What Schools Don’t Teach You: The Feynman Technique

ByArshad Mahmud

The Feynman Technique is a way of learning that emphasizes simplicity to develop a thorough comprehension. It is named after Richard Feynman, an American physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his significant contributions to quantum electrodynamics.

Who is Feynman?

Richard Phillips Feynman was a famous American physicist who lived from 1918 to 1988. He is well known for his contributions to the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of supercooled liquid helium. He also proposed the parton model in particle physics. Feynman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, which he shared with Julian Schwinger and Shin’ichirō Tomonaga, for his work on quantum electrodynamics.

Feynman made an important way to show how tiny particles behave, called Feynman diagrams. He became famous around the world while he was alive. In 1999, Physics World asked 130 top physicists to vote for the greatest physicist of all time and Feynman was ranked seventh.

Richard Feynman was an extremely intelligent person, but what set him apart was his exceptional ability to explain complicated ideas in a clear and uncomplicated manner.

This talent of Feynman is the inspiration behind a learning technique called the Feynman Technique, which emphasizes simplicity to develop a deep understanding of concepts.

Richard Feynman noticed that people sometimes use complicated language to hide the fact that they don’t really understand what they’re talking about.

Simplifying Complicated Ideas

The Feynman Technique is a way of learning that emphasizes understanding complex topics deeply. There are four steps to this technique:

  1. First, prepare the environment for learning.
  2. Second, try to explain the topic as if you were talking to a five-year-old child.
  3. Third, evaluate and study the topic thoroughly.
  4. Finally, organize the information, communicate it clearly, and review it regularly.

Step 1 of the Feynman Technique involves setting the stage for learning by identifying the topic you want to understand. Begin by writing the topic at the top of a blank page and writing down everything you know about it. Conduct research on the topic and add new information to your notes as you learn more.

Step 2: Explain Like I’m five years old

This step involves simplifying your understanding of the topic. Imagine you are explaining the topic to a child who has no prior knowledge of it. Write down what you know about the topic using simple and easy-to-understand language.

For example, let’s say you want to explain the concept of photosynthesis to a child. Instead of using complex scientific terms, you might explain it like this:

“Photosynthesis is how plants make their own food. They use sunlight, water, and air to create something called glucose, which is like their lunch. Just like we need food to grow, plants need glucose to grow too!”

Step 3: Assess and Study

Reflect on your attempt to explain the topic to someone without knowledge of it. Be honest with yourself and assess how well you did. Identify areas where you got stuck or used complex language instead of simple words. These are the areas where your understanding is weak. Research and study these areas to improve your knowledge.

Let’s say you tried to explain the concept of photosynthesis to a child using Step 2. You reflect on your explanation and realize that you struggled to explain the role of chlorophyll in the process.

You also used the term “carbon fixation” which may not be easily understood by a child. These gaps in your understanding are now clear to you, so you can go back and study more about the process of photosynthesis, specifically focusing on these areas where you struggled.

Step 4: Organize, Convey & Review

After simplifying and understanding the topic in Steps 2 and 3, organize your thoughts and explanations into a clear, compelling narrative. Convey it to others and get feedback.

Refine your explanations as needed. Finally, review your new deep understanding of the topic and continue to fill any remaining gaps.

Always remember, simplicity is beautiful.

Successful People Simplify

The Feynman Technique is an effective method for learning anything, and it has been used by successful entrepreneurs, investors, and thinkers, even if they are unaware of it.

Individuals like Steve Jobs, Alex Hormozi, or Billy Nye possess a remarkable ability to simplify complex ideas and make them easy to understand.

It’s common for people to make things more complicated than they need to be in order to sound smarter. However, this is often done because they don’t understand the topic well enough.

Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, try the Feynman Technique, which emphasizes the beauty of simplicity to gain a deeper understanding.

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