Building a DIY Second Brain

The way you’ve been taught to write is wrong.

Mannon continues the thread with the following suggestion:

“It’s better to write first, then research second.”

But, you ask, how can I write without researching? Don’t I need to gather information before I even know what I can write about?

You’d be right, but that thinking is a mistake of modern-day writers.

David Perell and Tiago Forte have revolutionized my relationship to information. Through them, I’ve learned a system for capturing the best information I find and then turning it into published works (like this blog post).

Forte teaches an online course called Building a Second Brain (BASB) where he teaches students how to create a note-taking system that transforms their productivity. Perell built a follow-up course called Write of Passage that is BASB applied to help students become prolific writers.

These courses sound amazing. In fact, I want to enroll in both. The only problem? They’re beyond my price range for now.

Fortunately, you can build a “DIY” version for very cheap using information freely/cheaply available online.

I created a Twitter thread on how to do that.

For your convenience, I have expanded on those steps below.

Best wishes to you as you build your second brain!

The Seven Steps to a DIY Second Brain

  1. Sign up for Evernote, Instapaper, and LINER.
  2. Watch the Smart Sync Workshop and build out what they talk about
  3. Sign up for ($10)
  4. Read the PARA, Progressive Summarization, and Just-in-Time Project Management Series
  5. (As you read, build out your system)
  6. Extra credit: Read the Theory of Constraints series
  7. Continue to iterate

Sign up for Evernote, Instapaper, and LINER.

Personally, I pay for Evernote‘s yearly subscription (and always will) and Instapaper’s $3/month plan. I use the free version of LINER.

Watch the Smart Sync Workshop and build out what they talk about

Sign up for ($10)

Tiago Forte has spent a TON of time going into insane detail on building a second brain on his blog that can be accessed for the price of the two Starbucks lattes. The first step is to pay $10 to get access for a month. Then, it’s time to start reading.

Read the PARA, Progressive Summarization, and Just-in-Time Project Management Series

Your curiosity may take you to other articles on the site, but these are the ones you NEED to read. Read these in Instapaper and export your highlights into Evernote since you know how to do that now.

(As you read, build out your system)

Not every post will give you something that you can do immediately. Many of them will. Iterate with each piece of relevant information.

Extra credit: Read the Theory of Constraints series

If you like to read, this is a good one. It’s probably worth your time, but not necessary.

Continue to iterate

Your system can only improve if it breaks down.

Tiago Forte (paraphrase)

Your second brain is going to fail you. You’re going to want it to do something that it’s not built to do yet. That’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity to iterate and improve.

It’s not too different from your real brain.

I hope this article proved helpful for you.

If it did, you will love my Tanner Talks email newsletter. It comes out monthly (bi-weekly during the off-season) and is full of the most interesting things I’ve learned. I draw on my second brain to write it, and I hope you’ll consider joining the 119 others who have subscribed.

Biblical Wisdom for Hope During COVID-19

Wow. This last week has been crazy, huh?. So much has happened since I flipped the Mavericks-Nuggets game to see Mark Cuban flabbergasted at the suspension of the season.

If you’re anything like me, your email inbox has been bombarded by companies near-and-far informing you of their COVID-19 policies. Combine that with the never-ending Twitter updates and we’ve all found ourselves feeling a bit afraid at some point.

Personally, I freaked out on Thursday. Once the NBA season was suspended, it was only a matter of time before the other leagues across the country followed suit.

I left Spring Training on Thursday knowing little. All I knew was that things would be pushed back a few weeks, at minimum.

Things have become more clear for me since then, and I’m grateful.

But I don’t know where you are in this situation. If you’ve come upon hard times, I’m sorry. I am lifting you up in daily prayer for health, wisdom, peace, love, and strength.

Whether your life has been drastically altered or just interrupted, everyone needs some real, Biblical hope. Today, I want to share some things that have injected hope in me the past 7 days. I hope they do the same for you.

COVID-19: The Vineyard Church Response

From Vineyard Church in Grafton, Wisconsin                        

Following Jesus impacts all of our lives, including how we respond to pandemics. Here are some ways we can Love God and Love Others with our response to the “Coronavirus”/COVID-19.

