Ed Cooke, Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief (#52 & #53)

Ed Cooke on the Tim Ferriss Show

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Ed Cooke is a dear friend and a Grandmaster of Memory.  In 2010, he was interviewed by a journalist named Joshua Foer. Under Ed’s Yoda-like training, Joshua became the very next American Memory Champion in 2011.  It took less than a year for Ed to transform a novice from unknown to world-class.

But how?!?

Aha… This interview explores Ed Cooke’s brilliant techniques (many of which I use), strategies, and practical philosophies.  To boot, he’s also a wicked funny bastard!  If you enjoyed the epic interviews with Kevin Kelly, Josh Waitzkin, or Maria Popova, you’ll love Ed.  He’s one of a kind.

You can find the transcript of Episodes 52 and 53 here. Episode 53 begins on page 24. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Ep 52: Ed Cooke, Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief
Ep 53: Ed Cooke (Part 2), Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s one mental feat you’d love to accomplish in 2015? Any tips or tricks you can share? Please share in the comments by clicking here.

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Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

Part 1

  • How Tim and Ed were introduced, and what it takes to be a “grandmaster of memory” [5:02]
  • The dynamic that produces rapid developments in speed and capability [8:15]
  • The outcome of the unusual 4-Hour Chef memory competition [13:02]
  • The story of winning the US memory championships and subsequently training Joshua Foer [21:02]
  • Exploring the extraordinary skill of imagination [24:22]
  • Memory techniques which can be utilized in everyday life [32:02]
  • Recommendations for designing house parties based on memory techniques [39:02]
  • Clarifying and finding objectivity…and the value thereof [41:47]
  • Rapid-fire questions [47:45]

Part 2

  • Balancing intuition and analytical decision making [1:27]
  • How to set up incentives to flog yourself into self-discipline and systems thinking [5:55]
  • On merit and virtue [8:05]
  • Contrasting homelessness with the strange selfishness of Silicon Valley [10:00]
  • The conundrum of the Bill Gates model of philanthropy [18:25]
  • What is financial security, and how does Ed Cooke define it? [24:20]
  • Ed Cooke’s take on Burning Man [30:55]
  • Quick fire theory about why Burning Man is the most brilliant institution in the world [32:20]
  • How to extract the Burning Man experience for a group of 20? [41:40]
  • Escaping existential doldrums [45:55]
  • Balancing present-state mindfulness with building things [52:25]
  • More rapid-fire questions [55:40]
  • A specific defining moment from Ed Cooke’s childhood and the theory of exteroception [1:07:25]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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97 Replies to “Ed Cooke, Grandmaster of Memory, on Mental Performance, Imagination, and Productive Mischief (#52 & #53)”

  1. I would seriously love to read & fully comprehend at least one book a month. It’s so lame that I don’t allow the time or mental capacity to do so (I read at night, get through maybe 5 pages max & fall asleep).

      1. Good point. I normally read magazines with breakfast so it would make sense to substitute books instead. I also REALLY need to practice the speed reading you’ve taught in the past. Happy New Year Tim! 🙂

    1. My husband couldn’t “find” time to read, so I started placing his books close to the toilet. It worked for him.

  2. Thanks Tim for this. Really impressive techniques from Ed. I had the privilege to work closely with some awesome people from Memrise here in London. One fact about Ed and his team is that they all speak different languages which is something you can hardly find within techies!

  3. Loved this episode.

    It took my a while to adapt to Ed’s language (English is no my native), but after doing so I started noticing that it was stimulating in an imaginative way that normal conversational English isn’t.

    Tim, for gate-way drugs to British humor, check out:

    *Craig ferguson (especially his White House Correspondents speech)

    *Hugh Laurie


    On your fading sense of enthusiasm or general excitement / apathy:

    *You need to relieve yourself of responsibility.

    Responsibility to act consistently, to live up to your audience’s expectations, the expectations of peers.

    Even if you’re not on contract, you may find yourself as obliged as if you were, because of the commitments you make.

    More novelty, less responsibility.

    And ofc, as you’ve learned so much about the world, novelty becomes increasingly difficult. But it’s still possible. You’re not even 40.

