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🎙 Learning Curve Podcast

EP 13

Why you need a second brain? 🧠

May 16, 202025m 1s

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Show Notes

Did you know that you could have a second brain? Listen to Brittik and Aravind as they talk about their second brains, how they built it and how it has helped them. They also talk about lots of ideas around second brains. 


Aravind Balla

Brittik Basu

Learning Curve Podcast


🤗 This is transcribed using an AI tool. So don't expected it to be perfect. If you find mistakes, please help us polishing this by making a PR.

Welcome to the learning curve Podcast, where brittik and Aravind share with you everything that they've learned so far about technology startups and remote life.

Hello, and welcome to the 13th episode of learning curve Podcast. I am Aravind.

And I'm Brittik

and today we are talking about why you need a second brain. Isn't that interesting? Second brain.

It is damn interesting.

Do you have a second brain?

I Do I have a second brain. I have a third brain. Lots of brains. And I'll tell you why. Later. What about you Aravind? How is your second brain doing? You made a new one I heard?

Yeah, it is doing good.

I mean, I really like this concept of second brain. And like I'm really enjoying having it in my computer.

Awesome. So let's talk about it like what is a second brain.

So as I understand, or for me, a second brain is a storage of your brain. H uman brains are good for processing information, but they are not made for storage. Not everyone can remember everything that they think of. So it is like a CPU and not a hard disk. Right only when you free your mind from the storage, you will have time to think.

So the concept of second brain is that we use second brains to store what we think. And we don't care for remembering it. So for me, writing gives me a great insight to gathering all my thoughts. And then I basically write it in an app which stores all thoughts, thoughts in the sense, if I'm thinking about a particular topic, I try writing about it. So all those things are stored. And those stored notes and thoughts make up my second brain.

So what kind of notes are you using? Like just text note, or Evernote or notion? No. What's your choice of note taking for the second brain?

So my choice is an app called roam research. There are a lot of apps that you can use for taking notes, but I felt and this thing is perfect for taking capturing thoughts like these. What about you? What is your thinking behind second brain?

So what I think second brain is just like a normal brain, but our brain can only have so much info so We stored it somewhere. Everyone stores it somewhere the information we write it down in small notes, paper notes, or we can use the Notes app on our phone. If you're storing information anywhere, that can be our second brain. But what most of us aren't able to do is organise that information and utilise that information.

I remember when I used to use normal Apple notes, I still have so many notes and I don't even know what they were. So despite having stored information, I'm not able to utilise it. And when I say second brain, it makes all the connections between the nodes between the topics. And say, I'm just writing about, let's say second brain itself. So if I've taken any notes about this, and I just, you know, find the tag second brain. I'll find it everywhere, say two months before I first came across second brain, and I took a note. And if I kept on taking notes every now and then unstructured note, it doesn't have to be in a particular folder or anything. And I just find that tag and it's there.

So that allows me to get all the information in one place, just when I need it. And that is my definition of a second brain. And what it allows us to do is be more creative. We have so many thoughts stored everywhere. And now how do you make the connection between the ideas? Normally in a normal biological brain, you have these ideas, and you have inspiration. So basically, inspiration is an idea coming to you and saying, hey, let's do something about this. But that can happen. Same with the second brain and how it is that you are doing something thing and all these ideas, you can access them and utilise them. And those ideas can be your inspiration to create something new or, you know, give a different context to something you're working on. So that a second brain having access to your ideas and utilising them whenever you need them. Yeah.

That's a great way to put it. Because utilising your notes is the I mean, the takeaway that I took from your definition of second brain. Awesome. So what do you use for? What app Do you use for writing your second brain or storing your thoughts?

Any Any guesses?

I am guessing roam.

Yeah, of course. So you introduced me to roam, several months back, and then I think you stopped using it and then you started using it again, and he said, Oh, it's great. So even then, I started using roam and What I started with is basic daily journaling. And then I took notes of navall ravakanth's how to get rich podcasts. I took my notes there. And it was awesome actually what I loved about roam is that I wrote this in daily journal, and I wrote something there something personal. And there, I could find a reference to a point from novels podcast that I had written down. And it gave me a beautiful context. I can't share it since it's personal, but you get the point, right? You have something that is separate from getting rich or something, you know, it's just a personal note. And somehow this naval guy is coming in and saying, Hey, you know, you think about this in this other way. I'm like, wow, okay, that's insightful. So yeah, I use roam and I love roam so much that like, we love room so much that we are checking out other roam clones. Are when you made something similar to roam? So we are totally into this new way of notetaking. How has your experience been with roam or when have you had? any insights are how is the daily journaling going? What's up with that?

