WNW Resources and Research

How do I use Resources to enhance my personal resource? In this article, I share some tools and techniques I use to enhance my learning when I conduct my own research.

WNW Resources and Research

The most important part of building a second brain to me, is using it to enhance my learning. I learn in a variety of ways, and I will cover those over the next several articles. But let me start with the most popular mode of learning as voted by my peers, fellow entrepreneurs.

Do My Own Research

This is a really broad topic, but for me, it usually starts with a core question. What is it that I want to know, or want to be able to do?

Just like with Projects and Areas, I create a folder, and home note to create an anchor for my research. The Resource Home Note is very similar to project plans, and area indexes. But it has four sections:

  • Frontmatter
  • Overview
  • Branches
  • Resources
  • File list


The power of the Resources are the way that I take the notes. In order to understand why what I do is powerful, I think I should share a little about how the brain learns.

Practical Use

I hope it seems fairly obvious that having a single point, call it the tip of the spear, where you can store, and attach information as you research is valuable. For example

  • Web links go into the resources section as part of a bullet list.
  • PDF's go into resource folders.
  • reMarkable (or Notability) notes can be used three ways:
    • Copy the text and paste it into a branch note.
    • Export it as a PDF and stick it in a branch note (Most note apps let you insert PDFs, Obsidian has a decent viewer), or the associate resource folder.
    • Make a matching resource folder on the remarkable and stick the note there.
  • My own thoughts, and experiments can be captured in branch notes.
  • Links to books, and highlights can be stored here.
  • YouTube Video - embed, or paste a clip.

There are some more tools I use such as:

  • Readwise.io - sends highlights to note apps
  • Instapaper - grab articles (without ads), and highlight
  • Markdown Download - a chrome plugin that saves webpages as markdown to insert into my notebase.
  • Zotero - amazing bibliography tool
  • Zotero - chrome plugin for Amazon.
  • Snaggit (Windows) or MonoSnap (Mac) for screen grabs.
  • Code snippets can be stored in code blocks with explanations.

And then there are the special "meta" knowledge, let's call them the AI tools. My current most powerful practice?

  1. Listen to a podcast.
  2. Download the transcript from YouTube.
  3. Paste the entire transcript into a new branch note under the heading Contents Or transcript.
  4. Use ChatGPT or Claude to summarize the note
  5. Paste the summary into the Overview so I know what the note is about.

There is one other step. Sometimes, the AI does not process the episode the same way I did, so in my summary prompt, I will often direct the AI to extract specific knowledge - for example, the host might have mentioned recommended books to read throughout the espisode. I want AI to extract a concise bullet list for further reading.

But these are the practical aspects of using Resources. They save time, and like every other section in my notebase, preserve context so I can walk away, and come back later, picking up where I left off.

However, there is a more philosophical question I think we should ask. Why do this at all? Well, to learn. But... how do you learn? And are there better ways of learning?

What do you really know?

What is the difference between knowing conceptually how to ride a bike? And actually being able to ride a bike? If I handed you a baseball bat and told you all about hitting, but never let you swing the bat, what would you know?

Not every kind of learning is skill based, but the principle holds true for many kinds of problems, even intellectual ones. To write code, you need to know how to write code.

Or, perhaps more importantly, lets say there are better ways to behave, more effective ways to engage other people? How would AI help you with that in the middle of a conversation?

There is an idea called, the "Unread library book" effect. It is a form of mental bias where we mistakenly believe that because we have access to knowledge, we actually have the knowledge. Like checking a book out of the library of humanity, but never reading it. Humans know this, therefore, I must know it.

But I don't.

The real litmus test of knowledge is what I can produce. Can I make use of the new knowledge to produce better outcomes? Are there better ways to learn?

It turns out, there are.

Learning about Learning

When archaeologists uncovered a trove of 30,000 clay tablets in Sumaria, they were overjoyed at all the wonderful histories and stories they had unearthed. Imagine their surprise when they discovered the vast majority of the tablets - like 99% of them held simple accounting records, trade receipts, or recipes. Hardly any of them held narratives.

Early humans did not need to write down stories. And when they did, writing was a memory aid. To read a document, you had to already know what it said. They used no spacing or punctuation.

Take for example the letters: GODISNOWHERE. What does that say?

God is now here?


God is nowhere?

Writing, was not always the best way to convey information. In fact, the way we consume information and learn from it is relatively new to us as a species - and the tools we can use to learn continue to evolve. It was not all that long ago that fewer than 5% of the general population could read. Yet, we still learned. So what is easiest for us to learn?

Three Kinds of Memory

Human brains naturally can store three kinds of information quite well:

  • Episodic memories (narratives)
  • Declarative memories (facts)
  • Innate memory (muscle memory)

But certain kinds of memories, like procedural memories we do not do so well. To make matters worse, we have a bias called the "Illusion of explanatory depth." It is hard for us to actually tell how much we know.

If I asked you, "Do you know the story of Snow White?" You're answer would likely be correct. You know you know it, or you know you don't.

But if I ask you how a toilet works, chances are you would be over confident about how it actually functions. You'd have some understanding, but would be missing critical pieces of information.

The brain stores procedural information like Russian nesting dolls, you can touch the surface and get a sense of what you know, but until you open it and unpack it and find out how many dolls (details or steps) are inside, you won't really know.

Therefore, some kinds of knowledge we not only store quite well, our own assessments are accurate. Other, extremely useful kinds of knowledge are more challenging to learn, and what's more, our own assessments of our ability are often inacurate.

Pick a Learning Strategy

My goal here is to make you aware that there are learning strategies you can use to enhance your ability to gain useful knowledge and put it into practice.

The Resource section of my second brain is where I apply those strategies, with the purpose of enhancing my learning.

I have lots of ways to take notes, I put it all together into a Resource.

To paraphrase Barbara Fredrickson, The opposite of Fight or Flight is not to stay and party. It is to broaden and build. I use resource folders to broaden my understanding, and build new tools I will put into practice.


At the simplest level, if you are going to conduct your own research, having a methodology for organizing and capturing your notes, resources, and your own thoughts and experiments is extremely useful.

  1. It preserves the context, so you can pick up where you left off.
  2. It saves your learning for future use in case you stop using this and have to come back later.
  3. It gives you a home for all the varied types of content you will no doubt touch and puts it where it is most useful.

However, there is more. When you start to build a second brain, you can begin to ask, "Are there better ways to learn"?

The answer is of course, yes.