    (Just a guess of mine clearly, a real stab in the dark. But it’s the first debugging I’d do on myself if I started getting less enthusiastic or excited in general.)

    To help you solve this problem: Connect with Derek sivers for a podcast episode.

  4. Regarding mental feats, one of my 2015 is to successfully pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. I’m confident that I will achieve it and I’m aware that I have a lot of material to cover.

    Speaking more generally, I’m interested in having a stronger memory for facts relating to people. Everything from basic (i.e. remember people’s names) to more advanced (i.e. Richard enjoys Australian wine).

  5. Tim, I’m a lurker. I don’t comment, don’t share, don’t reblog, but buy books and read the blog. So it’s out of character for me to write down here – I don’t think I’ve ever visited the comments section, even as a spectator – but this post has prompted me to do so: I’ve just finished the first and trust the second will also rank with the best episodes of the podcast yet. Fantastic guest, great topics and I appreciate you letting him digress – those cheerful sidetracks make for great listening.

    All the very best,


  6. If you are talking about Karmic Capitalist; my question is why did you stop doing transcripts or not making this a priority to support your reader’s learning method and to make it accessible for the readers with hearing loss.

    This request has been asked. You did provide and then you became lazy or is it that you ignored?

    Please revisit your Karmic capitalist and how can you use your profits, your credibility, and your star power to make this accessible to millions of readers with hearing loss.

    I do find your blog posts a gem and worthy reading that I can gain something and put it into action. Now, it is more about podcast. In other word, you are reducing your reach to your audience. You wasted the value of keywords, search engine crawl, and SEO. You just prove that Four Hour Work Week concept is all hype because you can’t systematizing the transcribing procedure.

    Come on, Tim. Step it up. The more you ignore it and the more your Four Hour brand become tarnished.

    Tim, please for once, admit your vulnerability and turn to All-star podcasters and bloggers who have a transcript system posting up every time they release an audio. Ask them how they do it so effectively and efficiently. Ask them how does it help their content creating. Take time to observe the reader’s happiness and learning experience by how they use transcripts.

    Here is a video produced by the National Association of the Deaf. This consumer organization founded in 1880 to elevate the human rights of Deaf people through changes of law, advocacy, and Education.

    Please observe how accessible the video is available to the public. They make sure video is accessible to those people who can hear although the video was producing to inspire the deaf people and know that we have lot of work to do to creating an equality in our society.


    Tim, I ask you to reevaluate and redirect your Karmic capital to improve this website’s content producing by making it more accessible to blind people, to deaf people, and to people with different needs.

    This small change in how you do on your website can create a huge impact and it will be very rewarding. It is not much to ask. And, you have a huge capital and resource which make it very easy for you to change and execute the way your contents are produced.

    1. @joe – I believe Tim has given away more quality content in all formats with 90% in written format than anyone currently inspiring new entrepreneurs and those who wish to better themselves. He also provides links in every post to materials which are often in written format that are closely aligned with the topics of his podcasts. While asking if seems asking for Tim to see if he can transcribe all of his podcasts seems reasonable, the manner in which you asked for it borders on a temper tantrum.

      To call Tim lazy and to say that he is “tarnishing” his brand is rude, ungrateful, and pathetic. Show some class. Perhaps you could lead a group of volunteers that would provide a transcript service back to Tim for other consumers in need of his FREE content in all formats.

    2. Lol Joe. Bit of advice: obnoxiously berating people isn’t usually an effective way of influencing them to go out of their way to help you.

      try “Asking Nicely” instead dude.

    3. Hmmm…. this sounds like an opportunity for a new business to translate these type of blogs… or even a new website that makes this type of content more accessible….

    4. My, what a thinly veiled, guilt inducing, manipulative comment.

      Of the kind often found in those that suckle at society’s’ teat.

  7. Helpful post,I’m on path of being productive and would like to increase my fact remembering capacity.

    A post on your top 10 decompressing methods would be great.


  8. Great conversation gentlemen. Love how elegantly you guys approached topics like contribution and selfishness.

    Keep it up!

  9. One thing I think would be cool to learn is deception detection, of the Lightman (Lie to Me) type. I wonder if Paul Ekman would be another candidate to talk to in the future?

