I enrolled in Cohort 14 of Building a Second Brain in March of this year and thought I’d share some insights from that course to complement my notes from Tiago Forte’s recent book of the same title. Here are three that are still rattling around in my head all these months later that I didn’t find in the book:
1. No Zombie Projects
It’s easy to pile up a list of 10-15 ongoing projects in a master list and watch many of them atrophy from neglect as the months go by. My ideal self lives in my projects — the articles I haven’t written, books I haven’t read, presentations I have yet to give, courses I have yet to take, habits I want to adopt or break, creativity that wants to find expression in the tiny cracks of daylight between the “actual” (re: paying) work that consumes most workdays. Every project is “a hypothesis” that requires testing, in Tiago’s words, and so he advises that it is better for any endeavor to “fail fast” than to continue on in a project-list purgatory forever.
2. Your Attention is your Most Valuable Currency
The course begins with a module on “the perspective age” with the argument that one’s perspective – the way we experience the world, our education, desires, skills and interests—are uniquely ours and that it is the expression of this perspective that adds the most value to what we do creatively. There are a lot of implications that follow from this argument but one that I found compelling was the importance of paying attention to what I am paying attention to. In other words, making sure my information diet is rich with diverse perspectives and depth, and that I have some way of retrieving these – as well as the connected ideas they spark within me – when I need. In the Distill session, he remarked: “If you can just know what you know” you’ll be lightyears ahead in terms of navigating the endless space of the digital information universe.
3. Creative Decisions Really are Agonizing
In Week 4, Tiago showed this simple graphic of the creative process:
“Divergent” stages of thinking – when we pin, like, and save all manner of digital ephemera – has to eventually come to a “convergent stage” of eliminating many of these ideas, even our most beloved (“decision” contains the Latin root –cide meaning “act of killing”). At some point, not all the ideas can progress forward, only the select few – the ones that most align to the purpose of the project. You will inevitably axe material you deeply love – that metaphor, example, chart, or image – but those can be worked into other projects, other spaces. This wasn’t revelatory information but has proved helpful in nudging me along from divergent states (which are always so fun!) to convergent states of thinking and creating that are more challenging.