Today, many of us are time-starved. We have too many things to do coupled with too many distractions. This can be a hindrance to learning. It’s at these times that we look for solutions that help us stay even or ahead. One problem area for me was reading. I didn’t want to give it up, but I felt like I didn’t always have time to complete a book, let alone process it.
If you feel trapped by this thinking, you might be interested to learn there are services that can help you digest the key concepts of some great non-fiction books. The first service I’d like to tell you about is Philosophers Notes. This is a service started by Brian Johnson, a passionate learner and presenter.
These services aren’t substitutes to reading the book, but because they distill a number of books, they can help you focus on the ones that matter most. You might look at it like a filtering process. Using this type of service, I can hone in on those books I feel will make the greatest impact. It’s more efficient than reading through book reviews or downloading Amazon samples.
The name, Philosophers Notes, might make you think the books are all by the “ancients” (think Plato, Socrates, Seneca and so on.), but that’s not the case. Currently, there are 250 book summaries that cover categories ranging from creativity to wealth with lots in-between. Brian adds books to the library at an amazing rate of 10 per month. That’s reading, distilling and producing a book note every 3 days.
What’s in the Note?
The “note” is Brian’s abstract of the book, but in multiple formats and content. Typically, I’m alerted to a new note or group note via email. The email starts with a good subject line and highlighted book passage to pique my interest. It usually includes of Brian’s 5 main points or “big ideas” from the book.
Below, you’ll see part of the lead paragraph for the review of Jason Selk’s book on toughness. I should mention that new notes aren’t necessarily the most recently published books. Sometimes, Brian goes through a theme where he’s reading and abstracting related books on one subject.
(As an aside, after reading the big idea on breathing, I found an Android app called Paced Breathing that I like to use with this exercise.)
The email continues with other key takeaways and a link to the video note.
The Video Summary
The video summaries are free and can be found either on Brian’s site or his YouTube channel. Although the videos are unique to the book, there seems to be a consistent teaching method in the later ones. That may sound like the videos will be dull but Brian has a very good screen presence and isn’t afraid to add his personality. I was amused to hear one of his comments about his earlier belief that eating fat, made you fat. To me, a sign of a good teacher is acknowledging those type of changes.
- Each video starts with Brian in front of the chalkboard
- Each video has 5 main points or “big ideas”
- The key ideas are reinforced at the end starting from idea 5 and going back to idea 1.
- The note often refers to other learnings from earlier notes.
- The videos tend to be between 8-12 minutes.
The fact that these videos are on YouTube means you can queue them to watch later or even subscribe to his channel.
If you’re a paid member of the service, you get two more resources for each note. The first is a 6 page PDF book summary. While it covers the same big idea concepts as the video, I like having the additional format and information. The key points are highlighted in yellow, which makes reviewing the info at a later date easier. There is also a link to the author and Amazon.
Apart from the PDF, you also get the note in audio format. These .mp3 files are nice if you want to listen to the note while exercising or commuting. It would be even better if you could subscribe to a RSS feed.
Lastly, the Philosopher Notes are just one facet of the membership. Your membership also entitles you to other benefits like a series of Optimal Living online courses. Like the notes, these are delivered in audio and PDFs with a trailer video.
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- Ease of Use
Philosophers Notes is a great solution for people that are pressed for time, but want to improve themselves. It won't replace reading a book in its entirety. It does offer the ability to preview and learn from someone who has read hundreds of books, distilled that knowledge and linked it to other notes. As most of the books deal with improvement, I like to make reading these notes part of my morning ritual.
The service doesn't offer as many books as other providers, but part of that is because Brian is more focused on the optimal living theme just as other providers might be focused on business books.
Resources & Related Info
- Cost: $10 month - cancel anytime
- Website: https://brianjohnson.me
- YouTube Channel:https://www.youtube.com/user/PhilosophersNotes
Disclosure of Material Connection: The website link above is an “affiliate link.” This means if you click the link and decide to purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am a paid subscriber.