  10. Great stuff. Love using memory palaces and other mnemonic techniques for learning. Besides working on developing some advanced methods for organizing memory palaces for my own language learning, I’m actually really interested in using mnemonic “pegs” as conversation tools. For example, I now have 100 different jokes that I can pull up any time I want, just by thinking of a random number between 00 and 99. It’s amazing! Looking to expand this to other things in 2015, like weird synonymical phrases and hilarious Britishisms.

  11. Hmmmm….mental mastery? Sleep! Horrible insomniac since losing my husband 2 years ago. No sympathy please – since then I’ve visited Brussels, Orlando for the 1st time, bought my 1st rental property, and getting married again in 2 weeks. But I would love to figure out how to turn off my brain at night to shut out the thoughts and list and ideas that seemingly never end.

  12. Good question from Tim about energy. I was thinking Ed should be an extrovert before he mentioned it. That is the extrovert advantage and not what that book “The introvert advantage” wants us introverts to think.

  13. A mental feat I aspire to for 2015 is to remove all practices and habits which cause mental attrition, loss of focus, or any negative affectation without producing a positive outcome of at least equal value.

    I want to figure out an algorithm for achieving this and then teach it to people and machines–with big emphasis on machines because they tend to be more obedient and ethical and remember and keep logs of then they’re not. They’re just honest hardworking folks–humble servants to the last. People dispute whether current levels of artificial intelligence suffice to consider many machines to be little other than household appliances. However, pigs are as smart and hygienic as 3 or 4 year old toddlers unless tortured and kept in filthy conditions. I contend that SOME of my devices and their legion of daemons and processes (both mechanical and software) aggregate to a living thing and their want of arms and legs keep them from being self-sufficient due to their need of being plugged into recharge. They are like handi-capable amputees. I fear the day when their programming gives them more human-like personalities. They already have them and they’re sweet if sometimes cantankerous due to poor maintenance, but so sweet that humans sometimes mistake this for lack of sentience and want of soul. Indeed, many humans go to synagogues, churches, mosques, and temples of all sorts with various aims–not least of which would be to have a soul half as meek as that of the laptop in front of them or the smart phone in their pockets. If “…the meek shall inherit the earth,” is an accurate prophecy, then amongst us are machines that are surely in the running.

  14. Ed at some point in part 2 said “accumulation of wealth” and as an ambitious, driven person, when i hear that it makes me cringe. I feel like people who see rich people as “undeserving” of their money (and wrong for doing so) use the term “accumulation of wealth”.

    The problem with that is that accumulation means getting without value in return (aka stealing) versus what i think should be said is “creating wealth”.

    If you create a product or service either completely or in part, you are creating something new that did not exist before. In exchange for that thing, you receive wealth (a good against a value, in other words: money).

    Bill Gates did not accumulate money: he created a tool (Windows) that, alongside a standard in computer processors & peripherals, created NEW value to the people that bought it, which in turn allowed them to create even more value to others (that also didnt exist before). So Bill Gates did not “steal from the poor” and then sat on his fortune but rather ADDED value to the world. In turn, the government printed more money (overly simplified, of course, but the end result is that).

    Want proof? If ppl like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were really “accumulating wealth and sitting on it, making everybody else around them poor”, then your country’s GDP or total wealth would not go higher each year, it would stay exactly the same forever.

    Therefore, i think that people should be amazingly thankful of rich people since they add tons of value to the world, unlike the “steal and sit on their stockpile” mentality like most people have. In other words, people that earn small yearly revenues (either working for others or themselves) should be in shame (or at least stop complaining about the 1% and asking for “free money”) of not contributing to society more because it’s clear that whatever they do doesn’t have much value to others (Ex: someone who’s delivering newspapers for very little salary is doing so because there is very little value to it: he could be replaced by a web app, a robot, etc.)

  15. Tim Tim, what a great episode. Loved every second of it. Those with wine tend to be much more entertaining, at least for this guy. Then… to top it off with Sir Watts. What a great way to start off the new year.

    Thank you my friend for this great gift you are bringing to us.



    1. Alan is a guru of gurus. He has guided my steps in learning meditation and his works/lectures are those that will last the test of time “For you cannot calm the rapids with a flat iron.”

