Nelson Dellis On Teaching And On How To Turn Failures Into Fuel

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“Nothing good has really come out of winning for me. In terms of personal development, the most has come from losing.”
— Nelson Dellis

Greetings, SuperFriends!

Today we are re-joined by Nelson Dellis. And this is a big deal, not just because Nelson is the 4-time USA Memory Champion, but because he was the 5th ever episode guest on this show! I think I've gotten a lot better at interviewing since then. Nelson, on the other hand, has gotten a lot better at many things, including writing.

In fact, he came back to talk to us about the 2 books that he has published since, as well as about numerous climbs up some of the world's largest mountains. Nelson also runs a thriving charity called “Climb For Memory”, and travels all around the world teaching these incredible memory techniques.

We had a very far and wide-ranging conversation, where we talk about everything from dealing with failure, to the difference between being a subject matter expert and teaching. Of course, as you can expect, we go all the way to some memory hacks that you can implement in your own life.

It's a great episode, and I always enjoy talking to Nelson. That is why he has become a SuperFriend in the years since he originally came on the show! So, I just know that you are going to enjoy this episode with Nelson Dellis!

-Jonathan Levi

Join Jonathan for a completely free, 1-hour training seminar, where you'll learn the top 3 strategies to accelerate your learning and improve your memory!

Join Jonathan for a completely free, 1-hour training seminar, where you'll learn the top 3 strategies to accelerate your learning and improve your memory!

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What are some of the stuff Nelson Dellis has been working on these past few years? [4:30]
  • Getting from having no idea about memory techniques to Nelson's level [6:35]
  • The state of memory records nowadays (spoiler: it's amazing) [9:10]
  • Do you need any special talents to start working on your memory? [10:10]
  • How and why Nelson Dellis is transitioning from being the best to being a teacher [11:00] 
  • How does Nelson Dellis teach memory techniques? [12:30]
  • How fast can people learn memory techniques? [15:00]
  • Nelson Dellis's simple formula for memorizing anything [16:10]
  • The power of learning from different angles/people [17:30]
  • Condensing memory learning while increasing its breadth of application [19:15]
  • Teaching memory techniques to children [20:45]
  • Why is learning how to learn one of the first things we should be learning in school? [23:10]
  • Getting the education system to include memory techniques [25:10]
  • Introducing memory to schools through pop culture [27:10]
  • What is the next project Nelson Dellis is working on? [28:10]
  • Not winning this year's memory championship [30:10]
  • The difference between being young and hungry vs older and accomplished [31:20]
  • How Nelson Dellis sets different goals for each championship [32:40]
  • What happened in this year's championship? [33:30]
  • Mountain climbing, and going for another try on Mt. Everest [36:40]
  • How to turn failures into fuel [38:00]
  • What are some SuperHuman hacks Nelson Dellis utilizes? [39:40]

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Favorite Quotes from Nelson Dellis:

“That's the awesome thing about the sport – you are at the top and then suddenly someone new comes in and blows everybody away.”
“You gotta see something as a picture in your mind, then you've gotta link it to something that's already rooted there, and then finally it's to add as much visual and sensory information so that you make it stick.”
“If we can get kids to learn these stuff at a young age, […] that would save so much stress on kids growing up!”
“I really enjoy just taking people along for the ride, whether it's mountain climbing or memorizing.”
“Failing is great.”


Introduction: Welcome to the Becoming Superhuman Podcast. Where we interview extraordinary people to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible and now here's your host, Jonathan Levi.

Jonathan Levi: Before we dive into today's episode, I want to let you guys know about an opportunity to learn some of the most important skills in life, if not the most important skills, and those are the skills of learning and doing so rapidly, effectively and easily. You see guys, I'm putting on a completely free 60-minute webinar that you guys can check out where I will be going into my absolute best memory tips, learning tips, and speed reading tips so that you can immediately begin applying them and accelerating your learning of anything and everything. All you need to do to claim your spot in this free webinar is visit, we have showings at many different times throughout the days for every time zone, but you have to log in and claim your spot. So that's and I really look forward to seeing what you guys achieve.

Greetings SuperFriends and welcome, welcome, welcome to this week's episode. I want to take a moment to shout out to my SuperFriend in India Churchill Gogallia who gave us a wonderful, wonderful five-star review titled inspiring, educating, and enlightening. I learned about the podcast from the Udemy course of Jonathan, and now I am a regular listener. I'm a super fan of Jonathan's work and only have praise for this podcast. I wanted to especially thank Jonathan for episode 184, listening to it helped me with a very close friend, struggling with relations. This is a podcast for everyone because before learning anything, you must first learn to learn effectively.

I agree and thank you very, very much Churchill for that wonderful review and if you haven't left her view, please do because it would be just absolutely wonderful and our team really appreciates it.

