“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This is a quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein.
The Feynman mental model is a model of learning named after Richard Feynman, a Nobel Awards Winning Physicist.He was called the Great Explainer for his ability to relay complex ideas to others in simple intuitive ways. It’s a very powerful mental model. In fact, it’s a principle I have employed in my writing for HighLifer.
There was a story about Richard Feynman going into the mathematic department and then calling people to explain any idea to him as long as they used simple terminology. He would then explain the concepts reaching the same conclusions as the person who he challenged.
You can use the Feynman’s Technique to understand ideas you don’t get yet, you can use it to remember ideas better, you can also use it for a more efficient way to study.
In addition to helping you pinpoint those problem areas in the concept you’re trying to learn, the Feynman Technique gives you a quick, efficient way to shore up those areas using targeted learning. It’s a simple technique, but it’ll help you study much more efficiently once you put into action.
- Choose the concept you want to understand. For example, ‘ I want to learn to read music’. Write it down on a sheet of paper.
- Explain the definition or concept in your own words. Don’t limit the explanation to just a definition. Go further to give one or two examples. This will allow you put what you are learning into action.
- Review your explanation and find out areas that you are not too sure of. Once you pinpoint these areas go back to your source material to learn again. Go back to someone who knows about the subject and ask the specific questions or ask for an explanation for that part you’re trying to learn.
- Review once again. This time, look for areas where you used vague terms or complex language. Reconstruct this with simple terms.
I mostly think that learning works best when you are very interested in what you want to learn. So put that in mind when you want to apply this.