I recently read Moonwalking with Einstein.
In this non-fiction book, the author, Joshua Foer, is on assignment, writing a journalistic piece on the U.S. Memory Championship. When Foer learned that most of the people competing were not in fact geniuses but average folks like himself, he wanted to learn more.
Soon, Foer finds himself among a quirky subculture of mental athletes. Foer learns how to memorize decks of cards, faces and poems through a series of mnemonic techniques.
Long story short — he adapts these practices and wins the U.S. competition less than a year later.
Tackling My Own Mind
This book got me thinking.
While I’m not particularly interested in memorizing decks of cards or long poems, I’m very passionate about expanding the capacity of my own mental bandwidth. I love reading about nootropics, solving puzzles and figuring out ways to think faster and more effectively. Where can I improve?
As we hit the gym to get our heart rate going, so too should we flex our mental muscles and workout the brain. Below are three mental workouts. If you complete them, let me know in the comments!
1. Being able to name all countries of the world.
You can use Sporcle to practice memorizing. Over the course of a couple weeks, I probably spent 5 hours practicing. I then whipped out my camera. It still took 6 tries to get it right.
2. Solving the Zebra Puzzle.
It is said that Einstein created this puzzle as a boy, and that only 2% of the population can solve it. This took around 45 minutes to work out. Can you solve it?
Let us assume that there are five houses of different colors next to each other on the same road. In each house lives a man of a different nationality. Every man has his favorite drink, his favorite brand of cigarettes, and keeps pets of a particular kind.
- The British person lives in the red house.
- The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
- The Dane drinks tea.
- The green house is on the left of the white house.
- The green homeowner drinks coffee.
- The man who smokes Pall Mall keeps birds.
- The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
- The man living in the center house drinks milk.
- The Norwegian lives in the first house.
- The man who smokes Blend lives next to the one who keeps cats.
- The man who keeps the horse lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
- The man who smokes Bluemaster drinks beer.
- The German smokes Prince.
- The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
- The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water.
The question is, Who owns the fish?
3. Solving the world’s hardest Sudoku puzzle.
Deemed the Everest of numerical games, this particular Sudoku arrangement was designed Arto Inkala, a Finnish mathematician. I don’t quite remember how long it took me to solve this. I spent 3 or 4 days picking it up and putting it down. I love Sudoku puzzles and do them frequently.
Do you do have any challenges like this? What would you recommend?