Feynman technique to learn anything

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who made important contributions in areas resembling quantum mechanics and particle physics. He additionally pioneered quantum computing, introducing the idea of nanotechnology. He was a famend lecturer who taught at Cornell and Caltech.

Regardless of all of his accomplishments, Feynman considered himself as “an extraordinary one that studied exhausting.” He believed that anybody was able to studying with sufficient effort, even complicated topics like quantum mechanics and electromagnetic fields:

There’s no miracle individuals. It simply occurs they received on this factor they usually realized all these items. There’s simply individuals.” – Richard Feynman*

What made Richard Feynman Richard Feynman (in accordance to Richard Feynman, at the very least) wasn’t innate intelligence, however the systematic approach wherein he recognized the issues he didn’t know after which threw himself into understanding them inside and outside. All through his work and life, Feynman supplied insights into his course of for contemplating complicated ideas on the planet of physics and distilling data and concepts with magnificence and ease. Many of those observations about his studying course of have been collected into what we now name “The Feynman Technique”.

The Feynman Technique is a studying idea you should use to perceive nearly anything.


To constantly increase your skillset and achieve mastery over new and sophisticated ideas, it’s essential to have a framework for conquering puzzling issues starting from laptop science and product design to psychology and evolutionary biology.

This text will present an summary of the Feynman Technique and how one can apply it to constantly increase your data and skillset. In brief, Feynman will educate you not simply how to learn however how to actually perceive.

What’s the Feynman Technique?

“I used to be born not realizing and have had solely just a little time to change that right here and there.” – Richard Feynman

The Feynman Technique is a four-step course of for understanding any subject. This technique rejects automated recall in favor of true comprehension gained by choice, analysis, writing, explaining, and refining.

Feynman’s biography, penned by James Gleick, offers a bunch of clues into the well-known physicist’s studying course of. Right here’s only one:

“In getting ready for his oral qualifying examination, a ceremony of passage for each graduate scholar, he selected not to examine the outlines of recognized physics. As a substitute he went up to MIT, the place he might be alone, and opened a contemporary pocket book. On the title web page he wrote: Pocket book Of Issues I Don’t Know About. For the primary however not the final time he reorganized his data. He labored for weeks at disassembling every department of physics, oiling the components, and placing them again collectively, wanting all of the whereas for the uncooked edges and inconsistencies. He tried to discover the important kernels of every topic. When he was carried out he had a pocket book of which he was particularly proud.”

He rejected rote memorization; believed that studying must be an lively technique of “trial and error, discovery, free inquiry”; and held that for those who couldn’t clarify one thing clearly and easily it was since you didn’t perceive it nicely sufficient.

His philosophies make up the Feynman Technique:


A graphic that shows the 4 stages of the Feynman Technique
  1. Select an idea to learn. Choose a subject you’re fascinated about studying about and write it on the high of a clean web page in a pocket book.
  2. Train it to your self or another person. Write all the things you realize a couple of subject out as for those who have been explaining it to your self. Alternately, truly educate it to another person.
  3. Return to the supply materials for those who get caught. Return to no matter you’re studying from – a e book, lecture notes, podcast – and fill the gaps in your data.
  4. Simplify your explanations and create analogies. Streamline your notes and rationalization, additional clarifying the subject till it appears apparent. Moreover, consider analogies that really feel intuitive.

How the Feynman Technique Works

“I couldn’t cut back it to the freshman degree. Which means we actually don’t perceive it.” – Richard Feynman

Usually, we don’t understand we don’t perceive one thing till it’s too late.

Perhaps you’re dealing with down a query on an examination. Or somebody asks you to clarify a subject you thought you understood. And instantly, your thoughts goes clean. While you’re requested to display your data exterior your personal head, you understand you knew quite a bit lower than you thought.

The Feynman Technique doesn’t allow us to idiot ourselves into considering we’re masters of a topic once we’re actually amateurs. Every step of the method forces us to confront what we don’t know, have interaction straight with the fabric, and make clear our understanding.

Select a Idea to Learn

Choosing an idea to examine compels you to be intentional about what you don’t know. It additionally forces you to select a subject that’s sufficiently small that it might fairly match onto one or a number of pages.

Why this step works:

  • You face what you don’t know. By writing a subject down on a clean web page, you acknowledge you’re ranging from scratch or at the very least filling in some blanks. In doing so, take the preliminary step within the course of.
  • You want to be particular. Given the gathered data within the universe, most of us know nothing about most issues! Writing down explicitly what you don’t know offers you with a place to begin.
  • You may have to begin small. You actually solely have a web page (or a couple of) to refill with info. You possibly can’t match all the things there may be to find out about “Evolutionary Science” or “Microeconomics” or “Psychology” on a web page. As a substitute, work on smaller extra outlined ideas or what may reliably be discovered on a midterm or ultimate examination.

