Does anyone have experience with Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain course? eBooks?

Looks a lot like the typical internet course pages of ‘keep them scrolling until they buy’. But perhaps I am biased.

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I have been supremely sceptical of the BaSB stuff since it seemed to surface almost everywhere all at once last year. My scepticism was rooted mostly in how feverishly people proselytized the course and Tiago… after all, if you’ve put $500 down on an online course, you’re pretty incentivized to tell everyone how great it was.

But, in spite of my doubts, I investigated further. I listened to every podcast episode featuring Tiago. There’s nothing new under the sun, and you’ll find he reframes a lot of ideas found elsewhere. Still other aspects of his work are too odd for me. Nonetheless, I have found some of his concepts—and the way he combines them—to be refreshing and pragmatic.

I had some deeper questions about the PARA model at the centre of BaSB and so I put $10 down for a one-month subscription to his member-only blog content. My questions have been answered and I like the resulting changes I’ve made thus far (though I’m still honeymooning).

So this is not a review of the course, but a vote of critical confidence in Tiago’s thinking. Since you’re curious, I recommend the path I followed. Listen to the free stuff, maybe dive into the cheaper paid content, and then see how you feel.

I don’t think I’ll ever do the course though. Tiago celebrates entrepreneur culture and that clearly drives the price of admission… but education should never be paywalled that significantly, at least according to my value system.


Scratch that $500 number. $800 USD? See the paywall comment above. :upside_down_face:


Yeah, based on text they missed in their webpage, the price has nearly doubled recently.

Good idea about researching free content, then paying $10 to have questions answered.
There is talk that Forte might do a course tailored for Roam Research users, which would be better for me than Evernote, etc.

Both PARA and Progressive Summarization are intriguing to me.



I did research this after his appearance on a video on the Notion YouTube channel that I saw. I was not aware of him and he never popped up anywhere on my radar before that. After seeing the Notion video I was highly sceptical and my “bullsh*t” radar sent out warnings.

I can’t remember where, but I’ve read from someone that participated in this expensive (the participant actually called it overpriced) class that it is quite abstract and theoretical. It consists of a series of webinars with guest speakers, which were mostly unknown. In that brief review the participant described them as guests with a questionable track record. It was stated that the course was not very polished and basically was a bloated wrapper around what could have been a short video showcasing a few example use cases.

That is generally my experience with books on productivity systems and courses. Most of it could have been explained in a blog post or two. And I’m following that space since the early days of GTD.

It is rare to find that one magic feature of an app or system that will revolutionize how you work and if so it will most likely not suit your work style and profession. Most of those classes also seem very meta to me. They are created by some web-promoters or online sales guys about how they structure their work day and often describe how they created content of that course.

In my opinion reading up on a few blog posts, maybe even investing the time to listen to podcasts or a free web video (maybe the notion one) will already suffice.

The most valuable thing most likely will be to carve out a large block of time (maybe the time that otherwise the course participation would have consumed) and just sit down and do a big picture assessment of your work, your current workflows, your reference material (it’s quality and amount) and question whether things are worth keeping at all and if so to what extend and identify inefficiencies.

Find your own system and most importantly try it for a given period of time. Maybe make this a regular appointment. Take a Saturday of each month to do this maybe. I’ve always failed to do this, if I didn’t set out a block of uninterrupted time.


I have gotten a lot out of Tiago’s thinking, but all through the free episodes of podcasts he’s appeared on. It can be helpful to listen/read through someone else’s thinking—or at least, other people can provoke ideas that would’ve never entered your brain on your own.

The frustrating thing about an $800 course is that it’s effectively a book’s worth of content. But a book is $20! That said, he’s apparently working on a book, and might even have published one by now.

The online course model really does seem like a scam. I only wonder how/why so many people sign up for them…


It works really well for coding and design. I often much prefer the video over long form reading (lengthy blog posts, books). It is however not a good medium to reference later quickly.

The problem I personally have with video courses: Most of them stay on a beginner level. Unless the market is really huge (example: Adobe Photoshop) there are almost no intermediate or advanced classes.
Also sifting through courses to find the right one is tedious and the promises of the sales page are often not kept. Yes, some offer a money back guarantee, but let’s be honest sometimes you buy in and then don’t actually finish in time to make your final decision.

Most of the time I attended any conference, speaking gig, lecture, a course/seminar outside of academia (general STEM field) or programming I found myself being disappointed and it felt that I spent too much money on the attendance fee. Online courses in the productivity space (or worse sales/marketing) give me the same feeling.

I however find it highly valuable, if people show and explain their actual system. Maybe even with real and live data and not some artificially crafted “sample project” setup. But even those are tough to find. The aforementioned Notion Office Hours series does a good job with this, but is obviously highly skewed towards the usage of Notion.

