It was the fall of 2005. I was a 20 year-old student at Saddleback Community College near my hometown in Orange County, California.
Over the previous year, I had exhausted nearly all of my college savings by attending one of the most expensive universities in the country, in faraway Washington D.C.
Before I knew what hit me, my dream of graduating from a prestigious East Coast university and traveling the world as a respected diplomat had been shattered.
Broke and depressed, I moved back in with my parents to pick up the pieces of my life.
After a few months of feeling sorry for myself, I enrolled in a writing class at the local community college. Toward the end of the semester, our final assignment was to write a paper arguing for our point of view on a subject we cared about.
After I submitted it, the professor took me aside to tell me that he loved it, and that I should think seriously about a career as a writer.
I was stunned. Becoming a writer was a possibility I had never considered.
I enjoyed writing, but had never remotely considered what a writing career might look like. I didn’t know any professional writers. I had no special expertise or experience to write about. I didn’t even have an interesting life.
But somewhere within myself I felt a calling, like a hushed voice trying to break free. Though it took someone I respected to point it out to me, on some level I already knew I had a unique way of seeing things that would be valuable to others. I had a thorn in my side, insisting that I had something to say and that I absolutely had to say it.
My ruminations led me on a drive down Pacific Coast Highway to Aliso Creek State Beach, the go-to beach spot where I spent many summers with family and friends. We used to play in the sand and waves by an old pier that extended out into the ocean, that had long since been demolished.
I sat at a picnic table on the remains of the pier, and looked out toward the invisible horizon. It felt like I was at a crossroads between the conventional path everyone around me seemed to advise, and the wilds of a creative – but unknown – trail.
I could feel my identity shift in real time, growing and expanding beyond the lost and aimless teenager I saw myself as, to reveal someone else underneath:
An adult. An artist. A wise soul. A writer.
It was terrifying to admit to myself, in the quiet of my own head, that I even wanted to write a book. Just acknowledging it felt scary. It risked disappointment. It exposed me to the unknown.
I took out my journal and wrote out a promise: I will write a book.
I didn’t have any of the details. I didn’t know what my book would be about. I had no timeline or immediate plans. But I walked away from that beach a different person, with a new sense of purpose.
At this point, my innocence and naivete were my only real assets. I knew almost nothing about what lay ahead of me, and it would take many years for me to make even minor progress on my goal. But I had completed the first step. The step toward becoming the kind of person whose life is worthy of a book.
In my 20s, I lived and worked in foreign countries, and gained a greater diversity of perspectives and working experience than the dismal U.S. job market of 2009 could offer me.
I built up my writing muscles by publishing my writing online: first on a free Blogger account, then on Medium, and eventually on my own website.
My writing and editing abilities slowly improved, from short travelogues, to multi-thousand word in-depth essays, to ebooks that compiled those essays together.
As I did this, I gained the real expertise that I would eventually teach others: how to build a system of knowledge management. Instigated by an unexplained chronic pain condition, I began to keep rigorous medical notes and scan them into my computer. This whole ordeal felt like a diversion from what my path was supposed to be, like something that never should have happened to me and that I didn’t deserve.
But that experience became the very portal into the knowledge I needed. Through that pain, I was forced to develop new abilities. I had to create a system to support me when my body couldn’t be relied on. And as the years passed, I began to see that many, many people badly needed such a system for themselves.
It’s been over 15 years since the possibility of writing a book entered my mind. And somehow, after all this time, all the pieces have come together in the form of a book – THE book – I promised myself I would write.
I’m unbelievably proud to share with you the cover of Building a Second Brain:
In just one week, we will begin accepting pre-orders – in multiple formats and through multiple sellers. Subscribe to our newsletter below if you’d like to be reminded. I’m offering a very unique and special pre-order bonus only to subscribers of my newsletter, only for a limited time.
I’m beyond grateful just to be able to share this book with you. It is everything I ever hoped and more.
My only remaining desire is that it touches many lives, yours included.
One week to go – let’s do this!
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