The Happy Engineer Podcast

165: WARNING – Your Memory is Worse Than You Think

Engineering managers have high IQ, and great memories.  But, has your memory trapped you in the comfort zone of “I already know that…” ???

In this episode, we dive deep into how your memory can be your worst enemy, especially when it comes to personal growth and development.

The “I know” mindset will prevent you from taking action because if you already know it, then you already have the value from that knowledge.

Here’s the problem: Knowing is not enough!

I share insights on how embracing community, coaching, and open-mindedness—rather than relying solely on what we know—can significantly propel us forward.

So press play and let’s chat about breaking free from the barriers of our memory!

Want free coaching, LIVE? Join us in a live workshop for deeper training, career coaching 1:1, and an amazing community!  HAPPY HOUR Workshop Live with Zach!


The Happy Engineer Podcast – Interview Only

Why Knowing Too Much Can Hurt – Break Free From Your Memory and the “I Know” Mindset


  • Do you need help accelerating a successful engineering career WHILE a creating a happy, balanced life?  Book a FREE Career Growth Audit™️ now!  Get coaching from an expert in engineering career development and clarify your next steps for career growth today.


LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE EPISODE 165: WARNING – Your Memory is Worse Than You Think

Previous Episode 164: Create the Exact Job You Want with Jonathan Boyer | Principal Mechanical Engineer


Top Takeaways on the Negative Impact of Memory for Engineering Managers…

In this episode of The Happy Engineer Podcast, we explore why our memory can hold us back and how to break free from this mindset trap.

Here are the top three insights:

1. Your memory can be the enemy of your mindset. It’s not just about losing memory; it’s about how your existing knowledge can prevent you from taking action and experiencing growth.

2. Recognition is the first step to change. Uncover where your memory is holding you back by identifying the excuses and justifications you use for not taking the necessary steps towards your goals.

3. Knowledge without implementation is just information. It’s not about accumulating more data but about applying what you already know and seeking support and mentorship to propel you forward.

To go deeper and build an action plan around these points and why all this matters, listen to this entire conversation.



Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Did you ever play the game Memory growing up? Ah, I used to love this game. You would lay these cards with pictures on them, face down in a grid in front of you, usually on the floor. You’d sit on the floor and you and your opponent would take turns flipping over any two cards you want.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:33] And if the pictures matched, then you got to keep that match. And it was like earning points. And at the beginning of the game, you had no idea where any of the pairs were located. So you’d flip two over and your goal was to remember where each picture was located. And then you’d flip them back over and your opponent would take a turn.

[00:00:54] And as the game went on, you started to see each picture. You would remember where it is. So if you flipped over a picture of a puppy, you would say, Oh yeah, up in the corner over here is where the other puppy was located. You’d flip it, win the match and ultimately win the game. And as a kid, I was pretty good at that game.

[00:01:10] I won a lot of games, would beat my sisters regularly, could beat my parents. And I thought that was pretty awesome Well, at Christmas this year. I was hanging out with my family, we were enjoying the time, and I asked my nephew Steven, hey, do you want to play Memory? And we found a version of the game online, and we started playing Memory together, and it was really fun.

[00:01:33] But truth is I got beat. In fact, a couple of the games, I got crushed. I did win once or twice, but he absolutely destroyed me in a couple of the games. Super sharp memory, and I was kind of embarrassed. I think he could tell, and after a couple of rounds, Steven said to me, Hey, Uncle Zach. Don’t feel bad.

[00:01:57] It’s probably because your brain is so full of all that engineering knowledge that you don’t have room for remembering where all the pictures are at in memory anymore. I think he meant it as a compliment or he’s just trying to be nice. But the truth is my ego was bruised that day that my brain was too full of engineering knowledge to be good at memory anymore.

[00:02:22] Well, here’s what hit me later that day. I was reflecting and I realized that the actual problem was not that my short term memory was getting worse. It’s not that I’m getting old or losing my sharpness. In fact, Stephen’s comment, while somewhat, hilarious to hear, was actually incredibly wise.

[00:02:47] the truth is my mind is quite full. I have learned a lot. I have studied many different things from engineering, to psychology, to economics, to coaching, to business, to investing, to relationships, to faith, to you name it. I’ve studied a lot. I’ve learned a lot of things. And I imagine so have you. In fact, I would imagine you are probably one of the most intelligent people you know.

[00:03:14] And the problem with that is that my memory was worse than I thought. And your memory is worse than mine. than you think. And I’m not talking about losing our memory or ability to remember things or recall things. I’m talking about My memory is blocking me from my growth.