On to today's episode. You guys, today, we are rejoined by Nelson Delis, and this is a big deal, not just because Nelson is the four-time USA memory champion, but because he was the fifth-ever episode guest on this show, I think I've gotten a lot better at interviewing. He has gotten a lot better at many things, including writing.

He came back to talk to us about the two books that he has published since, and numerous climbs up some of the world's largest mountains. He also runs a thriving charity called Climb for Memory and travels all around the world, teaching these incredible memory techniques. We have a very far and wide-ranging conversation where we talk about everything from dealing with failure, to the difference between being a subject matter expert and teaching all the way to, of course, as you can expect some memory hacks that you can implement.

It's a great episode. I always enjoy talking to Nelson, and that is why he has become a SuperFriend in the years since he originally came on the show. So I just know you are going to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. So here is my SuperFriend Nelson Dellis.

Nelson my friend, welcome back. How are ya?

Nelson Dellis: Thank you, man. I'm good. It's been a while, but I'm great. How are you?

Jonathan Levi: Really good. You know, this feels like a total homecoming for me, because many people may not realize, but you were our fifth ever episode and I think one of the first ones on the show, and I remember recording it and being like, oh my God, don't blow this. This guy is such a big deal, but we're now going to almost episode 200. So it was a great line back on the show and hear all about all this stuff that's been going on in your life.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, man, well, first congrats I mean,

Jonathan Levi: Thank you.

Nelson Dellis: 200 episodes is no joke. That's amazing.

Jonathan Levi: A lot of hours standing here on this microphone that's for sure.

Nelson Dellis: For sure. Yeah.

Jonathan Levi: Awesome. Tell us what's been going on with you and what's new? I mean, I know because you and I have become good buddies, but share with the audience, all the different stuff you've been working on in the last three and a half years.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, well, kind of the most recent thing is my book came out today. So finally this project I've been working on.


Yeah. Thanks. Since like 2010, I've been trying to write like, an adult book on how to do the memory things that I do and, uh, it's been a long road, but it's finally coming out on the 25th of September that's a big one.

I had a kid, I just had a baby boy a month ago.

Jonathan Levi: Congratulations again.

Nelson Dellis: Crazy thing, has nothing to do with memory, but it, well, maybe it eventually will cause it'll test my memory.

Jonathan Levi: Totally.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah and then I've, I've competed a bunch of different memory competitions.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah. Where are you at now? I mean, when we spoke, you were the three-time USA memory champion and I've had to update all our marketing materials, all of our, everything, you know, you just keep winning and it makes my team have to update all the graphics.

Nelson Dellis: I'm so sorry.

Jonathan Levi: What's the record now? What are your records?

Yeah. So I won again, that's

Nelson Dellis: right in 2015, I couldn't go compete in 16 because I was on Everest again. I made an attempt and then 17, there was no championship and the 18 was just this year. I did not when I got to the finals, and kind of, I don't know what happened. We can talk about that later on. Yeah still competing in terms of records. Yeah, I think in 2015, I've broke the record for memorizing names, the most names in 15 minutes, which was 201 names, and then, uh, just this past memory championship I did 217, which was a new record, which sounds amazing and I got the record only to be told immediately after that some young girl from one of the high schools that was competing did 234.

So I broke it and then instantly lost it at the same time, the record. So yeah, that's how it is and that's an awesome thing about the sport. It's like, you're at the top and then suddenly someone new comes in and just like blows everybody away and then everybody tries to catch up with that person, you know?

Jonathan Levi: Yeah. So for those who don't know, and I recommend everyone go back to the first episode that we did with Nelson, but for those who don't know, I mean, someone who's coming cold off the street and just joined the podcast is like, how is that even possible? Right? So give us a little bit about, I mean, how does this work? And, um, I imagine that this is the topic of your new book and as you tell it, I guess the question that I want to ask you is because you're now in a very challenging position, right? Because you have reached a level of mastery or you don't even remember what it's like to not remember stuff right? Like, and so you're transitioning to becoming a teacher and so I'm very curious to hear, like now that you've gone through this process of writing this book and teaching how you describe, I mean, the superhuman feats that you do and how you're now teaching them to others.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. that's a  great like point to bring up.

I don't think I've ever really thought of, but that way, you know, like at one point, obviously it, why I do think about this at one point, I did not know how to do any of the things that I claim or have shown to do with them and my memory. So I wasn't a physician. I was, as maybe many of your listeners are where they're like listening to someone else that can do it.

And they think, Holy cow, I can't do that. I could never do that. And this person must be gifted or. Even if they are, and maybe that's a tremendous amount of work that I don't have the patience for or skillset for. And I remember back when I first was learning about this stuff, you know, it was not as easy to access back then in the mid 2000s.

