Tiago Forte on Intuition, Breathwork & What it Feels like to Have a Second Brain

Jonny Miller
Sep 13 · 31 min read

Listen to the conversation in full on Spotify, Castro or iTunes below:

I’ve probably said this before, but this feels like my favourite conversation on the podcast so far. I woke up at 5am to take the call because of time-zone differences, but by the end I was practically bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. Tiago is one of the deepest thinkers of anyone that I follow online, he’s a prolific writer and as you’ll hear in this conversation has built his business to fuel his own relentless curiosity.

You wouldn’t imagine that productivity systems and psychedelics usually pair well in a conversation, but it turns out they do! Tiago also shares some powerful personal stories relating to his experiences using breathwork to process anger, how he is learning to tap into his intuition and a vision that came to him for building a school for future in Brazil.

The home of Tiago’s writing is Forte Labs, the online course we dive into is called Building a Second Brain and you can follow him over on Twitter.

Jonny: I’m here with Tiago, founder of Forte labs and creator of the online course Building a second brain which I actually completed myself last year and in many ways led to me launching this curious human’s podcast. So I’m grateful to you for that.

Tiago: Amazing thank you.

Jonny: Yeah it’s made a big impact in my life and I think I have a sense this conversation is going to bounce around quite a lot, but I’d like to begin where I usually do by asking. Were you exceptionally curious as a child and if so could you maybe tell me a story about something that you were curious about as a kid?

Tiago: Yeah I think I was I was definitely curious and I had especially a dad who really fed that in fact I’m getting into video now and my project this year is shooting a documentary with my dad about my dad. It’s really interesting like when you interview your parents like the depth of responses you get you know if you ask your dad like what were you like as a child? Like in a normal conversation He’d be like butter off you know with the camera the camera could not even be rolling but now he feels like he has to give this like deep answer and I’ve learned that it part of the reason he’s so open. You know he’d always answer my why? Why? Why? Why? Questions, was as a kid his dad would never respond to him. His dad was like in the military just that gruff you know a non-articulating person and when he had us he was like I will give them every, every response that I have.

Jonny: That’s amazing that’s so awesome the point about podcast being an access point for deeper conversation I found that with my friends too like we just have normal conversations and then as soon as there’s a microphone in the room you hit record and it’s like you just go so much deeper than you would normally.

Tiago: It’s like we all have this performance instinct and I mean I do at least one of these interviews a week and this is like usually the deepest conversation of my week.

Jonny: The same thing I host as well I think it’s the reason that I’m doing it really. So were there any books or stories that you read growing up that’s kind of resonated with you and the reason that I ask is I have this kind of theory that our life purpose is in some way connected to those stories that resonated when we were younger. Are there any that come to mind for you?

Tiago: Oh yeah I was a voracious reader I was just a maniac. Gosh I read so much and it was mostly from my parents bookcases they had you know a few rooms with a few different bookcases and I would just, I don’t know if I was bored or what. But I just would pick up the most random stuff and they had an eclectic mix of history and religion and philosophy and business, self-help. It was really remarkable but let’s see what stands out, I mean there’s my favorite book of all time which is the source.

It’s called The source it’s actually a historical fiction novel and it’s by this writer this remarkable writer named James Michener. Just the most amazing he would basically like pick a country or a region and then he would spend years.

I mean each of his books took at least a few years. I mean he had a whole team too they would research it for him. He would just learn everything there was to know about this country and then go back into that country’s history pick like the most interesting period of the most interesting moment and tell a fictional you know made-up story about a specific group of characters but deeply rooted in the actual facts of history.

So like he did this with and often out-of-the-way countries like he did, the ones that I read were Poland, South Africa, Alaska, Mexico and then this one the source is about Palestine. And so like when these countries come up by I have this knowledge of like Palestinian history people are like did you study this in school but no just because of a story way more than if I just read a history book.

