The Feynman Technique: How to Master Anything

Richard Feyman is known for his scientific achievements. He is also known for The Feynman Technique.

Writing is a great way to know what we don’t know about.

Write for this reason alone if not for anything else.

Suppose you learn something new.

Now you want to share it with friends, people you know because what you learned is really useful. Or, maybe you need to master a concept to excel at work, in your profession.

And, you start writing about it with the intent to share – only to learn that you don’t know enough to explain it well to others.

Maybe you knew about your lack of understanding earlier on a macro level but writing helped you pinpoint what was actually missing.

People revered Nobel-prize winning physicist RICHARD FEYNMAN for his ability to clearly illustrate dense topics like quantum physics. He could explain these topics to virtually anyone. That’s why he was known as the “Great Explainer”.

When Feynman was 15, he taught himself trigonometry, advanced algebra, infinite series, analytic geometry, and both differential and integral calculus.

According to his biographer James Gleick (who wrote GENIUS: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman), Feynman once prepared for his oral examinations by opening a fresh notebook titled “NOTEBOOK OF THINGS I DON’T KNOW ABOUT.”

Gleick also wrote that Feynman tried to find the essential kernels of each subject.

The Feynman Technique

The four-step process he used to master a concept is known as the Feynman Technique.

It is a 4-step process that you can use to Master Anything.

It is grounded in common sense, simple to implement, and will surely help you master a concept if you are diligent in your approach.

Here are the steps:

STEP 1: PICK A TOPIC.

Write the name of the concept that you want to learn on a sheet of paper. Add what you know to this sheet.

STEP 2: PRETEND TO TEACH IT (TO A CHILD)

Explain the concept in your own words as if you were teaching it to someone else.

STEP 3: GO BACK TO LEARNING SOURCE WHEN YOU GET STUCK

Review what you wrote and identify the areas where you don’t know something or where you feel your explanation is shaky. Now go back and learn more about those areas and add to the sheet until you can explain the topic fully.

STEP 4:  ORGANIZE + SIMPLIFY + TELL A STORY

Continue revisiting the sheet to add your fresh understanding of the concept and to simplify your language. Connect facts with analogies to understand the concept well.

Feynman first used this technique to do well at exams while at Princeton. But we can use it to master any concept related to work or a passion.

I am using it to learn more and master writing. Here is my learning sheet from “MY NOTEBOOK OF THINGS I DON’T KNOW ABOUT.”

Do you want to use THE FEYNMAN TECHNIQUE to learn something new?