USA Memory Champion Nelson Dellis on Memory, Tenacity, & Conquering Anything

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“I love the idea of always improving myself… I like goals, and I like numbers that measure me… And I always want to beat those numbers.”
— Nelson Dellis

In many of the episodes thus far, we’ve talked a lot about the World Memory Championships and the different techniques used by elite memory athletes – but we have yet to actually meet one. Fortunately, that changes now. My guest this week (Thanks for the intro, Samir!) is Mr. Nelson Dellis, 3-time USA memory champion, record holder, and one of only three “Grandmasters of Memory” in the United States.

But that’s just the beginning of Nelson’s SuperHuman credentials. He is also an accomplished mountain climber, the founder of a nonprofit combatting Alzheimer’s, a renowned public speaker, and much, much more.

This interview was an insane amount of fun to work on. Nelson and I discuss memory, willpower, tenacity, and how his two fields of expertise, memory and rock climbing, cross-pollinate and make him a better all-around superhuman. Besides just an insight into how an elite memory athlete trains, Nelson's words offer inspiration and motivation as to how we can conquer some of the most challenging goals in our lives.
Nelson has been featured in dozens of publications, documentaries, and TV shows ranging from CNN and Nightline to the Dr. Oz Show and the Wall Street Journal.  It was an absolute honor to have him on our show, and I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed hosting!
“With mountain climbing, you have to think like that, because it's actually death that could be the result if you don't… with memory stuff, it's not that bad.”

In this episode, we discuss:

    • The role of natural ability in becoming an elite memory athlete (hint: there is none!)
    • How much does Nelson train, and how?
    • What a typical day looks like for Nelson, between training for the championship and his “day jobs”
    • How exercise and sleep play a role in Nelson's regimen (surprising!)
    • Does Nelson use nootropics (or smart drugs)?
    • Are all memory athletes using basically the same techniques?
    • How important are minor tweaks to these systems in determining who wins
    • How Nelson personally uses and applies the Memory Palace or “Loci” technique
    • How does Nelson set goals, overcome adversity, and stay positive when things don't go his way?
    • The mindset that keeps Nelson training time and time again to conquer Mt. Everest
    • Where did Nelson develop the tenacity and grit to train the way he does (with a great anecdote)
    • Nelson's thoughts on meditation
    • What drives Nelson to work as hard as he does?
    • Synergies between CrossFit and Memory Competitions
    • How Nelson was drawn towards the battle against Alzheimer's
    • Nelson's upcoming book on how to actually use his techniques
    • How can memory sport be made more appealing to the masses?

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:


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 Levy.

Hey there, boys. And girls, this is Jonathan Levi, and I have a treat for you today. In many of the episodes thus far we've talked a lot about the world memory championships and different techniques like memory palaces that are used by Elite memory athletes. But we have yet to actually meet one fortunately.

That's about to change my guest this week is mr. Nelson. Dellis three time USA memory Champion record holder and one of only three grand masters of memory in the United States, but that's just the beginning of Nelson superhuman credentials. He's also an accomplished mountain climber the founder of a non-profit combating Alzheimer's and a renowned public speaker.

And so much more this interview was an insane amount of fun to work on Nelson and I discussed memory will power and how his two fields of expertise memory and rock-climbing cross-pollinate and make him a better all-around superhuman. Nelson has been featured on dozens of Publications documentaries and TV shows ranging from CNN and NBC Nightline to the dr.

Oz Show and even the Wall Street Journal. I hope you have as much fun listening to the interview as we had recording. And now I'm very excited to welcome. Mr. Nelson dellis.

Nelson welcome to the show. How are you doing today? Good. Thank you for having me. I'm very good. How are you doing? Very very well, and I really appreciate you making the time. I know you're super super busy. Yep, always memorizing indeed. So we actually were introduced through a mutual friend, which was really really cool.

You have kind of studied all over the place as I understand it. Yeah, I grew up in London. I was born in London and my family had us moving all over the place growing up and our mutual friend is someone I met while living in London one of those years very cool. So give us a bit of professional background for those who don't know.

I tried my best to summarize it in the introduction, but you're kind of a very eclectic fellow. And working in very different fields. So I'm always curious to hear how people such as yourself summarize what you do at cocktail parties. Yeah, it's hard to it depends on my mood because I guess most people don't even know what it is.