But anyway to kinda answer your question I think I’ve never thought about this before but I think that book really did impact me in that. So the whole book is about archaeology basically the whole book is they picked like an archaeological site in the modern day like the 70s or something. And then as the archaeologists uncovered you know how our archaeologists go layer by layer by layer.

Every layer they uncover he goes back in time and there’s a whole chapter on the history of that layer. And so you go back like hundreds of years and then thousands of years and then like the lowest layer is like prehistoric man. You know like the first humans and I think if I had to guess how that’s influenced me that’s really how I see my work as like uncovering layers.

You know I start with say productivity but then if you keep going down there’s just infinite. I really truly believe its infinite layers you just get deeper and more profound and more subtle you get the, you get to something more and more fundamental about the nature of reality. So maybe that’s how that that has influenced me.

Jonny: That’s amazing and yeah in many ways I feel like what you’ve created with building a second brain it feels to me like you you’ve almost find a way of systematizing and engineering this intense curiosity or this peeling back of the layers and as I was falling asleep last night. I was thinking about this more and I realized that maybe on like a meta level the businesses that you’re building are almost like flywheels for kind of funding and providing a forcing function for your own intense curiosity to kind of follow it and then write about the experience and then publish it and drive traffic to your courses and it keeps on going and which I think is genius and it’s something I intend to do myself. I remember reading one of your recent posts and you mentioned that you were kind of wrestling with a really challenging health condition when you were younger and could you maybe share a little bit of that like insight incident and how it led to the need to kind of device your own external brain.

Tiago: Yeah this is something I’m really getting into now because I’ve had this thing. It’s essentially I completely unexplained like tension and pain in the right side of my throat like that just came out of nowhere one day when I was 22.

So that was what 12 years ago I just started having this pain I thought it was a flu or cold and month after month and then year after year just started getting worse and worse and worse and worse and just in the past couple years. I’ve started even mentioning you know like you said a health condition, a health condition and being willing to talk about it.

And just the past few months I think I’ve finally come to understand what it actually is which has made me want to talk about it more explicitly because I think it’s actually something almost universal. The roots of it are something that affects almost everyone.

Jonny: So you want to dive in?

Tiago: Yeah so basically here’s my current theory is that there’s something called your vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve innervates it goes from basically your central nervous system in your body in your torso up through your neck up the back of your brainstem into your brain and it’s maybe the largest nerve or at least one of the most important nerves. It’s all sorts of things arousal you know like I can’t even remember all the functions it regulates but the interesting thing about the vagus nerve and I’ve kept encountering it.

Like I read a book about breathing and they’re talking about vagus nerve and then I read something about what’s it called ASMR this like sound thing that people have vagus nerve comes up. It’s like a bunch of different situations I’ve read about it and I finally understood that when you have trauma. When someone has some sort of trauma the vagus nerve it’s sort of like the alarm bell or like the sprinkler system in your brain for some reason it is the kind of the main thing to be affected and one way that is affected as it shuts down.

A part of its a section of it just turns off and usually the part that turns off is related to the trauma right. So for me and it’s amazing because I probably met with more than a dozen doctors in more than five or six countries. Like I would find the world specialists like in LA I went to this voice doctor who worked with like Celine Dion and all these famous singers.

Because I was like I want the best person in the world we’re looking at an anatomical chart of the throat on his wall and I’m saying this is the problem and I’m pointing directly at this little branch of the vagus nerve which is the part that innervates what’s called the pharynx which is basically the very back of your throat above the larynx. So it’s like above where you actually speak but kind of towards the back of your throat. And he was just like no there can’t be anything there no that’s not it.

And he just wouldn’t listen it’s amazing doctors they want to put you in one of like five boxes and if you don’t fit into one of those oh it’s not real or it’s in your head or here just take this incredibly powerful medication that will have devastating side effects which is what he recommended. He wanted me to take this like the same medication that schizophrenic people take that was his best idea.

