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How to Build a Second Brain

Hey friends, In March 2019, I shared the concept of Building a Second Brain in this newsletter. I'd j
How to Build a Second Brain
By Ali Abdaal • Issue #123 • View online
Hey friends,
In March 2019, I shared the concept of Building a Second Brain in this newsletter. I’d just discovered the field of Personal Knowledge Management and I was excited to dive into it.
I’d linked this article by Tiago Forte that sold me on the concept. Here’s how he describes it.
How many brilliant ideas have you had and forgotten? How many insights have you failed to take action on? How much useful advice have you slowly forgotten as the years have passed?
We feel a constant pressure to be learning, improving ourselves, and making progress. We spend countless hours every year reading, listening, and watching informational content. And yet, where has all that valuable knowledge gone? Where is it when we need it? Our brain can only store a few thoughts at any one time. Our brain is for having ideas, not storing them.
Building A Second Brain is a methodology for saving and systematically reminding us of the ideas, inspirations, insights, and connections we’ve gained through our experience. It expands our memory and our intellect using the modern tools of technology and networks.
I’ve been applying the concepts of Building a Second Brain to my life for the past 16 months, and in June 2019 I took Tiago’s online course diving deeper into it. It was the most money I’d ever spent on online education, but even within the first few sessions, I’d learned more than enough to justify the investment.
Since taking the course, I’ve become friends with Tiago and some other digital note-taking nerds over the internet (mostly through Twitter). And excitingly, in this upcoming cohort (which starts on 1st September) I’ll be an alumni mentor leading live small-group sessions focused on helping students build their own second brain systems.
The course is pretty expensive. If you’re the right sort of person it’ll totally be worth it, but to be honest, basically all the material that gets ‘taught’ on the course is already available online for free, through Tiago’s blog, my YouTube channel, and a load of other sources (just google 'building a second brain’ and you’ll find a tonne of stuff).
The value in the course therefore, is in the accountability and community aspects of it. So if you think that’s worth the price-tag, then I’d highly recommend signing up, and I’ll see you in the live sessions.
If you can’t afford it (and I imagine 99% of people reading this fall into that boat) - don’t worry. As I said, all the material’s online for free. I wish I’d discovered it a decade ago personally. Here are some free places to get started if you’d like:
  1. PKM for Knowledge Workers
  2. Building a Second Brain - Overview
  3. How to take smart notes
One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t take more notes from books I’d read and podcasts I’d listened to. I’ve been remedying that since last year, but I feel like I’ve 10+ years of 'stuff’ that I’d consumed that I’ve now forgotten, which feels like a real shame.
So if there’s one takeaway from this email, it’s this - start building your own second brain, your own digital note-taking system, to distill, organise and share the insights you come across. It’ll change your life :)
Have a great week!
Ali

My Favourite Things This Week
1 - Video - I think a lot about this ‘career’ stuff and this video from UnJaded Jade is incredibly useful and packed with wisdom. I really like her framing that the ‘career’ way of thinking is a relic of our parents’ generation. We can do what we want, as long as it’s interesting and fulfilling, and when it’s no longer interesting, we can do something else! As she says, we are the generation of the pivot. 
2 - Video - This is a great interview with one of my YouTube idols Graham Stephan. It’s a candid look at a whole range of things from his thoughts on hustle, hard work and enjoying the process to how he makes $300k per month from YouTube.
Quote of the Week
If we use busy as an excuse for not doing something what we are really saying is that it’s not a priority. Simply put: You don’t find the time to do something; you make the time to do things.
From ‘Tribe of Mentors’ by Tim Ferriss. Resurfaced using Readwise.
Tweet of the Week
Ali Abdaal
The starting point to finding your niche in anything is: start with the things that you're most interested in. What do you find yourself gravitating towards? What are the things you enjoy reading about? And, therefore, what are the things you might enjoy writing about? https://t.co/L4UN1ZGZ63
This Week's Videos
The Second Brain - A Life-Changing Productivity System
The Second Brain - A Life-Changing Productivity System
How I Type REALLY Fast (156 Words per Minute)
How I Type REALLY Fast (156 Words per Minute)
Did you enjoy this issue?
Ali Abdaal

I’m Ali, a junior doctor, YouTuber and podcaster from Cambridge, UK. Every Sunday I write an email newsletter with some thoughts, life lessons and interesting articles I discovered on the internet that week.

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Ali Abdaal, Cambridge, UK.