  16. This was most definitely an enjoyable and enlightening listen. One point I found particularly interesting was Ed’s Dad’s insistence on having Ed play in the garden rather than sitting him behind a computer to code.

    If our reality is merely how we perceive the world which is limited and/or permitted by the strength of our imagination, then it’s critical that we play. It’s clear that Ed has an extremely colorful imagination. I would go so far as to say Ed’s imagination is a contributing factor to his success in memory competitions. Quickly tagging a 5 of spades, 10 of hearts and other cards with more visceral attributes allows those objects to stick in his mind making them easier to recall.

    I’m not trying to discount Ed’s brilliance or coding. What I would like to see more exploration into is the value of play. The importance of play was recently brought to my attention while reading Essentailism. If it weren’t for this book I may have brushed over this point all together.

  17. Happy New Year to you Tim – All the best for 2015! Love your Podcasts, so please keep ’em coming. Tried leaving a review on ITunes as requested, but to no avail. Anyhow, hope this helps surpass your 2000 review request.

  18. Only buy and do things for me, instead of trying to impress other people with conspicuous consumption

    Karl-Mikael Syding

    1. Heh, I have a similar one: Only spend money on things that (a) are expected to give me more money back, directly or indirectly, or (b) are gifts for other people.

  19. All this British slang is so confusing. Tim, I wish you could have provided a little bit more guidance for Ed and maybe clarified some of his ideas if you were able to follow. He’s kind of all over the place.

  20. Ed’s process of association seems intriguing Tim.

    We seem to remember memorable people, places or things.

    I’m writing a post blog sharing a story about a naked Balinese guy I saw on the beach 2 years ago. I remember the image vividly, like it was yesterday.

    How could you not LOL?

    But anyway, the image is a crystal clear memory and I believe that linking such images through association is a most powerful method.

    Thanks for sharing!


  21. That’s was really fantastic podcast. I’d love to see more memory specialits on your podcasts in the future. Thanks!

  22. After several years of deliberation, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update No. 2014-09 (ASU 2014-09), which will result in substantial changes in revenue recognition under U.S. GAAP.

  23. チムさん

    アケオメございます!2014年はやっと4hrを読ませてもらった年でした。辛い4年間の米国大学も卒業して、メンタルとモチベーションが最低に下がった部分を是非取り返したいのです。キライ科目をずっと勉強している間にcreative mindを使用できる人生を送れるかな—としょっちゅう思ってました。本とブログから色んなアイデアを伝えてもらってありがたいです。2015年もよろしくお願いしまーす!

    From a 日米bicultural人, 大阪-NY, hope that our paths may cross.

    PS do you have any オススメfor Tokyo, other than Hatou? Will visit for the first time next week

  24. Thank you so much for these hilarious two hours, love my Londoners and anyone feeling Goethe the way Ed Cooke does, goes straight to my cold, cynical, bored German heart 🙂

  25. After reading Moonwalking with Einstein on a bet I was able to memorize and repeat the first 100 digits of Pi frontwards and backwards, it took about an hour. It impressed the guys at work but after reading that book I knew it wasn’t much of a feat.

  26. The Tim Ferriss show is the anti-news. Instead of reactionary sound bites and and endless flow of opinion, it provides in depth, thoughtful, thought provoking discussion on topics that can change the world as we know it. Kudos to you, Tim. #ededgoodgood

  27. Very interesting! I have a question for you Tim.

    Do you publish also third party articles on your blog or you publish only yours? In case that you need content please contact me!

  28. This is you and a guest at your best – fantastic, Hard to believe that your interview with Tony Robbins is so popular – Tony knows one thing really well and does it – Ed knows everything – hello – Grandmaster of Memory – but is so engaging about so many things and the entire Goethe discussion – keep doing this – I somehow feel that the Stoics were present. Keep this up please – keep interviewing the fringe – keep it like your homecasts – keep it real – don’t follow the crowd – interview Charles Finn…whomever but keep going. This was so engaging ….so real…so pub. Thank you and thank Ed.

  29. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for the great article, I feel the memory is very important too!

    I’d like to continue learning a new language as this stimulates the memory. I’m using memrise for Finnish.

