I had a great conversation last night with a fellow loan officer that was asking about Coach Will.  He asked, “Does Coach Will REALLY study etymology to remember names? I could never do that.”

The short answer is…

No.  Not exactly.  The point is to make sure you are intentional and give yourself all the tools needed to be successful, and remembering names is a big–and simple–opportunity to set yourself apart.  Through-out the night he mentioned several times how bad he was at remembering names and how he can’t do it, how he will never be good at it.  It reminded me of a quote a friend of mine had on his email signature for the longest time, Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.  The choice is up to you. This man is smart, he has owned multiple businesses, I believe he IS bad at remembering names, but not because he “can’t” He simple has made no effort to–yet.

The fact is, I am not great at remembering names either, but I am getting better.  (Sounds a little more promising than I can’t do it, I will never be good at it–doesn’t it? It takes work.  In the book Coach Will discusses clearing your mind when you meet someone new and INTENTIONALLY making a point to remember their name.  This can be accomplished by simply saying to yourself I will remember your name to yourself.  Another easy technique to clear your mind is to simply ask yourself three times (or more)  What is your name? What is your name? This will help you stop thinking about you, which is what you were really doing, and start thinking about them.  That is a big step.

Next, to increase your chance of success, you do not need to know the historical origin of the name as the book states, but you should have some distinguishing symbol, picture or item that you can link to the name.  This would be helpful to have ahead of time, it is much easier than trying to think something up on the fly, here are examples from last night. Nicole, for me I thought of a piece of coal with a nick taken out of it.  Brett was our server, I am a packers fan, I imagined him wearing a Brett Favre jersey.  Peter, I think of Peter Rabbit, you may think of Peter Pan. I didn’t know this but Natalie means Christmas in Italian, I would think of a little Gnat, if you are Italian, you may think of a Nativity scene.

Once you heard the name, spent a second thinking about what your symbol is, now you need to find something unique or memorable about the person you have met, it could be hair color, or no hair, it could be a scar, birthmark, tattoo or mole, the size of their ears, a mannerism like a loud voice or a crooked smile.  Something that you will remember.  Last night Nicole had a tiny birthmark or mole on her right cheek, Brett had a tattoo on his arm, and Peter has grey hair.

To finish off the effort, you simply complete the graphic by linking the symbol, Nicole’s piece of coal with a nick out of it, to her unique quality, the birthmark on her cheek.  If Nicole literally walking into any room in the world and had a hunk of coal stuck to her cheek that would be weird.  You would notice it because you have never seen anything like that before, and you would remember it.  I will never forget Nicole’s name.

If Brett was wearing a Brett Favre jersey, had tattoo of Brett Favre and his gelled back black hair was a bunch of gelled back black number 4’s, he would look ridiculous, and unforgettable. That would be a graphic event.

Spend a little time and effort, if by no other means than by simply being INTENTIONAL about remembering a name.  You will be surprised how simple it actually can be.  For more reflection on the topic, see my previous post here:

For a list of the 100 most popular names, so you can spend a little time thinking of fun symbols, email me at, or hit me up at @toddgehrke on twitter. If you have experiences to share please post comments here or to

Live the Dream!


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