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Change of pace, folks. This one will not seek to comfort the afflicted or afflict the comfortable. This one will offer solid self-improvement. Thanks, Rick Perry. for proving that you’re human enough to forget the name of your horse in midstream.

The patient says, “Doc, it’s my memory. Something comes into my head and goes right back out.” “How long has this been going on?” asks the doctor. “How long has what been going on?” asks the patient.

OK. Almost everything from now on is true.

When I was 17 my parents attended a “memory” seminar and bought the book. I read it and my life got a permanent lift. I’ll describe what I can do. I will then teach you how to do it. Call out 20 things you want me to remember in any order. I can do more, but 20 makes the point. You take notes. I don’t need them. You may, for example, call out, “5: Carbon dioxide. 12: Ottoman Empire.” Then tell me how you want them repeated – 1 through 20, 20 down to 1, 10 down to 1 and then 11 up to 20? Or, would you rather call out numbers at random, let me give you the item and stop when you’re ready, and I’ll tell you which numbers you haven’t called for yet?

It looks magic, but it’s as simple as a card trick. You develop a list of “key” words; 20 is all you’re likely to need in real life. My key words, 1 through 10, are alarm clock, pants, stool, table, newspaper, car, policeman, revolving door, mailbox, post office window. You then make a link between your key word and your memory target. Make it vivid and ridiculous; the more absurd the better. My key word No. 5 is “newspaper.” My memory target: “carbon dioxide.” I just imagine some strange climatic condition that – poof! – turns all newspapers into carbon dioxide and they float away. “Twelve” to me is “elevator.” Target: “Ottoman Empire.” Imagine something like our side lucking out and winning World War I because all the leaders of the Ottoman Empire got trapped in an elevator in Istanbul.

I never need “notes” when making a speech, or a shopping list or a list of the six things I have to do that day or the eight reasons why I deserve a raise. I want to concentrate my gaze on the bridge of my boss’ nose; not on some foolish scribblings. Public speakers never learn that whosoever pulls out those dreary “notes” at the podium is automatically penalized half the distance to the goal. Not I. It’s all “there”! You may invent your own list of key words, as many as you like.

The only politician who had a worse “forgettery” than Rick Perry was the clubhouse hack who was introducing the guest-of-honor at the annual banquet. You’d think the honoree was the greatest man who’d ever lived, as the hot air from the speaker’s introduction almost made the dining room gain altitude. “This man I’m about to introduce has never gone more than five minutes in his life without asking himself, ‘Who can I help now? How can I make their lives better?’ This man honors us by coming here to accept our honor. Generous. Selfless. A pure living saint walking amongst us.”

At that point he realized to his horror he’d forgotten the name of the man he was supposed to introduce!

How did he escape?

He upped the energy and intensity of his praise almost to the breaking point. “If you folks only knew half, a quarter, a pitiful fraction of all the great things this man has done for us …” He then started choking back tears. Through sobs he started almost wailing, “This man … this man … Oh, my God! All the hospitals. All the libraries …!”

At that point he “collapsed.” “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can’t continue. I’m too emotional!”

He then sank into his seat and smothered his face in a napkin. Another hack added the name.

Memory is no joke. More than once a day a highway patrolman has to stop a male motorist to tell him he forgot his wife at a rest stop 65 miles to the rear. (It is NOT true that many of those men then say, “Thank God. I thought I’d gone deaf!”)

The two senior men were walking ahead of their senior wives. One was extolling the wonderful memory course he and his wife had just taken. “You learn to associate what you already know with what you’re trying to remember,” he explained.

“What’s the name of the course?” asked his friend. “Ah,” he said. “You’re giving me a chance to show off what I’ve learned. What’s the name of the flower, usually red, that has those sticky things on the stem?” “Rose!” said his friend. “Ahh, great!” said the new memory expert. “That’s right. A rose.”

He then turned around to his wife and said, “Rose! What’s the name of that memory course we took?”

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