Have you ever wanted to increase your personal development by gaining knowledge about something – a particular subject, event, person, or philosophy – but weren’t sure how to go about it?
What is knowledge, anyway? Is it understanding something, or is it just knowing what it’s called, like you know the answers to a trivia game without comprehending their meaning or significance?
At Viking Man, we believe that gaining new knowledge isn’t about filling your head with meaningless words and names of people, places, and concepts. It’s more important that you understand the full meaning behind those words, names, and concepts.
More than that, you should be able to know about something so thoroughly that you can condense it down into an explanation easy enough for a 12-year-old child to understand. Only then will you be able to use your newfound knowledge to improve yourself, your intellect, your life circumstances, or whatever your improvement goals are.
That’s the whole idea behind the Feynman Technique.
What Is The Feynman Technique?
The Feynman Technique is a simple, four-step process for learning something new. It was developed by a man named Richard Feynman, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.
Feynman wasn’t just well-known for his expertise in physics. He was also known for his ability to break down complex subjects and explain them in such a simple, yet effective way that even a child would be able to understand them.
For Feynman, the ability to explain something in simple language is an indicator of true knowledge. If we only rely on big, fancy, complicated words to describe a difficult concept, for example, then we probably don’t actually understand what we’re talking about. We only know the words for it.
But what do those words actually mean? Do we know that, too, or are we just spouting off what we’ve heard other people say or read from a textbook?
The only way to find out whether we know or not is to try to explain this difficult concept in as easy a manner as possible. Our goal should be for a 12-year-old child to be able to understand what we’re saying. When we reach that goal, Feynman says, we’ve achieved true knowledge.
That’s the Feynman Technique.
How To Use The Feynman Technique
Fitting to its purpose, there are only four steps to the Feynman Technique.
Step 1: Choose the thing you want to learn about.
Step 2: Explain it to a 12-year-old child (this can be a real child or one you made up in your head).
Step 3: Reflect, Refine, and Simplify.
Step 4: Organize and Review.
Now, let’s go into more detail for each step.
Step 1: Choose The Thing You Want To Learn About
This part should be easy. Obviously if you’re reading about a technique for gaining knowledge, you must have something in mind that you want to gain knowledge about.
It can literally be anything, but to make it easier on yourself, it’s best to hone in on a specific thing. For example, instead of saying, “I want to learn how to become a better man,” you can say, “I want to learn how to be confident without becoming arrogant.”
Now that you’ve chosen the object of your learning focus, it’s time to, well, learn more about it. Search for it on Google, go to the library and look up books on it, and read articles and interviews of people talking about it.
Gather up as much knowledge as you can and write it in a notebook. Keep researching and writing until you’re fairly confident that you’ve found out all you need to know about your topic.
Step 2: Explain It To A 12-Year-Old Child
Next, take your notebook and write down your explanation of the thing you wanted to learn as if you’re explaining it to a child only 12 years of age.
Don’t forget that a 12-year-old child doesn’t use big words that academics, scientists, and other intellectuals use. With all the information you’ve gathered and written down about your topic, you should be able to explain it in a simple, concise way without using complex jargon.
During this step, you may find yourself struggling to put all that knowledge into simple words. This struggle reveals all the gaps where you’re depending on jargon to define concepts for you, rather than you defining them yourself. It’s here that you begin to see how much you actually know.
Step 3: Reflect, Refine, And Simplify
Once you’re finished with it, reflect on the explanation you just wrote. Reflect, also, on the research that you wrote down to ensure you thoroughly understand it, even without the use of special, complex terms and industry jargon.
Next, refine and simplify your explanation of the topic until you believe that a child would be able to fully comprehend it. Go back and forth between your explanation and your research as often as you need to until you get it right.
Step 4: Organize And Review
Finally, organize your explanation and review it. Do you feel you’ve truly learned it?
To test your knowledge, try the explanation out on someone who doesn’t know anything about the subject – a child or even an adult friend or family member. See if they understand the topic by the time you’re through. If not, go back to step 3 and keep reviewing, refining, and simplifying.
By the end of your experiment with the Feynman Technique, you should find yourself in possession of real knowledge. This is the type of learning that a Viking Man should seek: full facts, set free from confusing language. Now, you can apply that knowledge to your personal development and help yourself to thrive as a man.