Jonathan Levi: There was no super learner mastery class, no?

Nelson Dellis: There was not, no, I had an audiobook by one of the world's champions at the time. And even that I think at the time was outdated, but it was still was pretty good. But, you know, I remember looking at people like Ben Pridmore and Simon Reinhardt and stuff, and just seeing the stuff that they could do and being like, man, I would love to be at their level, but I don't know how you know, and I wanted to jump to that level immediately, but I knew that you know, I have to take baby steps and I remember, you know, kind of improving my memory quickly at first, but not being at there level and just looking up at them like they were at the stars, you know, and then, you know, over time I've gotten to their level. Maybe not Simon, or maybe not Ben with cards, but I think we each have our weaknesses and strengths. I think I'm up there with them. Yeah. Now I don't even think twice about it. When I memorize a deck of cards. It's like spreading butter on a piece of bread. I don't even think about it. Yeah.

Jonathan Levi: And how fast do you memorize a deck of cards these days?

Nelson Dellis: It hasn't really changed much. It's still hovering around 30 seconds, which sounds nice, but actually, it's pretty slow these days, everybody who's new and young to the sport is pushing 20 seconds. And now there's people. I think the record was broken just a few weeks ago by, um, a young Mongolian kid and his score was like 12 and a half seconds.

Jonathan Levi: Oh my God. I can't even shuffle through a deck of cards in 12 and a half seconds with my hands.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, try to fathom that 12 and a half seconds. You're looking at all 52 cards and processing them and knowing them forwards and backward right?

Jonathan Levi: Unbelievable and yet it's something that anyone can learn to do and as you have often said like you had no gifted memory when you came into this.

Nelson Dellis: No, no. I mean, My memory was average, I'd say and I really mean that I know some people maybe roll their eyes and I'm like, well, maybe you had something, and I was like, honestly, no, I would look at memory and think that that was the most boring, difficult thing anyone could do. Uh, just the tedious process of a repetition, and then even then you're not guaranteed to know what you probably studied over and over again, you know?

So I struggled with that.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah and you know, I think it's interesting to note like it is this transition. I always say so we teach our branding, U masterclass, which teaches folks like yourself, right? Who are experts and we had someone join the program who was a five-time national champion, senior ballroom dancer?

I knew his wife, like when the competition every year, and now they want to learn how to teach and how to teach online and how to impact people and we often say, you know, not everyone is the number one and the four-time champion and stuff like that.

And we often say that the people who are at the cutting, cutting, cutting, cutting edge, don't have time to teach this stuff right? And so now you're seeing this, right? Like, as you said, you've been focusing the last year-plus of your life on, writing multiple books, not to mention Climb From Memory, your nonprofit and you know, Everest attempts and stuff like that.

And so you're seeing it, right. You're making that sacrifice where you're now sacrificing your ego and I think this is a really admirable thing to say, like, okay, I've won the championships enough. It's now time to sit down, write this book, and share this wisdom with people.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. I mean, it's unfortunate that you can't like do everything at a hundred miles an hour. If I want to share this with people and really write a good book and, you know, make a business out of teaching people, um, and sharing that knowledge somebody has to give. So yeah, I can't spend all the hours training to be the best that's kind of okay you know, after four wins, it's kind of like, I love competing and I love the sport and I love obviously being the best um if I can be. But at some point, you know, you lose a bit of the drive and it's hard to get that back so I'm happy to transition because I think I'm at a point where it's like, you know, I have all this information, I have the cloud and the titles, uh, so that people will listen. So why not use that to kind of spread the message.

Jonathan Levi: Totally. Now, tell me a bit about how you're teaching this stuff, because we've, I mean, as you know, you've been through and looked at our 10-week program and we're recently now exploring this idea of how quickly can we get it? If it's just memory and not speed reading, how quick can we actually teach people? And you're obviously teaching and traveling and lecturing and stuff like that. How would you go about teaching this as one of the foremost experts in the world? How long do you take for it to kind of sink into people and what are the things that you teach? I mean, give me a broad overview, if you will.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, let's start kind of with the things that I offer because it can vary in terms of what you mean by teaching you know? Sometimes people just want me to come in and do kind of like a flash one hour capture like the people watching will maybe capture one nugget of advice from my talk and that'll be useful to them but you know, they're not really learning the depths of memory techniques and that's fine that's kind of sometimes what people want or businesses want. So there's that then there's, you know, companies that want me to come in and do a series of workshops or seminars. That's kind of the same thing but stretched out a little more. So they get more in-depth and I'll kind of break down, you know, my one-hour flash talk and to kind of a more in-depth series um, so we can touch on all of the things like names and numbers and different strategies, and then I have more ongoing things where I'm either coaching privately one-on-one or I'm coaching a group and, you know, that depends where they're located as well. Sometimes I have to do that remotely, which means we're doing, you know, video conferences or I'm actually being flown there to meet with them. But the thing is, is like, and this is what I found with memory is I can only say so much about. How to do it. The rest of it is me coaching you, giving you kind of the feedback that you need? See if you're doing it right, what you could be changing, but you know, all the secrets at that point, almost on what should be happening in your brain and then it's a matter of, of the people sitting down and practicing. So that's it kind of transitions into me almost coaching rather than teaching after a certain point, because yeah, I got to keep people on track. I keep people motivated to train their memory and then I got to give them feedback based on their results and maybe give them ideas for fresh ways to train so that they don't lose interest, you know?

