What is your memory for

What is your memory for

What is your memory for?

Do you need a memory any longer? Certainly you must remember how to access your computer or mobile. You’d also best remember ‘Google’ even if you want to forget everything else. With the internet and Google you are equipped to answer any question, aren’t you? Well, no, it’s not as simple as that. Your memory is about much more than how to ask a question. It is about what questions to ask. That requires you to be imaginative or creative. Thinking demands memory.

Many of the processes of life work if you use them as stimulants, not if you use them as solutions. Checklists are a good example. People often use checklists to solve a problem. “What questions should I ask a senior executive I am interviewing for a major job in my business?” Sure, a checklist will give you the obvious things to explore. What it won’t do is get you thinking about what I call ‘the heart of the matter’. In the case of the interview, that is the attitude of the candidate to work, to the business, to the job s/he is being hired to do, to you. Attitude before experience, always.

Judging someone’s attitude is not just about asking a set of questions. There are more important signals than that to provide clues. What preparation has the person made to deal with whatever the subject is? Have they thought about what interests you as well as what interests them? Do they show enthusiasm for your product or service? Have they thought up a few ideas for developing what your company does? It doesn’t matter if the ideas are impractical – having them is good.

Humans are not the only species with memories. It is probable that all animals have them and that plants and trees have memories, too, though rather different from our own. For all we know stones have memories. How do species other than humans use their memories? To engage, of course. The rituals animals set up to meet and greet each other may seem very simple in relation to our rather elaborate performance. They fulfil a similar purpose of establishing basic trust.

Our memories do the same but in a more comprehensive way. As we shake hands with a new acquaintance we search, at lightning speed, through our memory for the signals we have seen in the past that resembled those we now see – and whether those signals turned out to be right or wrong. We rapidly apply the answer to provide us with what we call First Impressions. In the case of meeting someone new, the heart of the matter is trust. But we should use our recollections for more than that. Instead of ‘Can I trust this person?’ we should ask ‘Can this person trust me?’.

Whatever our connection with someone, what matters is their trust in us. What impresses another person about you? We tend to think it is our looks, dress, acknowledged achievements. These things certainly inform others. How often have you later heard of some act of bravery or perseverance a new acquaintance has performed but has told you nothing about. How impressed we are when we know about laudable behaviour never mentioned by someone we meet.

So the heart of the matter is not the crust of the pie but the contents. Time allows us to discover some relationship between the two but it will never cross the circuitry completely. Our imagination has to do that. Memory plays a big part in imagination. As a famous writer once said “The alphabet is the foundation; thoughts are your bricks”. The memories you start with are only foundations.

To build properly you must pile thought upon thought, expanding your imagination into the bizarre and the ludicrous. Only when you can laugh at the absurdity of your imaginings are you beginning to be creative. The wheel was invented by watching tree trunks roll down a mountainside. How stupid was that? Your memory is for creation. It is the solid base that supports all sorts of imagination. Exercise it, hone it, sharpen it, use it.

If you do so well you will find it is the most valuable tool you have.