So that anyway years later I finally understand that this nerve has taken off and the way that’s related and I’ll kind of wrap this up. But as a kid I felt like I didn’t have a voice there was something like I didn’t feel like I could be heard or I didn’t feel like I could speak up or people wouldn’t listen I had a lot of related hang-ups like that. So it makes total sense that the sort of as a defense mechanism the very nerve that controls that entire voice producing region just turns off like a light switch it shuts off.

So that’s been that’s just a little, I’m gonna read about this at length and it’s gonna be a hell of a long post because it’s been so many years of, so really this is why I developed the second brain. You know like when you have a rare illness and it’s interesting because rare illness is something like less than one in a hundred thousand or something. So it’s rare but if you add up all the people that have any rare illness it’s like 20% of the population.

So many of us have rare illnesses and so often you have to become a researcher. To really understand these rare things you have to it’s a it’s a part-time job managing that research and many people who have to do so end up developing very powerful organizational systems.

Jonny: Wow and I think the piece around the trauma is definitely something that I want to come back to in this conversation. And for me as well a lot of my friends with doctors back home and so I kind of had this very kind of rational Western mindset and recently for me just doing my yoga training and doing meditation training is I’ve realized that I’ve had a lot of I guess really strong emotions stored in different parts of my body and in in like long yen I’d be lying Pigeon and I just looked down and be this like salty puddle of tears like Oh interesting. It just clearly like releases all of this maybe it’s in the fascia I’m definitely interested in this. But going back to you just going back to the second brain and something that I wanted to kind of talk to you about was that I feel like a lot of listeners and myself included actually before taking the course are like almost optimizing for that that top layer of productivity could risk being at odds with the creative process. But now that this this system is in place I kind of feel like the opposite and for me the experience of researching this this podcast and lots of other projects I’m working on. It’s almost like brainstorming with previous versions of myself which, which I love and yeah and I read somewhere that and he describes what it feels like to have a second brain as being like in in a state of awe and it frees you from this burden of remembering things. And gives you more confidence to kind of pursue your ambitions so yeah I just wondered if you could speak to that experience a little and what you mean by it.

Tiago: Yeah I think that’s a post that I wrote called what it feels like to have a second brain. I think the reason so the reason I wrote that post so is basically everyone around me is telling me you know my wife my business partner, my editor, my agents and my marketing coach.

They’re all they’re all telling me the same thing which is for building a second brain this idea this methodology to really reach its potential it really becomes something more than a very esoteric thing for uber nerds. I need to learn to speak in a more intuitive emotional language. Right most people are not completely driven by their intellects like you know the Nerds that have been my audience so far as much as I love them they’re a tiny minority.

It’s you know engineers and scientists and professors they’ve been the ideal early adopter audience because they you know they have high standards like they don’t allow any bullshit you have to actually know what you’re talking about but now as I’m working on the book really what’s driving this is working on the book of the you know building a second brain course which a book is a crazy thing. Because someone has to read it with and understand it and benefit without any contact with you there’s no coaching there’s no explanation there’s no follow-up it’s just has to be totally self-contained.

So this has been hard because I am usually pretty driven by my intellect so I just sat down and I like did some incense I like meditated I like put on the most emotional music I could excavate emotion and I had to just get in touch with my own feelings about it. And I just wrote that post and if you read it its very sort of stream of consciousness very metaphysical very rambling and that’s because it was just like I mind dump.

But yeah I think it’s just an incredible feeling to have such a powerful tool at your disposal that just gets every capacity you have not and not just of your mind you know yes expands your cognitive capacity your memory your intellect your processing your insight all those things.

But also it also expands your awareness it expands your intuition, it expands your like your empathy and once you do that it’s like it’s this completely self-expanding almost self-annihilating phenomenon. That yourself is just like a little thing in the corner of a vast room and the least interesting thing going on and you’re playing and you’re creating and you’re moulding something and yourself, your ego just isn’t even a part of it because it’s so grand it’s so awesome.