Clarify it to your self or educate it to another person

“The primary precept is that you could not idiot your self and you’re the best individual to idiot.” – Richard Feynman

A traditional studying mistake is studying an article or textbook and contemplating our studying full. In actuality, reading is not understanding. We’d even take notes, basically transcribing a useful resource’s sentences into our notebooks. We regularly nod to ourselves, considering we’ve grasped a topic. In any case, we’ve taken notes.

However true understanding requires a extra lively course of like instructing. Begin out by formally instructing your self. Write out a abstract in your personal phrases with out your notes. Or clarify it to your self out loud. Then take it to the following degree by instructing different individuals. Instructing additionally initiates a suggestions loop, the place critique or questions may help us learn and sharpen our considering.

Why this step works:

  • It makes it tougher to trick your self. When you could have to actually clarify one thing, whether or not by writing or aloud, you encounter the holes in your reasoning and the white areas in your data. Consider writing and instructing as a course of to get hold of understanding, not one thing you do when you already perceive.
  • It’s even tougher to trick others. If an evidence you’re offering doesn’t make sense, they’ll usually inform you or you may decide up cues like clean stares. As a take a look at, ask them to repeat what you taught them in their very own phrases. If they will’t do that, your rationalization is simply too complicated –– simplify it and use plain language.
  • You construct confidence. While you actually perceive one thing, it clicks. You possibly can clarify it ahead and backward, stating exceptions and recognizing logical inconsistencies. When this occurs, it builds confidence and pushes you to deal with much more difficult topics realizing you could have a strong framework for studying.

Return to the supply materials for those who get caught

Studying must be iterative. As a rule, studying one thing difficult takes a number of makes an attempt. With the Feynman Technique, returning to the supply materials is an express a part of the educational course of. When gaps in our data come up and our explanations aren’t fairly proper, revisiting our main and secondary sources may help solidify what we’re studying.

Getting it proper will doubtless take a number of iterations. That’s a great factor; the extra you refine your explanations, the extra your understanding will deepen.

Graphic showing a back and forth movement between steps 3 and 2

Why this step works:


  • Studying turns into an iterative course of. Reasonably than viewing studying as a one-and-done, this step offers you permission to constantly refresh your data.
  • You’re actively engaged. Utilizing sources to polish our personal explanations and fashions is an lively course of. Once we learn passively, committing particulars to reminiscence is tougher. Once we’re actively a part of creating our personal summaries and reasoning, drawing deliberately from authentic info to fill our blind spots, we are able to extra readily commit data to our long-term reminiscence.
  • You increase your data base. Paradoxically, the extra we learn, the extra our capability to learn will increase. Wanting by a chapter of a textbook may really feel like a special language the primary time round. The second time it turns into extra clear. The third time, with a robust base already, we decide up nuances we couldn’t have probably seen earlier than.

Simplify your explanations and create your personal analogies

Each discipline of examine has its personal specialised phrases. Whereas it might be essential to know them, it’s additionally essential to not confuse realizing jargon with realizing ideas. The Feynman Technique entails simplifying our preliminary explanations and refining our understanding by easy analogies.

Why this step works:

  • Simplicity is a proxy for understanding. It’s simple sufficient to commit phrases to reminiscence, and repeat them again when prompted. However memorization shouldn’t be understanding. Once we can’t depend on huge phrases that make us sound sensible, we now have to distill what we actually know to probably the most primary kind. That is the place true understanding takes place.
  • Analogies are simpler to recall and clarify. While you perceive a difficult idea, analogies enable you to create a short-hand for recalling it shortly and explaining it to others clearly. Studying materials usually offers ready-made analogies for us. For instance, all of us in all probability have “the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell” burned into our collective reminiscences. Nonetheless, pushing ourselves to create our personal analogies is much more highly effective than regurgitating a borrowed one which we could not truly perceive.

In Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over, the famend economist notes that technological advances are driving us in the direction of a future of labor the place, “missing the fitting coaching means being shut out of alternatives like by no means earlier than.” In describing the function of schooling in future economies, Cowen argues that the one that finds success will more and more be the one “who sits down and really begins making an attempt to grasp the fabric”.

Now, greater than ever, it’s essential to undertake the mindset of a life-long learner.

Studying new abilities and knowledge takes time and endurance, but additionally humility. By beginning with a clean web page, you face what you don’t know head-on. From there, you solely want a pen, assets, and the willingness to discover to embark on an indefinite studying quest.