Jonathan Levi: Absolutely.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah.

Jonathan Levi: I mean, that was one of the hardest challenges when I was building the super learner program is like, how do I do this in a way that people are actually going to be able to learn without me sitting over their shoulders and, and that's, uh, I mean, you now know all about that writing a book and really having to get into, I call it the psychological state of the learner is like, okay, well, where are people going to trip up and get stuck, how fast do you think people can learn this stuff? I mean, obviously not to the level of a 12-second deck of cards, but in your experience when you've met with people, is this something that you can actually teach people in one day?

Nelson Dellis: Okay, good question. So the concept of how memory techniques work, I think you can teach that in a day. I think people can grasp that in a day pretty easily cause it's something that we all have somewhere within us. I don't really think of like what I do as, as teaching you rather than just while it is teaching, but it's not like teaching you a skill.

It's really just showing you how to hone something that is kind of already there. Just the proper way to use something, you know? Like a refresher course for your memory, rather than showing you something brand new.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah.

Nelson Dellis: But what I've seen so for example, in my book, I try to boil it down because it's a book. I have a limited page. I try to boil down what I do for all memory cases when I'm memorizing something into the smallest amount of thought. So in the book, you'll notice I talk about this kind of Sealink go three-step process, which I say you can apply to anything you want to memorize. You got to see something as a picture in your mind, then you got to link it or attach it to something that's already rooted in your mind that can be a memory palace or a peg list or whatever and then finally is to go, is to really like, that's the glue that puts it all together. You kind of put the first two steps together with as much visual sensory information as you can to really make it stick and so that part is easy to understand and what I find guests, like if you ask if I write another book and what would I put in it different. Would I be adding more? I mean, sure. I'd say ceiling go all over the place, but what I'd have to be, I think writing about mostly to help people, if I wanted to go further was the C part, how do I encode different kinds of information? And I think that's where people usually need the most help is like, okay, cool I get the idea, but here's a deck of cards. How do I see that? Or how do I encode that? How do I, how do I encode my schedule? How do I encode if I'm a doctor and I'm looking at a chart of a patient, how do I memorize that? How do I encode that?

So it's always the strategy of how to do that process that I think is really where I think there's longevity and how I can teach someone.

Jonathan Levi: I love that two comments on that. One this is what I love about being in the industry that we're in, which is the teaching industry because there's no such thing as competitors and you're going to teach, I've never heard ceilings go, right? That's something you came up with to teach, you know, a lot of the same things, but that's going to resonate with an, a group of people that my way of teaching it doesn't resonate with, that Ron White's doesn't resonate with, that Mark Shannon's, you know, and it's like, there can be 500 of us. There could be 5,000 of us each teaching this in a way that we best to understand it, and it's going to help people and that's why, you know, I recommend people check out your book. We actually sent your book out to our entire mailing list.

I recommend people check out Joshua four's book, who by the way, recommended your book, which is really, really cool that he gave you a quote for it and I just, I love that. Our students benefit or our readers in this case benefit from the fact that we call it brute force learning. If you can learn something from as many different angles and as many different teachers in as many different ways as possible, it's so much better than reading it once in my book or your book, and then trying to piece it together because you're going to have the ceiling go, is going to resonate in a different way and it's going to reinforce your knowledge. It's just a nice thing about our industry.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I mean, I'm all about like sharing other people's versions of how I say things because I like to think that I explain things well, but I know that I'm not for everybody. Some people maybe think I speak too fast or my metaphors for things are way out there and so maybe, you know, hearing me talk, but some of the sleep. So, you know, I think it's good to get different angles and yeah, there's definitely no harm in sharing the love between other memory teachers.

Jonathan Levi: Totally. And the second thing is, you know, talking about the timelines or playing with this as well, and we're about to release a five-day memory challenge course, because we really want to experiment and see, like how far can we push this from our SuperLearner masterclass? The first three weeks are all memory. We want to try and condense that down. So we're playing with it. But at the same time, it's exactly that question that you talked about is like, okay, well I can teach you the basics of it and people often ask, like, what's the difference between your masterclass and you know, the version two, one which is a fraction of the price. It's like, well, how far do you want to take this? Right? Do you want to learn the PAO method? You know, for memorizing huge strings of numbers fast, do you want to learn cards, do you want to learn how to memorize entire legal frameworks and it's like, how much more stuff are you going to apply it to? And how deep are we going to go on this and that? I mean, it's endless, right? I've seen you and I have seen some crazy stuff that people can memorize, like memorizing binary digits.

