5 Life Lessons That Richard Feynman, The Greatest Physics Teacher, Taught Us

Most people think of a scientist as a crazy old man with white hair working in his laboratory. They say, Scientists are ‘boring’ people. Surely they didn’t learn about the most dynamic physicist of the 20th century, the handsome Richard Feynamn, who is regarded as the greatest explainer of Physics. Richard was an American Physicist and the winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, books based on his lectures at Caltech, are regarded as one of the best textbooks on Physics. Let us learn 5 life lessons, that this genius taught us!

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1. Have Courage To Study Beyond Your Syllabus

When Feynman was 15 years old, he was self studying trigonometry, advanced algebra, infinite series, analytical geometry and both differential and integral calculus. Before entering college, he was experimenting with and deriving mathematical topics such as the half-derivative using his own notation. He invented his own symbols of logarithm, sine, cosine, tangent etc. so that they don’t look like three variables multiplied with each other (sin, log). When Feynman was doing his bachelor’s in Physics, he self studied quantum mechanics in his summer vacations and went so deep that he formulated a few results on his own.

2. Do It For Fun

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Feynman once quoted, “I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing–it didn’t have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with.” 

It was his creativity towards his subject that made him so good at Physics.

3. Get So Deep That You Forget Everything Else

When he was a graduate student at Princeton, he got outstanding audience for his first seminar. The audience includes famous physicist Wolfgang Pauli, great mathematician John von Neumann, and a giant no less than … Albert Einstein. He openly admitted that knowing such audience would attend his first talk really made him pale. But, when he started delivering his talk, he forgot about all his nervousness and seamlessly delivered the talk. He wrote:

I remember very clearly seeing my hands shaking as they were pulling out my notes from a brown envelope.

But then a miracle occurred, as it has occurred again and again in my life, and it’s very lucky for me: the moment I start to think about the physics, and have to concentrate on what I’m explaining, nothing else occupies my mind–I’m completely immune to being nervous. So after I started to go, I just didn’t know who was in the room. I was only explaining this idea, that’s all.”

When he got into something, he got so deep into it that he forgot about anything else.

4. Make It As Simple As Possible

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Richard Feynman shared his technique of learning that made him understand anything better than others. This technique is now known as the Feynman Technique. Suppose you want to completely grasp a topic of any subject. The first step is to read it heartily. Next, take a sheet of paper and start writing what you understood in the most simplified manner, as if you are trying to explain something to a small kid. You can literally start explaining it to a small kid. Do not use sophisticated words in your explanation. The part in which you start using complex language to explain, will be the weak part that you haven’t understood well. Mark it and read that again till you can write/explain it in your own simple words. That’s how you understand anything better than anyone.

5. Be Bold Enough To Try Something New

Once when he came to Japan for a conference, he was placed in a Western hotel. But, out of his curiosity of the Japanese culture, he boldly asked to be moved to a Japanese hotel. Aside from just staying in the hotel, he did as many things as possible according to the Japanese culture. He also boldly practiced his Japanese in all occasions to the amazement of his colleagues.

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