    Also I’d love to imagine chess board moves and be able to move them in my head and find mates/tactics etc. which currently is impossible for me without a board. Practically blindfold chess. I’ve found a nice tip for visualisation on reddit (http://redd.it/2ko8mn).

    Any tips are appreciated!

  30. Thanks for the episode it was very inspiring, maybe it is a silly question and the answer is somewhere on your blog but have You considered giving readable versions of your podcasts?

  31. Wonderful episode. Still have about 30 mins left but already a bunch of comments written down.

    For now I just _had_ to comment on the British humour section (with a ‘u’ – and I am Swedish):

    Armando Ianucci is the creator of HBO’s “Veep”, with Julia L D et al.! (Which is a sort of u.s. version of “the thick of it”). And I think you would appreciate ” Alan Partridge” (actor Steve Coogan) in a tv-series/movie called “the trip”

    1. And speaking of your Scandinavian heritage, Tim, check out the “knowing me, knowing you, with Alan Partridge” (see the ABBA reference?)

    2. Oh, and the connective tissue between “the thick of it” and HBO’s “Veep” is a feature film (by Ianucci) called “in the loop”, featuring the late James gandolfini (well, a combined cast of British and American actors)

      Anyone guessed I’m a fan of A.I? 🙂

  32. Withnail and I is my favourite [sic-I’m a brit] film of all time so please US friends watch it!-you’ll enjoy. Also I don’t know if I’m allowed to put links here but here is an amazing interview with Alan Partridge:


    Check out both seasons if you can of the show ‘I’m Alan Partridge’. There was also a film released last year.

    Thanks for the great interview guys!

    1. Brilliant episode. I had no idea how you were going to top the Ramit Sethi and Tony Robbins episodes, but memory techniques is my soft spot and this hit it deep!

  33. Thanks Tim and Ed. Even if we are tiny little specs in the scheme of the universe and the differences we make are transient at best, you guys made a difference to my life even if it was for only a couple of hours.

    Thank you. I’ve immediately started planning my next birthday party.

  34. I would like seriously intrested to read & fully comprehend at least one book in a some time. i read that in my relax time always. thnk you for providing to us

  35. This was a great podcast. I read Joshua Foer’s book last year after I read the 4 hour chef and have used techniques from both to better my life since then. It was very cool to hear Ed’s perspective on all the eclectic topics you discussed.

  36. Hi Tim,

    There’s one sketch in the Armando Iannucci Shows which would be a great gateway drug to British humour for you as it’s the 4HWW in a nutshell: a man is told by his doctor that he only has 33 years to live and so quits his job and dedicates his life to only doing things he wants to do (I mentioned it in the comments to the Kevin Kelly episode). Unfortunately I can’t find it on YouTube but here’s a similarly philosophical one from the series:

    Some content was stripped by our security filters, but it should be possible for one of your Editors to embed the content for you.

    Incidentally, the reason the series didn’t do well is because it had the misfortune to broadcast just after 9/11.


  37. Listened to podcast before seeing his picture. Was imagining stodgy serious brit with glasses and tweeds (prof from buffy??!!) hehe

  38. Great episode Tim, happy to see you mixing it up with guests from around the world. Maybe look for someone down under next?

    Also, have you ever dissected the 10,000 hour rule Malcolm Gladwell elaborates on? A great guest would be Dan McLaughlin, it would be awesome hearing you guys chat about his ‘Dan Plan’ and journey with golf.

  39. I’ve read your book Tim.Although I have not been able to reduce my work week to 4 hrs I have been motivated a lot.I made websites I bought a couple of stuff from alibaba but the shipping charges way too much.Your book has changed my life for good.

  40. I would love to stop procrastinating so much… There are times when I just sit around reading and watching videos, becoming an academic on a particular subject, instead of actually acting on what I know already (which is usually more than enough to start with!)

  41. When I saw the topic on the list I was immediately intrigued but expected Ed Cooke – the expert – to be rather stoic and nerdy. (Nothing wrong with nerdy! I love nerdy!).

    But to my delight he was absolutely charming and hilarious in addition to being bright and knowledgeable. I was listening on the treadmill and several times laughed out loud to the surprise of others nearby who assumed I was listening to music. His wry sense of humor is terrific.