It blows my mind that that's part of the memory championships like how even someone like me, right. If I didn't know you, I wouldn't know how that stuff actually worked. You know, I know how to memorize digits backward, forwards. We were joking around you and I about like the challenge is actually forgetting the digits when I memorize them.

But then binary comes along and blows your mind.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. Yeah, that's true. Actually binary is, is actually not that hard if you know, the strategy is that's kind of the trick, you know, like, uh, with a lot of different things you have to memorize.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah, absolutely. So I want to touch on your other book though because you wrote an awesome book, I guess writing is the term, but it's, children's book with a lot of illustrations. Tell me about that because I'm really passionate. The other thing that I want to figure it out, not just how fast can this stuff be taught, but how young people can learn this stuff and, you know, you just had your first child. Congratulations. So you and I are both really passionate about this and exploring. Can we really get this in the hands of young children?

Nelson Dellis: So the book that I drew/wrote, I mean, it's hard to say wrote cause it's very, very simple for super young kids. It's called I Forgot Something, But I Can't Remember What It Was. So it's kind of just a few little storiesof an elephant, forget something and can't remember what it was that he forgot and this owl, the wise owl comes along and kind of teaches them a memory trick to help him not forget something and then spoiler, he remembers it at the end.

Jonathan Levi: I was on this edge of my seat there.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. If you turn to page 20, you'll find the ending part.

Probably the desire to write that book was just like I'm fascinated with how like spongy kids' minds are and it's like, everything that I teach with these memory techniques, it's a lot of stuff is what kids just do naturally with their minds and so I always want to see, like how young could you teach this kind of thing? And I tried to dumb it down as simple as possible to something that like, A three-year-old could understand and it works. You know, I get a lot of my friends who have kids that read the book and they remember there's a list in the book that they have to remember, you know, not just the night that they read the book, but you know, years later, and they still know the words, which is crazy. But, yeah, I think I'm more interested in that than necessarily teaching adults, because if we could get kids to learn this stuff at a young age, and it was just, you know, ingrained in us that this is how you use your memory properly and for learning through all your grade school, you're going to apply these skills to store the information you need to know. I don't know. I just think that that would save so much stress on kids growing up, grades would be higher. You could just cover so much more and there wouldn't be that stress of like cramming and tests you have to study for. It would be like, I don't even know what a world like that would look like, but I can only imagine it would be good, you know?

Jonathan Levi: Yeah, I love that and that's an awesome quotable. I think about that too, because you know, my journey to getting into all of this, I have to tell people, you don't start a podcast on becoming SuperHuman, because you were happy with who you were growing up right? And I struggled, and my struggle was academic and it was social and I wasn't learning in both of those areas. My inability to learn resulted in depression, anxiety, you know, all kinds of really nasty stuff for years and it, it would've been so much simpler if I could have just learned more effectively, not just in the classroom, which was the start of it like, why are my grades worse than all my friends? And why am I the dummy in the class? But also the social skills. Like when I read Dale, Carnegie's how to win friends and influence people. My life got measurably better to the extent where I realized like, holy crap, I can actually learn to be the kind of person that I want to be.

I was just like, I didn't realize that there were things written in books that could actually measurably make my life better until I was 13 years old because everything that you read in school is let's be honest, not actually going to make your day-to-day life any better and just that idea has carried me for years and years and years and become this obsession of how do I learn to be the kind of person that I want to be.

And I think in order to be able to do that and pick up books like that, you better be able to learn and remember more effectively. I mean, that's what drives everything that we do.

Nelson Dellis: Right. Yeah, no, everything you said there is on point, you know, I don't know how we kind of turn education on its head so that it values this kind of stuff.

You know, like when you're young, you get assignments at school where it's like go home and memorize this, which, you know, some people don't think it's a good thing to just memorize stuff but at some point, listen, if you're going to learn, you have to memorize something. But, you know, if you're given a list of things to memorize, whether it's historical or a poem that you got to recite, they're just like here do it.

And there's no primer in how to properly do that with techniques and that should be the first thing you learn in school is, you know, like a, like a home meds thing, but for your class, but for your memory.

Jonathan Levi: I totally agree. This is what I ranted about in my Ted talk and I hope that all kinds of educators and policymakers would reach out to me and not one ever did.

But I talked to Harry Lorraine about this when we had him on the podcast, you know, the great memory expert and,

Nelson Dellis: Yeah.