If I say what it is in the couple words. So I use that to explain it right some days. I'm just like I'm a consultant or if I'm feeling a little more adventurous. I'll say I'm a speaker / consultant and then a thumb. Really feeling, you know good enough to explain it all just say I'm a teacher. I teach people how to improve their memories of a memory expert.

I give speeches conferences seminars things like that. Very cool. So it's kind of tough when you have such a diverse resume to kind of break it down and summarize it I guess. Yeah, because I mean it always leads to more questions and sometimes it's not the right time to just say I'm a consultant.

Yeah, that's the easy way out. I guess. Yeah, so when you tell people that you're you know, a three-time national memory Champion, what are some of the responses that they give you? Usually like either they'll say wait, what does that mean? And then I follow or they'll say like what do you mean the like at the game of memory, you know where he's flipping over cards or the third one is do you play Blackjack?

Yeah, I guess that's probably a pretty logical question. Yeah, although I don't know that memory would help you in kind of today's context where there's so many decks. I mean you can memorize it as many decks, but they're constantly shuffling them. Right exactly. It's exactly that a lot of people just think that the first thing they actually ask is do you count cards which has nothing to do with memory, right?

There are some techniques that do use memory, but they're so difficult and they only work in some specific casinos where they use a certain amount of card decks and how they Shuffle and stuff interesting interesting. So and as if you weren't busy enough with the mountain climbing and the Consulting and the teaching and the Alzheimer's work you're doing and stuff like that.

Yeah, it's to do that actually dabbled in a little bit with a few friends who started the team, but it just took too much time to get good at it. You have to spend a lot of time. Yeah, that's fair. So one thing that I have found between all the memory athletes that I've read up on whether it's yourself and cook been pretty more.

None of you guys actually claimed to have an exceptional memory or any kind of special ability. Do you find that to be true throughout the community? Yeah, it's one of the most surprising things to me. I was when I started I never believed that it sounded these memory competition sounded like it was just for savants or some people with just naturally good memories, but it is a fact that across the board.

The top guys if not everyone who competes in these things. They're trained from average memories to these phenomenal prodigious like Memories. So how much of it then is technique and how much of it is just really really intense work ethic. Yeah, I guess starting out. You have to learn new techniques.

Of course, it's learn about how this works. It's quick and easy to Concepts can be explained in a half-hour right? There are kind of little intricacies in terms of strategy on how to you know, do it for numbers or four cards or four different things. But once you figure that out all it is from that point, it's practice.

So and I think you find that the guys who win these competitions. Whether it's us Championship the World Championships, UK Championship, whatever it comes down to who spent the most time practicing. Yeah the best in the longest. Yeah. In fact, I saw an infographic actually I Mashable that detailed kind of your training schedule and I think it at your Peak you were doing about four to five hours a day.

Yeah. Yep. I remember that was from last year leading up to that Championship last March. I was doing four to five hours. And yeah, that's a lot. A lot of people can afford to do that. But somehow my work has allowed me to do that. I mean, I know I say consultant whatever but in some sense. I'm kind of like an athlete.

I mean I hate using that I'm not like LeBron or anything like that at all, but I do spend most of my day. Working on my craft and training my skill, but you're also kind of a physical athlete. I don't know if you would consider yourself and your rock climbing career to be an athlete, but I certainly would sure so yeah, I'm definitely an athlete type of person.

I'm physically training every single day if not twice a day and I'm climbing. I'm climbing a lot. That's what I love to do. And I always like to be physically fit and strong. Yeah, in terms of my sit down and memorizing training. That's what I meant. It's not really athletic. It's mental Athletics.

I guess. It's so break down your day for me. And then I'm also curious to hear what kind of training you're doing physical fitness wise, but how do you pass your day? How do you devote time now that you're not in competition season? What is a typical day kind of look like for you? Sure. Well, actually I am picking up speed.

I mean the US championships right around the corner. So right now it's getting up to the 4/5 our range where a wake up usually go to the gym first thing and then when I come back I work on cards for a bit and then I get into numbers have lunch then work on names and faces poems and words. And do all sorts of drills and things like that.

