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Boredom Is Pain

Boredom means “stop doing this and start doing something else”.

Boredom is pain.

You don’t keep your hand on the hot stove because it “builds character”, you take it away before you really hurt yourself.

Boredom is pain.

Next time it starts to hurt, take your hand off the stove.

  28 comments for “Boredom Is Pain

  1. ダンちゃん
    March 6, 2011 at 12:22

    Hey Khatz, this made me think of an article by ‘the Korean’ (he refers to himself in the 3rd person).

    He attributes his language success to sucking it up and working through the pain (a very Korean perspective ^^). A response from you might make an interesting post.

    • 魔法少女☆かなたん
      March 6, 2011 at 17:30

      He attributes his success to a system of memorisation.

      But that’s exactly what an spaced repetition system is. It’s just an intelligent system to develop memory.

      He says “Whenever I had trouble deciphering a sentence, I wrote it down and memorized it whole. Whenever I had a chance to write, I tried to incorporate the new sentence structure I learned, plugging in different vocabularies that I memorized.” Oh really? I’ve heard this before somewhere…

      He also noted that he watched at least 3 hours of English language television *EVERY DAY* and it was entertaining stuff like The Simpsons … so he did get a fun immersion environment.

      He seems to imply that memorising is boring, but that’s not necessarily true. Since I find almost every new word and grammatical pattern interesting, I’m not bored going through SRS repetitions.

      Of course, I think it’s certainly possible to succeed at things you don’t *want* to succeed at by doing them regularly anyway, but chances are, people reading this blog are learning Japanese or another language because they do want to, not because they have to.

      • ダンちゃん
        March 6, 2011 at 20:32

        Yeah, so it’s interesting (or sad?) that he thinks learning a language to fluency must be an exercise in masochism…

        • PensukeD
          March 7, 2011 at 01:20

          Whatever works for him I guess? Maybe some people have a sadistic nature and actually have more fun when they’re bored(in pain) 😛

          The problem with AJATT for me right now is that I made learning Japanese so much fun that everything else I have to do is a giant stove. Argh, Physics, you’re giving me so much pain.

        • March 7, 2011 at 13:50

          Uh, no. I don’t think language learning must be an exercise in masochism. It does, however, require relentless effort and discipline that carry you over the boring, mind-numbing stretches, which are inevitable.

          • ダンちゃん
            March 7, 2011 at 21:38

            If you are serious about learning a language, then yes, I absolutely agree that you need to be committed. Without consistent daily application you can’t expect results. There is no short cut and no magic pill. However, I don’t think that means mind-numbing stretches are inevitable at all. Saying that language learning can be fun is not the same as saying ‘learn Chinese in ten minutes a day while driving to work!’ etc. The AJATT philosophy is certainly relentless, but it is about relentless enjoyment and engagement.

            p.s. Allow me to apologize for sniping in the previous comment. I disagree with your position but I do respect your achievements. Posting on the internet seems to take ten years off my age…

          • March 7, 2011 at 23:50

            Apology accepted. We’ve all been there.

            I pretty much said all I wanted to say in my post, but just to quickly summarize:

            I agree that language learning can be fun. In fact, it is fun. But it is not fun all the time. Nothing in the world is fun all the time. In particular, the most important building blocks of language learning — building vocabulary and grammar — can be incredibly boring. But you won’t get anywhere if you give up on them because you’re bored.

            That’s all. People can email me or comment on my post if they want further discussion.

      • Trinity
        March 7, 2011 at 10:10

        I agree with you that it immensely enhances your learning experience if you actually enjoy the entire process, but there are some aspects that will inevitably irk you in some way or another. It’s just impossible to make every single effort a pleasurable one. Whereas I’m learning Japanese because I want to I still notice there are times when I look at my Anki rep quotum for the day with more than some apprehension, but I always motivate myself to keep going by reminding myself why I started in the first place. Take the Kanji phase for example, there were times when I greatly enjoyed learning to write new Kanji and discovering (through a chinese friend) that the general english connotation given is somehwat accurate, but at other times it felt like a monk-like exercise in willpower that seemed to go nowhere. After moving on to the sentence phase I’m really glad I did force my way through at times, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to the truly interesting part. Any grand undertaking will have times when you struggle and just want to call it quits, but learning to ignore that and keep going is what will really pay off in the end, instead of changing your entire approach each time you get ‘bored’. To me it’s not the process that is truly gratifying, but the results it gives me and that is my motivation.

        tl;dr Determination pays off.

    • Drewskie
      March 9, 2011 at 10:50

      I came across that a while back, Dan, and found myself mostly disagreeing. But somewhere inside of me, there’s some voice that speaks up every now and then and says “Maybe it doesn’t HAVE to be fun all the time. Maybe more discipline would be good. Maybe I’m just a typical slacker and the truth is that I could push myself much harder.” Of course, after reading The Korean’s post, that voice got a little credibility. So I gave it a shot.

      It was around a month ago. I fought off every urge to slack that I could with a lot of success. I did a lot more reps and a lot more adds and took in near-zero ‘optional’ English. After about a week of this, I found myself shocked at how deeply unhappy I felt.

