Has your boss just dropped a new project on your desk—that you know nothing about—and is expecting a full report on it by the end of the week?
These moments scream panic. How are you going to learn a new topic and produce a report in such a short amount of time?
Learning something new doesn’t have to be anxiety induced, painful or daunting. How? Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman explains in his Feynman Technique.
The physicist understood the fundamental difference between ‘knowing something’ and ‘knowing the name of something’ which was at the root of his success.
The Feynman Technique will help you learn anything and on a deeper level, fast. This technique will work and it’s so easy to implement, the topic, concept or subject you want to learn doesn’t matter.
Here are the simple steps to learning a new topic, fast:
- Learn all you can about your new topic—this is your source information, now explain it by writing it down on a piece of paper as if you were teaching an 8-year-old child. Try to identify where your knowledge gaps are.
TIP: use simple words and sentences. If you’re struggling to explain it using simple language chances are you don’t understand your topic completely.
HINT: we often fool ourselves by using jargon that conceals our misunderstanding from those around us. You might have seen this in your daily life or perhaps you are guilty of doing it one time or another. Simplified language can be extremely exposing but liberating at the same time.
- Repeat step 1 until there are no more gaps in your understanding and explanation.
TIP: this is where your learning really starts. Identify where you got stuck, now go back to your source information to find what you’re missing.
- Are you able to simplify your information any further? This third step will help cement the new knowledge in your brain.
- Optional: actually try out your new knowledge on a real human, if they understand the topic as well as you do, you’ve nailed the topic.
Another great thing about the Feynman Technique is your new found knowledge will not fall out of your head the minute you stop learning about it. It’s in there for as long as you want it around.
And that’s all there is to it.
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