Learning Combo: Anki + The Feynman Technique

If you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it. (Richard Feynman)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the Feynman technique?”

“It’s a beautiful technique created by Scott H. Young [<link], which was inspired by the great physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman was extraordinary in his ability to explain the most complex concepts in simple terms. 

I want to become a great explainer like Feynman.

There’s a quote I love by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

I’d say this applies to understanding as well. The essence of understanding lies in simplicity.

“What does the technique look like?”

“The essence of the technique is learning as if by teaching someone who doesn’t know anything about it. The beauty of it is that you don’t actually need someone to teach it to – thought the feedback in such a case might be useful. 

The goal is to simplify as much as possible, both the language and the explanation.
The language by rephrasing in your own words, using as few words as possible, and eliminating jargon.
The explanation by capturing the essence of the concept using analogies and images.

This is an iterative process. 

The technique aligns with an important principle of Learning: Testing (your understanding). When trying to explain something, you’ll often discover that what you took to be understanding was nothing but pseudo-understanding.”

“How do you practice the technique?”

“To retain what you learn requires Repetition. This is another important principle of Learning. The optimal frequency of repeating what you’ve learned is called  Spaced-Repetition. One way to make use of this is by using a flashcard system [<link].”

“Which one do you use?”

“I use an open-source software called Anki [<link]. 

I practice the Feynman Technique by combining it with Anki.

I create flashcards using Anki, and whenever I review them, I test my understanding using the Feynman Technique. So every review is an iteration of the process.”

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About Dani Trusca

Life-Artist, Thinker, Mover (Traceur)

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