How to Use The Feynman Technique to 10X Your Learning​

People forget 50% of what they learned within one hour. In 24 hours, they forget 70%. In a week, 90% is gone.

The brain stores that information in short-term memory. It doesn’t get transitioned to long-term working memory.

This always frustrated me.

I would take a class, then find myself forgetting most of what I learned the day after. My notes would help some, but I struggled to retain enough information to get through exams.

I went searching for a solution.

After going through a number of options, I stumbled on a very powerful learning technique. It has transformed the way I learn and how much information I can retain.

It’s called the Feynman Technique.

Here's What You'll Discover
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    What Is The Feynman Technique?

    This technique gets its name from a man by the name of Richard Feynman.

    He was a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist. He made significant contributions towards quantum electrodynamics.

    Another thing he became known for was the easy way he explained complicated topics. He could break down complex subjects into easy-to-understand language.

    Feynman taught for several years at the California Institute of Technology. His lectures became legendary for taking the mystery out of complex topics. Students, who had no previous knowledge of complex topics like particle physics, left understanding exactly what Feynman was talking about.

    It was this gift that sparked the development of this revolutionary technique. It’s a gift you can use yourself.

    The Feynman Technique

    Why Is This Method So Important?

    Feynman understood something very important. It’s one thing to know the name of something. It’s a completely different to understand actually what it is.

    I can point to any object and tell you its name. “The bright light in the sky is the Sun.” But, naming something isn’t enough. Think about these questions:

    • What is the Sun made of?

    • Why is it there, in the sky?

    • Why does it appear in the east and disappear in the west every day?

    • What role does it play in everyday life for people on planet Earth?

    • How does it affect Earth and the other planets?

    • What would happen if it disappeared one day?

    • How old is it?

    • How long will it last?

    These questions are just the beginning of understanding what the Sun is, how it impacts the world, etc. Think of the old detective questions: Who, What, Where, Why, and How. This question puts each one to good use when learning a new concept.

    Feynman used his natural curiosity to delve into complex topics. He broke them down into small, easy-to-understand components. And that’s the heart of why this technique is so important.

    The Feynman Technique teaches you how to break down complex information. It encourages you to delve into the areas you don’t know, so you develop a more precise understanding. Then, you put it all back together in a way that makes sense to you and to others.

    • The Feynman Technique teaches you how to break down complex information. It encourages you to delve into the areas you don't know, so you develop a more precise understanding.

      Then, you put it all back together in a way that makes sense to you and to others.

    How Can the Feynman Technique Help You?

    We live in a world that’s overflowing with information. It’s not practical to think that you can learn everything at a deep level. That’s why most people have a shallow understanding of many topics and a deep understanding of very few.

    The Feynman technique helps identify what you know, where your knowledge is lacking, and where to fill in your knowledge gaps. This is beneficial in so many ways:

    • It allows you to gain a complete understanding of any topic.

    • It helps you overcome any subject that’s tough to understand.

    • It improves your learning and teaching skills.

    • It encourages the use of critical thinking skills.

    • It enhances your learning retention rate.

    • It helps you identify people who claim to be masters on a specific topic, but lack critical knowledge.

    You won’t forget 50% of what you learned an hour ago with this technique.

    What is the fastest way to learn the Feynman technique?

    The key to the technique is explaining a complex topic in an easy-to-understand way. Let’s break down this process.

    Step 1 –  Choose a Concept You Want to Learn

    Step 2 –  Pretend You Are Teaching the Concept to a Student

    Step 3 –  Identify Gaps with Your Explanation

    Step 4 –  Review and Simplify (Optional)

    Step 1 - Choose a Concept You Want to Learn

    What topic or concept do you want to learn more about? It might be delving into a complex scientific theory or gaining understanding of a mathematical formula. Maybe your professor wants you to discover why Germany embraced Nazism in the 1930s or the impact of the French Revolution on the rest of Europe.

    This technique works for understanding scientific concepts, mathematical theories, historical events, political decisions, and much more.

    Step 2 - Pretend You Are Teaching the Concept to a Student

    Take a piece of paper and write the topic of your choice at the top. Now, write down everything you know about that topic. But, don’t write it down in language filled with jargon and sophisticated vocabulary.

    Write it down as if you are teaching it to a 12-year-old child in grade 6. Children that age has enough vocabulary to understand many concepts and relationships. But, they haven’t learned about advanced topics or interrelationships between concepts.

    It’s quite common for people to use complicated language and technical jargon to mask their lack of understanding. You can put a name to something, but don’t understand what it really means. Taking away the complex naming and sticking to simple language strips away this mask.

    This exercise will be both simple and difficult. There are areas where you have some understanding, others where you don’t.

    Step 3 - Identify Gaps with Your Explanation

    As you are writing your simple explanation, you will find gaps in your knowledge. That’s when you need to go back to the source material to fill in the gaps. It’s the opportunity to get a better understanding of the topic.

    Look for multiple sources. If one source doesn’t give a clear explanation, look for a simpler one.

    Reading multiple sources gives the reader a more comprehensive understanding of complex subjects. This makes it easier to explain complex topics in a way that a 12-year-old can understand.

    Make notes of everything you learn.

    Step 4 - Review and Simplify (Optional)

    Review all of your notes and written explanations. Does your narrative include all the pertinent information? Does it contain hidden jargon? Does it flow well?

    An easy way to measure if your narrative is easy to understand is to read it out loud.
    It shouldn’t sound confusing or jump from one thing to another without transition. It shouldn’t be complicated. The narrative should include examples that make sense.

    The narrative should also be concise. A student in grade 6 doesn’t have a long attention span. If you take too long in your explanation, the kid’s going to wander off to talk to someone else.

    Continue to simplify your explanation until it’s easy enough for a 12-year-old to understand.

    Another way to measure your success is to find an actual student in grade 6. (If you can’t find a child to listen, find someone with no knowledge of the subject.) Read your narrative and see if the person has any questions. Those questions point to areas where your narrative can improve.

    One Final Question:

    How Do You Think Like A Child Again?

    As people grow older, they start taking things at face value. When learning something new, they just write down the words, but don’t try to learn what they mean. That’s when students of every age need to start thinking like children again.

    Let your curiosity out. Learn to ask the one question every four-year-old knows.

    Think like a child


    Why does that math formula work every time? Why did William the Conqueror invade England? Why is the sky blue? Why does a dog bark and a cat meow?

    Why? Because “Why?” opens up doors to areas that you have never explored.

    Never rely on blind assumptions, shortcuts, or black box explanations. It’s important to gain an understanding of why something is always assumed, what the shortcut eliminates, and how the black box’s inner workings work.

    We assume that 2+2=4. But why do we make that assumption? We can take two objects and put them with two other objects. Then, we count all the objects and come up with a total of four.

    It works every time. But a small child wouldn’t understand it without explanation.

    In conclusion…

    Does Feynman technique work?

    The technique is extremely effective for learning and retaining old and new topics of study. It offers a different way of thinking that allows you to break ideas down and put them back together.

    Let’s say you are sitting down with an old friend and talking about your jobs. If that person starts using complicated terms and jargon, ask your friend to explain it to you like you are a 12-year-old.

    It supercharges your learning. It encourages your friend to think in a new way.
    This technique also helps you identify shallow knowledge versus in-depth learning. Someone may be masking their lack of knowledge with flashy jargon and complicated explanations.

    Breaking down complicated subjects and avoiding jargon helps encourage critical thinking. It accelerates the learning process as well as the person’s ability to retain information.

    With the Feynman Technique, you won’t forget 90% of what you learned this week. What topic do you want to start with?

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