      Things that I consider needless competition with my Japanese project, that seem more like parasites on my time/energy rather than “wholesome” activities, were the first things I targeted. The biggest one was Starcraft, which I thought was just the next game in a 10 year run of a video game addiction. I remember when I stopped the masochism, called a friend, and played. Within minutes, I felt a strong mix of happiness and relief; I vocalized it, said it to my friend, “I am SO happy to be playing Starcraft.”

      Trying masochism was eye-opening. I would almost recommend it if just so you can truly distinguish between which things in your life are distractions, and which are those hidden hobbies you enjoy for the same reasons you enjoy Japanese, but you just never thought of them that way. I make time for Starcraft now, a few hours a week minimum. Meanwhile, I still stay the hell off of Reddit.

      And as for why The Korean was able to roll through English with such admirable discipline, well, I can only guess. He seems to have stopped commenting on this post, so perhaps he won’t come around reading again and I can get away with theorycrafting in his absence. My guess is that the pressure from his parents actually created positive feedback from his punishingly hard work. Whereas we with our primarily self-directed projects have only our intrinsic rewards, he had—and this sounds corny, but I’m serious—his love for his parents acting as an extra force to push him through the pain. Maybe he’ll disagree.

      Regardless of what the reason was, the fact is that everyone’s circumstances are different, and how much energy you have to work on something is related very directly to those circumstances. Lesson learned on my end. My appetite for Japanese is something I’ve stopped wishing I could control, and I’ve been better and happier for it.

      • ダンちゃん
        March 9, 2011 at 12:32

        This reminds me a bit about Nietzsche’s theory of human’s being comprised of a complex of different ‘drives’. For Nietzsche, becoming great (at living) wasn’t about superseding yourself per se, but becoming the person that you already are. Or in other words, taking those ‘drives’ that comprise you, and shaping them to make the most out of them.

        If I interpret my own self along these lines, my way of getting absorbed in pretty much anything but what I was _supposed_ to be doing could end up manifesting itself as ‘being lazy’ (i.e. playing games, watching TV, etc.) Now it’s like I’ve become super dedicated, but really I haven’t changed who I am in any fundamental way, I’ve just directed my ‘drives’ more fruitfully. Maybe that’s what you’ve been doing too? ^^

        • Drewskie
          March 9, 2011 at 14:12

          Oh man, you ever have a thought spawn in your head with no outside influence, and then find out a well-known philosopher had the same ideas? Awww yeeeeeah!

          Although I’m not so sure I agree anymore—mainly because since reading a certain blogger’s musings I’ve become a bigger “nurture” person regarding what drives us. There are two ways to think about it: Do we have natural drives that move us towards being good at a certain set of things, or does being good at a certain set of things move us towards practicing them? I tend to favor the latter idea.

          I once took a small vacation from directed Japanese (some immersion, some reps, but no adds or ‘trying’), and I decided to come back simply because I really wanted to do some work on the project again. Japanese had a gravity that I couldn’t avoid. I tend to think that, say, in my Starcraft example, what was making unhappy was a large skillset tied to competitive gaming beginning to slowly decay. Pushing against the gravity that that causes is just bad news.

          Of course, the exact same results appear if you consider it a matter of needs going unfulfilled. Kind of a silly discussion really, because when it comes down to it it’s more about what you’d prefer to believe, rather than what’s actually right.

      • 魔法少女☆かなたん
        March 9, 2011 at 14:35

        I think The Korean is misunderstood, and there’s no need to project a needless hypothetical argument on to him. Really, it depends on how you define discipline.

        I suppose the typical image of this word is doing something you hate, or some type of punishment. But it could also mean persistence. Relentless effort, by my own definition.

        If you stop your Language B learning for a month because you’d rather use Language A, that’s not persistence. You’re going to fail if you do that. You still need to learn a way to get Language B into your life on a regular basis. Specifically, you need to find your own way.

        However, I’ve certainly run into times that are not fun. That’s not the same as “boring”, mind you, because I don’t do boring things, but rather, it’s the frustration of feeling like you aren’t making any accomplishments, or just difficulty finding the meaning of a tricky word. I find that it’s having the good things that helps me through those times.

        That’s my understanding of discipline.

        In other words, give yourself a reason to not give up. Or better, give yourself many reasons to not give up. It’s the chunky, delicious goodness that adult kids love!

  2. salem
    March 7, 2011 at 02:16

    Not to bombard you with comments, Khatz, but I have to stress again how incredible my sense of comprehension is now. I don’t even have that many hours under my belt; it’s hard to even understand why it’s happened so fast.

    • Chagami
      March 8, 2011 at 04:14

      How many do you have? (roughly)

      • salem
        March 8, 2011 at 16:30

        It’s somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500. It’s true that my application has been about as hardcore as Khatz’s (i.e. total immersion 24/7, even while sleeping or showering) but for what it’s worth, I saw the biggest gains when I stopped taking breaks. I can’t imagine taking a day-long break from listening… it really does do terrible things to your L2 comprehension.