[00:03:38] Your memory is the enemy of your mindset. Back in episode 70, Aaron Walker talked about isolation. And one of the things that he unpacked for us is why isolation is so dangerous in our personal development and growth. And he said, look, when you’re alone, then you have no one there to challenge you. On your beliefs, they’re to challenge you on your mindset, they’re to push you to find your edge.

[00:04:10] How will you read the label on the outside of the bottle that you are stuck inside? And we need people who are outside of ourselves to show and reflect back to us the things that we see in the mirror every day and take for granted as true or right or normal that someone else would look at and say, Whoa, Zach, what are you doing?

[00:04:34] Or Hey Zach, you are capable of more. You could take this to the next level. Have you considered X, Y, Z. That’s the power of masterminding. It’s the power of coaching to have that external point of view. Well, in the same way that isolation is the enemy of excellence, your memory is the enemy of your mindset.

[00:04:54] When you see something that could change your life forever, an idea that if you grabbed hold of it and took action on it immediately, it could change the trajectory of your career, of your relationships, of your finances, of your health. Any area of your life. And you can bump right up against that idea and completely ignore it because you already know.

[00:05:21] Oh, I already know that. I heard it on your podcast before in a different episode, Zach, or, Oh, I know that. I listened to Andrew Huberman’s podcast and I heard it there. Uh, I learned a ton about it. It’s so interesting. And you can tell me all the facts and the cool things that you learned. Oh, I already know that Zach.

[00:05:37] I read it in a book. I’ve already seen that. Oh, I did that in a training with my company last year in a management training. They taught us all those things. I already know. And this I know mindset. will block you from your growth because you think you know, but what you forget is to actually take action on what you know.

[00:06:06] I see this all the time and I am guilty of it all the time where you look at your own life and there are things that are not working for you right now. Something that you’re not happy with. You know what it is, that first thing that pops up for you. Maybe you feel stuck or stagnant in your career. And that’s why you’re here listening to me right now.

[00:06:28] Maybe you’re unhappy with your health. You’ve gained a few pounds, you’re not the athlete you once were in high school and college, but you’ve been busy, you just haven’t been taking care of yourself, you travel a lot for work and you eat out, so it’s tough. Maybe your relationship with your spouse isn’t the way you want it to be, or with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

[00:06:47] Maybe you don’t even have an intimate relationship and that’s the problem. You know the area, there’s something that’s not working for you. And yet, when someone comes along with an idea that could absolutely help you. Something that you’re not currently doing, like, let’s say, exercising, if you want to lose some weight.

[00:07:07] And they say, hey Zach, have you thought about hitting the gym? Oh yeah, I know, I know I should do that, I know what to do. I already know great workout regimens, I just haven’t been doing it lately. You know what, that’s a great idea, I’m gonna get back on that. I know what to do, but I’m not doing it. And in that moment where the opportunity for action exists, I do not act because I think I already know that and I’ll take action on it soon.

[00:07:39] I’ll do it later today. I’ll get around to it next week. But here’s the truth. If you were going to get around to it next week, you would have gotten around to it last week because you already knew that same information last week too. And for you to think that someone bringing it up in a conversation is going to change the paradigm of your subconscious mind and your habits and behaviors and conditioning, and you’re going to go off on a whole new trajectory of life in that one moment.

[00:08:09] You’re fooling yourself. You see, your memory is going to pop up in that moment and consciously tell you you’re good, you know, it, you’ve already got that one buttoned up, ready to roll knowledge box checked. What I really need is a new strategy. What I really need is somebody to tell me something I don’t know.

[00:08:31] there is no easier way for me to say this than to say it as bluntly as possible. Now, you already know enough. You are simply not doing what you know. And while there are more advanced strategies for career growth, there are new things you have not yet learned that will help you in the future.

[00:08:57] If you would simply do everything that you already know, your life would be at a whole different level. I guarantee it. I’m the same. Like you and I are in that journey together. If I actually applied everything that I know about coaching, about marketing, about business, then my coaching company would be 10 times the size that it is.

[00:09:21] My engineering career would have grown much faster than it did. You know, even when I was getting a promotion every year and I doubled my income in a short time and I had incredible results, but the truth is. All of those things I did to get there were things that I quote unquote knew before my burnout, before my divorce, before the things that went terribly wrong in my career, but my ego, the I know mind blocked me.

[00:09:50] Your memory is your enemy when it comes to transforming your mindset and your mindset is the foundation. of then taking action and getting results. Here’s a way to uncover examples of how memory can hold you back. It’s not just knowledge and facts of having read books or listening to podcasts. Here’s another way you can uncover how memory is your enemy. 

