I decided to enter my first USA Memory Championship only a few months after I'd first learned it existed. This was two years before it entered the wider public consciousness after its portrayal in Joshua Foer's bestselling book Moonwalking with Einstein. Foer had written about the 2005 Championship for Slate Magazine, and in the process discovered that mastering the sport required no innate gift for memory. In 2006, he returned -- as a competitor-- and won the whole thing. I didn't know Foer's story at the time, and had yet to read his book, but I did know that anyone could win the Championship with enough practice.
Then my grandmother passed away from Alzheimer's disease. She had been suffering from the disease for a number of years prior, but the shock and grief cut right through me as if I never knew the disease would eventually take her. In the midst of that troubling moment, I searched for, and found, a purpose to my own life. I thought to myself, could I beat back this disease that had taken my grandmother's mind and then the rest of her? Could I make my mind not only sharper but healthier?
So, I trained. For hours a day, I practiced for each event in the memory championships. I hit plateaus and had to find ways to break through. My goal was to be the very best, and I knew I had to put in hard work to get there. That year (2010), I came in third. Read the rest