The Feynman Technique was developed by Richard Feynman, a nobel-prize winning physicist, known as the great explainer. The Feynman technique is a mental model that allows average people with little knowledge in a subject, to understand it quickly and retain the newly learned knowledge for a long time. Richard Feynman was not born a genius with a higher iq than than the average person, in fact he was quoted saying “I was just a normal person who studied hard.” His ability to clearly explain difficult and dense topics to virtually anybody was the foundation for his greatness, and through his work people are now learning dense topics faster, and are able to remember them for longer. So in this video I will explain the Feynman technique.
A common method to use in order to try and retain something is to simply read about it over and over until you memorize what you read. Only to realize that you only remember part of it a few days later, and eventually forgetting almost everything about it. This might be useful if you have a 10 question quiz which you already know what the answers are going to be. However if you want to really understand what you learn, you have to do more than just read about it. You have to engage in it.
Richard Feynman said:
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
You might think you have a good understanding of a certain subject, but if you can’t explain it clearly to someone without knowledge about it, you don’t understand it well enough.
Whatever you want to understand better or learn from scratch, you can apply the Feynman technique.
Step number one is to decide on a topic you want to understand and simply write down what you already know about it on paper. When you’ve written down what you already know, begin study the subject. Whenever you learn something new, add it to your paper. Eventually you will have a pretty good list of things you understand about it.
The second step is to explain what you’ve written down. Pretend that you’re the teacher and have to explain to your students who doesn’t know anything about the subject. This will force you to break it down into simple terms that makes it easier to understand. Provide examples to add another dimension into the explanation.
Step number three is to realize where you get stuck, and revisit the books. There will be gaps in your knowledge and you will be able to spot them easy using this technique. Fill your gaps by learning about the problem areas until you’re able to explain the concept fully to your imaginary classroom.
The fourth and last step is to simplify everything and use analogies. Repeat the process of explaining the concept while each time using simpler terms and connecting facts with analogies. If your explanation is not simple or sounds confusing, that’s a good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work. This will strengthen your understanding and you are now able to grasp a concept you didn’t know anything about, and you will be able to explain and teach it to others.
Whenever you want to learn something new or simply improve your knowledge in a certain subject, apply this technique and you will surprise yourself how much you can learn and actually retain. Ironically, I know have a much better understanding of the Feynman technique since I was forced to explain it!