Deciding To Create A Second Brain
Inspired by Tiago Forte and Nat Elison
Some facts about me
I’m both curious and interested in neurological things, and even more now since I got a DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) to diminish my shaking in my hands, arms, and legs. They’re caused by two kinds of shaking; Firstly essential tremor and secondly Parkinson. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s’ three years ago, and it’s in an early stage so it’s just beginning to affect my life. Essential tremor I have suffered from since late teens but it was just the past 7 years it started to be uncontrollable. Until I could control it by eating Beta-blockers. But 4 years ago they didn’t have any effect either so then I did a Gamma exray and it showed abnormalities in my brain waves. So Last year I got my DBS surgery. My shaking is on a low/manageable level now. It still needs some adjustment on my right side, but my left side is almost free from shakings.
Before doing the surgery I did extended research on the brain and neurological science. The lifelong learner in me had to read as much as possible to be able to decide on doing the surgery or not. The decision, was in the end, not hard to make as the benefits were overwhelming.
A little something about memories
There are three types of memories, explicit, implicit, and short-term.
Explicit memories are conscious memories, the kind we talk about when we say ‘I remember something’. These memories we can consciously recall. They can be related to a special experience or event in your life. They can also be semantic, related to facts or knowledge you acquired for a specific purpose.
Implicit memories are subconscious memories, these are memories acquired over time. For instance things, you haven’t done in years, like cycling, or swimming. In other words; Automatic memories.
Short-term memories are the memory are things your thinking of right now. It’s the part of your brain that helps you remember things for a short period while you do other stuff.
We, humans, are imperfect in regards to memories, our memories are scattered in our brains. And if the memory isn’t connected to a special event or fact, we have trouble bring it back or use it. The lesser trigger points a memory has, the harder it is for us to recall it. So building a second brain with the knowledge we have and gather over time will help us build both cognitive and creative connections, it’s no replacement for our actual brain!
What is a second brain?
(Besides the obvious)
A second brain is a Creative boiler of sorts that stores your ideas and in some cases can interconnect (Neural linking) similar stuff together making it a connector of the dots as well. Hence the name, a second brain.
Why create a second brain?
Being a knowledge junkie like me, collecting stuff almost every day for use later. Like in my Evernote account, right now I have about +70k notes there. It’s random notes, ebooks, pdf, handwritten notes, scanned notes, photos of stuff, and so on. I think in many ways that my Evernote account is like a second brain for me. It has saved me on numerous occasions when I can’t remember where I stored important files, like certificates, bills, transcripts, etc.
This time I have decided to use another software, I have decided to build my second brain in Roam Research. There’s as I see it, a lot of benefits doing so. The first and foremost is that most of the stuff collected in Evernote is obsolete in regards to my interests today. I’m not saying it’s not usable, the stuff collected there will be a library from where I can ‘borrow’ stuff to remix in my second brain. Not importing everything to Roam will make it more valid towards my processing and remixing the stuff today.
The 10 principles for building a second brain
- Borrowed creativity
Creativity is all about remixing stuff, the things you save today and use can be used again in a different context. Creativity is nothing magical or comes from nothing, it comes from your efforts in gathering and storing your own and other’s ideas.
Great artists steal (Pablo Picasso)
- Capture habit
This principle is the most fundamental part of building a 2nd brain because our brains are made for having ideas not storing them.
A good practice is to always keep a notepad with you to scratch down words or ideas. Getting that habit to capture the ideas that pop in your mind before they disappear. Storing them in a system outside your head (Your second brain)makes it both searchable and possible to reuse.
- Idea recycling
Ideas are not for single-use
Store all ideas to your second brain, tweets, and annotations can evolve to knowledge articles too. Putting in extra effort makes your future easier as your ‘stuff’ can be reused over and over again.
- Projects over categories
First to a general inbox
Then associate to a specific project, not to a category like “mindfulness” or “articles”. Be specific of where to assign the note to a project, categories seem to blur the lines. And assigning them to projects makes it also to decided where they should go, and finding it easier when you need them.
- Slow burns
Don’t do the heavy lift, for example, write a book
Do smaller and work on many smaller projects at the same time. Gathering smaller ideas over time using ‘slow burns’ makes your project easier to soar when you have a large collection to mix your project from.
- Start with abundance
Your creativity flows from abundance, how many times have we not sat down with a blank page/canvas not being able to find something clever or unique o start us off? Here your second brain comes in as a great helper to let boost your creativity.
- Intermediate packets
Break down your work into smaller pieces, ‘intermediate packets’ makes it easier to digest and create. At the same time, you can build up a cache of useful knowledge. The smaller ‘packets’ makes it easy to combine and repackage them in the future.
- You only know what you make
When we engage with material ourselves we can do interesting creative stuff with it. Just consuming large amounts of information without engaging yourself with it is both a waste of time as well of knowledge.
Make notes yourself, no cut n paste as keeping your notes uses your own words.
- You want to make it easier for your future self.
Do the work now that your future self will find useful and easy to find, your future self will thank you! Making your notes better and improved over time will make them more useful both now and in the future.
- Keep your ideas moving
Don’t get locked into the system the ‘perfect’ system, because the ‘perfect’ system doesn’t exist. Focus instead on moving and concentrating your goals forward. Your second brain will evolve and suit your needs now and in the future when you put it to use in your daily creative process.
Choosing a platform
This is individual of course, maybe you’re already an avid user of Evernote, Notion, Google Keep, Bear, Onenote, Obsidian, or any other notetaking software/app and then you go from there. For me, I had serious negotiations with myself over where to go. And after a couple of months playing with Roam research, I find it the not only obvious but perfect choice to build it in.
I think that many would benefit in building a second brain for themselves, Students and researchers, journalists, or just people like me; knowledge junkies/Lifelong learners. And of course creative people in the literature field. No matter the field you are in, the second brain helps you structure and remix the stuff you have to do. So why not start now?