Jonny: That’s amazing and what when you were talking about kind of excavating your emotions and putting on the music. I remember reading that in Aboriginal culture I think it’s yeah Australian Aboriginal culture they have this this belief that we actually have three brains and they think there’s a brain in the gut, in the heart and the mind and I think their word for the mind brain is the same as a fishing net which I think is a really interesting analogy. But at the risk of kind of confusing brain two I think I’m interested in how having that external brain can kind of help to open up some of those kind of deeper channels and I know that you talk about how this like deeper knowledge is fully formed with a sense of certainty that no logic or proof can kind of muster up and I wonder if maybe kind of a working definition of productivity or looks like different definition could be to maybe facilitate this process of like turning down the noise of our mental chatter to kind of enable that deeper knowledge and that by intuition to kind of rise the surface. So this is kind of a big question but do you think you could just speak a bit more to your felt experiences of accessing that intuition more as someone who is kind of very clearly very intellectual as the result of having your external brain?

Tiago: Yeah you know what I think it is I think there’s really something where you have to vacate your mind. If your mind is full which is just the default state of almost everyone almost all the time almost everywhere are these days. If it’s just full there’s this like static noise that just drowns out your own thoughts and your own intuition you know a lot of that noise is coming from the outside.

It’s social media and it’s emails and it’s the other thing you know all the stuff you absorb but actually much more so it comes from the inside.

And you realize this when you meditate is like you don’t need any external input to have a deafening cacophony in your head and that’s kind of the flaw in this like in the deep work philosophy.

It’s like oh yeah if you just sequester yourself out in the cabin in the woods somewhere then you’ll have peace no you won’t. That’s just it’s the door for your inner monkey to could go insane.

You have to vacate your mind and meditation is one way of doing that the issue then is you know, you even after you vacated your mind you still need to create things and produce things and they’re still content that’s relevant.

So there’s this paradox how do you still work with content by which I mean ideas and insights and examples and metaphors and stories you’re telling and interviews you’re doing and blog posts you’re writing all these things while your mind is vacated that sounds like a paradox right. But the way you do it is you just store all that stuff in a different mind.

Jonny: Yeah this is okay this is really interesting and I feel it’s in many ways this has been kind of a central question of my life for the last couple of years. I’ve done a couple of passing meditation retreats and I’ve been and it’s writing poetry recently and here in Bali I’ve been teaching breath work exercises to kind of very distracted digital nomads. And I feel like the common thread is maybe this and I’m not sure if this analogy will resonate but it’s almost like we’re tuning up to the instruments of our human souls so that like music can kind of flow through us and maybe when our brain is stored elsewhere it gives us more space to kind of be the conductor for that music and just kind of let it let it flow. And so yeah I’d love to just maybe dive in a bit more to how meditation and breathwork have impacted you both personally and kind of creatively and you also mentioned on Twitter that you’d had a kind of powerful breath work experience and I wondered if you’d be open to sharing that as well.

Tiago: Definitely yeah, I mean the experience was a course I did about a month ago. It’s a week-long course in the Northern Sierras in California that was just extremely profound experience. Basically the actual exercise was anger work. So the goal was to get in touch with your anger and it was so interesting because it was like that’s so the opposite of most spiritual endeavors which is all about being Placid and calm and unattached you know. So they explained this exercise basically it was like you put on gloves and had a tennis racket and just wailed on things, not things you wailed on futons that were sort of specially designed for this.

So it was quite safe quite you know in control but he really it was to let all that anger out and it was crazy because when they explained the exercise I actually raised my hand and said that I don’t have any anger I feel nothing and they were like exactly. So we started with breathing exercises where we laid down on a mat like a yoga mat and our knees are up kind of like in birthing like giving birth position.

Hands kind of on our sides palms up and we’re doing deep inhales and like stretching the lungs the chest and the stomach as much as possible and then exhaling like without any control which is actually surprisingly hard to do you know like when you breathe out you go which is kind of control to actually completely just let it collapse is very kind of hard.