Jonathan Levi: He in the 1950s and sixties was famous enough that he could go into schools and you just got met with so much resistance. You'd be like, well, okay, you're going to learn how to memorize and they'd be like, well, we don't teach memory. We want the kids to learn and he said exactly what you said, but he never managed to crack that nut of how do we get education? I mean, we're having this problem in everything, right? Like schools can't because of so many levels in bureaucracy, they can even get their act together enough to teach technology and typing and programming things that they are interested in teaching so imagine the stuff that they're fighting, but we had an idea about this about half a year ago, where we realized if we can just make big enough waves in the research community, it will have a ripple effect by influencing policymakers, educators and so we're going to go at it from another, and I've never talked about this, but we're going at it from another angle, which is we want to hire researchers to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt, how this stuff works, that this stuff works for everybody and anybody, including children. So we want to start funding our own research, working with like the Weitzman Institute here in Israel and if anyone out there is interested in doing research, that's what we're passionate about because we want to, we just want to make waves. I don't want to fight battles until these people are ready to make changes at a policy level at a pedagogical design level in classrooms, in curriculums. But if we make big enough waves, people are gonna start scratching their heads and be like, why isn't this in our schools?

So that's kind of the way we're going about it.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, that's kind of how I'm going about it here too, but it's yeah, it's tough to get attention, but you know, bit by bit, I do notice that there is more of kind of a wave of interest in this memory stuff, at least in the States. Like this, maybe isn't the way I would want it to happen, but this could be a way to lead to getting it into schools is that there's a lot more interest on say television shows on mind stuff. You know, we have more shows that are like game showy, but having to showcase mental abilities rather than like physical or trivia or something which is great. You know, these shows about kids being geniuses and I'm like, okay, I don't really necessarily love them, exploiting kids like that but it is showing that you know, being mentally sharp and smart is actually kind of hit these days and that's, if that's what it takes, you know?

Jonathan Levi: Totally and I, I don't know if this is public knowledge, if not, we cut it out of the episode, but you're already working on your next book, which deals with exactly this issue. Tell me about that.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. So, you know, the illustrated book that I did, the children's book and was a personal thing I wanted to do and it was, I think, successful just as a test, almost to see how young I could get the information. But I think getting older, like when kids are actually learning stuff and having to use their memory often in school setting is probably a place where I should be teaching kids these techniques. After this book, that's just been published now with the same publisher I'm working on the second book, which would be essentially the same thing, but targeted towards kind of a 10 to 13-year-old age range so just people who are in their mid grades, trying to, you know, where they're at, they actually have to learn a lot of stuff like the timetables historic dates, facts, and elements and all that stuff so it'll be very school kind of oriented and I don't know really anything out there that exists like that. So I'm excited to do that.

Jonathan Levi: Brilliant and I mean, I caught you say it in passing, but you've actually had success with kids as young as three. So we can expect to see really incredible results for people, people, young people ages five, six, seven, eight, and beyond.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. Yeah, I think so and I always think if I had learned this stuff at a young age, I'd be doing it automatically. If I was given something to, as I'd had these strategies kind of, you know, cataloged in my mind, ready for use for whatever comes my way, you know?

Jonathan Levi: Yeah and how much time could you have saved and how much would it change your life?

Nelson Dellis: Yeah,

yeah, exactly. What made me perfect or anything like that? Probably not. I'd probably still have anxiety about something else or whatever, but you know, at least with learning and stuff, I'd be a lot more confident about what I know and what I'm capable of knowing.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah, I love it, man. I love it. And I'm so glad that you have dedicated, you know, this next chapter in your life to sharing and teaching these incredible skills that you've developed. I'm really excited about it. And I do want to ask you though, you mentioned, you know, I didn't win and there were a bunch of reasons for that.

We talked a little bit about that with the fact that you are focusing so much of your time on reading and speaking, but, uh, I have to ask because, you know, Memory expert. I can't forget what happened and what changed this year. And are there methods developing in a way that you're not following or what's


Nelson Dellis: Yeah, it's funny. Cause I feel like I trained hard enough and my scores were just as good. If not better than years past, you know, like I said, the cards are kind of the same numbers. My scores were better than they'd ever been. The names, I set a record. So in some senses, I have grown I've improved since my last wind.

So that felt good. I wonder, you know, like it all comes back to that same thing I said earlier, is it just like over years, it's hard to kind of. Have that hunger, sadly, you know, I wish I had the same hunger and as much as I try to redefine what my, my goal is and what it means to me, it's never the same as when you first are like out of the Gates, you know?

Jonathan Levi: Totally.

Nelson Dellis: That's frustrating to realize, but that's just the

way it is, you know?