And yeah, it's just I just train the events that they have at these competitions and I just do them over and over and over again. I see so one of the things I teach in my course on accelerated learning is kind of that people should get ready for the fact that when. Really really using your memory really really using your cognitive faculties.

It's exhausting. The brain takes about 20 percent of the energy resources of the body. Hugely disproportionate to you know, it's mass or size in the body. Are you after those four to five hours? Do you have anything left in the tank for work work? That's a good question. I never really notice. That I mean in competition for sure I get super drained but I always thought that was just because my focus is so.

Intense for so long. Yeah, you know and I'm stressed as well for long periods of time and nervous whatever and that takes a toll but when I'm training and using these memory techniques, I don't really feel that exhaustion at the end of the day. I do split it up a lot. I take a lot of breaks maybe that helps.

Are you kind of on the Pomodoro Technique? So to speak I'm not familiar with that. What is that? It's the idea that you take a break every I think it's 25 to 50 minutes. You take a five-minute break. It's kind of one of these productivity book written in the 80s by an Italian grad student. Okay.

Yeah. I actually do do that, but I didn't know that was a technique interesting. I'll have to send you the link. Yeah, please so very cool. So 4 to 5 hours a day training. I noticed that you do your physical fitness before which I think is probably a very conscious decision. Yeah, I don't know. I feel like it my day goes smoother if I wake up and work out.

I just have more energy and more kind of motivation from that point on right I've sometimes done it in the afternoon, but I find that those days kind of like like a little bit, you know, yeah getting started and stuff the endorphins from your workout or really really instrumental in proper memory function and stuff like that.

So it makes it a ton of sense. What's your sleep routine look like are you kind of sleeping in one large chunk just curious because sleep is really really important for memory specifically. Of course, I don't sleep very well. I've actually never slept. Well, I think in my life really which sucks.

Yeah, I can probably tell you on counting on my hands the times that I've had it like a really good sleep. Like I remember them they were that good, you know, wow, but I sleep all at once. They don't do any of these napping type techniques. I always try to go to sleep at a reasonable hour and I always wake up at 6 or 7.

But I usually end up going to bed between midnight and 2:00 a.m. Oh, well, not the best. I know that's one of the things I know I could but it's just sitting for me. It's always been rough. I wake up easily and I don't know stuff you just thing that surprises me actually. Yeah. No. I know. I know how important it is, and there's been days where.

I couldn't fall asleep at all when I had a big memory thing the next day and it's just screwed me over. Wow, that's surprising. Yeah. What about nootropics or smart drugs which for those who aren't familiar with the term their kind of these side-effect free supplements and herbs that you can take to I guess optimize your brain health.

So Gaba inhibitor stuff like that. Are you using any no Tropics? Am I allowed to ask that? Yeah. Yeah. Sure. I'm not the only thing I take religiously is DHA omega-3. I'll take about a thousand milligrams every morning. Oh wow. And yeah, that's important to me. I've never really looked into this nootropic stuff.

I've heard about it, but never really I don't really know much about it. I don't know. We'll see maybe I should try super interesting that at your level. It sounds like it's almost a hundred percent work ethic and just putting in the hours.  Totally. Yeah, and I think if I was on some supplement, I don't think it would give me that much of an edge at least not a competitive level it is in this world.

Right now, you know I was talking with I'm a good friend of Lindsey Vonn sister famous skier, and she was telling me how you know recently she didn't win her downhill at Vale and you know, she came in fifth but that it was just that she was talking about all these times. She had a race and these tiny little things.

Make a difference of like, you know hundreds of a second. Like for example One race. She had a Band-Aid under her eye and she said the drag on that was the reason why she didn't win it my God. It's like that's crazy. But in our sport it's not quite saturated yet with enough competition that those little tiny things will make huge difference will make you win.

So right now I'm not really concerned with that. But who knows in the future maybe whether you take some little extra? Brain drug, it will make write a fraction of a difference that makes you went your nose. Yeah, it's funny. You mentioned the Band-Aid because in one episode or actually I was on a podcast of a Anthony material whose kind of a memory expert and he and I talked about the kinesiology tape effect where the competition in something like the Olympics is so Fierce that something small like.