But anyway I’m doing this and I start to feel it. I’m doing this this this breathing maybe not even ten minutes and this it felt like oh my gosh like this like little tendril of smoke that’s what it felt like. Like something was coming up from the, like just not even heat but just like a little bit of sign of something and then I started to be able to feel it and I felt this like incredible after a few minutes there was this like white hot volcanic rage but it was sort of blocked underneath this like this wall and later through there was sort of some post-processing and coaching and different things.

I really was taken back to being a kid where if I got angry my dad would get ten times as angry back right and as a kid your parent actually getting like full-out angry is like absolutely terrifying. It’s like your survival is at stake and I can actually remember very intentionally trying to find ways to swallow the anger swallow the angers swallow the anger which by the way then I have my throat thing right.

There’s something related there and so I just get this tennis racket and I just didn’t recognize myself the amount of anger that I had to let out was absolutely astonishing. It was astonishing and then part of the exercise is like not collapsing because many people they let out some anger but then they’ll sort of collapse like physically and mentally but the whole thing and this comes from a book called the body keeps the score.

This is all based on the work of Vessel van der Kolk who’s this guy at Harvard who has worked in trauma centers for decades. It’s all very well researched, very well supported but the whole thing is to act out the situation where you were traumatized but to change the story right. So if you collapsed back then you acted out again you let out the anger but then this time they would have you like stand up like a gladiator pose like with your arms out and then just like declare victory almost just like reprogram your physical like your nervous system to interpret that scenario as one of victory not defeat. And the high I felt after that it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

I really realized that my whole life keeping that anger down has had really all sorts of consequences. Consequences in relationships, in business, in my body and my health like any emotion that you repress wreaks havoc on your life. There’s no emotion that just is you know but you can just repress and doesn’t have a consequence.

Every emotion has a purpose and so eventually I think a spiritual growth a lot of it is not just like having better emotions which I sort of got that impression from meditation before I don’t know if that was just my interpretation.

But this this work was more about actually manifesting every single one of the emotions, we did grief work, we did fear work, we did even some stuff around guilt and shame it was amazing.

Jonny: Wow that’s really powerful and I suppose I’ve been on a similar journey myself and I love this there’s a quote by Rumi I think and he says the cure for the pain is in the pain. And it’s like this idea that any emotion whether it’s anger or guilt or shame. If you allow yourself to feel it fully that it then kind of melts into bliss or oneness and wholeness and this has been my experience with grief as well like I’m actually going to be giving a TEDx talk in a couple of weeks about this kind of the gifts of grief. And for me I would kind of go swimming in the freezing cold ocean and I’d be like screaming and wailing out into the sea. And it was almost like that anger it just created all of this energy in my body that I then had to learn to surrender into and I think that’s the piece that a lot of us we’re taught to kind of to fight and to resist a lot of the time. And so when these difficult emotions arise we don’t really have the kind of courageous curiosity to firstly look at them and acknowledge them and maybe give them a big hug and then to actually surrender into them and to accept them as part of ourselves and I suppose that’s what all of this shadow work is really about integrating those repressed part of ourselves that maybe serve the purpose when we were you know eight years old and didn’t want to piss off our dads but it’s like now it’s no longer serving us and it can lead to health conditions like you said. So this stuff is so interesting and what excites me at the moment and particularly being here in Bali actually is it feels like we’re almost like democratizing these inner tools for accessing these different states of consciousness and doing shadow work and basically depending on what the moment requires. And so say to give it a classical example and before we jumped on this cool I did a few rounds of Kapala Bhati. Like fire breath just to kind of give myself some energy and wake up my nervous system and so I’m curious if this like does that resonate first of all and what excites you most about the potential for these kind of inner technologies that were just discovering?