[00:10:22] Ask yourself this. 

[00:10:23] What are those things that you wish you would do? You wish you would get this change made, take these actions, do something different.

[00:10:32] I wish I would blank, But I don’t because blank. Fill in those blanks for yourself. In fact, I would encourage you to grab a notebook and fill it in for several things. What are those things that you wish you would do?

[00:10:50] I wish I would blank, but I don’t because blank. I’ll tell you one for me right now. I wish I would play my guitar more, but I don’t because there’s not enough time, but I don’t because it’s just not a priority right now, but I don’t because if I’m not going to play a lot, then it just hurts my fingers every time and it’s not worth it, but I don’t because.

[00:11:20] I imagine I could go for six more excuses, six more reasons, six more justifications that my memory will serve up for me to connect the dots and tell the story about why I’m not doing something that I wish I would do. Here’s the reality. Those things may have been true at one time, and I logged them in my memory as to why I was not playing guitar more, but they’re not true right now.

[00:11:55] I watched a movie last night. I could have absolutely played guitar instead. I do think it’s worth playing even if my fingers hurt. And it doesn’t matter if I play a lot or a little. Playing a little still brings joy into my life. Those reasons are pulled from memory as justification of not doing something that I can do, I want to do, but I’m not doing.

[00:12:26] Um, if you would ask yourself that same question, I wish I would network more. I wish I would talk to my boss about my next promotion more. I wish I would spend more quality time with my spouse. I wish I would be more patient with my kids. I wish I would lose those extra 20 pounds that I’ve gained over the last few years.

[00:12:47] I wish I would get the help I need to reach the next level. What is it that you wish you would do? But you’re not doing because and your memory has the answer. The challenge I’m giving you now is to look at those and recognize it is nothing more than a memory. It doesn’t make it true right now. You can make a new choice right now.

[00:13:16] You can take a new action right now. Nothing breaks my heart more than to be on a call with an engineering leader. Like the one I was on last week with Timothy. Timothy and I had a powerful conversation. He was really open. He was really vulnerable about where he was stuck and where he was stagnant, and we went through all of the barriers and the places where things were not working in his career to get from manager to the senior manager and director levels that he ultimately dreamed about reaching before the end of his career.

[00:13:50] And we looked at each one of those, and we set up some strategies and put an action plan in place around how to break loose and start going from stuck back into progress. We laid out a road map of the things that he would need to do differently to help him get to where he wants to go. And at the end of the call, I gave Timothy an opportunity to join our community of incredible leaders here.

[00:14:15] And do that work together to get the support and ongoing accountability and coaching that he might need along the way. And what Timothy said to me was something I hear over and over from people whose memory is holding them back from the life of their dreams. He said, yeah, you know, that does sound awesome, but I think I already know how to do everything that we’ve laid out here.

[00:14:43] And I think. I don’t really need to invest the time, the energy, the money into support like this, because I know these things. And so I want to take some time to go work on this myself before I make any new decisions or make any investments. And so I’ll get back to you in six or 12 months if things don’t work out.

[00:15:10] The truth is I’ve had hundreds of conversations with Timothy’s. And that statement is the I know mindset blocking you from your future. Don’t let your memory be the barrier to your growth. If you’re not doing it now, if you weren’t doing it before I reminded you, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will automatically do it next week when I’m not reminding you.

[00:15:42] The memory will hold you back. Isolation is the enemy of excellence, and memory is the enemy of your mindset. Look at those things where you keep telling yourself you know. Look at those places where you have an excuse or a justification already lined up, I wish I would blank, but I don’t because blank.

[00:16:05] And then ask yourself, what must change? Where do you need to humble yourself? And take a different approach and get the support of community and coaching and people around you to challenge you to get to where you want to go. Knowing more information does not accelerate your career. Knowledge is not the power.

[00:16:29] Knowledge by itself is not power. It is only the knowledge that you use and implement that creates power for your future. Have fun playing memory. Keep learning, keep growing. I don’t want you to stop listening to podcasts or stop reading or stop learning. That’s not the point. Don’t hear what I’m not saying.

[00:16:53] But what I am saying is that no amount of knowledge in memory will help you create the life and the career that you’ve dreamed about. That takes action. Application, community, mentorship, coaching, support, and a level of humility to leave that I know ego on the sideline and say, what do I need to do with what I know right now?

[00:17:21] If you need help with that, then reach out and get it. I would be honored to hear from you. Let me know where you’re stuck. Let’s see if we can help you. But whatever you do, don’t listen to this and say, Oh, nice message, Zach. But I already know.