Kinesiology tape or softer fabric on the swimsuits can actually mean a win and then of course every team comes back the next year with that exact incremental Improvement. Do you think that virtually all memory athletes are using variations on the same basic techniques? And if so, how much are those variations at play in who wins every year?

Yeah, I mean from a ground-level everybody's using the same thing. If you're going to win you're using pretty much the same technique, you'll find that the top top guys will have some strategy or slight variations on the strategies that Master those take more hours. So it comes down again two more hours spent studying your systems learning them and being able to apply them.

So yeah, I mean, but the thing is is for example been pretty more is a great example. He. This is maybe 2005. He came or 2004 he came up with this then card system where instead of just looking at a single card and being able to imagine it as an image. He would put pairs of cards together. And before I guess and then we had really thought about that.

Or maybe people I thought about it, but not really sat down and come up with the 2700 plus images that you have to have for every combination, but he did it and you know the next year and ever since then there's been people who are like I'm learning my been system. I'm going to do the been system.

Wow. The thing is is it's not as easy as just slapping on some tape or putting on a swimsuit because you actually have to learn these two thousand plus images like the back of your hand and that means. Many hours and not anybody can do that. A lot of people had the intention to I know I have many points have been like, you know, what I'm going to do it.

I'm gonna sit down to learn it and then it Fizzles out. It's quite a commitment. So I don't know they're like going back to what you were saying about supplements that might be aware that in the future that will make a difference but for now the strategies and coming up with new. Little variations.

It's time-consuming. So it's not as easy as just saying you want to do it and doing it you got to spend the time, you know sure so people are using typically the been system because I recently read Josh vo hours book. I'm sure you've been asked a hundred thousand times about it, but moonwalking with Einstein and he talks about a system of three swear.

You have subject verb object in for every card and then you take the subject from the first card object. So on and so forth. So you create something like Phil Knight moonwalking with Einstein are people now using that system anymore. No, I'd say that's probably the most popular. That's what I use.

Okay, but the been system he's is kind of weird, but the idea is the same. I mean you have three things. That you kind of squished together into one image whether it's person action object or I think been uses three objects and you just kind of like imagines them together, but the encoding part is the difference, you know instead of looking at each card.

That's a person next card. That's an action next car. That's an object. He's looking at the first two cards as a thing. The next two cards is the thing in the next one. I see so he's able to squash six Cards into one picture. Whereas Josh for and me and the majority of people doing person action object or just squishing three while and I've been actually if I'm not mistaken still holds the world record, which I think is a deck of cards in 26 seconds.

Well, actually that fell he changed the record number of years ago 224 and change while and then Simon Reinhardt who is the German champion. And the runner-up to the world champion, he's twenty one point one nine seconds my gosh and I think just ten years ago. It was considered very impressive to do it in under a minute.

Yeah. Yeah. It's crazy 21 seconds and I know in practice these even paid about 18 or 19 seconds. Which is crazy sub 20 seconds. Yeah, incredible. So in fact Josh's book or Joshua hours book is pretty accurate in those are still the techniques that people are using every year at the competition.

That's correct. Yeah amazing and these are techniques. I mean we haven't talked about it, but it seems that everyone's using the Memory Palace technique or variations on the Memory Palace technique, which is many thousands of years old. Yeah, I'd say if you're at the top trying to be competitive in these competitions, that's what you and everybody else are using some variation of the Memory Palace technique for sure interesting.

So you have a Memory Palace. I imagine since you're now doing many decks of cards not just write one. So you have a Memory Palace for each deck of cards. You have one Memory Palace with you know, 500 low, see, how does that work? So I have tried to count them, but I always have so many it stuff. I have about 50 different memory palaces different sizes for cards for example to memorize a deck of cards.

I only need. 17 places and RAM memory Palace plus the leftover card, so they're relatively short. So I have a lot of those that I cycle through when I train and then for numbers, for example, I have really really long ones that are a hundred plus and I really like to call it instead of memory pause at call it a journey the journey method because I really I don't get stuck in one house.

I'm just taking a journey from one location all the way. To another some for example, a lot of them take place in my hometown of Miami. So, you know, I'll be taking a journey all over the city when I'm memorizing numbers and things like that. Yeah, and you're reusing the same locations. Every time yeah every time I mean, I have a number of them so I cycle through them every time I do a set of numbers or cards so I don't get too confused.

