How to remember what you read, step four

Step four: Create connections to things you already know

In step three we showed how surrealistic connections help to file and recover memories. We also pointed to scientific research suggesting that this may be the purpose of dreams. But non-surrealist connections work too. Connections to things you already know are also very powerful. For example…

Important things that happened in years ending in 64

I know that Michaelangelo died in February 1564. I know that Shakespeare was born two months later in April 1564. I connect the fact that Michaelangelo left the world as Shakespeare arrived. Both things happened in 1564. 

I then notice that another famous event happened in a 64-year. The Beatles arrived in America in 1964. Now I have mental connections between Michaelangelo dying, Shakespeare being born, and the Beatles landing at JFK Airport. They all happened in a year that ends in 64. 1564 for Michaelangelo and Shakespeare, 1964 for the Beatles. 

Things that happened in February

The Beatles and Michaelangelo also share a February connection. Michaelangelo died on February 18 and the Beatles landed in America on February 7. Now I’m starting to remember very specific dates. I’ve gone from connecting years that end in 64 to connecting months to connecting specific dates, all without having to do any boring rote memorization. 

Things that happened in April

So what about Shakespeare’s birth month of April? Can I connect that to something else I know? Yes I can. That bastard Adolf Hitler was also born in April – on April 20, 1889. So Shakespeare and Hitler were both born in April. But it gets better…

April and the toothbrush mustache

Another famous person with a toothbrush mustache was also born in April 1889. In fact, this person actually played a Hitler-look-a-like in a movie. His name was Charlie Chaplin. The movie in which he mocked Hitler was The Great Dictator. Chaplin was born exactly 4 days before Hitler, on April 16th. 

  • Charlie Chaplin – April 16, 1889
  • Adolf Hitler – April 20, 1889

It gets better…

Connecting the start of The Great Dictator to the start of WW2

Hitler thought Chaplin was a Jew. Chaplin wasn’t. He was English. But Chaplin never denied that he was a Jew. He didn’t want to give Hitler the satisfaction. He was proud for people to think he was Jewish. One final connection: Chaplin began filming The Great Dictator in September 1939, the very month that World War 2 began.

Create a network of connections

Look at the tapestry of connections we’ve created – Michaelangelo to Shakespeare to the Beatles to Hitler to Charlie Chaplin to The Great Dictator and the start of WW2. Such webs can be created endlessly, and the more you do it the more you will remember. 

The point here is NOT that you will remember every connection I just made for you, but that you will remember more than you knew before because of them. But we still have one last step to help cement our knowledge gains in final step, step five. 

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