Three Steps to Become the Best Learner – Part III

by Ron Potter

In previous blog posts, I wrote about the 1st and 2nd  steps of becoming the best learner. The concept comes from Richard Feynman, the Nobel-winning Physicist. His description of the first step was to teach it to a child. Something I called teaching a 5th grader. The second was to review.

Feynman says that Step 3 is Simplify. I unpacked Review a few weeks ago, but let me expound a bit on it before we get in to Simplify.

Step 2: Review

In this step, he speaks of finding gaps in our knowledge, looking for the connections, understanding the concepts.

I believe he’s uncovering two important principles in this step. One is that if we don’t get something it’s not because we’re stupid, it’s because we’re ignorant. Ignorant simply means that we’re not aware or are uninformed about something. Stupid means that we’re unwise or senseless. We just need a bit more information or understanding.

The second principle is probably the most important one to learn. We’re simply looking at it from a different perspective. Another Nobel Prize winner, Max Planck said: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Learn to shift your perspectives and look at things from a different angle or how someone else might look at the same thing.

Step 3: Organize and Simplify

Organization is important but I believe the key principle here is Simplify. That doesn’t mean to dumb it down, it means to think of it in a simple, elegant way. Good presenters get their presentation slides down to one word, image or icon. That’s elegant and that’s what people remember.

Step 4 (optional): Transmit

If you can’t teach it to a fifth grader, you either haven’t understood it yourself or you haven’t put it into an elegant enough form to transmit it or teach it well. Keep trying.

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