Learning & MemoryPodcast

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:

Jonathan

Jonathan

Jonathan Levi is an experienced entrepreneur and angel investor from Silicon Valley.

After successfully selling his Inc 5,000 rated startup in April of 2011, Levi enlisted the help of speed-reading expert and university professor Anna Goldentouch, who tutored him in speed-reading, advanced memorization, and more. Levi saw incredible results while earning his MBA from INSEAD, and later went on to teach a best-selling online course on the subject. With this unique skill, he has become a proficient lifehacker, optimizing and "hacking" such processes as travel, sleep, language learning, and fitness.