        • Chagami
          March 9, 2011 at 01:52

          Thanks 🙂

          I suppose everyone is different, but I think I’ll use your 2,000 – 2,500 as my intermediate goal.

          I’m getting to be hardcore; the vast majority of my time is spent in Japanese, I just still have some seams (and a couple really large ones) that need to be stitched up.

          Just one more question – for you or anyone who’s hardcore, really – how often do you multitask in L1 and L2? (ie have anime on the TV, but visiting an English website.)

          • March 9, 2011 at 07:22

            Are you asking how often I dip into L1 or how often I have L2 on while in L1?

            For the latter, I ALWAYS have Japanese on no matter what I’m doing. Whether I’m doing something in L1, L2, or L-less, it’s on. The only consistent time I’m not plugged in is in the shower.

            If it’s the former, I never make the decision to watch any movie or tv in English myself. However, if I’m invited to watch with someone I want to hang out with I join them (but I still have my headphones in). Japanese is pretty much tangled in whatever I’m doing, wherever I’m doing it. So, it’s hard to completely separate out the times I revert to L1. But, living in an English speaking country, English is bound to happen. I don’t fret about the times I happen to dabble in L1. I just make sure to get back to L2 more often than not.

          • Chagami
            March 9, 2011 at 10:08


            Thanks for the reply 🙂

            Looking back, I think my question was worded badly; after all, anyone who’s hardcore should have the audio on all the time!

            To rephrase my question: There are times, like schooling or work, when we must go into L1, but other then that, how often – if ever – do you allow L2 audio to justify also doing something in L1?

            A personal example would be that by having Japanese audio on, I feel that it’s okay to put my TV on mute and watch a hockey game at the same time.

            (Actually I don’t think it’s okay… sure, it isn’t hurting me, but at the same time, it isn’t helping either… It just works as a good example.)

          • March 9, 2011 at 13:50

            In the beginning I was all about ‘no English’. I tried to avoid it at all costs. But as the months went by, I definitely became more relaxed with it, which I wouldn’t say is necessarily a good thing because it’s easy to let one measly occasion turn into to many if you’re not careful.
            I think watching sports with L2 playing is okay. But I once read about a kid who wanted to watch an English show on mute with Japanese playing that was completely different and make up his own story. That’s a ‘no-no’ in my opinion because he’d be associating words in the wrong context.

            Anyway, to directly answer your question. the justifying L1 with L2 thing happens to me about once or twice a week it seems. But when this happens I figure it’s time to find more L2 entertainment that will keep my Japanese baby happy. By doing that, it eliminates the want for L1 stuff.

          • salem
            March 9, 2011 at 17:52

            I try to avoid English as much as possible. The only real intrusion is in programming, which I can’t avoid (gotta make a living after all).

            Khatz is also right in that the easiest way to clock up the time is to watch or do things you’d want to do anyway. (I listen to a lot of prank calls, radio shows and so on). With Japanese, I honestly can’t imagine how easy this would be — there’s just a whole world of material out there. It’d be a cake walk.

  3. 八千以上だ!!
    March 7, 2011 at 15:03

    I am quite glad for the reason that plowing through RTK1 Has not been boring one bit. This entire experience, this new lifestyle sofar has been extremely fun, and I didn’t even feel like i was learning! I am still only on the Kanji phase (1420 sofar; 100 days according to anki) and am eager to start sentences, but like Khatz said in his Patience post

    “Patience is dynamic. Patience is active preparation. Patience is doing.”

    Gotta get doing more Kanji 😛

    • angel13
      June 7, 2011 at 16:07

      just a question but how do you make SRSing fun? I have been trying to figure out a way to make learning the kanji but I find myself getting extremely bored.

      • Anne
        June 7, 2011 at 22:44

        Well, make fun stories… 🙂

        Don’t hesitate to change the connotations of the primitives a bit or to personalize them. With 人 Heisig recommends to chose a special human being – I chose my best friend, and the stories with her are fun, just because she is in there and imagining her doing funny things is making me smile. Just the like, imagine a specific dog for 大 etc. The stories should be weird and funny, they stick better, if they are. If you just don’t have the same idea of funny stories as Heisig has, noone hinders you from making up better, more funny stories. Think of specific things.

        • June 8, 2011 at 00:35

          This. I have used Plato for all my Kanji where “words” are the primitive.

        • angel13
          June 10, 2011 at 12:47

          I think I will try that. I look back through my deck and now I realize that wow my stories are VERY boring. Maybe that is why I am so reluctant? It’s not the kanji it’s the stories. Now it kinda all makes sense. Thanks a lot!! That really helped me!! 😀

  4. Tommy Newbhall
    March 7, 2011 at 17:02

    fav ferriss quote:

    “The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.”
    — Timothy Ferriss

  5. Jetty
    March 9, 2011 at 04:54

    You don’t have to stop boring things!

    Just make them interesting.

    (Watching a 20 minute video on the subject made it possible for me to study for my Biology test. Before watching I was struggling and getting nothing done for 2 hours)

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