60: A Better Memory, A Better Life—Harry Lorayne

Here’s an easy one for you: would you like to meet someone, say, at a business meeting or barbeque and actually remember his or her name for more than a nanosecond? Would you like to remember a list of grocery items even if you don’t have a pen and paper with which to write it down?

Meet Harry Lorayne.

I get a lot of compliments about my memory, and I like to give credit where it’s due. Harry Lorayne’s first book, How To Develop a Super Power Memory (1957) is still, for my money, the best way to learn his system. His later book Ageless Memory: The Memory Expert’s Prescription For a Razor-Sharp Mind  (1957) incorporates many additional insights for memory improvement.

Lorayne became nationally known for his many television appearances through the years, having “done” all the television biggies, from Ed Sullivan to Jack Paar, to Johnny Carson (24 times!), to Mike Douglas to Merv Griffin, et al. His showcase piece is to meet hundreds of strangers, one after the other, and then recite everyone’s name later with perfect accuracy.

Hale and hearty at 92, Mr. Lorayne epitomizes line from Psalm 92:14, “They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.” It’s always a thrill to interview a long-time mentor, and I found myself smiling throughout the entire interview with the great man.

The personal obstacles he overcame growing up on the mean streets of the Lower East Side would flatten most people. His childhood family experiences and his early days breaking into the world of magic (and memory) performance are straight out of the Damon Runyon school of hard knocks. He lost his beloved wife Renee three years ago after 70 years of marriage. (Ponder that level of loss the next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself.)

But Harry Lorayne keeps putting one foot up, one foot down, all the way to Londontown, as the saying goes. He has at least one more book in the creative pipeline, and he still does the occasional convention lecture to magicians and others for whom he is a living legend. Not bad for someone who grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia and crippling boyhood shyness.

I have a half dozen of his books, but few more interesting than his autobiography, Before I Forget which his long-time pal Mel Brooks calls “a rememoir.” Talk about funny and insightful anecdotes – couples’ trips around the world with Brooks and his wife the late Anne Bancroft; things going terribly wrong during shows, and his big television break on The Jack Paar Show, thanks to writer Moss Hart, then a very big name.  (Mr. Lorayne, a self-described crier, barely manages to hold it together when recalling Hart’s kindness.)

Lorayne speaks the way he writes – quickly, crisply, clearly. His teaching style is at once compressed (he never wastes a word) and conversational (he never sounds “professorial”).

Harry Lorayne is an American original. I know you’ll enjoy this audio only conversation.

Ad multos annos, Mr. Lorayne.

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

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Question of the week:

Lorayne says that memory is just a synonym for understanding. Do you agree?

 

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