I say and I try to have enough to cycle through so that by the time I come back to the one I want to use is kind of Forgotten itself, you know by then. Okay. Yep, okay, because a lot of people talk about having to actually sit there and do spring cleaning before a competition. Yeah, I know. Some people will do that.

I've never done it I think because then I start thinking about actual Journey or Memory Palace and that I think always kind of makes me think about what I maybe had there before I don't like it. So interesting. I just don't think about it. If I asked you a week after the competition is that stuff still in there in your memory Palace has a little bit it depends.

On a lot of things for example one year. I remember I lost off of a stupid mistake and I remember a lot of that deck still. Not on purpose, but just because it was very memorable. Right situation. I'd say a week after I still probably remember quite a bit of it. Wow without any review without any review.

Yeah amazing. So actually that brings up a good point. I'm really interested in your approach to goals. And accomplishment and motivation. So I saw that your most recent attempt to reach the peak of Everest with stopped pretty much a football field short by equipment failure and things really beyond your control.

And as you said, you know, you had one stupid mistake that cost you a winning streak of three years, which was now kind of broken up in 2013. None of it really seems to phase or discourage. You tell me about that a little bit. Yeah, so in what was it 2013 I was on Everest is my second attempt. I had failed in 2011 even less than a football field.

Wow. And yeah, so, you know this time around. I don't know. It was just mountain climbing especially on Everest is its own thing? I mean, I don't want to die. I don't want to lose fingers. I want to be okay. I want to come back down. So the second time I did this and I was kind of not. In a good place with my body temperature I can feel my hands or fingers.

I was like, okay. I mean I'm happy with where I got to I need a turn around now. So wow. That was okay and I know I'll go back at some point in try it again. So it sounds like it's a lot of just separating your ego from reality and saying, you know, what is it my ego or do I really need to go that extra 200 feet and risk my life.

Right, I mean mountain climbing is you have to think like that because it's actually death that could be the result. If you don't think like that with memory stuff, it's not that bad. Yeah, it would have been nice to win three in a row or four in a row, but year who knows and I was maybe a bit too confident at the end and didn't Focus as much as I should have and that's what was the cause of it.

I'll never really know but. I lost and it fueled me to come back even stronger the next year. So yeah, that's how I look at those things. It's part of the journey and you know you fail for a reason and all you do is you just take that and use it for motivation the next time awesome. Yeah. I love that approach because otherwise you can get into kind of this.

Unhealthy mindset that just pollutes your ability to train next time and come back harder next time. Yeah, I mean whatever is for example, I have failed twice and it would be and I see people around me summiting who I thought I was Stronger Than and you question like what's wrong with me can I not do this?

And I we cam I not well trained, you know, and it's. It's just at this point. I know I can do it even though I wasn't able to then it's just a matter of getting everything right all at once and sharing back as strong as I can. What is the term summiting mean? I'm sorry summoning like getting to the top of the mountain.

Okay, so that's that's the term for one you reach the absolute tip Tip Top. Yeah, I've summited I am summoning right now. I have just submitted. Yes. Awesome submitted versus submitted I guess no, no submitting. So that brings up actually a really good point as well. He and I like how you made this comparison between.

The stakes in memory competition and the stakes in rock climbing and I think what's really really interesting is the synergies between the both. I don't know if you've read Josh wait skins book the art of learning but it kind of reminded me where you were saying of his learning philosophy because he's a Tai Chi champion and obviously.

Chess Grandmaster world champion at a very young age and in his book he kind of draws this one learning philosophy through them and he explains, you know, in one sentence that I particularly remember. He's like I wasn't doing taichi, although I was on a tai chi Matt. It was playing chess. Right and in the movements came out as Tai Chi do you find that kind of spillover and these kinds of synergies between the two disciplines that you practice Yeah.

That's a great thing you bring up because I think because obviously memory and competing with your memory requires a lot of focus and. Cognitive thought and concentration and all that stuff. I feel like me being good at that comes from being in the mountains because mountaineering and not a lot of people would realize this but it's probably mostly mental you have these long days you climbing for 8 plus hours.