It is going good Actually, I am trying to write every day. Not exactly journaling but like writing about the topics that I care about. I discovered this tool like in January this year, but I didn't use it for long. I was amazed when I used it, but I really didn't understand the potential that it had. And then recently, like a month ago, I started using it again. And I see my graph and then it is very huge. I sometimes forget to like make a link or make a page out of Word, but the search in roam is really powerful to like even give you the unlinked references, which is very good. So yeah, let's talk about what are what are the different apps that you can use and why is roam very powerful in doing such. So there are multiple apps that you can use to store your thoughts, right like Evernote notion.

But what happens with roam is

as Brittik said, you cannot utilise your nodes to the full potential with other apps but with roam, when you use double brackets, double square brackets, it will link to that page. Suppose you're writing about second brain. So when you're in your sentence, you wrap the word second brain in double square brackets. What happens then is That it will link this node to the second brain page. This is called bidirectional linking. And roam really does a good job at linking thoughts to each other.

So I would like to elaborate more on what bidirectional linking is, say you create a tag called second brain. Now, what roam does is it creates a page right when you created that tag. And now when you navigate to that page, you get a list of references, all the notes that you had taken, which had a point, not the entire note, mainly, it's just one point where it was mentioned second pain all these individual points are seen in the reference. And now you can add it to the main note if you want. If you think it's not so useful, you don't add it and you don't utilise it there. And when you change something here, say you change the Title second brain, you write my big brain or something. And that changes everywhere now. So all all the nodes, which had the second brain as the title now it turns to my big brain, is that correct? Or is that how bidirectional links work?

Yeah, it does that it updates all the areas that you used. The my second brain, as you said in the example, with the double square brackets, it updates to my big brain.

Awesome. So that basically is bidirectional linking how it helped me when I was taking notes when I was podcast is that there are so many different points out there, and it's a huge transcript. So what I did is I could just find one word and I could find all the references wherever he said that and just that And then I could pick the best points that I wanted from from it. So it really helped me in searching a huge, you know, two three hour transcript and finding useful information that I needed.

So yeah, similar situation for me when we take the second brain example A few days ago, I was taking notes from a YouTube video, which, which taught how to build a second brain. Okay, and this podcast episode is about second brain. And so I was writing about second grade.

But I forgot that I took notes for building a second brain because that was like month or a month and a half ago.

Right. And then I when I was writing about what to speak in this episode, I've used the I have made the second brain page. So when I went to the second page, the notes that I took from the YT Video was already there. Then I, then I recall that I, oh, I researched a few things I have few points already were secondary. So that is very cool for me.

So all possible because of the power of roam and the way it enables us to take better notes basically. There are also other apps like roam like tiddly wiki, it also has bi directional linking, you can instal a plugin called tiddly blink and it also gives you those map things, you know, Mind Map. So, there are other apps, but I checked them out. They are not as refined as roam. So, it's best to choose roam over those apps.

I wonder how this all started. I mean, what was the first thing that people did when they discovered this concept?

I wonder how all of this might have started...

So this was a concept by a German And sociologist called Nicholas lumen and what technique he had is basically you take notes and you tag them and he would put them in a slip box and everything organised with tags. So whenever he needed something, he knew exactly all the notes with that tag and he could utilise them. So that's where it started. You can see it's a kind of note taking, that's all but now when you bring it digital when there you don't have to worry about keeping physical notes and you can instantly access you know them better than paper notes. That is a game changer. So these guys every on utility wiki and roam they all took inspiration from this deadly custom technique and build this but digital is definitely more powerful than the analogue way of taking notes. Also it is more accessible for everyone. Not Everyone is so patient to, you know, take notes and organise it in a nice box. And with tags, it's difficult to do. Whereas if you just do it digitally, it's quicker and it's also very fast to retrieve information. So yeah, that is that recasting technique by Nicolas Duma. So right now guys, we are the early adopters of this technique. I think everyone should get on this train because benefits you can just feel it. While notion we love notion, it's a nice note taking app, but it's still a note collaborative note taking app. It's amazing. But here with roam, we can actually utilise the notes that we took. Once you experience it, only then you will know how beautiful it is where your own thoughts and ideas come back to you and you can use them.

Yeah, how I say it is that notion is for groups and teams. about writing about your projects and organising stuff,

and roam is your personal thing.

Notion is for groups and teams. And Roam is your personal thing.

So roam is doing a really good job on the app, actually. They have like a change log every day. And then they're fixing something or improving something, adding new features. So the development team is like really active on

roam, and we can actually expect a lot of good things to happen to it in the near future.

Or even recently, I've been working on sharing your second brain with the world like a part of your second brain with the goal. How is that going and why is this something we should do or not do?

