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Winners of the Leadership Contest Announced
by On July 31, 2008

Our Leadership Contest was one of our most popular blog posts to date with over 140 people posting their thoughts on what the central concept of being a leader is. With people from across the country weighing in with their thoughts on leadership, just scanning through the comments you can pick up many nuggets of wisdom. In fact, I felt like I was reading a book on leadership!

With so many outstanding answers, it was difficult to choose the top three. In fact, I called on some of the leaders at Freedom Personal Development to help me pick the winners. Without further ado, here are the top three answers (and some posts that deserve an honorable mention):

Grand Prize Winner of Three Free Personal Coaching Sessions
#68 – Kathy – Her response was:

To be an effective leader, you must be able to EMPOWER those who work for you. Managing and leading are completely different, and leaders must empower their managers and employees to get the job done. Leaders are responsible for empowering others (managers and all employees) to carry out the vision. Leaders should never over-manage or micro-manage, that is not their role at all.

Nice job Kathy for encapsulating what a great leader must be able to do. If you can empower those that you lead they will accomplish much more than if simply given tasks. This insight that Kathy shares with us requires the leader to know exactly what they want accomplished, understand exactly who the best person or team is to accomplish it, clearly define what they would like the result to be and then TRUST that person or team to set forth as they see fit with total ownership. The leader must be on top of their game to pull this off properly, and when they do everyone wins.

Second Place Winner of an “Expect Success” Book:
# 40 – Jeff McElroy – Jeff’s comment was:

Be clear with your intent and purpose and let all your thoughts, speech, actions, and relationships support completion of that mission to the betterment of everyone involved.

A leader with clear intentions and purpose, in all the areas that you described, has a transparency that permeates an organization or team where core values shine through and communication becomes less muddled. When people know where you stand with yourself, it is simpler for them to know where they stand with you. This idea of clean intentions keeps “politics” out of the work place as well.

Third Place Winner of a Freedom Personal Development Water Bottle:
#65 – Jeremy Gilsoul – Jeremy’s answer was:

Failure and success are both illusions. Leadership is knowing that experience both positive and negative is valuable and leads to growth. When an individual is able to let go of observing life in a failed/succeeded manner they are able to accept everything as an experience and an opportunity to continue grow and learn.

Jeremy, I totally agree with you that if leaders can let go of “success” or “failure” as “good” or “bad” they will allow those under their care be able to grow from all of their experiences. John Wooden, the legendary UCLA coach, always talks about ignoring the scoreboard, and judging the experience based on if you did your best or did you do what you were capable of given the situation. The most you can ever do is your best, great leaders understand this and use it to motivate their team through supposed “wins” and “losses”.

Winners will be contacted by email.  Watch for the August edition of our newsletter (Thursday, August 14) for another contest.

Honorable Mention:

#67 – Steve Rosberg – Clarity of purpose – in the broadest sense – is the best guide for your actions. Compromise on any issue of principle will entail lasting suffering.

#75 – Amira Elsayed – The One Concept the participants have to know and around which many other concepts revolve and derive from is that of TRUST. If You Establish trust, You Guarantee successful leadership; TRUST is the Key word. TO LEAD, is to Trust and believe in yourself and capabilities, and is to trust and believe in your Staff (and telling them you Do trust them by both words and action.) If you establish this kind of trust in yourself and with your staff, this way. You are playing successfully in a team.
So, To LEAD, is to be a team player
TO LEAD is to the friend, and the Manager
To LEAD is to Motivate all time, and Punish When necessary
To LEAD is to Listen Carefully, and Act Wisely
To be a risk taker, and rational at the same time
To be humble, but confident
To Lead is to play the roles of the PARENTS; BOTH the mother and the father
To manage to Create a Bond of LOVE which is wrapped by discipline UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF TRUST. This bond is never achieved without TRUST.