Sometimes you can't breathe cold hot suns burning. You know, it's boring you put one step in front of the other. It's painful. You take a step. You have to breathe for like a few seconds and you take another step and it's like that for eight hours. Just you by yourself right in your head. So I think you learn a lot of its kind of a meditative process.

I think that's what it comes down to and memorizing being able to memorize fast and successfully is also a meditative process. So I think learning to be comfortable with silence and. You know introspection and just being able to sit there with your thoughts for long periods of time. Has made me good at the memory sport.

I think also for training purposes to you know, being able to keep at it and stick with this kind of lonely sport, you know? Yeah, definitely that raises two questions for me. So I'm going to hit you with them rapid fire at the first one is where does that mental strength come from? Is that something that you were able to train or have you always had this kind of ability to suffer and take it on the chin?

I don't know. I've thought about this a lot. I don't think I had it my whole life. I think it's something I learned from the mountains. I remember my first climbing experience. I went on Mount Rainier. I did a 8 day training course for beginners and you know, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into all other than you know, I could possibly Summit Mount Rainier and I thought that was super cool.

We went out there. We got out of the parking lot, you know, there are eight or nine of us following a guide and. Is a complete whiteout and we were still in the trees, you know, it was real like 20 minutes from the parking lot and it was just like a white out it was cold. It was miserable and our guys were like, yeah, we just gotta make it our campsite right here because it's really bad weather right now.

I'm like, what is this? This is horrible. Why am I even here? This is not fun and it's just like why put yourself through this and. We set up our camp and I remember we had like a team meeting and one guy already was like I want to go back down. I'm going to go home and he said to us he was like one of our guys is going home.

He doesn't want to be here if anybody else wants to go let us know now because otherwise, you know, you're stuck on this mountain for the next week and I remember thinking okay, I could raise my hand for knots and I don't know I just didn't raise my hand and. I got stuck there and it sucked it was probably one of the worst experiences of my life, but I summited and that was the best experience of my life and I think from that having experience getting to a summit of a mountain.

I realized okay, you got to put up with some crappy situations some you know, and that. You just have to get through it and that's a mental process. And you know, the reward is awesome. So I kept thinking of that every time I would climb again and I think that's what led me to being able to train so well for the memory competitions right this idea of delayed gratitude and being able to to put off.

You know and suffer so much because of the knowledge that it's going to be spectacular. Yeah, totally. The next question I wanted to ask is you mentioned a meditative state. Do you meditate? No, I tried I've read a lot about it. And I think it's great. I have a lot of friends. Who do I hate saying that I can't do it because I know that I could if I tried but.

I think I don't really need to I think when I sit down and do my memory stuff that it's really I think I'm doing the same thing. Likely. Yeah, it's highly likely. You know, so I just see it as that that that's my meditation, you know, well in it four to five hours a day that makes you a zen master.

Yeah, I guess so. So what drives you what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning and do the four to five hours of training and then do the nonprofit work and then do the Consulting work on top of that and also get the workout in. Oh, that's a tough question. I just usually just do it at this point.

I don't know because it's so it's so happy. Yeah, it's have it right now. I don't know. I just I think I'd love the idea of always improving myself like my workouts. I like goals and I like numbers that measure me and I always want to beat those numbers. That's always what I'm aiming for. So whether it's.

One rep max for clean and jerk or whatever or whatever lift I want to do. You know, that's a number that I aim for and I try to write beat right all the time and then same with with memorizing the deck of cards. I have my personal bests time and my goal is to keep beating that doesn't always happen.

Of course, you know, I have days where I'm way slower than my best but one day I break it by a few seconds and then that's my new personal best and I want to beat that which is what is your personal best right now for a deck of cards? It's 29.8 for holy crap that makes things a fast this than America.

Well, I don't know if that's that's in practice. I've done I've never done that fast in competition. A lot of people brag about their personal bests. Who knows if it's real or not. I've heard other people in America doing faster, but you never know, right? My fastest in competition is 40 seconds, which is the fastest any Americans done it.

So right you mentioned clean and jerk total tangent, but are you a crossfitter or are you just doing all the lifting? No? No, I'm a crossfitter. Ha ha ha ha. Yes. Very very cool. I'm also a die-hard crossfitter. I'll nice I was thinking it'd be really really awesome to try and get Greg Glassman on the show.

