WNW - From Entertainment to Education

One reason I started a PKM, was to transform listening to business books as a form of entertainment into a form of useful, engaging education.

WNW - From Entertainment to Education
Linked Thoughts Generate Momentum

What did you learn?

One main reason I started a second brain, was that I was listening to a lot of audio books, but I started to wonder, "Why?" What am I getting out of these books? Having a Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) System, changed the way I learn.

Why It Matters:

Psychologist Jeffrey Karpicke has shown that many learners experience illusions of competence when they study. Repeatedly reading creates this feeling that you know the information, that it is in your brain. But it's not. Why? Because they don't recall the information. Recall is what improves memory, not looking at it. I realized that I was listening to a lot of content, and reading a lot of content, but I was not learning very much.

In short, I found myself listening to smart people as entertainment, but not as education. I suspected my personal growth would improve dramatically, if I actually learned the content the authors were sharing with me.

Big Picture:

How does a PKM help with learning? By putting the information into a system, linking it with other related content, then summarizing my thoughts on the content, dramatically improved my ability to recall, then apply what I had learned. This process is not hard, but it is time consuming. However, the more I do it, the more I enjoy it.

As Barbara Oakley said, "the better I got, the more I enjoyed what I was doing." In my experience, it's fun to get good at something.

How To:

I can do this on any device running obsidian, but my personal favorite is to use my Windows Desktop computer with a big monitor. Next best is my MacBook with my iPad as a second monitor.

The Setup

  1. I open Obsidian in one window.
  2. I open Kindle in another. (putting it on a second screen if necessary)
  3. Inside of Obsidian I create a Start Card, a linked Note that will be the beginning of my Thought Train.
  4. Then I split down a note window and open the highlights readwise.io saved for me from the book.
  5. In the Kindle, I open the book, display the table of contents, AND my Notes and highlights.
  6. Now, on the first note in the Thought train (Start Card), I write down an executive summary with 1-3 key big takeaways I can remember off the top of my head. How much do I remember from this book unprompted?
  7. (optional) copy the table of contents into the Contents section of the Start Card.

Now I'm ready to rock and roll.

When I get started it looks like this. I've got my active note in the top left, the highlights from readwise below it, and the kindle book open to the right.

Creating Book Notes with Obsidian

The Loop

With my baseline information captured, I then start iterating over the book, going as far as a I can.

Note: I do not always finish all my notes for a book, but anything I can finish will be dramatically better than when I started.
  1. Make the next note card in the chain Note Card
  2. In the Overview quickly summarize the point of the chapter (it's okay to look, or scan notes), and while I do that, use WikiLinks to link to other similar content that comes to mind.
  3. Now, in the Contents section, start adding what's important to me about this chapter.
  4. Scan my highlights for the chapter, copying over, any that are interesting.
  5. Add my own thoughts, was this important why did it matter? Are there any takeaways?
  6. In the Connections section, list any other existing notes (as WikiLinks) that should connect to this note.
  7. Repeat

I try to have one note per chapter, but I don't always get them all.

Note: Lots of books are fully of stories, that while fun to listen to, often obscure the key takeaways and practical lessons. This process helps me pull out the key practices.


If you really want to learn something you need to recall it. Associating the information with other information you have already learned will accelerate your ability to recall it.