#76 – Brent Buxton – I believe the number one attribute of any leader is Integrity. As a leader you need to identify your “Moral Code” and stick to it in all situations; that is Integrity. In other words, do as you say and say as you do, or as my mother used to say, “Practice what you preach.” You will see in many of the other answers how people have identified their “Moral Code” and how they live by it. All of them are maintaining Integrity, and because of that, their answers are right on target. Whether your Moral Code includes trust, honesty, teamwork, empowerment, setting the right example or any of the other great examples listed, you must know your Moral Code and live by it at all times. Start your coaching by teaching others to maintain their Integrity at all times.

#85 – Ruth Kuehl – A true leader is a servant. When you help every one to succeed you will be successful. When building a team, getting people who have skills that exceed yours or are knowledgeable about the area that you are working on will make the team more successful. A true servant knows how to set boundaries that releases everyone on the team to do their best because you trust them. That gives them the confidence to have ideas that are not in the box. Giving credit where credit is due can bring the organization, team or business a sense of trust that releases all to do their best and have creative ideas.

#87 – Dave Meyers – The key to leadership is leading yourself. Leading yourself is the most difficult thing to master, and until you’ve done that, it’ll be very difficult to effectively lead others. What do I mean by “lead yourself?” You’re able to effectively lead yourself when you have a clear vision and direction for your own life, a clearly defined purpose for the role that you’ve assumed, and clear values that guide your decision-making process. Of course, there are many other useful concepts that a leader should know, but from my experience, I consider this to be the most important.

#97 – Christy – If you were coaching an individual on leadership, in your opinion, what is the one concept that they should absolutely know?  Understanding that our thoughts are the single most important tool we have for success. The power of our mind is limitless, and what we think literally creates what we experience in life. Our thoughts create our lives and become things. There are onlt two types of existence, one is to be a victim and the other is to be a creator of our lives. It all depends on our thoughts.

#107 – Nancy Reiser – The one thing I believe any leader needs to know is that a belief is yourself will lead you on. While you can look to others for guidance, in the end you must be willing to make the decision and believe that your decision is the right one. This alone will allow you the courage to continue your leadership journey, on to the next level. If your decision is proven wrong, you need to take some learning from the experience, and again move on.

#134 – Ken Budka – CLARITY – having a clear picture of what you are doing and why is essential in business and in life. When you are clear and can see where you are headed, the many elements of effective leadership fall into place. You communicate clearly, listen more effectively, and are able to operate with integrity and credibility much more seamlessly when you know and can illustrate the reasons why.  Quite often people have a pretty good idea of what they want and why they want it, and will be magnetically attracted to a leader who can help bring their life into focus.

#137 – Leah Strohman – Never tire of doing what is right. Leadership should not be a goal we have; rather an outcome of a life lived boldly.

Thank you to everyone who participated.

Be Free!

Eric Plantenberg

Freedom Personal Development Is Hiring!
by On July 30, 2008

Here We Grow Again!
We are looking for Exceptional Inside Sales Professionals.

Freedom Personal Development provides life-changing, professional development programs to clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to family-owned businesses. At Freedom Personal Development, we have been delivering Freedom to our clients and to ourselves for the past 10 years.

As a rapidly growing organization, we are hiring skilled individuals to deliver phone presentations to potential clients. Essentially, you will be exposing our training programs to business leaders throughout the country.

Our Core Values and Company Culture are both strong and unique. After getting to know us better during your interview process, it will be easy for you to determine whether or not we would make a good professional fit. A good place to start is by visiting our website

This opportunity is ideal for someone who wants to create a solid income AND a ton of freedom working from your home or from our headquarters in Madison, WI.

Compensation is base plus bonus- decent performers will earn $30-35,000/year, top performers over $50,000


• Have a fantastic work ethic
• Be Goal Oriented
• Be Teachable
• Live with Passion and a Positive Attitude

We do not feel these requirements are “fluff.” They are simply the way we live and the way we work. There are those that claim to possess these requirements, and there are those that exude them. Which are you? If these requirements are already a part of your life, we will be very excited to talk to you. If you think this opportunity “sounds perfect”-not for you, but for someone else-please forward this posting to them!

Talents and Skills:
The ideal candidate has these talents and skills or is extremely motivated to learn them.

