There are child geniuses who can speak several different languages or master mathematics at a very early age.
Most of us, ordinary humans, must work hard to learn new subjects. As we get older our memory becomes more complex, tedious, and time-consuming than ever.
There are some tricks how to keep brain healthy in older age, and it is scientifically proven that for example music improves memory.
But what if we want to master unfamiliar subjects as quickly as possible? Is it really possible to learn something fast and on deep level? Richard Feynman (1918-1988), brilliant American theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner developed a simple, yet effective 4-steps technique that help our learning process.
Feynman understood the difference between “knowing something” and “knowing the name of something” and it’s one of the most important reasons for his success.
The Feynman Technique is not restricted to a specific subject, one can use it to learn anything.
Get a notebook and write down what you know about the subject you wish to learn.
Now, pretend you are explaining the subject not to a smart adult, but rather an 8-year-old who has just enough vocabulary and attention span to understand basic concepts and relationships.
Best result is accomplished if you can write down the topic and explain it at the same time, just like a teacher in school standing in front of a blackboard.
The benefit of this approach is that you cannot hide behind difficult technical terms which in reality do not even understand. This means you force yourself to to understand the subject at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas. If you struggle, you have a clear understanding of where you have some gaps.
In step 1, you most likely encountered knowledge gaps. Perhaps it was something you forgot, were unable to explain or simply didn’t understand yourself.
Once you have identified these knowledge gaps, go back to the source material and re-learn it until you can explain it in basic terms. In other words, keep repeating step 1 until there are no gaps anymore.
At this point, you should have complete, simple and clear explanation for your new subject that even a child can follow.
Organize your hand-crafted notes and review them. You can try and read them out loud. If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing that’s a good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work.
If you want to test if you master the subject, you can do step four. Explain the subject to a friend or family member. Try and pick a person who knows little of the subject. If there are things they do not understand and you are unable to explain it to them, it means there are still knowledge gaps you must fill in.
This is the Feynman Technique. It’s simple and effective. It’s a wonderful method of learning that opens a window into a different way of thinking.
If you try this, we wish you good luck!