four-part video course, which is how I got into memory and how I discovered your work as a memoritician. I don’t know what you would call them. A mnemonic expert versus just as an entrepreneur. Is there anywhere else that people should go if they want to just take a next step after listening to this and they want to understand a bit more?

Anthony Metivier:
Yeah. I would just come to Magnetic Memory Method or check out the TEDx talk that I gave, which gives a very short version of The Victorious Mind and the two most important things to memorize, which are in English. You can memorize them in Sanskrit if you want, but they’re just very simple in English and they can help you if you have a monkey mind pretty instantly. And when you see it you’ll go, “Wow. Why didn’t I think of that before?” And you’ll see in the comments too. People are like, “Oh yeah, this is XYZ, CBT,” or whatever. “I had no idea,” but anyway, it was a long journey for me to get something so simple.

But if you just want the 13-minute, can this guy memorize stuff? Well, you see me doing the TEDx because you have to recite it from memory. And it gives you two simple questions that are a no brainer to remember that will serve you for life, or they’ll serve somebody in your life that may be suffering from unwanted thoughts or intrusive thoughts and so forth.

Arthur Worsley:
Does that talk have a title in case people are listening to this and want to search for it on their phone now?

Anthony Metivier:
Yeah. It’s Two Easily Remembered Questions, That Silence Negative Thoughts, I think if I remembered it correctly. I never actually memorized the name of it, but-

Arthur Worsley:
But you head to TED and you search for Two Easily Remembered Questions, That Silence Negative Thoughts or you search for Anthony’s name, which is Anthony. And then Metivier is M-E-T-I-V-I-E-R. Then you should be able to find his stuff. That’s awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time, Anthony. I think the work you’ve done is amazing. I think you embody it in yourself. You’ve got such amazing energy and you’re doing such wonderful things, and it’s been a real pleasure talking to you today.

Anthony Metivier:
My pleasure, Arthur. Thank you so much for having me.

Arthur Worsley:
No problem at all. I’ll speak to you soon. Take care.

Anthony Metivier:
Bye-bye.

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Arthur Worsley
Arthur Worsley
Arthur is a thinker and writer who helps people who want more from their lives learn to be more productive, find more balance and live life more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →

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