Start With Good Information
Our first responsibility is to begin with good and trustworthy information and to stay up to date with the developments as they arise. Panic and misinformation must be combated.

The agencies and websites we are monitoring are The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)The World Health Organization (WHO)The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and The Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department. We recommend these resources to you as a good source of information.

Yet, as followers of Jesus, we don’t just rely on human wisdom and information. We also look to God. We ask the Holy Spirit what he’s doing in the midst of this pandemic, look to our Bibles for guidance, and remember how God has always been faithful throughout human history. We encourage you to watch the news and stay informed, but please also take time to listen to what God has to say about the “Coronavirus”/COVID-19. 

Our Response and Responsibility
Because we have Jesus and know things that are unknown to the rest of the world, followers of Jesus are going to respond differently to the “Coronavirus”/COVID-19.

Followers of Jesus must not succumb to xenophobia or racism.
Already we’re seeing discrimination of individuals because of their race and ethnicity, including racial violence against Chinese people and racially charged rhetoric about China and Chinese culture. We followers of Jesus must resist xenophobia and racism whenever it rears its ugly head.

Followers of Jesus must not succumb to fear.
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us fearful, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Some of us may need to turn off the news, look away from the internet to spend some time with Jesus and look to the Bible.

Followers of Jesus are always called to pray.
As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” We pray for those around the world who have lost loved ones to the disease. We pray for God’s peace and comfort to be upon them. We pray for the medical, scientific, and public health officials who are working diligently on our behalf. We express gratitude to God for them and honor them in their work.

Followers of Jesus must be wise about our own health.
As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 

To stop the spread of germs and help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19, we are encouraging everyone in our community to:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Followers of Jesus are called to minister to the sick and the dying.
As Jesus said in Matthew 25:36, “I was sick and you looked after me…” For the medical and other professionals in our community, we may be called to do that directly. Yet, there are lots of ways to indirectly help the sick and dying. Intercessory prayer is a way to help. Slowing the spread of the virus through social distancing is a sacrifice we can make to help others. We should all be asking Jesus what he wants us to do to help.

From Igniting Faith in 40 Days:

“Can believers positively affect climatic weather patterns, the economy, and the physical health of a nation? One well-known Bible verse gives us a clue. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7: 14).

What does this healing consist of? If we look at verse thirteen of the same chapter, we see three areas of life to be “healed.” God said, “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain (weather problems), or command the locusts to devour the land (economic difficulties) or send pestilence (plagues and health problems)…” After he listed these three problems, He says, “If My people…”

These negative circumstances are “sent by God” only in the sense that He has set up spiritual laws that, if honored, will bring blessing (and, if ignored, will bring difficulties). He does not “choose” for these to happen, but people do by ignoring His principles. The amazing thing to understand though is that God’s people have the ability to impact three vital areas of life: climate, economy, and health. Yes, our belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection is the key to spiritual transformation, but let’s also press into the depths of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and help establish God’s protection in every area where we have influence.”

From Gateway Church Scottsdale’s Online Service, March 15, 2020

Three Areas to Advance in During This Time

  1. Personally
    1. What will you do with your time to advance?
    2. Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities. Isaiah 52:2-3 NLT
    3. Above all, prepare yourself for the revival that is to come as people around the world ask questions that the Church has answers to.
  2. Spiritually
    1. Spend time with God in the secret place
    2. Gateway created an online 40-day journey to guide you through spiritual growth.
  3. Relationally
    1. Social distancing does not mean separating yourself from others.
    2. “When physically separated, double-down on emotional connection.” -Pastor Preston Morrison

You can watch the entire service (with worship) here. If you’re looking for a church to worship with this upcoming Sunday, join us on YouTube at 10:00 PST AM. We do it really well.

