Nelson Dellis is a 4x USA Memory Champion and one of the leading memory experts in the world, traveling around the world as a competitive Memory Athlete, Memory Consultant, Published Author and highly sought-after Keynote Speaker. As a Memory Champion, Mountaineer, and Alzheimer’s Disease Activist, he preaches a lifestyle that combines fitness, both mental and physical, with proper diet and social involvement.
You say you were born with an average memory. How did you decide to become a national memory champion?
My memory is something I trained on my own starting about 10 years ago, after my grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Seeing her memory deteriorate was heartbreaking. I wanted to see what I could do now so that the same thing wouldn’t happen to me.
What is the most helpful tip for someone interested in expanding their memory?
Try to image the thing you want to memorize as a bizarre image in your head. If you’re trying to memorize a grocery list—milk, for example, picture a cow spraying milk all over the place through her utters. We remember pictures than words. What memory comes down to is all the different strategies to help you store, organize and remember all the different kinds of information that come your way. That’s what my book “Remember It!” is all about—helping people build a vast tool set of strategies to memorize all the day-to-day practical things.
You are an avid mountain climber and have even started Climb for Memory, a nonprofit that raises awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease research through mountain climbs all around the world. What is the reasoning behind linking these two aspects of your life?
At first memory and climbing seem like two very disparate things, but they actually have a lot in common. Mountaineering involves a lot of focus and mental gymnastics so that you keep moving in situations where your body is screaming for air and exhausted. If I can train my mind to be focused under the most intimidating circumstances (26,000 feet on a mountain or in a high-stakes memory competition), then I feel like I am giving my mind the best workout it can get. Also, I just want people to pay attention to Alzheimer’s. What better way to get attention for something than taking it to the top of the world?