A simple yet remarkable learning principle from a genius - The Feynman Technique
Jul 15, 2019
Takes about 5 minutes to read ⏱
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” - Richard Feynman
It’s been more than a week and I haven’t written anything on my blog yet! I was kind of engrossed in a phenomenal book I happened to read this week which goes by the name Atomic Habits a worldwide bestseller written by James Clear.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt myself inclined and fascinated towards the idea of how we learn and how habits are formed. In that expedition, I finished a course on Learning to Learn by Barbara Oakley on Coursera, read some awesome books - The power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, A mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley and Atomic Habits which I just finished reading.
While diving deep into the learning to learn the universe, I came across this genius and started reading more and more on him. He is Richard Feynman, a physicist, who won the Nobel prize in 1965 for his contribution in Quantum Electrodynamics. I recalled hearing his name while studying Physics in college where I didn’t bother to pay much attention to his formulas and concepts. While reading my recent books, I noticed the authors have referenced his quotes over and over again and mentioned a lot on his sheer brilliance. I started reading more about him and his surprisingly simple and jargon-free teaching techniques. Besides being a pioneer in the field of science, he was a great teacher. He was even called “The Great Explainer”. He was famous for being able to explain extremely difficult subjects in plain layman’s terms. He often notoriously used to challenge fellow researchers, professors to explain difficult concepts in easy to understand words without the use of unfriendly jargons. He mastered his exams while studying at Princeton University by using his own simple techniques which eventually became widely popular as the Feynman Technique.
What is the Feynman Technique?
Feynman customized his own ways to learn and master subjects and his technique to learn and master any desired domain of interest comprises the following 4 steps:
Select any subject of interest and write its name on a blank piece of paper
- Feynman suggests to take a blank piece of paper and write the name of the subject you wish to learn about or facing challenges in understanding.
- Spend some time to understand that topic from any available reference - books, articles or the web.
- Jot down in plain and simple words whatever you have understood about that subject in that blank sheet without using reference.
Explain the subject to someone or act as if you are teaching it
- Teaching is one of the best ways to develop a solid foundation of a subject. Try explaining the subject or topic to a friend, colleague, kid or if you pretend to teach it to a classroom. Feynman emphasises on keeping it as simple as possible.
- If you are not able to explain the concepts in layman’s terms, then you don’t have a strong grasp of it.
Revisit reference materials if you are stuck
- It’s quite natural to get stuck when learning something new or something challenging. Feynman advises to revisit reference materials, dive deeper, make notes and study until you can explain the concepts in simple words.
Make it simple and use analogies
- Feynman was famous for being able to explain difficult physics concepts in the simplest of terms using analogies. Analogies are a powerful tool to understand key concepts and keep them embedded for a long period of time.
While in my school and even during my college days, I had this confusion of cations and anions. It’s quite simple but I often used to get confused while determining which one is positive and which is negatively charged. While reading the book ‘A mind for numbers’, I came across a simple analogy which can easily clear the confusion. Cation can be thought of as a ‘Cat’. Now cat has ‘paws’ so cations are positive. While anions can be thought of as ‘Onions’ which tend to make us cry so they are negative. I know it’s quite silly but these funny analogies stick to our brain for an indefinite period contrary to lengthy bookish explanations.
“What I cannot create, I do not understand.” - Richard Feynman
Feynman’s Technique makes use of these 4 simple yet powerful steps to learn virtually anything.
Here’s a pen sketch I did of the great man as a small token of thanks 😊
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The legendary physicist Richard Feynman His book 'Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman' is a treat 😊 Somewhere I discovered the little spark of science in me. . . . #drawings #art #drawing #draw #sketch #artist #artwork #illustration #sketchbook #artistsoninstagram #digitalart #arte #arts #painting #pencil #pencildrawing #instaart #fanart #sketches #sketching #anime #draws #doodle #artsy #portrait #design #illustrator #artoftheday
We, millennials are blessed with technology. Mr Feynman’s precious videos can be found on Youtube. Here’s one where he speaks about light.
Feynman was a cheerful, fun-loving person who used to teach his class while playing the drums! His contributions to Science is immaculate and we all can learn so much from his technique. I am fortunate to have been able to learn about him and I shall continue my quest towards learning more about his techniques and wisdom. I hope you shall be inspired as well to learn anything you desire now that you know how you can eventually learn anything. Keep the lamp burning!
Fascinated by Mr. Feynman, I’ve picked up one of his books Surely you’re Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character. It’s a fun filled adveturous book based on his life written by Feynman himself.
Another book I am reading this week is Unshakeable a best selling book by Tony Robbins based on the basics of finance.