• Excellent phone skills
• Desire to hear the words, “job well done!” (and you will)
• Mastery of inside sales
• Proven independence and self-discipline
• Excellent time management, goal setting and organization skills

For Immediate consideration, contact Roger Seip at or 888-233-0407 x 113

Simple Exercise to Get into the Habit of Hitting Your Goals
by On July 29, 2008

Everyone has habits. We have good habits and we have bad habits. You might not even classify some of your actions as habits, but keep this in mind: Anything that you think, say, or do more than once is becoming a habit. It is impossible to QUIT a habit. A habit must be REPLACED.

So, how do we replace a habit?  Most research today says that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 21 days to change or break a habit. This is why most people fail at changing a habit; it takes a consistent, mindful and sustained conscious effort.  Forming a habit is not 21 days over the course of a month; it is 21 days in a row. This causes us to go outside of our comfort zone for 3 weeks straight, and most of us do not like being outside of our comfort zone.  Why?  Because it is uncomfortable!

A Critical Habit – The Habit of Hitting Your Goals
One habit that gets overlooked quite often is the habit of hitting your goals or the habit of not hitting your goals. You may be in the habit of not hitting your goals and not even realize it!! Here is a simple test:

  • If you have hit your goals more often than you missed them in the past 3 months then you are probably in the habit of hitting your goals.
  • If you missed more goals than you hit in the past 3 months, then you are in the habit of missing your goals.
  • If you didn’t have any goals in the last 3 months, you need to get in the habit of creating goals!!

Take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror for this. Especially, if you are in the habit of rationalizing why you didn’t hit your goals. Goals should cause you to stretch, but if you are consistently missing your target you stop believing that you are going to do what you said you will do.  The side effects are catastrophic as you slide down the slippery slope of this habit.   Progressively, you develop new habits of not having integrity with yourself and then not having integrity with those around you.  Let’s get a new habit right away.

Simple Exercise to Get into the Habit of Hitting Your Goals
How can you apply this knowledge to your life?  Here is a simply exercise you can start today and form the habit of creating and hitting your goals. For the next 21 days, each day, set a minimum of 5 goals to accomplish by the end of the day. Get in the habit of hitting everyone of them. The goals should be super simple such as: only hitting the snooze bar once, saying “I love you” to your spouse two times before you leave the house, reading for 10 minutes before you start the work day, doing 13 push-ups before getting in the shower, answering all emails before lunch, making one cold call before 9:00….you get the idea.

The point is not to turn all of these activities into habits, in fact you should change these goalseveryday so that its fun. Don’t use things that are already in your normal routine, mix it up. The point is to have a checklist of achievable goals that you have complete control over and you can’t blame or point the finger at anyone else.

Always set each day’s goals one day in advance, for example set Monday’s goals on Sunday, not on Monday morning. Write the goals down on a piece of paper and physically check each one off upon completion. Keep each piece of paper for the entire 21 days so that you have concrete evidence that you are in the habit of hitting your goals. And when you achieve one of these small goals, make sure and congratulate yourself. Give yourself a little pat on the back.

I would love to hear feedback from you. If you attempt and complete this exercise please post a comment and let me know how it went for you.

Be Free!

Tom Weber
VP of Sales

12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back
by On July 28, 2008

Many products in the personal development field focus on what behaviors you need to acquire to accelerate your way towards success. This program, 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back, takes the opposite approach and focuses in on the habits you need replace to take your foot off the brake in the fast lane to success.

The author, James Waldroop, has spent 20 years as a business psychologist at the Harvard Business School. As culmination of his research, James has found that the behaviors that will rocket you forward in one organization will lead to disaster in another but, certain behaviors will lead to failure anywhere.

Arguing that people can learn from their failures, James focus on personal weaknesses rather than successes, identifying a dozen behaviors and attitudes that can sabotage career growth in otherwise talented individuals.