Tiago: Yeah I think this stuff is so huge it’s you know it’s sort of like an vessel Vander Kolk I just finished his book and he talks about this like the awareness of trauma in society goes in waves and he identified there were different, like basically people start to become aware of trauma and it opens up more and more. It’s kind of like psychedelics like people become more and more aware of it but then something happens or people get scared or the media does you know something.

And then there’s a backlash and it gets repressed on society again. And he’s identified like three, I think three of them in the twentieth century but and he thinks now that we’re on an upswing we’re going towards awareness which I agree. And you know it’s like the underlying fabric of society you know everything from obesity you know in nutrition why do people eat stuff that doesn’t taste good isn’t good for them and gives them terrible conditions to addiction to drugs and alcohol.

You know why do people feel this need to not feel what is so terrible about what’s happening inside that they can’t feel to abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and all the way to you know among those is relatively unimportant but productivity and workplace stuff.

It was remarkable to me reading this book how every, kind of symptom that people come to me with you know I want to take your course or do or your coaching or whatever it is for this thing is a symptom of trauma. Like for example ADHD all the collection of symptoms that we call ADHD and this is actually coming out more and more now like Gabor Mate interview with Tim Ferriss talked about this.

As a situation they can’t they can’t face they dissociate right and then that dissociation becomes a mental habit and it keeps going and shows a busy ADHD. But what this book talks about is the opposite is also true that hyper focus can be a symptom of trauma and I think this is the direction I went. I’ve always been able to just really zero in on something and I’ve realized that that is its own form of dissociation.

Usually the thing that has me want to like get into especially a very complex or abstract piece of writing is like something in my life or in the business is going some way I don’t want it to go and I can’t face it and I just want to escape from myself.

And so writing is like my drug and I actually exhibit many of the symptoms of addiction that people exhibit towards substances I exhibit towards writing.

Jonny: Yeah that’s so true and I think I noticed in myself and friends I think a lot of people who start businesses as well and have these kind of ambitious goals like whether it’s an impact business or trying to save the world in some way often it comes from a place of lack or potentially trying to overcompensate for something in their childhood and it’s yeah it’s almost like again with the layers. If you kind of keep peeling back these layers at the bottom that probably is some kind of reef experience or even like I’ve been reading about ancestral traumas and epigenetics and how we kind of carry things which you know didn’t even happen in our lifetimes. It’s really interesting and so I’m curious about how you mentioned that when you’ve begun this kind of meditation journey you didn’t really get the sense that it was to be used for kind of exploring some of this this shadow work with trauma release and so I guess I’m wondering if there were any experiences that arose during your meditation practice that’s caused you to change your mind on that? How would you say your relationships meditation has changed over the years?

Tiago: I think I’ve never really gone well depends how you how you define it but I’ve never learned that much about meditation you know. I read this book kind of like an introduction to meditation in like 2012 I think when I first arrived in San Francisco you know that’s what you do when you go to San Francisco you get into weird stuff.

And about a year later I did my first Wapastana retreat which was very eye-opening very cool and then I did a couple years later I did a second retreat but this whole period I’ve essentially only known Vipassana and done Vipassana maybe you know 10 to 20 minutes most days of the week.

Not super hyper religious about it but pretty actually very consistent over the years. So I can’t say I know that much but I do like I love experimenting with different modalities.

I just love like how every one of these modalities shines a different kind of light on a different kind of blind spot and gives you a some kind of new experience of joy of happiness, of freedom, of flexibility, of ease something and then also and this is the most incredible thing is it makes you more effective.

I’m just constantly amazed how like you know everything in my life my work my business my writing my relationships is a reflection of me. You know like I’m the one that creates my reality so if I have a blind spot then that blind spot shows up in my writing and it also shows up in my business and it also shows up in my family.

You know and then when I reveal a blind spot usually through some experience of this kind. I’m just able to act with more power and be more effective in that area that has now revealed to me.

