Building a Second Brain by Thiago Forte

Rating: 6/10

Read on Amazon

“The sooner you begin, the sooner you start on the path of improvement.”

High Level Thoughts

The book addresses a key challenge that product managers face- knowledge management. Thiago shares actionable tips to manage our notes (spread across wiki, google docs, email, etc..) so that we can free up our brains for creative thinking. It can be a bit repetitive, but the core information is helpful and actionable.

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. The brain is good for making new ideas, not keeping them, so a personal knowledge management system is key to unlocking your full creative potential.
  2. When building a second brain, don’t keep all “interesting” information, instead focus on information that resonates and is actionable.
  3. Capture, organize, distill and express (CODE) are the 4 stages of knowledge management.

Insight for Product Managers

  • Managing information as a product manager is extremely challenging. Applying the CODE framework to knowledge management is a superpower that enables product managers to prioritize work and take a biased for action approach to work.
  • A system for building a second brain is part of the job of product management, however the proper skills are never taught and often leads us to use trial and error to find what works. This is both costly and error prone. Having a system to guide us is useful to mastering the art of note taking.

Notes, Highlights, Quotes

“The best way to organize your notes is to organize for action, according to the active projects you are working on right now. Consider new information in terms of its utility, asking, ‘How is this going to help me move forward with one of my current projects?”

“The purpose of knowledge is to be shared. What’s the point of knowing something if it doesn’t positively impact anyone, not even yourself?”

“Your Second Brain is always on, has perfect memory, and can scale to any size. The more you outsource and delegate the jobs of capturing, organizing, and distilling to technology, the more time and energy you’ll have available for the self-expression that only you can do.”

“The practice of building a Second Brain is more than the sum of capturing facts, theories, and the opinions of others. At its core, it is about cultivating self-awareness and self-knowledge.”

“Your job as a notetaker is to preserve the notes you’re taking on the things you discover in such a way that they can survive the journey into the future. That way your excitement and enthusiasm for your knowledge builds over time instead of fading away.”

“Before we do anything with our ideas, we have to ‘off-load’ them from our minds and put them into concrete form. Only when we declutter our brain of complex ideas can we think clearly and start to work with those ideas effectively.”

“Once our thoughts are outside our head, we can examine them, play with them, and make them better. It’s like a shortcut to realizing the full potential of the thoughts driving through our minds.”

“Waiting until you have everything ready before getting started is like sitting in your car and waiting to leave your driveway until all the traffic lights across town are green at the same time. You can’t wait until everything is perfect.”

“The sooner you begin, the sooner you start on the path of improvement.”

Issac Kwon

I'm a Product Manager with background in design, architecture and in building human experiences. I manage diverse and distributed teams in an Agile product management environment. I get the job done and can get my hands dirty to drive the product and team forward.

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