Memory matters more than ever

There’s a brand of technology enthusiasts who hail the power of “external memory.”  According to these true believers, you don’t need to bother remembering things; simply put it into Evernote, find it on Facebook/LinkedIn, or if all else fails, Google it.

This external memory is phenomenally powerful, and I rely on it constantly when I’m crafting written communications.  But it’s no substitute for the good old fashioned memory of your brain.  In fact, that old-fashioned memory matters more than ever.

In a world in which any fact can be found with one or two Google searches, simply having the answer doesn’t provide much power.  Otherwise, Alex Trebek or his Sith Apprentice Ken Jennings would rule the planet.

Instead, what matters is being able to place facts in context.  Things like pattern matching and storytelling are the key to persuading others.  The people who can use their experience and memory to do this kind of context creation in real-time are vastly more persuasive.

I have a near-photographic memory.  One of my favorite parlor tricks is the ability to conjure up a story or example for pretty much any situation.  (This may be the only way in which I might ever be compared to Abraham Lincoln)  Especially in startup situations where quick decisions are essential, being able to call up relevant examples and models from memory is a huge advantage.

Ideally, you can combine your internal and external memory for maximum effect.  When I’m being pitched over the phone, I’m constantly looking up information on a startup’s customers, technology, competitors, etc.  That way, I’m able to use my internal memory to call up leads, and my external memory to follow up on them.

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