Jonny: Yeah it’s like increasing that just self-awareness and just gives us more access to ourselves and continuing down this thread of exploring modalities and accessing deeper wisdom. And I know you mentioned, mentioned psychedelics earlier and I’ve had some experiences myself they and very profound and I feel like they’ve almost flipped my metaphysical beliefs of the world on the head and in some ways actually sent me kind of on this meditation path. I’m trying to kind of access some of those states under my own steam. And so I guess I’d love to ask you about you wrote about a specific moment when you were cramped on the backseat of a plane and a vision came to you and I’d wondered if you could share a little bit more of what that experience was like to feel that feel that download. And a bit about the vision that kind of came through.

Tiago: Yeah this is this kind of relates to this a previous question you answer that we didn’t really get to which is like how does the kind of knowledge that we collect in software relate to stuff like intuition right. And I think it is related in that once you offload facts and details and statistics and you know the explicit concrete’s legible stuff.

There is just this this empty space in your brain for things to arise and arise they do and this this has been amazing for me to discover something I’m not naturally I think that intuitive at least not compared to some other people in my life but that’s been in the amazing discovery is that things arrived fully formed. You know things like your purpose in life or your mission in life or really like your big goals or your identity or your truth or your voice or these kind of things.

You don’t arrive at them analytically you don’t like make a list of pros and cons and then whittle it down and then like construct a very logical structure they just arrive they just descend on you. And it’s super mysterious you can probably make up you know various scientific reasons for how that happens you know like it’s in some latent layer of your memory which are just as valid to but it is super mysterious and that story it was just so crazy because you know I first noticed it a few months before when I was in Brazil and I was in a taxi in Rio going along the there’s like a coastal road from the old house where I used to live when I lived there which I had just visited and I was headed back to the main part of town. And I was just talking to I think I was with my sister in the car and I said something like I want to be the bridge between the United States and Brazil.

I just said that casually and it was like my body just like being engaged in all these different ways all these like modules came online. I was just moved to tears out of out of nowhere from something that I had said and I was just like what is this?

You know I hardly had an idea that that was there and so I just kind of you know it had it in the back of my mind and in some months later which is what I read about in this story I was at Yale University and kind of being very moved by like the venerable old you know scholarship and learning that happened there and then on the plane ride back home to California I read Michael Pollan’s how to change your mind.

And as far as I know I was I felt very psychedelic like lights were very vibrant and time seemed to be moving very slow and all these things as I’m in the plane even though I didn’t take anything. And I think it was something like a contact high just from reading about it. I was reading about his psychedelic experiences and having a psychedelic experience very weird and then I just in that state started journaling and all this stuff started coming out.

Like just in great detail with no hesitation no pause and no thinking it was like what I really wanted to start a school physical in-person school in Brazil in the south of Brazil and the mountains which is where I used to live with my family.

I could picture the location I could picture how the classrooms were laid out. I could picture I just not even picture I just knew what the curriculum would be which would be all these personal growth modalities. Like we wouldn’t teach really history or science or things we would teach like productivity effectiveness self-awareness emotional intelligence communication, leadership all these things.

Basically make that the bridge is really from all these modalities that are not exclusive to the US but are rarefied you know to be part of these things I’ve been part of it’s really just like a few large cities in the US where really esoteric unusual kinds of practices are allowed to exist you know. And bring those to the world but specifically to Brazil which is so in need of them and the other way too. I think so much of what’s happening in the US right now.

Brazilian culture and society actually has the answer to a lot of that. Latino culture has this incredible depth and warmth. I mean this is why I live in Mexico now.

It’s like when you live in Latin America and you see what true community looks like and how deep even casual interactions on the street can be and then you go in the US and you see how much that’s lacking. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, there’s something broken I think in US society I mean we can, it’s probably separate conversation but yeah that’s just something that emerged from this weird psychedelic process which was to start a school. And Loren and I my wife we just got married in April we’re just holding that.

