Taylor Swift’s success is due to her work ethic, creativity, and willingness to lay her heart on the line. Her songs about Joe Jonas and John Mayer are well-documented. According to Tiago Forte, however, there is another reason for her multi-award-winning albums and grammies. She has a second brain.
In his recent book “Building a Second Brain,” Forte offers Taylor Swift as an example of what you can accomplish with an external mind. “She can take her notes everywhere, access them from anywhere, and send them within seconds to a wide network of producers and collaborators using the same device.”
But what exactly is a second brain, and how does Taylor utilize it for writing chart-topping hits?
How Swift Writes Her Songs
Taylor has made several documentaries showcasing her writing process. She told NPR that it always starts with an idea. “I think that’s what keeps drawing me to songwriting: the spontaneity of how you can get an idea at 4 in the morning or while walking through the airport.”
It’s what she does with those ideas that turn them into hits, “I’ll just get an idea and I’ll have to like record it into my cellphone.”
For Forte, building a second brain is about getting the ideas out of your head and into an external system. Then, use software to link the concepts and make them accessible everywhere.
Swift uses this technique extensively in “Diary of a Song,” a New York Times exclusive video. She captures ideas on her cellphone, which are always available so she can search for a suitable line or chorus from her knowledge bank of lyrics and melodies.
Taylor Swift’s Process:
- She recognizes when inspiration strikes
- She records it with her phone
- She processes and edits it with her phone
What Is a Second Brain?
A second brain is an external system that mimics the connections between ideas, just like your brain.
When you get an idea or someone tells you something, you must rely on your brain to remember it and use it at the right time in the future. But anyone who has ever lost something, forgotten something, or had a good idea but not acted on it knows that your brain isn’t a computer. It’s imperfect and acts like it.
So, instead of relying on your brain to remember to do something with your ideas, you can hand them over to a second brain. For Swift, it’s her cellphone.
A second brain is simply an external system for holding information. Also called personal knowledge management, a second brain is more than just a digital filing cabinet. Knowledge within it is interlinked, just like in your brain.
Is a Second Brain Only for Creative People?
When you think of what Swift or others like her do for a living, constantly creating new songs from new ideas, it makes sense that they need a system to capture them all. But what about everyone else? Do you need a second brain?
If you want to be more effective, the answer is yes.
Researchers now know that the average person has approximately 6200 thoughts a day, much less than previously thought but still a vast amount of information.
When you have a good idea or read one, are you relying on your brain to remember it? If you are, you are losing most of those ideas in your mind.
Imagine how effective you could be at work if you retained more of what you read and had a bank of the best thoughts in your pocket.
Software Powerful Enough to Create an External Mind
Computing power and software capable of handling vast amounts of data and the connections between them haven’t been available until now.
Creating a digital filing system was clunky in the past. You could store your ideas in document files, but access was slow, and there was no way to interconnect them.
Mobile devices have made access instantaneous, and note-taking apps like Evernote leaped forward in terms of organizing our notes. But a new wave of software has taken control of this space.
Obsidian is leading the way in second-brain software. It’s free and gives you a visual representation of your external mind. The nodes and connections in its knowledge graph are beautiful but functional – they show you how your ideas interact.
Organizing your notes in Obsidian isn’t as complicated as you think. It won’t make you the next Taylor Swift, but it will make you a better you.