If anybody wants to create something new in that oversaturated productivity space with an abundance of podcasts, blogs and youtube channels please start a youtube channel that interviews people from different professions in 20-30min. long videos that has them showcase their entire productivity system briefly. From inputs (mails, texts, notes, readings), over how to capture and organize tasks, how to manage working files and information and how archiving is done. This would be amazing to get inspiration and it will be a uncrowded niche in that space.


This is pretty true. I also feel saddened by the trend of productivity courses to cost in excess of $300. But there’s tons of great resources out there for free as well. It’s hard to beat free, but folks also have to make a living, too.

As far as Tiago goes, I think he has a charisma that draws people in more than brand new ideas. Which is great for sales :slight_smile:


It’s annoying that they recently doubled the price of the course too.


Somebody summarized the course until the unit 5 as illustration in this website.


Thanks! Those are beautiful notes!


I heard from someone on Twitter who said the course is similar to the Focus Course, et al. in that it is someone collecting readily available information and selling their summary of it - nothing new added. The person is going through the second part of the course soon, and promised more info then. They didn’t think the course was worth the tuition at its currently-doubled price.

Back on this subject, because I have taken the course, having high expectations with the price tag (bought myself a nice Christmas present…) and I believe it’s way, way overpriced, and far from being as universal as marketed. Maybe I just didn’t see the light, or it’s not for me, but I am really getting low value out of it. I’m like “huh?” and not in a good way: where GTD immediately made sense to me but I took years to start figuring it out, BASB is uncomfortably starting to feel to me like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the tutorials are bordering on the ridiculous (to set up the famed P.A.R.A. system, create four folders named such and move all the rest into the Archive folder – REALLY, you need a 5-minute video for this and it’s pompously called a “Setup guide”?)

To be fair: I think Tiago Forte makes a hugely, hugely important point about the importance of notes in the current world and that we bloody need to get organised. He is very well-documented and even though I disagree with his conclusions on tags, I think he points out the right issues. But I got way more value from browsing the Zettelkästen forums and website than I ever did with BASB, which fails, I think, to adequately capture the complexity of the world, despite its lofty ambitions.

I think the course can be suited to freelancers and/or business executives with regular deliverables. But it’s not (despite what it says on the tin) suited to creative professions in my opinion (I have been a writer for 20 years, pro for 10). I get the uncomfortable vibe that it tries way too hard to replicate the GTD success, but where David Allen sold a book that was a huge success and he built a company around it, it feels like BASB is trying to create a similar narrative but without as much depth.


I reviewed Maggie Appleton’s sketch notes (mentioned above in this thread), found them interesting, but for the BASB concept it self it was “nothing to see here, move along”.

I find it much more useful to read interviews with writers and other creatives about how they organize their notes and work, than to listen to a pundit clearly out to maximize sales.


I found Maggie’s notes helpful and interesting; I’m glad I didn’t pay $1200 for the course.

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It seems like Tiago really could’ve been the next David Allen, as he’s been hailed. I feel that the business model of the course (plus maybe some personality differences) has led Tiago away from David’s down-to-Earth take-it-or-leave-it nature. Instead it feels like Tiago’s always trying to convince potential customers that we desperately need his system. It’s sadly very classic self-help…

As the kids say, it’s a bit thirsty.

I mean, it’s telling that he isn’t promoting a book. The $1200 course is a better business-builder than a $20 volume would be.

It’s too bad, because I think Tiago’s approach is often pretty interesting. Another idea of his I’ve found insightful is his studio analogy. He talks about how he drew inspiration from his father, who was an artist (a painter). His father’s studio was systematically organized, and he always used reference materials and palettes and different iterations of a work—all things that Tiago has brought into BASB.

It’s a neat idea. What other lessons might knowledge work draw from other workspaces? A garage or a workbench or a cashier? Maybe there’s nothing there, but I find it compelling. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to read more about, but I’m not interested in paying that much to hear it in a video.


I wholeheartedly agree that there is a failed promise here. Tiago is absolutely right in affirming that where GTD tells you how to organise actions, we lack the equivalent to organise reference. However, I would contend that we actually do have incumbent systems and have for centuries – libraries. He asks the right questions, and in very deep and insightful ways. I do not think he has found the framework, though (contrary to Allen). Niklas Luhmann, of Zettelkästen fame, has been much closer in my opinion.


I used to very-much be a Hewlett Packard fan boy. I serviced their minicomputers, disc drives, etc. and they were quality products - built like the instruments they started out with. I have an HP watch. I have an HP 11C. I went to see The Garage when I went to Palo Alto. Things changed.
I used to have this poster in my garage:


The “Rules of the Garage” are a timely reminder that we are all in this together.


I finally looked up this person. Is he actually consulting or just teaching theory? David Allen’s method caught on so well because it was based on all the time he spent next to executives, helping them clean their desk and actually make useful lists. GTD wouldn’t have been good if it was just David’s personal system.