You know my attitude is like okay universe if you want me to do that you’re gonna have to make make it really easy. Honestly you know you’re gonna have to make it easy you’re gonna have to make me a good offer you’re gonna have to open the way through the jungle.

Because if you don’t I have no idea how this could possibly come about that’s what’s so cool it’s like it’s so clearly outside of my own abilities where I can’t even tell what the first step would be that I can just relax and say universe if this is what you want for me and this is so weird because I’m an atheist and I don’t really think there’s a God. And yet this stuff is happening I don’t know.

Jonny: It’s so interesting and I this is a weirdly this is a weirdly parallel experience but I feel like when you let go of the if the need or the sense that you know how to get from A to B and you almost open up the doors to all of this invisible help and all of these possibilities that you were previously completely unaware of. And for me this is weird but I almost feel like this idea of I sent this tweet a couple of months back saying I think it would be fun to crowdsource a how-to human user manual for the 21st century. And I listed some things that are really similar to the kind of things that you just mentioned that should be on this curriculum for kind of future Brazilian readers. Like how to breathe how to meditate how to learn, how to unlearn all of these things but I’m to me it also feels like a very big project and I’m kind of in this place of like this feels very exciting but I’m not yet sure like what the next step is so I’m just trying to listen and trying to be open to just to pay attention to any kind of signs and nudges and like holding that lightly and without needing to know exactly how it’s going to come to fruition or if it will not being too attached to it which is hard. Because I think we all grow up like needing to know and we get rewarded for giving the correct answers to questions. And we get we feel like we look stupid when we don’t know the answer which is a big part of the motivation for this podcast I’m like trying to nudge humans to take the curiosity more seriously and to not reach for those easy answers.

Tiago: You’re onto something and it’s something a lot of people are realizing it’s like the subject matter content is no longer what education is about because you can look up any answer at any time on any device. So what’s left is the yeah these like meta skills these interpersonal skills these self-awareness skills and gosh our education system is just not designed to deliver those.

Jonny: So I interviewed this 12 year old girl in Bali a previous episode and it just blew my mind how slot and how driven and how curious she was. And I think that I’m realizing that we all have that innate curiosity in us but it’s the conditioning and it’s layers that all the gunk that kind of gets on top and just blocks out that innate curiosity. So maybe the role of teachers is just to kind of Midwife or to hold a space for this natural curiosity to just kind of express itself and let kids learn for themselves because they probably figure out a lot this stuff on their own. And just before we okay so just before we wrap up and what’s the best place for listeners to find you learn more about building a second brain and the projects that you’re working on where should they go to.

Tiago: Yeah so they can go to buildingasecondbrain.com which is the, everything you would ever want to know about that course. If they want to know about my broader work fortelabs.co is my website and that has links to the online courses of course and we have other ones too.

I also have some ebooks which there’s a link to my blog which is very active as you know and a few other things like workshops and speaking. But yeah I’d love to hear from your listeners what they got out of this pretty atypical conversation when it comes to productivity.

Jonny: And it’s Fortelabs on Twitter right if they want to get in touch on Twitter.

Tiago: That’s probably the place I’m most active is Twitter and my handle is @fortelabs that’s right.

Jonny: Okay awesome so there’s a question that I like to wrap these conversations with and it’s borrowed from a real play line that I love and it’s basically to paraphrase that try to love the questions themselves and live them now and perhaps you’ll gradually without noticing it live your way into the answer. So with that in mind works is the question that you feel like you’re living yourself right now and what question why you leave our listeners with?

Tiago: Okay I think the question would be oh boy,

I think it would be what would you do if your freedom and pleasure were essential to the freedom and pleasure of the world?

Jonny: Wow thank you and thank you so much for taking the time for this conversation and we will end the show with that.

Tiago: Alright Wow.


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Jonny Miller

Written by

Tribe Leader @Escthecity, growth @Litographs & cofounder @Maptia. Cold water surfer and ukulele enthusiast in my spare time!

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