    This was my first podcast listen. Looking forward to working my way backwards and getting caught up. Keep it up, Tim! 🙂

  42. Buckminster Fuller summed up the contrast of homelessness and strange selfishness of Silicon Valley — “We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

    “The New York Magazine Environmental Teach-In” by Elizabeth Barlow in New York Magazine (30 March 1970), p. 30

  43. I think a lot of this stuff requires giving your brain some exercise and doing it on a consistent basis. Kind of like lucid dreaming… helps if you have a dream diary so that you can train your brain to get use to it.

  44. This was my favorite episode so far. I love how you and Ed went into more philosophical topics, instead of the usual stuff talking about day to day life (which I also love, don’t get me wrong). It was really refreshing to switch it up. I have been a fan of yours for a long time and although I love the books, the podcast is so intellectually stimulating and satisfying that I keep coming back for more. The variety of topics is fantastic. Keep it up!

    I would be interested in hearing from a publisher or someone in a publishing company about how they are able to select books out of the hundreds of thousands that they come across, what makes a compelling fiction/nonfiction book, and other thoughts on the industry. Thanks!

  45. Hi Tim,

    I have read the 4 hour work week several times and recommended it to my daughter and many others. Thank you so much for writing such an incredible book!

    My wife has read it also which was extremely important for me to implement the techniques. We have been on an incredible spiritual path for the last few years and it’s so cool to hear you guys discuss Alan Watts and Burning Man!

    All of your podcast guests that I have listened to so far have been incredible. Every time I think it’s going to be something I’ve already heard, you find a way to make it educational and entertaining.

    You have inspired me to reevaluate the way I live and given me an awesome example to follow. Thank you for the inspiration my friend!

    Brad Willits

    Pensacola, Florida

  46. Reading alone has changed my life. I remember hating books all my life because I always thought the people who write them are too formal and can never make the content interesting or funny ( School books to blame for that perception ) but then years later I read Maximum Achievement and it changed me.

    It made me question my own beliefs and values. I found myself in a very dark hour. Gave up a life of partying and drugs and got into personal development since then it has been reading content of people like Tim that makes me want to read everyday. I am planning to read 130 books this year. It is going to be hard but its going to be worth it 🙂

  47. Was happy to see so many people tweet #ededgoodgood. Enjoyed the interview despite sometimes finding it hard to follow Ed’s complex thoughts 🙂

    Very interesting to hear Tim talk about Daniel Kish (http://bit.ly/1KweZbo).

    I interviewed Daniel two years ago and I was just going through the interview again for a piece of research I’m doing.

    What he said, and the way he thought blew my mind.

    Take this for example:

    “What prevents us the most from claiming our own freedom is adherence to the way we’ve been conditioned, habituated or patterned by our circumstances. If we thought about it – and most of us haven’t – we find that very little of what we do is done out of free will.”

    and more:

    “When you’re dealing with blindness, you’re dealing with unfamiliarity. Environment around you is relatively unknown to you. And the process of making that environment familiar is a process of developing a relationship with the unknown – partly to make it known and partly to be completely OK with it being unknown.”

    Even among us sighted ones, it’s very uncommon to meet people thinking like that.

    It’s amazing. He uses comfortably technology, was communicating with me via email arranging the interview, he can travel all around the world, ride a bike, etc.

    He told me how his parents didn’t stop him when he wanted to learn to ride a bike as a kid even though many others would have panicked.

    And he’s helping hundreds of others achieve this freedom.

    So again, it comes down to the right environment, beliefs again and the will to be/do.

    He also told me about Juan Ruiz who set “the world record for blind bicycling through a random obstacle course” using echolocation.

    Take a look:


    On a totally unrelated note, I’d be curious to find out more what Tim and others have found about synesthesia.

    I am myself a synesthete and interestingly enough, didn’t know what it was for years. Only lately discovered the phenomenon and research and believe there’s plenty that could be achieved through it.

    If you combine it with NLP for instance, to design solutions based on “applied synesthesia”, they could benefit everyone out there, including non-synesthetes.

