Are you a master at your craft? (Why memory is mastery)

Memory = Mastery. Why is this true?

Externally-stored memories—such as notes in a notebook, or information on the internet—do not count as part of your “true knowledge base”. Real masters do not need to refer to external memories to do what they need to do. They have muscle memory for their craft, regardless if their craft is physical or mental.

  • Imagine if Tom Brady had to refer to an instructional DVD every time he had to throw a football.
  • Imagine if Warren Buffett had to refer to a business textbook every time he was pitched a business deal.
  • Imagine if Eminem had to pull out a notebook of his own lyrics every time he had to freestyle on camera.
  • Imagine if your mechanic had to refer to a YouTube video every time he had to change your oil.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

If you’re a dog trainer, you should be able to differentiate between different dog breeds without the need for a book.

If you’re an analyst, you should be able to pitch your best investment idea to an investor even if you were stranded in the wilderness without your computer or your papers.

If you’re a coach, you should have your team’s playbook memorized by heart.

And so on, and so forth.

Any less than this, and you fall short of being a master at your craft and being recognized as an expert.

Why Memory is Overlooked

The idea that memory equates to mastery is often overlooked.

In school, we memorize mostly impractical things and then forget all of it shortly after being tested. Because of this relationship many of us have with memory, we have a natural resistance towards the idea of memorizing things.

If you can ask Siri and get the answer in a few seconds, why bother memorizing anything?

When You Need to Remember, and When You Don’t

For many things, you can get away with not remembering it—that’s what external memory tools are for.

For example, I might not have to remember when the next Deontay Wilder fight is off the top of my head because it’s written in my calendar. As long as I check my calendar daily, I won’t miss it.

However, as someone who works primarily from home–who does not have the “luxury” of fearing their boss’ wrath if they show up late to work–I must remember how to self-start in the morning, automatically, without relying on an external prompt. If I needed a piece of paper to remind me how to properly set myself up for a productive day working from home, then I would probably never get any work done, and fall into an erratic schedule.

If there is something you want to excel at (e.g. working from home, writing, investing), you must figure out what needs to be remembered without an external aid, and what doesn’t. Once you have identified the things that must be remembered, practice and repetition is key.

Don’t Overcomplicate Things

It is important that you do not read this and overcomplicate the message by piling on unnecessary layers.

“Memory is great,” you might say, “But it’s all about application and execution, too.” Don’t be a pretentious prick–you know what I’m getting at when I say that memory is mastery:

Automatic recall of the fundamentals of your craft at the precise moment it is needed is the foundation to higher level acts such as execution and creative application.

If you’re an analyst who can’t remember what deferred revenue is, or what NOI stands for, or even what the hotkeys on Excel are, then your execution will be slower than someone who does remember.

If you’re an investor who has no memory of historical financial crashes, your decision-making will be inferior to someone who does remember, during times of similar circumstances.

Memory = Mastery.

Moonwalking with Einstein

The book that inspired and empowered me to improve my memory skills was Moonwalking with Einstein. The author, Josh Foer, learned memory techniques from memory athletes he was covering as a journalist. He then went on to win a national memory competition in the U.S. using those techniques—an incredible feat.

Like Joshua, I never thought I had a good memory myself. But after learning about how memory works, and building my own memory palace (a technique I learned from the book, although you may be familiar of the concept from Sherlock Holmes), many friends began to comment on my memory over the years. They would say things like, “I can’t believe you remembered that!” or, “Wow, you have a good memory.”

My newfound faith in my memory also gave me confidence as an entrepreneur and investor. I realized that the main thing separating me from the people I admired in the investing world was memory—the foundation of mastery.



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