Woodbury MBA Graduate Turned Memory Coach Shares Secret to Retaining Knowledge

Uriel Avila
Uriel Avila (’16)

Uriel Avila, Woodbury MBA alumnus (’16), came from humble beginnings with immigrant parents who taught him perseverance, ethics, and determination. The second  of his family of seven to earn a college degree, Uriel graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Information Systems and Economics. He furthered his education at Woodbury, where he earned his Master in Business Administration (MBA), while tutoring fellow students in finance, accounting, quantitative methodologies, and economics.

When preparing for the Graduate Management Aptitude test (GMAT), Uriel realized that rote learning, a memorization technique based on repetition, was not sufficient enough to retain the information needed to do well on the exam, nor achieve the good grades he aspired to attain as an MBA student. To find a better approach to learning, he sought out memory mentors and researched alternative techniques. What he discovered was profound. Rather than memorizing by repetition, he learned it was much more effective to transform information into vivid images that could be easily retrieved from the brain when needed.

Using this newly acquired skill, Uriel improved his GPA from a 2.52 as an undergraduate to a 3.84 as a graduate student at Woodbury. His belief in what he calls the ‘know-that-they-know’ technique, inspired Uriel to launch his own company, Memory Fitness Training, where he coaches clients to activate both hemispheres of the brain with mental exercises to increase retention capacity.

We caught up with Uriel in an interview to learn more about these proven memory techniques and how he’s boosting the self-confidence and bettering the lives of his clients.

Are these your own learning techniques – that is, proprietary – or a synthesis of approaches you’ve picked up from others?

These techniques have been around for over 2,500 years and used all around the world in niche applications. However, I have incorporated my own personal approach by indexing the information and applied it to my academic, professional, and everyday life. I have learned many specific applications from various mentors, such as Dominic O’Brien, a mnemonist and eight time World Memory Champion, Joshua Foer, a  science journalist and US Memory Champion, and Jonas von Essen, a mnemonist and two-time World Memory Champion.

Are your techniques especially applicable to the multiple-choice test-taking environment, or did they prove helpful for regular classroom work as well (e.g., essay tests)?

The techniques can be used in both environments. With multiple-choice test-taking, our students learn to store the answers in the brain in a specific location with vivid imagery. When they review the answers, in his or her head with their eyes closed, he or she can easily eliminate the incorrect choices and select the correct answers.  In regular classroom environments, students can recite meaningful quotes from a book by mentally recalling images. They can also make presentations by creating space in his or her brain and practice for three 15 minute intervals.

What’s your feeling about why this approach works?  

The reason this approach works is because it causes a deep processing of information with mental-hooks recalling the subject stored in our brain. Rote reading only works if you continue repeating the information mentally. Whereas, storing, seeing, and understanding the subject is easy and fun to recall. Moreover, the student won’t have to memorize the information; rather, they only need to mentally review the stored data and retrieve it when it is needed.

Do these techniques combat test anxiety?  

Absolutely! An individual’s anxiety is driven from uncertainty that they understand the topic or questions. With a memory coach, memory training, and mnemonic tools, the student will be confident that they ‘know-that-they-know.’

How much exposure have these techniques had in business and among those with memory issues?

These techniques have not had much exposure in business because most individuals rely on rote learning. However, our memory training has helped professionals learn the details on hundreds of new products when starting a new position and be able to easily recall clients’ names, adding a personal touch which always goes a long way.

Also, in consulting with neurologists, we have learned that our brains can build new neural-pathways and hooks to recall information with memory training.

Are you “productizing” your approach?  That is, is there a business here?

We are training our clients with these powerful techniques to not only pass tests, but also succeed in his or her careers with confidence. Just like a physical trainer, memory coaches exercise their brains and build “large-mental-muscles” to retain and recall hundreds of details. There are many mnemonic tools our clients use to dramatically transform his or her learning experience. When people grasp the memory tools, they are eager to acquire more and surprised they had not taken advantage of this learning approach long before. They leave with higher self-esteem, determination and motivation to conquer their next challenge!