So I recently built this website called notes, notes.aravindballa.com, and that is actually a public part of my second brain. So all the thoughts that I want the world to know So I read it using Gatsby. And there is this theme in Gatsby called gatsby-theme-brain, which replicates the roam conventions. So I can use this double square bracket thing that I that we were talking about, and have other pages linked to it automatically. So I use this to build the Notes app. And then I, I copy a few notes from roam

into that Gatsby application as into the content of the Gatsby application and then build a website out of it. So that is my way of like sharing a few thoughts with the world. I think everyone should have this because every thought is not finished that you can write about blog post on and blog post there is this notion that you have to have everything lined up, there should be a structure to it, everything should be perfect not. But for these kinds of stuff, there is no such expectations. It can be your working process progress thought as well. So and it is more important because you don't know what thought or what sentence will trigger another idea in other in the person that is reading it. At the end of the day, it's the thoughts or the ideas that makers create and innovate new things, right? So it's very important that people share their thoughts with the people who are interested in them.

Just the thoughts that are not too personal or that you think the world can benefit. So like Aravind said, if you're writing a blog post, it's too much work right. But if you're writing One point that you learn today, and you think people will benefit, you can just write it in your second brain, you don't have to worry about anything else. It's just a quick note for the world. As simple as that,

there are a lot of things that you can write, like, maybe topics that you are interested about. And then you are listening to podcasts, and you're taking notes that can be public anyways, right? Because the points are already mentioned in the podcast,

or you're listening to some really nice song. And yeah, you can also share that. It doesn't have to be a specific thing can be anything that that you find interesting.

And you've benefited from and want others to benefit from as well.

That's as simple as that.

I think the second brain thing it makes a lot of things easier, because there isn't a strict approach to it is just writing down my taking micro notes I would say that's what's Second brain is about and it's super easy because of it. The structured nature

that's how your brain is.

Exactly. doesn't have a structure.

Is that a really negative thing you're saying about?

That is the beauty of the brain and then you are captivating on that thought and allowing your thoughts to be unstructured is a really good thing.

Oh, this sounds like a compliment. Thank you. Yeah.

Brittik you're mentioning about a lot of brains in the beginning of the episode divert like, you have a second, third and fourth brain.

I have this big head and it has many brains. And because people can't see it, because it's

that's why you have long hair.


But Jokes apart, what I think is these digital tools, they are not the only way to have a second brain or even taking physical notes. The nodes are not the only way to have second or third brains. every interaction we have with a person, we are sharing something with them. And sometimes their thoughts reflect so if I said to her when something a week back, he might learn something new and he might find an answer for me. If not the answer, you might find a reference to something which I can work with, which I wouldn't have normally found by myself. So that is the beauty of other biological second brains that we have around us. Say with our friends or family, anyone, whoever we share a part of our personality with. That is your second third. Fourth brain. And we should leverage that. It's a beautiful thing. I'll tell you why. And how I realised that I was trying to do this thing with text boxes, and I was trying to style it. There was no way I found out that you can't style textbox it's always plain text here. You can do a bit of CSS and stuff, but you can't have HTML within text boxes. Sorry, yeah, text area. You can't have HTML within your text area. And I told Erwin that, you know, it's not working out. There should be an easier way. This is 2020. And then Arvind shared a link with me, which was a roam clone. And I wanted to see how they were doing the double brackets thing. I was able to do it with JavaScript, but somehow it wasn't an elegant way. And I didn't like what was happening. So

Content editable. content? Yeah.

So after seeing the code of the room clone, I dug through the code, and I found that there is an attribute called content editable. And when you set that attribute to true inside any tag, a p tag or a header tag, it turns into this magical editable tag. So you can just click on it, and you can edit the text inside the header. That is like amazing. I did not know that. And that was only possible because I shared my problem with Aravind and Aravind You told me how you know that there's this thing. So I checked that out and I found a solution. If I hadn't shared it with you, I think I still would have been lost. And I would have tried to solve a problem that had an elegant solution but I'd I wasn't aware of so thank you for that. And that's what I think say third, fourth brains are they are the brains around us, the more we share the learnings, the things we learn the new things that we love, that that's how the world grows and the people around us benefit, which in turn come back to us. So, what we are doing with the digital second brain is we are feeding it with information with knowledge with ideas. And if we do the same with other human brains around us, these ideas like seeds will turn into beautiful plants and flowers and we will get that as karma back and this is how we have been functioning as human beings. For a long time. When there was no internet, no way to even write, you know, people would write on three bucks or something even before that. This real biological brain technique was there. So let's make the most of it and That will make the world a better place.

Awesome. Anything that gives you insight is like a brain.

So basically, your knowledge bounces back in a stronger way to you, and that is second brain.

So I'd like to end the episode with this point that I have in my notes. It says - there is a maze inside, everyone's had a labyrinth of missed connections and untapped potential.

There is a maze inside, everyone's had a labyrinth of missed connections and untapped potential.

And so a second brain gives you like,

it gives you access to like every single thought of yours. And beautiful. And you can make beautiful connections out of it. We hope you've picked something useful from this episode and start building your second brain. Please let us know in the Twitter

and make beautiful connections share your thoughts and yeah, we love you guys. Happy second braining

Happy second braining, bye Guys

Transcribed by https://otter.ai