So that's going to be my goal for the next year. That would be amazing actually last year at the memory championships. There was a guy from Crossfit HQ, and because there's they wanted to get into kind of CrossFit but with a brain element to it, huh? And so I had just finished doing what was it the Open Wide 14 .45.

I forget which one is so much fun. I couldn't even walk that day. Yeah, the guy was like. Did you work out I was like yeah, I just did you know, whatever and it's like all you CrossFit and I was like, yeah, you know, I try to memorize and I'm physically fit and sometimes they even combine the two fun to train and he was like, wow that's super cool and then he didn't realize that I was.

The guy to be in the bedroom. So he was like super excited. He's like, I'm going to Greg Glassman we're going to talk. So we've talked a little bit. It's something I hope to get more into kind of combining physical fitness and mental Fitness. I love it. And because they're so synergistic totally.

Yeah. So synergistic, well, it's good to know that you're a fellow cult member as well. Sure. Awesome. You understand it. I do I do I become obsessed. Actually. Someone asked me yesterday. I said, you know, I'm trying to beat my weight for deadlift. She goes well, why do you need to be any stronger?

My deadlifts almost two times my body weight at this point I go because then I'll be better than I was yesterday. I'll be stronger than I was yesterday. It's like didn't connect for this person. They just didn't get it. But what are you gonna deadlift? That's a hundred thirty kilos, you know, so.

That's funny speaking of physical and mental health combining your very active as I understand in the fight against Alzheimer's what's going on with that right now or has there been any kind of recent research or any really interesting stuff that's going on. Yeah. So I mean I got started in all this just because my grandmother had Alzheimer's and that got me all into the brain and brain health and stuff.

So that's where this whole. Journey for me to become a memory Champion started it's always been something super dear to my heart. And you know, I've always tried to kind of give back to that world. A lot of people don't really understand what else hammers is or you know, what can be done about it and the fact is is still there's not much that you know, People know really about it still every once in a while something comes out saying they figured out you know, the reason for it or.

Maybe an idea how to stop it, but it's never sure you never you never hear about it again. So it's tough to say I don't know although I think it's really interesting the synergies between memory and Alzheimer is as well because I saw some research in 2006. I think it was from the rush Institute.

Don't quote me on that. But just that regular memorizing and a mental kind of cognitive performance routine. Can reduce I think it was nuns reduced. The presence of Alzheimer's 10 years on or something like that by 47% again. Don't quote me on that. I read it a long time ago, but really really interesting.

So is that essentially what climb for memory is devoted to? Yeah. So Cloud for memory is the charity that I started in the main goal that is to just make people aware and that my primary goal for that is really just to get people. Knowing about it that it's real that it's a problem and you know, it could happen.

So that's really the first thing that's really my concern is like so many people don't really know much about Alzheimer's or really see it happening or see it as a real disease. So the main goal of confer memory is to Tripoli at people to be educated about it to learn that it is a real problem.

That's really the first thing awareness, you know. Sure is always other you know cancer and heart disease and all the breast cancer whatever they all gets amazing. Yeah, awareness movements, you know, and it's just like yeah, I mean timers doesn't exist. You know. Yeah, look what they did with ALS last year just hugely disproportional relative to the proportion of the population that suffers from a else.

Massively disproportional awareness and donation which is, you know, great if we can Attack One disease at a time, but not great if things like Alzheimer's that are affecting millions and millions of people fall by the wayside totally. Yeah. So you're doing the climb for memory your training four to five hours a day.

What else you working on right? Now? Lots of things book is in the works of that working on writing a book very cool on memory or on rock climbing or on both. No, I'm memory basically a how-to book think it's very important for when I give speeches and stuff like that. I need to have something that people can walk away with you know, yeah.

I'm moonwalking with Einstein was a great book. I love that book. But I remember talking with Josh and he was like, you should write a how-to book because so many people ask me where is like the air, you know the accompanying manual on how to do these techniques he kind of covers it but not in. Oh, yeah.

Specific here's how to do it way, right and we can't all have Ed cook coaching us for here. The no no, unfortunately right guys great. So working on a book. That's very exciting. Yeah TV shows I almost had a show on that Geo go through but that didn't end up so hard in that that world but there's a lot of people who want to develop a show awesome.