In the first section of the program, James takes you through the 12 bad habits and provides real-life accounts of clients that he has worked with, along with concrete behavior modifications that you can use to turn your challenges into opportunities. The 12 habits are:

1.  Never Feeling Good Enough
2.  Seeing The World In Black And White
3.  Doing Too Much, Pushing Too Hard
4.  Avoiding Conflict At Any Cost
5.  Heavy Handing Any Opposition
6.  Rebel Looking for a Cause
7.  Always Swinging for the Fence
8.  Fear Is in the Driver’s Seat
9.  Emotionally Tone-Deaf
10.  No Job Is Good Enough
11.  Lacking a Sense of Boundaries
12,  Losing the Path

If any of the above behaviors spoke to you in some fashion, either as something you do or something expressed by someone close to you professionally, buy this program

You will learn the psychology behind theses Achilles’ heel habits and look at real life case studies to illustrate common patterns and show the effect on organizations.  You will gain insight into how to deal with your own weaknesses as well as identifying and handling others who exhibit them.

In Part Two of the program, James takes you through the four root causes of these behaviors and assists you in approaching them from a deeper perspective so that they will be annihilated at their core.

Some of the things you will learn include how to:

  • Find a balance between your working endeavors and your personal life.
  • Prevent yourself from overworking and ultimately burning out.
  • Transform your self-sabotaging behaviors forever by getting to their root cause.
  • Make yourself indispensable in the volatile and ever-changing job market.
  • Assist your subordinates who may be struggling with career advancement.
  • Gain stronger alliances with your suppliers, staff and clients.
  • Remove your misconceptions about power so that you can step into your full potential.

This program has lots of suggestions and remedies, and the overall message is that failure can be understood if you develop insight about yourself. It’s a well done program that will work best for those who are troubleshooting their failures at work and who need some ideas about what might be going on.

Learn More at Nightingale-Conant

4 Steps on How to Manage Your Schedule Like a Business Owner – And Start Getting RESULTS
by On July 25, 2008

Today I am going to write about a tangible way you can increase your enjoyment, pay, and recognition at the office, while impacting more people through your work,. It starts with a mindset of treating your professional life as a BUSINESS instead of a JOB. This mindset plays a huge role in the activities you devote your time to throughout the day.

We will start with how you manage your schedule. Regardless of your title, you can create a schedule from a business owner’s perspective. The key difference is a business owner creates a schedule based on the RESULTS he or she wants to accomplish. An employee creates a schedule based on the HOURS that he is supposed to work. Here’s what you do:

Step 1 – Make a list of things you want to accomplish in the upcoming week. Most people I coach find Sunday evening the best time to do this. Your list includes scheduled appointments and projects you should tackle. For example, you have a meeting with a client, AND you should create a new marketing plan. That plan has been getting away from you for months because you can’t find the time.

Step 2 – Determine how long each activity will take. For some activities, this will be simple–your client meeting that always takes an hour will take an hour. Other activities are not so obvious-your marketing plan is tougher-are you going to COMPLETE it this week? Maybe not-after all, you’ve put it off for months. But you should spend two hours getting a start on the project. You may find it more challenging to determine the right amount of time when you are starting out. That’s fine, make your best estimate, and monitor your time when engaged in the activity. Did you give yourself enough time? Too much time? When the same activity appears on your schedule again, make the necessary adjustments.

Step 3 – Create a schedule for the week by determining when the best time will be to accomplish the items you have to do. Obviously, your Wednesday, 4:00 client meeting is best done Wednesday at 4:00. But your marketing plan can happen anytime (which is, by the way, why it hasn’t happened yet). Pick a time for everything, and put it on your schedule just like the 4:00 meeting.

Step 4 – Stick to your schedule! We often stick to our schedule with others but not with ourselves. You’re cutting yourself short! Treat your meetings with yourself as important as the meeting with clients, and you’ll be setting out on a path to finding great success with your time.

Be Free!

Leah Simpson

Time Magazine – The Secrets of Leadership from Nelson Mandela
by On July 24, 2008

Time Magazine celebrated and recognized Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday in its cover story July 21, 2008.  Arguably, one of the world’s greatest leaders, he librated South Africa from violet racial prejudice and united his people across race lines. 

