- Momentum Over Position: How the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Can Help You Learn Faster
- The Eternal Sorrow of the Intermediate Learner: “Are We There Yet?” Syndrome
- When Will I Get Funny?
- Intermediate Angst: Dealing With Feelings of Suckage
- Strategies for Overcoming Burnout
- Grinding: Focus On What You CAN Do
- Max Out The Cause Card: The Omnipotence of Precursors
- Intermediate Goals, Mini-Dreams
- Step Into the Sunlight, But Don’t Look Into the Sun
- Getting There Is Also Your Life
- Start Dirty: Why A Clean Slate Is Bad For You and What To Do About It
- How to Stop Worrying and Accept that Learning a Language is Unfair — Going Beyond Day Trader Style Language Learning
- Mastery is Mastering the Basics
- Language Is Peeing: The Approximately Top Ten Reasons Why Language Acquisition = Micturition
- The Intermediate Phase Is Like Tepid Tea, But That’s Fine, Because Tepid Tea is Hotter Than Ice Tea
“The practice of sungazing is dangerous. Looking directly at the sun for even brief periods of time may cause blindness or severe damage to the eye.” ~ Wick Her Pedia
One of my favorite things to do is go to high or wide open places and look at stuff. I love looking at planes, helicopters, far-off buildings, women getting dressed inside said buildings wait…
No, don’t worry. I don’t even like women. Liking women is for poofters.
OK, no, so, I was playing frisbee in the park the other day, frisbee play being interspersed with breaks to look at helicopters flying overhead. And it occurred to me how beautiful the day was and how much I was enjoying and benefitting from the sunlight (I take my Vitamin D intake very seriously). And it also occurred to me how, while I was enjoying the sun and it was (and is) directly or indirectly powering all life on Earth, I wasn’t looking at it. At all.
I was looking at what it shone upon; I was looking at discs and dogs and kids and couples making out. But I wasn’t looking at the Sun.
One doesn’t simply look at the Sun.
You enjoy the sun. You know it’s there. You’re unsure whether or not to capitalize it. You feel it. You’re bathed in its warmth — even at night.
But you don’t look at it. 1
So, yeah, I love looking at stuff. Recently, I even purchased a “fieldscope” to aid in the purpose. The warning label on my fieldscope (which is optical geekspeak for a monocular/portable telescope) reads (in Japanese): Do not look at Sun, may cause loss of sight, you raving poof.
A welcome, if excessively homophobic warning. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be writing a stern letter of disapproval to the poofs at Vixen who manufacture the scope, and tell them to get their act together.
You need the sun. You love the sun. If you’re of English ancestry, you gladly risk chronic illness just to get some more of it. But even then, you don’t look at it.
Big goals are a lot like that. Big goals like, oh, native-like fluency.
Just as looking directly at the sun can cause visual blindness, looking directly at big goals can cause schlep blindness.
It’s nice to know that the big goal is there, but often it’s too big and shiny and 93 million miles away and overwhelming in its awesomeness to be gazed at directly, certainly without safety gear.
The big, central goal, the sun around which our actions presumably orbit, can overwhelm and disorient us with its size and power and magnitude. We wonder, rightfully, “how could we possibly get there from here?!”. It’s just too much to take in. Our minds, our bodies, cannot process it, cannot fathom it. We reel at the mere idea and coil up like a little centipede; we seek refuge in mindless TV, cigarettes and alcohol, because — despite their concomitant disadvantages — these escapes are so doable. They make sense. We can win at them.
The Sun is too bright to look at. It can literally, physically hurt to look directly at the big goal. Looking at the metaphorical sun can throw you into a dizzying tailspin of despair and avoidance.
So don’t. Look, that is. Enjoy the biggie 2, but don’t look at it.
Focus back here.
This one word.
This one action.
This one click.
This is all that exists. This is all that matters.
Do not look directly at goal. May cause schlep blindness. Unless you have special tools (e.g. a lifetime calendar — analogous to eclipse-viewing glasses) and a specific reason, do not look at the Sun. You must not if you want to keep your mental vision intact and thus keep being able to see that paths and opportunities that are right in front of you, right underfoot. Call it the “Solar Principle” 3.