I would definitely watch it and recommend it to my students as well for sure. So there's that and I don't know just I have a lot of projects and other big one is this extreme memory tournament? It's a competition that I created and it's actually in its second year. It's going to be met and it's kind of a different approach to how to put on a memory competition something that's a little more exciting and visual.

And audience-friendly, uh-huh and more sport like so that's moving along very nicely. That's super cool because you know, I work in memory and accelerated learning and even I'm not particularly interested to watch hours of the current competitions. To be honest with you. It's a lot of guys sitting at tables in the quiet, you know for an hour uninterrupted kind of thing.

Yeah, it's like watching someone take a test who wants to do that? Yeah, exactly. So how do they kind of extreme memory games plan to cover that? Yeah. So first things first, is that It's All Digital. That's the first thing so they're all seeing the information on their laptop and then typing in so the audience can see exactly what the competitors are seeing in memorizing.

I think it's a really important thing because right now. You know, they're just looking at guys with their heads down and that's it. Yeah. Sure. The next thing is that it's it's all one-on-one stuff. It's not everybody taking a test against the clock. It's me versus you and we have a time limit but there's some strategy involved now because it's like are you going to play it safe or should I just go for it, you know, and maybe we have more matches to do and right now this one's more important.

So maybe you're going to go for it. All these different things and that makes it a lot more interesting. Awesome. Yeah, and so it's two-day competition. There's a lot of matches the first day where you get points kind of like World Cup style and then the top in each group Advance the next day and then you have like a NBA playoffs type thing with best-of-seven series and it's good.

That's awesome. Are you anticipating to get a lot of foreign and kind of international competitors involved? Yeah last year, we played with 16 competitors and we invited them all. So we reached out to the best and most of them. I mean there were no Americans. Unfortunately. I wanted to be there but I was running the thing.

Yeah, but we had German swedes Norwegians. British guys Chinese Mongolian and this year we have a few Americans in there this time and people from everywhere. It's awesome. That's awesome. Because it historically the memory competition field has been I think Americans have been largely underrepresented.

So yeah and exactly you're doing better. But yeah, it cook loves to kind of bag on Americans as being you know decades behind on memory. Although you're very quickly catching up. Yeah, it's changed a lot in the past few years. So very cool. Well Nelson, I don't want to take too much of your time. I really appreciate you making the time if people want to get in touch with you they want to learn more maybe hire you as a speaker or a teacher as you put it.

How do they go ahead and get in touch with you? Yep, they can go to my website my charity website climb for memory dot-org. Okay, and you will learn about what I do my cherry, but also you can reach out to me personally and. Let me know what were you would like to use me for if anything awesome will definitely put that in the show notes.

Are you in addition to the book? Are you kind of blogging tweeting that kind of thing? Yeah, I try to tweet and blog as much as I can to block is on my client for a memory website. So yeah, awesome. Perfect. And then the also the extreme memory tournament you can follow along that to that's extreme memory

Awesome. No misspellings. No, nothing. Nope all spelled out. Perfect. Perfect. And we'll also put that in the show notes. So I want to wish you a really really good luck both on the next attempt on Everest. And of course on the upcoming memory games. Thank you very much. Awesome. So I hope we do keep in touch and I really it was a pleasure talking to you today.

Perfect. Likewise looking forward to talking in the future indeed. All right, and I'll send you have a great day. Cheers. You too.  Thanks for tuning into the becoming superhuman podcast for more great skills and strategies or four links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode visit w-w-w dot becoming a / podcast will see you next time.



  1. Luiz
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  2. Shivaditya Purohit
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    loved th heart and the depth of the conversation. The way that Dr. Metivier shared from his enormous experience and insights was just amazing. Thank you Jonathan for doing this podcast!! 🙂

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    Great interview with Dr. Greg Wells! He mentioned a doctor from Colorado around the 42:30 point of the podcast, discussing turmeric and black pepper. I couldn’t make out the doctor’s name. Can you provide me with his full name and maybe his website or contact info. Interested in his products.



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The Basics of Total Personal Transformation W/ Stephan Spencer