As a leader, both with a “Big L” and “small l“, he has held the roles of President, warrior, martyr, diplomat, statesman, husband, father and grandfather. Richard Stengel, of Time Magazine, interview Mandela on his 8 lessons of leadership.

The 8 lessons are summarized below.  For examples of how Nelson Mandela integrated these lessons into his life, read the full article.

Lesson #1 – Courage is not the absence of fear – it’s inspiring others to move beyond it
As a leader, people model their behavior after you.  If a situation comes up and you appear panicked and fearful, those following you will respond in the same way.  Mandela’s learned to appear fearless and as a result inspired others.

Lesson #2 Lead from the front – but don’t leave your base behind
Be loyal to the people that put you in power.  When there is a difficult decision to be made, or a situation that is sticky to deal with, make sure that your supporters understand your actions and motives.  Having honest communication with you base increases your level of support even if they don’t fully agree with you.

Lesson #3 – Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front
It is often said that the greatest conversationalists do the least amount of talking.  That is because they spend their time listening.  Listen to those you lead and don’t enter the debate too early.  When the discussion is winding down, summarize points of view, share your thoughts and steer the decision in your direction without imposing it.  Mandela said, “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”

Lesson #4 – Know your enemy – and learn about his/her favorite sport
Learn as much as you can about those you will “go to battle with.”  By seeing the world from their eyes, it is easier to identify strengths and weaknesses and formulate tactics accordingly.  Knowing their favorite sport and teams allows you to identify on a more human level outside of the board room or “battle field.”

Lesson #5 – Keep your friends close – and your rivals even closer
Mandela believed that embracing and flattering rivals was a way to control them.  They were less dangerous in your circle of influence than they are on their own.  Invite those you don’t fully trust to dinner, compliment them, call them on their birthday and send them gifts.  You can neutral your rivals with charm.

Lesson #6 – Appearances matter – and remember to smile
First impressions are lasting impressions.  Strength and size are a matter of DNA and not a requirement for being a great leader but remember, appearances can do much to advance your cause and career.  People who are dressed well, smell good and are groomed appropriately immediately gain an advantage called the halo affect.  The halo affect associates your appearance with certain traits, either positive or negative.  For instance, looking professional, people assume you are a professional and give immediate credibility – whether you deserve it or not.  What traits does your appearance associate you with?

Lesson #7 – Nothing is black or white
Embrace the power of “AND” and let go of the “OR.”  Why choose between a raise OR more vacation time when you could figure out a way to increase productivity to earn a raise AND more vacation time.  Life is never either/or.  Decisions and situations are complicated so get comfortable navigating through contradictions.

Lesson #8 – Quitting is leading too
Recognizing when to abandon a failed idea, task or relationship is one of the most difficult decisions a leader has to make, especially when it was your idea in the first place.  Ingratiate reality and know when to gracefully accept defeat.

To read the full article, visit Time Magazine

Recommended Product – Leadership – The Critical Difference by Brian Tracy
by On July 23, 2008

Recommended Product –
Leadership – The Critical Difference

Do you know what the key characteristics of top-rated managers and leaders are? More importantly, do you know how to attain them?

Now you can uncover the answers to virtually every question you’ve ever has about sales leadership and management.

This comprehensive program, by Brian Tracy, packs thousands of profitable strategies into 14 one-hour sessions designed to help cut costs, increase sales and dramatically improve profits.

Some of the things you will discover are:

– How to guarantee you hire the best person for the job….every time
– 2 ways to brainstorm for breakthrough ideas
– How to sell like a seasoned pro
– 21 ways to get extraordinary performance from ordinary employees
– How to hold brisk, precise, productive meetings

Your company may not have all the money in the world, but you can still have the best training in the world. With the rate of business failures today, it’s important to lead your company or business with effective business strategies. Brian Tracy will teach you all of the various components of an effective leadership strategy. Learn the same strategies that all successful businesses are built on.

A must for present and future business owners and leaders.

This series includes duplicate copies of the Compact Disc and CD-ROM Workbook.
The duplicate copies are to be distributed among your employees. With everyone learning the same strategies, you’ll maximize the results of this program!

