I couldn’t be more proud to announce that I’ve signed a six-figure book deal with Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, to publish my book Building a Second Brain.
Subscribe below to get updates on my progress, sneak peeks at early chapters, and bonus resources to help you build your Second Brain now:
One morning in early December 2016, I sat down at a cafe in San Francisco with a burning question on my mind: “What would it look like to teach people how to take digital notes?”
That burning question slowly grew into an obsession, and then a business.
The simple outline I made that morning soon became an online course called Building a Second Brain. In the course, I teach people how to build a system for saving, organizing, and putting to use the most valuable information in their lives.
I call this system a “Second Brain” because it removes from our shoulders the burden of remembering. It allows us to outsource our memory, instead of trying to keep every detail of our work and lives in our heads. It is like having a brilliant collaborator, thought partner, and personal assistant always available, ready to serve up our best ideas at a moment’s notice.
That business has now grown into a community.
Second Brainers, as I like to call them, believe that technology doesn’t have to be only a distraction or a necessary evil. At its best, it can be used as a cognitive exoskeleton – amplifying our intellectual and creative potential far beyond what humans can do on their own.
Seeing my students create their own Second Brain, and then using it to discover a new way of working, has been the single most profound shift I have ever witnessed in people’s ability to create the life they want.
It allows them to do better, more creative, more original work. It enables them to manage all of life’s responsibilities with ease. It empowers them to run after their creative ambitions without sacrificing their health and peace of mind.
When we outsource the mundane work of managing information to a Second Brain, we suddenly have the time and space to do the imagining and playing and creating that only humans are capable of.
The origin story
I began using software to manage information more than 10 years ago.
It started when I came down with a debilitating, chronic health condition that appeared out of nowhere, with no explanation. Suddenly, I had to keep track of an overwhelming number of documents, insurance forms, test results, and doctor’s notes just to make it through my week.
I developed my Second Brain because I needed a way to manage all this information while also finishing my studies, advancing my career, and eventually, starting a business.
A few years into that business, I began to notice that my readers and customers also struggled to manage the flow of information they were exposed to each day. I was teaching people how to improve their productivity, but all the productivity tips in the world were pointless when they felt incredibly anxious, fearful, and hopeless about ever getting the flood under control. They wanted a way to do better, more creative work without exhausting themselves with heroic feats of self-discipline.
In the Building a Second Brain course I teach the antidote to the usual approach to self-improvement: how to optimize a system outside of yourself, so that you don’t have to be optimized. I teach the system of knowledge management that has helped me recover from my health problems and thrive.
In just a few years, the “Second Brain” concept has gone from a bizarre oddity to a widely discussed trend.
I constantly come across articles and interviews in which people reference their Second Brain and what it allows them to accomplish. Every week I hear incredible testimonials of people taking ownership of their creative process and taking on bigger challenges than they ever imagined possible.
The time has come to make our community into a movement. To bring the potential of “thinking tools” to those who have never encountered them before.
Creating a movement
I call it the “Second Brain movement.” It is inspired by a profound possibility – that we can use computers to think better.
This possibility points to a future where people know exactly how to deploy their knowledge to design better products, make better content, and achieve their goals. Instead of stockpiling and hoarding information with no end in sight.
This is a future where information overload is a distant memory. Where we know how to make use of all the ideas, theories, facts, stories, frameworks, advice, wisdom, and resources available to us online, with total confidence that we can find what we need when we need it.
From the first group of 30 students in early 2017, we’ve grown to a most recent cohort of more than 800 students, all learning together simultaneously, from dozens of countries and time zones. We have a team of 22 people managing every aspect of this learning environment, all focused on ensuring that our students succeed.
In total, more than 2,000 engineers, designers, analysts, writers, project managers, executives, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, students, and others have taken on the challenge of building a Second Brain of their own in our course.
The live teaching format has been essential in allowing us to rapidly improve every part of the methodology. It has allowed us to see in real time which concepts and frameworks are making sense, and to try different ways of teaching them. With each group, we have gathered case studies, success stories, and examples from dozens of companies and industries about what it looks like to work with a Second Brain day to day.
Making a Second Brain available to everyone
Despite this success, it’s become clear that the number of people we can reach with online learning will always be limited.
As the world gets more uncertain and changes ever faster, getting world-class knowledge management skills into everyone’s hands has only gotten more important and more urgent.
We now work in a knowledge economy. The most important factors are no longer how many hours you work, how much effort you exert, or where you are located. What matters now is what you know, how well you document and organize that knowledge, and your ability to share it with others.
Technology is an essential part of modern work, but using it effectively requires a new skill – Personal Knowledge Management, known as PKM. Until now, PKM has been an obscure, academic field for the intellectual elite. But now, it is an essential survival skill for everyone navigating the modern world. It is the price of admission for anyone who wants to have their choice of career paths and have technology work in their favor, instead of being a threat.
This book will take Personal Knowledge Management into the mainstream of professional and business culture. Just as Getting Things Done introduced the idea of “personal productivity” as something that anyone can improve and benefit from, Building a Second Brain will open their eyes to the potential for knowledge management.
Why I’m working with a publisher
My top priority is that this book is available to the most disadvantaged and underprivileged people in the world.
They have the most to gain from entering the knowledge economy, from making the switch from manual labor to getting paid for their thinking. I will do everything I can to make the book available in every country, in every language, and in every format possible. There will be an audiobook, hardcover and softcover versions, and of course, it will be available as an ebook on every online platform.
Most of all, I will do everything I can to make the basic ideas as absolutely simple and actionable as possible.
The course will continue to improve, and we will start aligning the methodology across the book, the course, and free content on the blog as the publishing date nears. For anyone who reads the book and wants to dive deeper, we’ll have the Second Brain community ready and waiting for them. Eventually there will be a format and price point for anyone, anywhere, who wants to build a Second Brain.
I’ve chosen a traditional publishing deal because publishers provide credibility and authority still unmatched by the purely digital world.
It will make this book more likely to be adopted by schools, libraries, bookstores, government agencies, non-profits, and companies – the places where most people learn how to organize and share their knowledge. Books are powerful drivers of speaking and consulting engagements, panels and roundtables, and interviews and appearances in the mainstream media – the places that people look to for guidance.
Working with a publisher, distribution partners, and retailers will give us access to a far larger and more diverse audience, which can only diversify the language we use and the number of communities we reach. Just working on the proposal has already improved how I write and teach, by forcing me to distill my message into its most simplest form. I expect that trend to continue as I write the manuscript.
The greatest strength of a book is its simplicity: it doesn’t require any special technology to read, doesn’t depend on WiFi or a device, and can be easily passed from person to person. Books are by far the most universal format for knowledge transfer ever invented. They can find their way into the nooks and crannies of society like no other form of communication.
I’m going to be sharing updates on every step of the journey, everything I’m learning about writing and publishing, sneak peeks at early chapters, and as always, free weekly posts on how to improve your own knowledge management.
Join below to receive those, and to be part of the community, the movement, and the future we are working toward.
Thank you so much for being part of the journey so far. None of this would be possible without your support. This is only the very beginning.