Pi or Hamlet?

Your career is about the story you tell

Alex Luxenberg
2 min readSep 16, 2019

Which is easier to memorize 20,000 digits of Pi or 20,000+ words spoken by Hamlet?

Based purely on the number of known people that have done it, Hamlet is far easier to memorize. (I recognize that perhaps there are different incentives for memorizing each…but stick with me).

The reason Shakespeare is easier to memorize is that our brains are wired to remember narratives, which is why many memory experts use the Memory Palace method:

“A Memory Palace is an imaginary location in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. The most common type of memory palace involves making a journey through a place you know well, like a building or town. Along that journey there are specific locations that you always visit in the same order” (definition by Artofmemory.com).

Photo by Daniel Gonzalez on Unsplash

In other words, in order to memorize long lists of number or objects, memory champions turn those numbers/items into characters in a story.

I think this is what my first manager was getting at when he asked, “What do you know about my career?

Through this awesome question my manager, Tim, was explaining to me that your career is defined by the story you tell and not the details that make up your actual trajectory.

We spend our careers crafting a narrative of what we’ve accomplished and what it took us to get there. Often when telling our stories we leave out a bad quarter or a deal gone wrong, unless it works to our advantage because we have a good story to tell for how we overcame the challenge. We do this because we know that people will remember our story more than they will remember a list of statistics we rattle off about quota achievement or return on investment.

Don’t get me wrong, when building a career the numbers are important. The numbers are likely how you know you are achieving your key performance indicators and what your manager will use to evaluate your success.

I am suggesting that no experience that you have in your career is inherently positive or negative, but there is a story in each experience and that it’s that story that you should aim to learn from and tell…it’s the story that others will remember.

As Hamlet put it, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”