The Feynman Technique

“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.” —Mortimer Adler

Richard Feynman (1918–1988) is widely regarded as one of the most important physicists of all time. He pioneered an entire field: quantum electrodynamics (QED), his work on light and matter won him the Nobel prize in 1965, he contributed greatly to the advancement of nanotechnology, quantum computing and particle physics. He even helped solve the cause of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Albert Einstein attended Feynman’s first lecture as a grad student and Bill Gates called Feynman “the greatest teacher I never had.” Feynman was also a philosopher, author and intellectual. He was passionate about helping people synthesize seemingly difficult material and learning concepts faster and better.

He came up with a four part technique which I briefly list below. For a deeper dive I encourage you to check out this Medium article and this one from Farnham Street. Both are comprehensive and excellent.

So here are the parts…

One…Choose a concept you want to learn about.

Two…Explain it to a 12 year old.

Three…Reflect, Refine and Simplify.

Four…Organize and Review.

Let’s apply this to making art.

Step One…Find something you’re deeply passionate about. So much so that you want to spend a ton of time learning about it and then creating it.

Step Two…Try to explain your passion project to a child. If you can get them to understand and be interested, chances are you’ll be to get an audience too.

Step Three…Keep refining. Keep making everything better. The art, the producing, the marketing, etc…

Step Four…Stay organized and review. If it’s a stage play for example, constantly update your work plan and budget. Keep taking stock of where you’re at from pre-production all the way to closing night. And remember the post show notebook practice: “what worked, what didn’t and why.

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