WoW 082: On digital gardens (part 9 – knowledge workers series) [Words of Wisdom]

In this series, we are exploring how to take your thinking seriously. To see the eight previous posts in the series, go here.

Intended Audience: Knowledge workers, students, or anyone who wants to take their learning seriously and compound their knowledge and learning over time.

(Applying what takes you 6 minutes to read today will benefit you for decades, and others for generations to come.)

Taking your thinking seriously is more important than ever. In an age of endless distractions when information is not only instantly accessible via the internet but AI is starting to do tasks and thinking for people more and more, the easiest way to stand out and create significant value in the world will be for you to concentrate and teach what you learn consistently.

Here are the lessons from this series, each in a single sentence:

1. Cultivate your mind like a garden by tending your thoughts carefully, feeding curiosity, and nurturing a passion for learning.

2. Start new things by committing to the smallest practice possible and continuing to experiment and play,

3. Use your brain to think and to be creative by creating a network of diverse knowledge and ideas in a personal knowledge management system.

4. Create a knowledge forest by planting new thoughts daily in a digital second brain like Roam.

5. Increase your creation versus your consumption ratio and develop a thinking practice where you concentrate deeply every day.

6. Improve your thinking by taking evergreen notes, the fundamental unit of thought for the knowledge worker.

7. To make a significant impact, you must show up consistently in your practice and take meaningful action every day.

8. Learn more and improve your thinking by learning in public.

9. Learn in public with a digital garden to grow ideas in relation to each other over time.

Throughout this series, we have been reflecting on the fundamental question: how can you take your thinking seriously? This is not a hypothetical question or merely an exciting idea to reflect on. I want to live out the values of thoughtfulness, rigorous reflection, vulnerability, and learning in public.

So I've decided to start a digital garden. I only started it recently, which is great, because that's part of the ethos of a digital garden. It doesn't need to be polished and finished, and it can grow over time.

A digital garden is a space where you develop your own thoughts and ideas about what you are learning as you go. It's a way to share your thinking and learning before it's perfectly completed and polished. It's more of a public space to share your working notes that are works in progress, with richly interconnected thoughts, than a merely linear list of published and polished articles. Both are good. But digital gardens are rare and can be surprisingly powerful.

Instead of the typical way we use the web today, by perusing a timeline-based, chaotic, and shallow stream of conversation, be it via a social media stream or a stream of timestamped blog posts, a digital garden is a timeless mental model that slowly grows and becomes more valuable over time.

"A garden is a collection of evolving ideas that aren't strictly organised by their publication date. They're inherently exploratory – notes are linked through contextual associations. They aren't refined or complete - notes are published as half-finished thoughts that will grow and evolve over time. They're less rigid, less performative, and less perfect than the personal websites we're used to seeing." Maggie Appleton, A Brief History & Ethos of the Digital Garden

A digital garden will be a way I can create more rapidly in my goal to make as much or more than I consume. Instead of just being a consumer of information or even a learner, I want to teach as I go on the path to mastery.

The less friction between your learning and sharing what you learn, the better. Decreasing this friction increases the rate you can learn.

But a digital garden isn't primarily about speed in a world so full of hurry.

Consistently planting new ideas is powerful. But having those ideas deeply interconnected, germinate, and grow over years and decades is transformational.

The true power of a digital garden lies in the space for developing a relationship of ideas and resources with each other to create a powerful web of knowledge.​


"The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good."

Brian Tracy

"And when you get to that point, where you've mapped out 1000s of articles of your own knowledge you start to see impacts on your thought that are very hard to describe. Over time these things you write up start to form a deep network that helps you think...This is true of everything in the garden. Each flower, tree, and vine is seen in relation to the whole by the gardener so that the visitors can have unique yet coherent experiences as they find their own paths through the garden. We create the garden as a sort of experience generator, capable of infinite expression and meaning....Note that connections here aren't banter, but the construction of a mental model of a subject area."

Mike Caufield, The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral


What thoughts am I training myself to think?

How am I challenging my thinking?

How is what I'm learning building upon itself?

How am I sharing and teaching what I'm learning?


If you want to read more on digital gardens, read Caufield's 2015 article, and for a thoughtful and more recent overview of the ethos and history, read Maggie Appleton's article.

If you want to learn more about planting your digital garden or share your plans to do so, please reach out!

Live wisely,


P.S. Check out my digital garden at and let me know what you think!

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