The Building a Second Brain and Write of Passage Student’s Guide to Creating Video

You have a head start

If you have taken the Write of Passage (WOP) or Building a Second Brain (BASB) courses, you already have a head start for creating video. In this piece, I’m going to show you why and what to do next.  

(Haven’t taken either of these courses? First off, take them. They open doors to transformative learning experiences and vibrant communities. Second, read on–there will be helpful insights.)

Here are the WOP and BASB concepts that translate to creating video:

  • Complement your other skills
  • Mindset over toolset
  • Intermediate packets
  • Be collaborative- and feedback-driven
  • Start now

Professional video, not a video professional

Write of Passage students aren’t trying to become the next Tolstoy. They take the course to use writing to accelerate their career. 

Approach video the same way. If you want to become Scorcese or PewDiePie, you are reading the wrong piece. Video is a skill everyone needs, but it is most powerful as an ancillary skill. Think of learning video as one item in the stack of skills that complements others you already have.

Mindset over toolset

In BASB, Tiago warns against the trap of fixating on note-taking apps. Again and again, he reminds us that debates about Roam vs. Evernote vs. Notion are overblown.

Approach video the way he does: focus on workflows over tools. Use what you already have—your phone’s camera and the default video editing software on your computer. Ignore pricey DSLR cameras and professional editing suites for now. (Reminder: there are award-winning films on Netflix filmed on cameraphones). iMovie, the pre-installed video program on the Macbook is plenty powerful.

Intermediate packets

Why not start with fancier equipment and software? Because Tiago knows you should spend more time producing instead of optimizing your setup. And when it comes to producing, he recommends “intermediate packets.” The philosophy of intermediate packets refers to breaking a project down into smaller, discrete units of progress. 

Breaking a project down gives you checkpoints and little wins along the journey, which can be motivating when the creative process drags through the messy middle. One intermediate packet I recommend is called the hello video, which gets you reps on camera and opportunities to test lighting arrangements. A hello video also removes the need to obsess over your ideas for content and usually prompts an enthusiastic response from the recipient.

But there is another, more powerful benefit from intermediate packets. They allow more opportunities for feedback.

Collaboration and feedback are secret weapons

In Write of Passage, David kills the myth of the lonely writer. He designed a course that is collaborative and feedback-driven.

My take on this has been to run live sessions on Zoom where students record rough takes and “screen” the unedited footage to a partner in a breakout room. 

These sessions are awe-inspiring. 

Attendees see just how fast they can move under time-constraints and they gain confidence showing their footage to someone at a similar level of competence.

Zoom screenings provide a unique form of feedback superior to in-person screenings. It would be weird to observe someone’s face in your living room after you share your screen. But in Zoom, you are free to study your audience’s facial expressions and see how they react at different points of your footage. Hollywood figured out the value of focus groups years ago. Who could have guessed that Zoom would unlock this power for all of us?

Use your headstart 

Write of Passage and Building a Second Brain place extreme emphasis on overcoming psychological obstacles. Why? Because managing information overwhelm and publishing your work online is terrifying at first.

Hitting record and sitting down in front of the camera is just as scary. 

Given that, the best way to make videos is to learn by doing with a community of people. Instead of spending time researching and theorizing, the best move is simply to get started and share your work. Jump over those mental hurdles and produce output, even if you’re embarrassed or unsatisfied with the early iterations. 

The more iterations, the better your work. David and Tiago would urge you to get started. So I will too.

Do you want to make videos? My course on video, Minimum Viable Video, gathers a community of early-stage creators and is modeled after Write of Passage. It launches in November. Join my newsletter or check my twitter to learn more.

Thanks to George, Jenn, Ayomide, Adam, and Julia for reading early drafts.