Jonathan Levi: I was just like two hours ago talking to Brandon, a member of my team, and just saying like, you know, we were recording in the studio and he's like, no, man, I'm going to keep going. I'm like, you should rest. He's like, no, no, I got this.

I was like, God, you have the energy and zeal of a younger man. And we opened up this whole conversation about it. Just like when you're young and you're hungry. I mean, I said like when you're young, you have more energy and less compassion for yourself. You're just hard on yourself. You're like, I gotta do this and I'm going to power through it.

And then he made a really interesting point, which is like, he, well, you know, let's be honest here, Jonathan. Like, you've accomplished a lot in the last 10 years, since you were my age, you have the luxury of sitting back. And I was like, you know, I never thought about that, but that's exactly true. Like, I don't have to prove things to myself or to others in the same way that you don't like after the fourth time of winning, you know, the national championship, it's impossible to have that hunger.

And I think,

Nelson Dellis: yeah.

Jonathan Levi: The hedonic ladder is a real thing, right? Like the fourth wind is not going to make you as happy as the first one, but the first book that you published that gets into tens of thousands of people's, you know, it's chasing the next high in the best possible way, by the way, because otherwise, you know, you would just run yourself into the ground competing for 50 years in a row.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. Yeah. But you know, like every year I choose, to compete, you know, I have in my head. A goal. Right? I have to say something to myself to get me to get up in the morning and do this before competition every day. And so, you know, every year it kind of changes right. The first time it was like, I want to win.

I want to be the best. And the second time was like, I want back-to-back. And then after that, it was like, well, I have, at the time I was going to have my book come out. It didn't come out. That was 2014. I was like, I need to win this because of the book. And then I did, and then 2015 was like, well, I think this is my last year.

I want to win it. And four times would be great. So that was my goal. And then. Now this year, it's just kind of, my message to myself was five would be great, but I want to just show people that I'm, I'm still in the game. It's all different, you know like there's different fire bits behind each one. And so I'm not blaming that thought necessarily immediately on how I lost.

I lost because one of the events I memorized, I went for too many words more than I needed to, and I just was caught off guard and. People went way more safer than I thought around me. I didn't have to go for that many. And that was just a bad judgment call on my part.

Jonathan Levi: Right because you have that risk, right.

When you bite off more than you can chew, it's the same thing with any memory thing. It's like you're running the risk of the stuff in the middle fading away.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah.

Right. So people aren't familiar with the first round of the finals that the US championship is called random words. And you basically go backstage and you memorize from a list of 300 words.

You get 15 minutes. And then you'd come back on stage, all the competitors and you one by one, you're sitting in chairs, you recite the list in order. And when it's your turn, you got to say that word. And this year they gave us more words, 300, it used to be 200 and they gave us two strikes. So you could afford to get one wrong, but once you got two wrong, you're out.

And so me and my head, I was like, okay, well, if people are going to get two strikes, I feel like they're going to go for. Way more in the past, my strategy had always been just memorizing about a hundred, 120. Nobody usually gets that high and the round ends after two or three people are eliminated. So you have to think like you just have to be a bit better than, you know, just the three worst.

Jonathan Levi: Gotta be faster than the next guy.

Nelson Dellis: Exactly.

Yeah. And then, so this year, you know, you have a little more leeway, but more words. So I was like, I think people are gonna go for more. I was so wrong. I mean, the round didn't get past like 60 or 70 words, which is the same as it does for less words. And I went for 240 words or something insane.

And before I knew it, usually with that size of words, I need a little bit of time between memorizing and recall to kind of consolidate in my mind. And we were brought on stage immediately through had to say the words immediately. And I was just like, Oh shit. And, uh, yeah, I think I said the first word.

Right. And then I had to pass the second one. There was my strike. And then the next one, I think I said a word, but it was flipped with the one before it, and then I was done. I was so embarrassed. I was so like, I couldn't believe what I had done. And then afterward I was just thinking like, what was I thinking?

No one is going to go for 240 words.

Jonathan Levi: Well, at least there was a strategy loss, you know, like at least your memory's not going.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. Yeah, no, I agree. Well, but you know what peeves me is like, I've always been known at these competitions for being like. Ice cold and steadfast and like unwavering in my composure and stuff.

Like, cause at the US championship, you need that kind of composure. Cause it's all this like sudden elimination style of events from memory. And so I'm annoyed that I, I lost that composure

like this time. That's very unlike me.

Jonathan Levi: Totally. Tell me about mountain climbing. You're on a break. I understand. Uh, since you started a family,

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, I'm staying home a little bit more right now, but yeah, I think between last time we talked that I gave Everest another go in 2016 and didn't get there either.

That was my third try. And I got very sick at the high camp and had to forfeit my attempt. I was on Kilimanjaro earlier this year. I ran a trip through my charity. Guiding them up to the top. And that was awesome. You know, I really enjoy just like taking people along for the ride, whether it's mountain climbing or memorizing.

