Sean's Notes

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Putting It All Together - A "Cosmic" Approach to Learning & Mastering Skills

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How many pages of notes, stacks of books, Google Docs, random note apps, do you have? How many of those notes do you review? Do you even know where they are? It's a constant frustration for most who love to learn, often leading to the futile feeling of 'why even bother' taking notes.

The "Cosmic Notes Method" - A Means to Mastery

My personal 'Cosmic Notes Method' is a personalized strategy that builds upon many of the different Knowledge Management Strategies out there, there is no perfect 'one size fits all' strategy, and you'll likely define your own modified version of this strategy.

Types of Notes That Reflect Our Goals

A note can be a sentence, or a book, but mostly in between.

Collect Information...

A: Literary Highlights - extracted content from a source stored for reference.

B: Literary Notes - any quick thoughts that come to mind as we study material, mostly in your own words.

These can intertwine with literary highlights, they serve to capture your gut reactions to things you highlight.

C: Various Thoughts or Ideas - we can capture our random thoughts and ideas into separate notes that we can connect with other notes and eventually tie into stand alone or linking notes.

Process Into Knowledge...

C: Stand Alone Notes - a review of your literary notes with an attempt to answer the question "what does that mean" for the projects or content I'm developing, or skills I'm learning. Written as a complete thought that can be understood by anyone. Express one idea. See elaboration.

D: Linking Notes - Where insights are born... these 'notes' are where you pull together stand alone notes and expand upon their relationships to each other. Similar to evergreen notes. These traditionally have scary names like reports or essays, think "wikipedia entry"... they are also serve as a kind of linking index of your notes.

Building connections (links) between notes is part of the processing sequence. Create indexes or evergreen notes on key concepts.

Write for Understanding...

E: Cosmic Notes - This is where you bring together your 'linked notes' & 'reports' and create a more concise version of your findings & insights. A course, a guide, a project, a collection.

This is the stage where information further transform into knowledge, something useful. Creating things is both fulfilling (experiencing being a producer instead of a consumer) and can serve as a jumping point for new opportunities.

A Cosmic Notes Approach Based on "First Principles"


Make sure it's a video I actually want to process, be choosy about what you "ingest", don't just take notes because you like the title of something; be sure the content is solid before committing to full review.

If video - Get video transcribed using tools like (free) or - my go to since I can navigate the text and hear the audio at the same time.

Don't directly copy the transcript in, take traditional (literary) notes on the video. Capture the core ideas, and any brief thoughts on the content.

I like to break down the notes into separate core topics headlines as they're presented into the materials.


Take a break, get some coffee, and come back with your writing hat on. Look at the core sections of the notes you took, what is the "first principle" of the section? The proposition. It should be able to be summarized into one sentence. (example).

Find as many first principles as you can, then go about elaborating on the principle. Keep this to one paragraph, and LINK to the supporting evidence within your original notes. This allows you to keep things short enough to regularly review and internalize.

If you find it difficult to simplify things down to one sentence you may need to do further research into the topic until you can, you should be able to summarize things simply or chances are you don't understand it fully.

You can also link to related first principles as you go, eventually, you'll have a collection of First Insights and a paragraph expanding upon each one, which actively references the source materials.


This step is about connecting your First Principles together to form a "40,000 feet" view of the concept. This is a collection of claims with links to the evidence...

You'll output something like this:

You do actually care about your life, even if your apathy won't let you admit it. So, Don't suffer any more stupidly than you have to FP. Remember: The mind is set (mindset) through conscious action. "Getting your act together" isn't about thinking correctly as much as it's about acting correctly. Life-changing shifts start in the mundane, you can't hope to fix big problems if you can't manage small ones. So, Don't try and fix things you are unqualified to fix. Perhaps most importantly, Be careful what you aim for: "Defining a Genuine Aim Reconfigures The World".

Each sentence links to your first principle you captured, which intern has the detailed paragraph below elaborating on the topic, which in turn has links to your original notes from the source materials.