Kris Vallotton’s Eight Eschatological Core Values

Eschatology: the branch of theology concerned with the endtimes

Read Kris’s Eschatological core values here: (emphasis mine)

  1. I will not embrace an end-time worldview that re-empowers a disempowered devil.
  2. I will not accept an eschatology that takes away my children’s future and creates mindsets that undermine the mentality of leaving a legacy.
  3. I will not tolerate any theology that sabotages the clear command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations and the Lord’s Prayer that earth would be like heaven.
  4. I will not allow any interpretation of the Scriptures that destroys hope for the nations and undermines our command to restore ruined cities.
  5. I will not embrace an eschatology that changes the nature of a good God.
  6. I refuse to embrace any mindset that celebrates bad news as a sign of the times and a necessary requirement for the return of Jesus.
  7. I am opposed to any doctrinal position that pushes the promises of God into a time zone that can’t be obtained in my generation and therefore takes away any responsibility I have to believe God for them in my lifetime.
  8. I don’t believe that the last days are a time of judgment, nor do I believe God gave the church the right to call for wrath for sinful cities. There is a day of judgment in which GOD will judge man, not us.

Situations like these cause our deepest beliefs and assumptions to rise to the surface. I analyzed my beliefs against these core endtimes values to see where I was believing lies and adjusted accordingly, asking Holy Spirit to forgive and guide me.

Are Facts or Fear Influencing Your Faith? by Kris Vallotton

6 ways to keep your faith on:

1. Remember that fear is a liar. Think of the things that brought on fear in the past but never happened. Though it felt real, remind yourself that fear is fantastic at narrating fiction.

2. Get a new perspective. The Holy Spirit is ready and able to give you a new vantage point that will open your mind up to what’s true and what’s possible. This is a way to revive hope that fear has tried to rob you of.

3. Be intentional with where you place your faith. Make a conscious choice to trust your future to Jesus and remind yourself of the Spirit in which He’s given you. (2 Timothy 1:7)

4. Testify. Recall and share the testimonies of God’s work in your life.

5. Prophesy. Recall and speak aloud what God says about your future. This will silence any spirit that is speaking untruth over you.

6. Meditate on Psalms 91 in this season. Remember to rest under the shadow of God’s wings and meditate on the truth that He is your Protector!

And to finish, Psalm 91 (NLT):

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.

He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.

Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.

11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.

15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

The world is afriad, but we are not of this world (John 15:19). Now is the time to be with God. When you come to Him as shelter and refuge, you do not cower in fear there. When you come to Him, you are emboldened with love, power, and a sound mind.

Love, power, and a sound mind to you,


The NBA & Match Quality

The best NBA teams are the best investors. They understand where they get the most return on their investments and choose to go all-in.

From the 2013-14 season through the end of the 2017-18 season, the two most valuable areas to shoot from were within a few feet from the rim and right around the 3-point line.

A 3-point shot is worth 50% more than an 8 foot jumper despite the 8-footer going in less than 4% more often.
Total points divided by total shots = Points per shot.
Clearly, shots within the restricted area and the corner 3 are the best investments for an NBA offense.

Playing the law of percentages, NBA players would be foolish to shoot in less-efficient areas of the court. They choose to invest in areas that provide better returns than others.

An NBA game looks significantly different now than it did at the start of the 21st century.

As this message has made its way down from the quant office and into the hands of today’s players, they’ve changed their on-court behavior patterns. These changes can be understood with an idea from economists.

Match quality is the term economists use to describe how the work a person does matches who they are. I first learned of this idea in David Epstein’s latest book, Range, and I see its application in this discussion of the NBA.

Since the NBA introduced the 3-point line in 1979, players have gradually shifted their skill sets to get the best results in The Association. If you can get to the rim and drain three-pointers, you “match” the needs of your environment and will likely be compensated in accordance with that match.

Think about the legends of the game. Mikan, Chamberlain, Robertson, Alcindor (Abdul-Jabbar if you’re not a Bucks fan). They all earned their legendary status by dominating defenders with their back to the basket.

In contrast, today’s best players are a different breed. The best players in the game spend the majority of their time hovering around the court’s suburbs. Last year’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, added a 3-point shot to further his dominance. That wouldn’t have been a thought for the greats of yesteryear.

The game has changed. The game’s best match their skill sets to the demands of the game.

In a highly specialized industry (like the NBA), workers benefit from extremely high match quality. Each off-season, the league’s general managers make that known by paying a premium for a stretch five or a 3-and-D wing that would have been a role player two decades ago.