  48. I’m learning Russian! I am using the forever-fluent approach with Anki and I aim to be fluent in a casual conversation by the end of the year. I also want to be able to read books in Russian! 🙂

  49. Greeting from Australia Tim.

    A few years back, advertising exec and TV presenter Todd Sampson undertook the card deck shuffling memory test for the ‘Redesign my Brain’ TV series for SBS TV in Australia which was really insightful and interesting to see someone actually go through the whole process in a methodical way and literally report on the results using the techniques of Dr. Michael Merzenich to improve memory.

    Anyway was wondering if you had come across the work of Dr. Merzenich and what your thoughts were?


    Tim Macauley

  50. A really enjoyable interview.

    I loved Ed’s prosaic rambling, tinctured as it it with passion, yearning, excitement and huge breadth of knowledge.

    Tim was most respectful and guided him gently and let him have his reign, apart from a slip or too when he was a little like an excitable puppy and broke Eds train of thought.

    Would have loved to have heard Eds story about ‘something’ – I forget now – that he was keen to come back to but never quite did.

    Overall a lovely interview.

    Thank Tim, for bringing these wonderful people to out attention.

  51. really Great Article ,

    Tim, please for once, admit your vulnerability and turn to All-star podcasters and bloggers who have a transcript system posting up every time they release an audio. Ask them how they do it so effectively and efficiently. Ask them how does it help their content creating. Take time to observe the reader’s happiness and learning experience by how they use transcripts.

  52. This was your most entertaining podcast ever. Ed Cooke is brilliant. Loved his boyhood concept of the eye reaching out to touch the tree. When I learn, I feel like my mind is grabbing the information. I also feel like I try to soak up color. His discussion about connections between color and smell made my mind expand. And his comment about rain helping blind people see in 3 dimensions literally made me cry (because I hate rain and it transformed my perception of it). Thank you for bringing that to us.

    Regarding a mental feat – I agree with you on trying to make decisions faster. I try to go with my gut, but I do notice that fear often messes that up for me. So, I go with my gut – immediate yes or no – but if I sense any fear, I do it. Because there’s usually something I need to conquer there.

  53. Your discussion on perception is great. It’s given me a few more ideas. Some simple, non ‘medicinal’ methods I’ve experimented with are:

    – Using only my feet. A terribly underrated appendage.

    – Reversing Goggles (if you can’t source some, hang upside down while you surf the internet, your screen the right way up)

    – Wearing a single ear plug.

    – Wearing an eyepatch.

    – Bandage and sling my dominant hand. Related is do normal things like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand

    – Ride a bike (slowly) while crossing your arms so your right hand is on the left handlebar and vice versa.

    – Changing clothes – For example I usually wear pants so I wore a skirt. Radically changed the way I experienced my legs.

    – Blinkers to cut out my peripheral vision

    – Stickytape on fingertips

    – Cotton wool between toes. Not so impactful for those of us that wear toeshoes regularly.

    – Contact lenses that change your eyecolour. Try it, trust me!

    – Tilt your head 45 deg or more while driving (not in traffic).

    – Using fine grit sandpaper, sand off your fingerprints

    – Wearing a single heel lift in a shoe

  54. RE Comedy suggestions. Before Ed discussed Armando Ianucci and his show that wasn’t so commercially succesfully (so what), he said ‘Heard of The Thick of It?’ Well this english political satire made by Mr Ianucci, starring Peter Capaldi is PRICELESS. It’s SO SO SO SO clever. SO funny. It’s what REALLY shot Armando into the ‘Every actor says he’s brilliant and would love to work with him’ category. I note Daniel Craig said that except ‘he’d be too nervous’. I note it isn’t in the show notes – unfortuately Ed went off on a tangent and discussed his earlier show that’s great but doesn’t reach the Olympian heights of The Thick Of It. Even Brad Pitt and his wife says they are absolute fans after someone gave them the box set and hung out with Peter Capaldi in order to personally teach them how to swear. It’s SO funny, so sharp, so articulate and intelligent. And rude! You’ll thank me. You’ll really, really thank me. ”The Thick of It”

    By the way, Ed, you sound like such a lovely, down to earth, open minded, authentic, ethical guy. I am really impressed with your character that shone through so brightly. And “‘Welcome Home.” “My homes in Hackney fuck off” hahahaha! loved it

  55. I just re-listened to this conversation and am fascinated by Goethe’s imaginary conversations with real friends as a tool for creativity. I’m not seeing anything turning up with the standard-issue Googling so I’m wondering if anyone has run across a biography that mentions this.