So that's kind of, I mean, I do see another Everest attempt in the future, but I like bringing people to places and pushing them to places where they typically don't think they can go.

Jonathan Levi: So cool man. And I think it's amazing how you don't get down about it. Like real winners don't get down when they miss an attempt or, you know, don't win a competition.

And I think it really speaks to the mindset of a champion. It's like, you're not defining yourself through those two failures.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. I mean, don't get me wrong the day or week after I was. Miserable. I was

really upset with myself on both things, but, you know, yeah, you got to

turn that into the fuel for the, for the next push, whatever you turn that into.

Jonathan Levi: I

love that. Any tips on that?

Nelson Dellis: Uh, I don't know, because what happens to me is like, I put so much of myself into preparing for these things, you know? And so when you're done with a competition or a member's climb like that next position, whether you make it or you fail, there's always like a hole inside me that I feel.

And I think it's just like, you suddenly don't have

the goal anymore cause it's its past. Right. So you just kind of have to figure out what you're going to do next. I feel like the times that I've lost or failed have filled that hole bigger, you know, afterward than in times when I've succeeded, because when you succeed, it's like you got to fill a hole, but it's like, The cork is like too small, you know, like, I mean, the hole is too big, you know, and it's like, you don't have a cord big enough to fill it.

Cause you're like satisfied in some way. So whereas here it's like, I have so much shit. I need to plugin that hole right now to push me forward. So that's the positive, I guess failing is great. I think I have a video on my YouTube after I lost, uh, where I talk about that because nothing's really come good out of winning.

For me, like in my future, other than like, you know, getting more business or something like that. But like in terms of personal development, the most has come from losing, honestly.

Jonathan Levi: Wow it, wasn't easy to ask that question, but I'm really, really glad I did because that's a brilliant takeaway for us to start wrapping on.

I know you're in the middle of a book launch. I want to be respectful of your time. Now say any superhuman stuff you're doing any new kind of superhuman hacks that you're doing to maintain on peak performance during this book launch as a new father.

Nelson Dellis: Oh man. Maybe. I mean, I've gotten really obsessed with like diets and just like tracking my, like vitals and stuff like on everything I do. So I have a heart rate monitor, attachment all the time. And, um, I'm on a break now, but I was doing keto for a number of months, keto diet and experimenting with like, Drinks that have ketones in it and stuff. And I don't know how much you know about it, but I feel like you probably know a bit about it.

You look like that kind of got it.

Jonathan Levi: We talked a bit about it. Yeah.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. But yeah, I just, I'm trying to look into other ways to kind of fine-tune my, my mind and my, my physical fitness as well. So yeah, just playing around with. Some weird stuff.

Jonathan Levi: I love it. Well, they'll say I'm really, really grateful for your time.

It's always a pleasure to chat and let's make sure to keep in touch. The book is called. Remember it?

Nelson Dellis: Yep.

Jonathan Levi: I got that. Right. The charity people should check out his climb for memory. We'll put all those links in the. And we'll also make sure you guys can get connected to Nelson if you want to go on one of those mountain climbs

Nelson Dellis: Yeah. And one last thing, one thing, I mean, we talked about it for a second. I'm in terms of how I teach one of the things that I've been focusing on, because I don't have a course, like. Can you do, your course is amazing, but I've been focusing on our last year and a half. Yeah. Personal plug from Nelson supporting your courses.

But no, my YouTube channel, I just love making kind of like these really hacky of vlog videos on how to do little memory tricks here and there. So they're not super in-depth, but they're kind of fun, and if some of your listeners have a moment and they should check out some of those videos on YouTube,

Jonathan Levi: Absolutely and we had some time on the calendar for you and I to record some stuff together for YouTube, but then your child went and was born that exact same day. So we'll have to, maybe after we hit wrap on this record, we'll get some time on the calendar and recorded some stuff so we can get it out to the people.

Nelson Dellis: Would love that. Yeah. I'd love to share some more stuff for the listeners,

Jonathan Levi: All right my friend. So let's talk soon and I really appreciate you coming in today.

Nelson Dellis: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.

Jonathan Levi: All right, SuperFriends that is all we have for you today, but I hope you guys really enjoyed the show and I hope you learned a ton of actionable information tips, advice that will help you go out there and overcome the impossible. If you've enjoyed the show, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, or drop us a quick little note on the Twitter machine @gosuperhuman.

Also if you have any ideas for anyone out there who you would love to see on the show, we always love to hear your recommendations. You can submit on our website, or you can just drop us an email and let us know.

That's all for today, guys. Thanks for tuning in.

Closing: Thanks for tuning in to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. For more great skills and strategies or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit We'll see you next time.



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