Knowing something is different than knowing the name of something.
Shane Parrish of Farnam Street Blog spoke of this concept from Richard Feynman, the Nobel winning Physicist.
Feynman said that his technique would ensure that he understood something better than everyone else. It helped him learn everything deeper and faster.
In a previous post we talked about Step 1: Teach it to a child. Feynman’s second step is Review
Step 2: Review
In step one, you will inevitably encounter gaps in your knowledge where you’re forgetting something important, are not able to explain it, or simply have trouble connecting an important concept.
This is invaluable feedback because you’ve discovered the edge of your knowledge. Competence is knowing the limit of your abilities, and you’ve just identified one!
I want to key in on one word that Feynman uses here, feedback. This word has its beginnings in the early days of rocketry. When the scientist were developing the first rockets near the end of World War II, they discovered early they could develop a rocket with enough thrust to reach a target. Thrust was not the problem.
The problem was they couldn’t actually hit a target even tough they had enough thrust to reach the target. They then had to spend more brain power, money and time to develop a process they described by coining the word, feedback.
Thrust is not the issue in learning. What you need is feedback from other minds. It works best when you inquire expert minds and more importantly when you inquire novice minds. Experts will ask great questions but experts also make too many assumptions. Novice minds have no such assumptions and will often ask more intriguing and difficult questions.
Review in your own mind. Review with experts. Review with novice minds. The important part is to make no assumptions. I’m reminded of a saying that my high school physics teacher was fond of using, “Assume makes and ‘a**’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.”
Reviewing means questioning all of your assumptions.