You don’t fully understand something until you can explain it to a child

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman used a four-step method for learning:

  • Pretend that you are teaching what you want to learn to a child.
  • Identify the gaps in your explanation.
  • Go back to the source material to try to get a better understanding and fill in the gaps.
  • Optional: Transmit to others.

You may think that teaching to a child means simplifying things so much that nothing deep or complex can be explained. Not so. Teaching to a child involves such a deep understanding of the topic that you can synthesize your explanation into something that seems simple and logical.

Also, a child won’t let you hide behind words and babble, won’t let you off the hook. Can you define the words and terms you are using? A child will stop asking why only when he or she is truly satisfied with your explanation.

We don’t need to wait for a special occasion to use Feynman’s trick. When you think you’ve understood a concept or a situation, try to explain it in your own words stripping it down to the basic concepts. Explain it in the simplest, clearer way possible.

Better yet, publish it somewhere on the internet. Writing in public brings the game to a whole different level because it gives you nowhere to hide.

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