Memorizing your 12-24 word recovery seed phrase is a valid method to secure your wallet backup. It's great way to have your recovery phrase with you at all times and can come in handy when traveling. It can even be a backup to your physical backup (or vice versa).
But did you know memorizing is actually the easy part. Creating an effective tool to help you memorize is hard.
Mnemonic Link System: Chain Story Method
There is a reason why stories can be passed down generations without being written down. Because stories are memorable. It's the imagery and visualization (sight, sound, taste, smell, feeling) that makes it worth remembering.
The goal is to create a sequential story, linking and associating one seed word to the next one. But not just any story, a bizarre story. A story that makes the seed words the emphasized aspect. Your brain remembers the uncommon, the oddities, the weird, because that's interesting. Normal is not.
Creating the story also helps you remember the words (like making a cheat sheet for an exam realizing you don't need to look at it anymore)
When creating your story, ensure NO other words from the BIP39 wordlist are in your story other than the four designated words. The BIP39 wordlist is a mix of commonly used nouns, verbs, and adjectives. This fact alone makes it the most difficult part. This prevents confusion in the future if you can't remember which part of the story is your recovery seed phrase.
(Also remember do not write your story with your recovery seed phrase words on a device connected to the internet...it is your seed after all)
An example is the best way to describe this.
The Recovery Seed Phrase:
silk envelope sail cherry satisfy term sleep violin output erode please volume mixed guitar cupboard describe inmate address left harsh speed vendor erase candy
Let's Divide It Into Chunks.
Why chunks? Instead of remembering the number 301,540,658 it's easier to remember 301, then 540, and finally, 658. The same goes for your seed phrase.
Chunking not only makes it easier to memorize but it also makes it feel less daunting and makes creating the stories more manageable.
Let's start with the first four words: silk envelope sail cherry
In my SILK pillowcase, there is an ENVELOPE.
My first statement is linking SILK with ENVELOPE.
I could have easily said, "In a SILK ENVELOPE", but I did not.
You want to make each seed word its own idea.
- the belief that only one of those words is a seed word and
- mixing up the order of SILK and ENVELOPE (could be envelope made of silk)
I used "pillowcase" because
- it is not in the BIP39 wordlist and
- when visualizing this scene, you first see the SILK pillowcase before looking inside to see the ENVELOPE. It's clear that SILK is before ENVELOPE.
Let's go on with the other 3rd and 4th word:
In the ENVELOPE is a request for me to set SAIL.
I'm setting SAIL to meet the queen who is a CHERRY
The goal is to link the end of the idea to the beginning of the next. Your thought process would go something like this:
- "What's in the ENVELOPE? Oh! it is for me to set SAIL"
- "Why am I setting SAIL? Oh! so I can meet that CHERRY queen"
Once you remember one word, you have a "link" to trigger remembering the next word. The purpose of the linking is not just to remember the words but the sequential order of the words because in a BIP39 seed phrase, order matters.
Memorize this four word story chunk. Visualize it. Write it down. Draw it. Do this until you feel confident you've memorized it. Do this until you can repeat the story after doing something else (watching a television show, going out to a restaurant, working out, etc.)
If you feel that you can't remember some of the words (or you're not satisfied with the story): make it more interesting, add more details, rewrite it. There is no shame in changing your story because you're the author and the audience is you. It is a story for yourself.
Once you feel confident, repeat this process for the next four words (and the next four words and so on) until you've created a story with all 24 words.
Here the rest of my story:
I meet the CHERRY queen to SATISFY her.
But to completely SATISFY her, I have to meet her TERMs.
Her TERMs are to watch her SLEEP
While I watch her SLEEP, I hear a soothing VIOLIN
The VIOLIN is coming from the television audio OUTPUT
The television audio OUTPUT is from show about rocks that ERODE
The queen wakes up to the show about how rocks ERODE and does not look PLEASEd
She yells, "PLEASE mute the VOLUME!"
I mute the VOLUME on the remote but the buttons are MIXED
I MIXED up buttons and instead hear a GUITAR
The GUITAR coming from in the CUPBOARD
The queen yells, "what's in the CUPBOARD, DESCRIBE it!"
I DESCRIBE it but she thinks I'm lying, so she sends me to be an INMATE
An INMATE in a building without an ADDRESS
I get to the building without an ADDRESS and hear Beyonce say "to the LEFT!"
I look to your LEFT and Beyonce is the warden who looks HARSH.
Her discipline will be even HARSHer, so I take the drug, SPEED
I got the SPEED from the VENDOR
The VENDOR who's sells ERASErs
He sells ERASErs and CANDY
The purpose of the tool is make a task easier. This situation is no different. But you have to learn how to use the tool. It's time to practice.
This is where repetition comes in. Draw the entire story. Act it out. Write it down. Do it again.
There's no rush. You've got time to do this. If you feel there's a certain section you're having trouble with, chunk it out! Focus on that one section. (Rewrite it even!)
Execution is all in the preparation. Eventually you'll know your recovery seed phrase like your first phone number.
- Approach your memory story by splitting your recovery seed phrase into managable chunks
- Ensure there are NO other words from the BIP39 wordlist.
- Make your story bizarre enough to remember
- Do NOT write your story on a device connected to the internet
- Make each word a separate idea
- Draw your story. Then throw it away and repeat
- Change/adjust the part of your story you're having trouble with as many times as you need