NBA players can improve match quality in two ways: 1) doing more of what will get them the best results or 2) improving their ability to score from in-demand spots on the floor. And a funny thing happens when you are able to do what the industry wants: your playing time and bank account tend to get bigger. Funny how that works.

All images in this post come from Kirk Goldsberry’s book, Sprawlball.

Answering the Contrarian Question

Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

Peter Thiel begins the first chapter of Zero to One with the foundation of his work. Rooted in René Girard’s philosophy, Thiel poses his contrarian question to the book’s readers and sets the scene for the rest of the book.

The question begs to be engaged with, and we’ll get there shortly. But first, I need to give a brief rundown of Thiel’s philosophy.

At the risk of oversimplifying Thiel’s philosophy, I’ll take a crack at it:

  • Competition is for losers. Try to escape competition.
  • Copying what others has done is bad strategy.
  • We need technology, not incremental “progress”.
  • If you’re looking for opportunities, identify paradoxical or contrarian truths.

(By the way, you should read this book. You can get it on Amazon here.)

I’m convinced that there’s something to the contrarian question. Something that you and I must dive into.

Taking a Crack at the Contrarian Question

As you consider his contrarian question, you might be underwhelmed at its apparent ease. All we need to do is identify something we believe others disagree with. It’s easy enough to do that, right?

Apparently not. Let’s go to Thiel.

Most commonly, I hear answers like the following:
“Our educational system is broken and urgently needs to be fixed.”
“America is exceptional.”
“There is no God.”
Those are bad answers. The first and the second statements might be true, but many people already agree with them. The third statement simply takes one side in a familiar debate. A good answer takes the following form: “Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x.”

Answering the contrarian question requires more than taking a stance on a popular debate. It’s more complex than siding with LeBron in the Jordan vs. LeBron debate. Your belief needs to be a) true and b) different than what most people think. There is no “truth” in the NBA’s GOAT debate.

To answer the contrarian question, we need to look in unique places.

Where is my answer hidden?

My own answer to the contrarian question is that most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more.

Thiel, Zero to One

Answering the contrarian question is difficult. It requires intellectual effort and a sharp mind to find a truth that most people disagree with.

In other words, you need to find a secret.

In Thiel’s worldview, all successful people and companies are founded on a secret. They have a contrarian answer that they hold tight that drives their actions.

But to find that secret, you need to look where no one else is looking.

A Long Way to Go

As I set out to write this essay, I hoped that I would have come up with new ideas for a contrarian answer. I don’t know that I have, but I have new ideas on where to look and what to do next.

And here’s the thing about your contrarian answer…

According to Thiel, it’s rarely a good idea to tell everybody everything you know.

So who do you tell? Whoever you need to, and no more. In practice, there’s always a golden mean between telling nobody and telling everybody–and that’s a company. The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside.

I Probably Won’t Tell You My Answer Anyway

When I do have my answer to the contrarian question, there’s a very good chance I won’t tell you what it is. I would encourage you to only tell those people who need to hear yours.

But don’t let the fact that it’s a secret hold you back from looking.

No Man Steps In The Same River Twice

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”― Heraclitus

If you’ve come across something that changed your life, you should return to it.

Not because you’ll get the same effect, but because your second, third, and nth encounter with it will be different each time.

It’s true that no man steps in the same river twice. The waves are different. The sand has shifted. The fish that populated the waters have been plucked by delighted fishermen. Even if you step in, step out, and step right back in, you will still be entering a different body of water the second time.

No man ever steps in the same river twice.

But there’s another piece of this that is also true.

Prior to each entry, you’ve changed. You have new lessons learned, new relationships, and new aspects of your worldview. Not only did the river change. You did too.

You know that we’re not just talking about rivers. We’re talking about life.

When you return to something in your past, you approach it with everything that you are today. All your experiences, wounds, triumphs, and information learned.

Think of the last time you visited your alma mater. For me, I felt much different walking through the halls of my high school as a 24-year-old than I did as an eager 18-year-old ready to leave and embark on my next journey.

Of course I did. The school changed. I’m a different person.

Let this be an encouragement to re-engage with your past. A book you enjoyed. A song that touched you. A friend you haven’t seen for years.

Because when you engage with your past in the present, you find new meaning, new insights, and new life.

It’s not the same river. You’re not the same person.