As a follow up to my previous blog titled “Rapid Learning”, the Feynman Technique will help ensure that you fully comprehend a given subject.
The famous Nobel winning physicist Richard Feynman understood the difference between “knowing something” and “knowing the name of something” and it’s one of the most important reasons for his success. Feynman stumbled upon a formula for learning that ensured he understood something better than everyone else. It’s called the Feynman Technique and it will help you learn anything deeper, and faster. The topic, subject, or concept you want to learn doesn’t matter. The Feynman Technique works for everything. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple to implement. Once you have used Tim Ferriss’ technique (DSS) to Deconstruct the data into the minimum learnable units, Selected the 20% that will deliver 80% of the desired outcome and Sequenced that data into its proper place on a one pager, you can use the Feynman technique to make sure you fully comprehend your given subject. There are three steps to the Feynman Technique:
Step 1: Teach it to a child
Write out your one pager on the subject as if you were teaching it to a child. Not your smart adult friend but rather an 8-year-old who has just enough vocabulary and attention span to understand basic concepts and relationships. A lot of people tend to use complicated vocabulary and jargon to mask when they don’t understand something. When you write in simple terms, you force yourself to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas. If you struggle, you have a clear understanding of where you have some gaps. That tension is good, creating an opportunity to learn.
Step 2: Review
In step one, you will inevitably encounter gaps in your knowledge where you’re forgetting something important, are not able to explain it, or simply have trouble connecting an important concept. This is invaluable feedback because you’ve discovered the edge of your knowledge. Competence is knowing the limit of your abilities, and you’ve just identified one! This is where the learning starts. Now you know where you got stuck, go back to the source material and re-learn it until you can connect the dots and explain it in basic terms.
Step 3: Organize and Simplify
Organize your one pager into a simple story that flows. Read it out loud. If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing that’s a good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work.
Step 4 (optional): Transmit
If you really want to be sure of your understanding, run it past someone (ideally who knows little of the subject –or find that 8-year-old!). The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.
Once you have gone through the Rapid Learning process part I and part II, part III is to apply what you have learned and then reflect on that experience. Knowledge can be power once you have learned the subject, taught it, applied it and then reflected on that experience.