And this “Solar Principle” is probably why you’re better off not sharing your goals with people 4. Not necessarily because you can’t deal with it — although that’s often true ^^ — but because they can’t…handle the (whole) truth. So if you want their cooperation, or simply non-interference as the case may be, don’t blind the poor bastards.
Perhaps you now have the mental equipment to look directly at the psychological sun, but they don’t, and you’re hurting them by shining it in their faces 5. And this doesn’t make them bad people. They’re not “dream stealers”; they’re not “energy vampires”; they’re not “monsters”; they’re just…not ready to look right at the sun; it’s too much of a shock to their fragile systems and that’s fine; they can still enjoy the light and warmth. Work them through it, baby steps, like a frog in progressively warmer water, and before you know it, you can have them in a compound in Guyana committing mass suicide with you and their children…
Too soon? 😛
No, but, seriously, like blinders on a racehorse, you can take yourself and other people to any extreme of excellence or lameness if you merely narrow the mental focus away from the debilitatingly magnitudinous core goal and towards productive, forward-moving, helpful minutiae 6. In other words: don’t even try to brush your teeth, just put the toothbrush in your mouth. Let the full truth be something that emerges — something you allow to emerge — rather than something you go out and declare.
It is neither possible nor necessary nor helpful to tell the whole truth. Not to yourself and certainly not to other people (who, I assure you, have immeasurably little interest in you and your life 7). It can’t be done. You don’t even know the names of the chemicals that are in your body. You don’t introduce yourself by your full, government name. When I ask you what time it is, you don’t give it to me in seconds, let alone nanoseconds. You probably even round up the minutes, you mendacious knave, you! 8 Many things are true, but that doesn’t mean they need be said, noted or acknowledged regularly if at all: ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.
In politics and espionage and stuff, they talk about things being on a “need-to-know” basis. Well, let me hit you with some knowledge, sister: when it comes to you and your goals, not only do people not need to know, they don’t even want to know; knowing would simply harm and annoy them. Don’t be fooled by the questions. It’s small-talk 9. No one actually wants to know; they want to feel important and included; they want the privilege of being privy, but this is a thirst for love, status and acceptance, not knowledge. If they truly wanted to know something, they would read a book, not ask you idle questions.
To recap: don’t look at the sun unless and until you have the equipment to do so, and don’t show it to other people until they do as well (but feel free to enjoy and share little rays of sunlight here and there). So, you’re not learning Japanese any more, you’re just here learning this one word. You’re just tinkering. Maybe the next word will be a Japanese one, too, but that’s neither here nor there.
Avert your eyes!
- Even though the Sun’s light was instrumental to both my frisbee game and my continued respiration (oxygen, photosynthesis, you know how we do), I unconsciously but assiduously avoided eye contact, treating the Sun as if it were…an ugly girl at a party. Except she’s the hostess, so I was doing this to her in her own house. Very cruel. Sick and wrong. ↩
- “Discipline is remembering what you want.” ~ David Campbell ↩
- Kind of reminiscent of how, in Greek mythology, mortals would keel over and die like wittle canaries if they saw residents of Mount Olympus and other such beings in their true form. ↩
- Although, I have heard the opposite advice from smart, successful people as well, so probably both strategies are “true” in that both work. Indeed, strategies and tactics are never “true” or “false”, they just either work or they don’t. ↩
- Although, at the same time, as a man named Jerry Gillies recently put it: “You can’t be afraid to spread your wings just because someone close to you might get a faceful of feathers.” ↩
- ((((DO SOMETHING!) SMALL) USEFUL) NOW!). There’s a reason why the people who serve you at McDonald’s don’t see or refer to the corporate business plan. It would just get in the way of their being helpful. ↩
- Basically, nobody thinks well of you and nobody thinks ill of you, because…(drum roll) nobody thinks of you, period. “What’s in it for me?” is the perennial human question. You are the top story in just about nobody else’s mind, give or take some rounding error and brief flashes on the order of seconds. ↩
- True story: when I was a kid — like 5~7 — I used to think that not giving the exact time in minutes was lying!!! No joke 😉 ↩
- Arguably, your BHAGs don’t belong in situations where people are “launching the feces“…or maybe they do, I dunno… ↩