Learn More About this Product

Leadership with a small l – Leading Yourself and Leading by Example
by On July 22, 2008

What do I mean by “Leadership with a small l”? Yesterday I wrote about Leadership with a Big L – that is being a leader when that is your job and responsibility to set objectives, map a course of action and get results from a group of people. This usually shows up in your job title. For instance, you could be a manager, a coach, a director etc. On the flip side, leadership with a small l is leading when it is NOT your responsible to lead others; instead, it is two things: 

First of all, it’s how you lead yourself. 

Many of us aspire to “be in charge” and many of us don’t- and that doesn’t matter here. As adult human beings, we are charged with the responsibility to lead ourselves through each and every day. I’m often shocked and appalled at some of the behavior patterns I see in various workplaces. I see people demeaning their coworkers, nursing grudges, and blaming all kinds of external factors for a lack of success all of which are very natural and normal…FOR A 13 YEAR OLD. As children, it was expected that we’d act in an immature manner. If you’re reading this, that is simply not acceptable anymore.

First and foremost in leading with a small l is to simply grow up! Taking 100% responsibility for your Life and your actions will not only make you a better leader, but your Life will improve dramatically and immediately.

The second part of this kind of Leadership is to understand that whether you realize it or not, your example IS influencing the people around you.

Vince Lombardi once remarked “Leading by Example is not the best way to lead…it’s the only way”. My mom told me “Roger, be careful what you do, because your actions may be the only Bible that someone reads”. Whoa! Heavy stuff for a teenager, eh? That really taught me the essence of leadership though.

Whether you realize it or not, what you do is seen by your family, friends, coworkers and community. And it affects them. Leading with a small l means consciously acting in a manner that positively affects those around you. Whether you’re a manager, teacher, parent, telemarketer, firefighter, police officer, gardener or whatever you are a leader and can be a huge source of inspiration to way more people than you realize.

Here at Freedom Personal Development, we have an award that we call the Josh Kestelman Award. It’s given in memory of an amazing young man who worked with us a few years ago. In our company’s culture, the Josh Kestelman award is THE most coveted and prestigious award that anyone can win and do you know what it’s given for? Not sales, not service, nothing even statistical. It’s given to the individual seen by his or her peers as the most inspirational over the course of a year.

Leadership with a small l is the most impactful kind of leadership that exists and you can do it every day. I wish you inspiration on your journey.

Be Free!

Roger Seip
VP of Product Development

Leadership with a Big L – 4 Keys to Leading When it is Your "Job"
by On July 21, 2008

Roger SeipLeadership with a big L is the kind of leadership that comes with a title: Manager, Vice President, Director, CEO etc. It is when you are responsible for a group of people and providing direction to a predetermined result in a business, church, school or family. I’m going to share 4 keys that apply to anyone who’s in charge of anything involving more than one person. Is that you? I bet it is…..

These 4 keys come from an incredible book I read last year called The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, by Patrick Lencioni. I would highly, highly, highly recommend this book (actually I’d recommend anything written by Mr. Lencioni) for anyone who leads an organization. In it he tells a fable about a CEO who observes 4 disciplines religiously, and they make his company remarkable in every way. Here they are:

Build a Cohesive Team
The principle of having a real team that runs the show is first on the list for creating organizational health. This not only involves having the right people on board, it also means that it’s OK to fight. In fact, arguing passionately and then coming to a decision is THE defining characteristic of a business team that gets results. You cannot be a team if you’re not real, and real people disagree on things. Meanness and disrespect are not acceptable, but constructive conflict is necessary.

Be Clear
Great organizations have “organizational clarity”. This is a crystal clear sense of who they are, what they Value, what they’re accomplishing and how they go about accomplishing it. This kind of clarity does not happen by accident. The most vital use of a leader’s time is when he or she meditates on these concepts and develop systems to make them a reality. One of my coaching clients uses the TTTT acronym as a reminder to Take Time To Think. Good advice.

