Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning physicist who made significant contributions in areas such as quantum mechanics and particle physics. He also pioneered quantum computing, introducing the concept of nanotechnology. He was a renowned lecturer who taught at Cornell and Caltech.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Feynman thought of himself as “an ordinary person who studied hard”. He believed that anyone was capable of learning with enough effort, even complex subjects like quantum mechanics and electromagnetic fields:
There’s no miracle people. It just happens they got interested in this thing and they learned all this stuff. There’s just people.”
The Feynman Technique is a learning concept you can use to understand just about anything. The Feynman Technique is a four-step process for understanding any topic. This technique rejects automated recall in favor of true comprehension gained through selection, research, writing, explaining, and refining.
He rejected rote memorization; believed that learning should be an active process of “trial and error, discovery, free inquiry”; and held that if you couldn’t explain something clearly and simply it was because you didn’t understand it well enough. Here are at glance:
- Choose a concept to learn. Select a topic you’re interested in learning about and write it at the top of a blank page in a notebook.
- Teach it to yourself or someone else. Write everything you know about a topic out as if you were explaining it to yourself. Alternately, actually teach it to someone else.
- Return to the source material if you get stuck. Go back to whatever you’re learning from – a book, lecture notes, podcast – and fill the gaps in your knowledge.
- Simplify your explanations and create analogies. Streamline your notes and explanation, further clarifying the topic until it seems obvious. Additionally, think of analogies that feel intuitive.
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