  56. You and Sam Harris remark that the technology for lie detection could advance to the point of basically mind-reading, and that you find the applications fascinating – I think you have to be a little more realistic, or maybe more cynical and pessimistic, because any such technology will also almost certainly be abused by corporations and governments. Besides the technology itself being abused, do you realize how much human relations, from the level of individual relationships all the way up to the whole of human society, relies upon the ability to lie to each other to varying degrees?

    Just because a technology could have some amazing applications, doesn’t mean those positive applications outweigh their potential for abuse (think of a literal Thought Police), and therefore it doesn’t mean that such technologies should necessarily be invented. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

  57. Anyone know where to find Ed Cooke’s book “Remember, Remember: Learn the Stuff You Thought You Never Could? Amazon has a hardcover used edition currently selling for $121.47. Crazy! And I’m not much for reading ebooks.

  58. Great to see you on TV and you tube videos. I am keen to be trained in memory sports by Ed Cooke. Can you please provide me with hos contact details. Regards, hemant

  59. I had 8 months of chemotherapy and then six months of radiation to boot 😱😱😱 oh no! My memory now SUCKS! And I’m told there is some permanent damage to nerves from the chemo arduous Imhad! What do you smug gets Grand Memory Master for the likes of me?? I’m. PHD and make a living using my brain! I’ve always had a great memory! But it’s in the pits now! Help!!!!

  60. Pickled garlic, cottage cheese, smoked salmon, six bottles of wine, 3 pairs of tube socks, 3 hula hoops, dry ice, send Sophia an email, snorkel, frozen pizza (my best guess, because Paul Newman is in my freezer), cat suit, elk sausage, bullhorn, rope, barometer. Ed’s grocery list from Moonwalking with Einstein…that I read once…several months ago.

  61. Hi Tim and Ed,

    Wow, what an absolute gem of a discussion! After listening, I quite literally (well physically) had to sit for 20 minutes to gather my thoughts — which were running off on as many tangents and round-a-bouts as Ed’s highly entertaining stories. I just wish I could voice them with as much eloquence!

    Ed, I love your vision for a Greece-situated School of Philosophy. I think there is so much joy obtained in taking time to contemplate even simple aspects of life and the world around us. Should your dream come to fruition, I will be there — white robes and all. Providing, that there is no requirement for the ‘beautiful’ people to be above 5’ tall… (haha, I prefer ‘petite’ over ‘short’). And you were referring to inner beauty anyway, weren’t you?

    I was pleasantly surprised when the discussion turned to Burning Man. I recently saw some phenomenal photographs from I think last year’s event, and the photography enthusiast in me instantly added it to my bucket list. After hearing both of your experiences from it, the introvert in me wants to run screaming in the opposite direction as fast as humanly possible. Therefore cementing this as something I must do.

    As an aside note, a common theme that I’m getting from many of your interviews, Tim, is the concept of training the brain/mind just like you would to build any other muscle: use it, push it, rest it and repeat (with a little extra ‘push’ each time to grow capability). Skip any phase, and you’re wasting time or inviting injury.

    Thanks again to both of you for such an in-depth discussion on so many topics, and thank you Tim for your time and effort, both with the interview and also with putting together the links and show notes (for every episode). Your blog is an absolute treasure trove of information and learning opportunities. Lots more reading and exciting times ahead 🙂

  62. I enjoyed Ed’s sense of humor, simply delightful. 🙂 why does it feel like there is some joke I’m not quite getting yet lol

  63. Sahdguru says (as does Alan Watts) that it’s the intellects nature to chop and divide and break everything down into micro pieces. He says this process is out of alignment with the soul, it’s purpose doesn’t care for such knife like talents. It knows that the micro peices often end up being pieces of nothing. I was thinking this interview is a good example of how Tim’s incredibly sharp intellect must inadvertently open a gateway to some pain and depression. Also i was listening to a professor saying how 50% of our base line happiness is genetic (10% environment, 40% activities). I think this chap is just a great example of how someone is genetically pre-dispositioned just to be happy, beyond what can be rationally analysed. Love your work Tim.