Over Communicate
This is maybe my favorite Leadership tidbit of the last year (yes, as President of a training company, I still have a ton to learn and improve on, so I study). The third discipline is to over communicate on issues of organizational clarity (see #2). When it comes to things like Values, Vision, major goals and strategy, it is nearly impossible to go too far. Here’s the rule of thumb: when a leader talks about these things so much that she thinks her people will kill her if she mentions them again, that’s when everyone is just starting to get it.

Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Systems
As simple as the first three disciplines seem, they are still disciplines. This means that if a human being (especially just one human being) is solely responsible for continuing them, there will eventually be a breakdown. The only way to make these or any discipline permanent is to develop a system that will make the right things happen automatically. I’ve often said that the really important things in Life and Business are typically very simple. Simple does not mean easy, so systemize as much as possible.

If we had more time and space, I could go on and on about these disciplines and how they’ve helped me as a leader, but I’ll let the book do the rest of the talking from here. Again, I’d recommend any of Lencioni’s books to deepen your understanding but, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable will keep you busy for a while.

Be Free!

Roger Seip
VP of Product Development

Memory Training Question – Reading and Remembering Fiction
by On July 17, 2008

David DenisI recently recieved this question via email from a memory training graduate. She wanted to learn more about applying the memory techniques when reading fiction. Her question and my reply are below. Enjoy!
Dear Dave,

I took the memory training course in Minneapolis, Minnesota recently and I have just finished my first listening of your CD “Making the Most Out of Big Ideas.” I really enjoyed it, especially the parts about reading. I am already a voracious reader, but am a very busy person and am so excited to get more out of my reading with your tips and the skills I learned in the memory course.

I recently got Steven Covey’s “7 Habits” on CD from the library and listened to it in my car as a review of the book which I have read before. I used my car files to help me retain those fabulous ideas. I use the library a lot, so writing in the margins of a book isn’t an option. I don’t always have pen and paper with me, but now I can use my files to help me remember things. It’s very exciting!

I was wondering if there was somewhere on your website or in your materials or classes that addressed reading even more, especially fiction. How do you get more out of fiction besides enjoying it? I currently keep a journal of my favorite passages. Occasionally I write down my reactions and feelings. Maybe there is something even more effective I can do, or maybe I should try to increase my journaling.

Thanks so much!

Dear Sue –

Thanks for your kind words about the CD. I’m really glad that you enjoyed it.

I completely understand about library books. They do tend to frown when you scribble in their books — even though I tend to think of it as “adding value.” 😉 I also don’t always have a pen with me, but I find that when I do, it really helps me to engage with the book and be more active. Many times I simply circle key words and note important passages. That alone helps me to get more out of it.

Your question about fiction is a very interesting one. The primary purpose of non-fiction is to impart information or ideas. The author is setting out a thesis and then supporting it with facts, figures, stories, studies, etc. Fiction is a different animal. What you learn from fiction is not learned via a point by point structure but through the path of the story and the experience of the characters. Therefore, it often doesn’t lend itself well to lists.

What we learn from fiction often has much more to do with what goes on inside and between people, and it’s not so much that we understand it intellectually — fiction helps us to feel it as well. Valuable stuff.

So your journaling exercises are probably one of the best ways to get more from reading fiction. Journal as much or as little as you like. The key is to do whatever helps you to get the most from the book. Re-reading your journal entries periodically would be very helpful to help you to relive your experience with the books you have read.

I have a good friend who takes it one step further. He memorizes favorite passages of literature. He memorizes sections from novels, poems, scripture, songs and so on. He started small, but he has been doing this for 10 years now. He is amazed at what he has accomplished — I don’t think he ever realized how much he could store in his mind in ten years.

He also has told me how much having this great treasure trove of great positive ideas has been a help to him in some difficult times. And the discipline itself has been helpful.

I have done some memorization as well. It’s good to start slow and give yourself lots of time. Since I drive a lot for my business, I try to use car time to review and add new items. I have not worked at it very hard, but I have found what I have done to be fun and rewarding.

Thanks again. I hope these comments are helpful. Feel free to write back with any other questions you might have.

Be Free!

David Denis