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

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.

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@JohnAtl That’s cool, thanks!

A lesson I’m still figuring out from the garage/workshop metaphor is the tooling. In a workshop, tools are usually organized in an accessible way, like on a mesh or a pegboard, or in a specific toolbox structure.

Technically, we just have a keyboard and pointing advice in front of us… but obviously our tools expand to every app and script and shortcut we put to use. Yet they aren’t nearly as organized as a well-ordered garage. What’s that mean? No idea, yet, but it might be worth reflection.

@cornchip David Allen also studied philosophy and history, but dropped out of grad school to become a black belt in Karate. (His background is worth checking out.) He later worked with an executive consulting firm, as you describe, and learned a lot of the lessons built into GTD with his mentor there. You can definitely see the influences of these ideas in GTD. (There’s a neat timeline about GTD’s development on the official website.)

Tiago has an interesting story thus far, but it’s true, he doesn’t have nearly the experience that clearly shaped David’s ideas. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, as long as you don’t accept his ideas assuming that they’re at the same level of polish as GTD was at launch.


Yeah, I think this is part of why people find value (hopefully) in BASB. You have the four folders, and they’re everywhere. Each has a specific purpose, peg-board like.

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Just to follow-up for fairness: I have been bringing my gripes with the approach and system to the class forum and Tiago himself answered in a very detailed, considerate and thoughtful manner, with screenshots and all. It needs to be said that he does give very generously his time and energy to his students (in a way Allen never did, if we keep comparing), and that he listens to criticism A LOT.

I still think the class is overpriced but let it not be implied that there is not a lot of ongoing work from Tiago and his team behind it, because there is.

(Maybe I’m just an European so I am a little at odds with the American approach to Internet marketing, which is why I have been getting uncomfortable with the way it’s sold and marketed.)


No, don’t think that’s it :slightly_smiling_face:


I’ve lost track. Someone somewhere was saying Forte’s in it for the money, why not write a book. Still might be in it for the money, but he now has a book contract.

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I am looking for an overview as well as in-depth reading on different knowledge-management systems (like PARA). Does anybody have any recommendations? Thank you.

'twas I, I think. I’ve since learned that he does have a few books-as-bundled-blog-posts-for-purchase on Amazon, too.

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I have detailed my setup here and there are links to PARA.

KillerWhale’s system for organising knowledge and creativity (not PARA) (LONG)


Thank you! But I‘ve already read you post. In fact, it got me inspired to check out if there is more. I‘d like to explore the wider landscape a little to determine what makes sense for my work before I invest heavily into one or another system. But thank you anyway, much appreciated!

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Don’t take this facetiously, but this is a good case where Google is your friend. There is so much dialog about this across the internet that it’s impossible to boil it down. Partly because “what should I do for knowledge management” probably has no answer. It depends on whatever you think your own skill gaps and problems are.

One approach is to look behind the scenes at product sites such as DEVONthink, TheBrain, etc., and see what materials they have published for their customers to understand use cases for their products.