Here at the ‘JATT, I’m often bombarded by questions that are as deep in their cute, noobish sincerity as they are shallow in significance. I often brush these questions aside with a grandfatherly chuckle, but I realize that there’s a good reason why they get asked. AJATT does a lot of myth-busting and idea-replacement, or at least I’d like to think so….even if it’s just by quoting and remixing other people’s ideas. When your old paradigum [sic] gets broken, it’s hard to tell what matters any more. That, and school teaches you to not think for yourself to begin with, so, yeah, double whammy, as it were.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff”. So advised the ever-smiling and effervescent Richard Carlson before his rather shocking and untimely death almost exactly six years ago. It’s great meta-game advice. Great life advice. And Richard was right, about meta-game and life.
But he was dead wrong about in-game. In-game, it’s not all small stuff. In-game, some of it is worth sweating, worth a modicum of concern. And if he hadn’t left us six years ago, I’m sure he’d be here to tell you that instead of me. Or not, but it’s a cute and convenient thing for me to think. I just wish he hadn’t gone and died.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, except if that small stuff is a hinge. That’s what Richard was going to tell you about the process, the game that is getting used to a language. I’m certain of it 😛 . Now I’m telling you for him.
What is a hinge?
Big doors swing on little hinges. Small hinges swing big doors. Tiny hinges swing big doors. So goes the folk wisdom in its various alternate formulations. And the hinges I’m talking about do just that. In Pareto principle terms, they are the vital few things that make a big difference. Not just disproportionately big (but of course that, too), not just relatively big, but big big. Objectively big. They are the minority of causes responsible for the majority of consequences. They are the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, the Trilateral Commission and the Freemasons of your life all rolled into one, assuming your life runs like an Internet conspiracy theory. They are the 2% that determines 50%, the 1% that determines 90%. They are the them; they are they. Ironically, they are the big stuff, because if you take care of these small things, the bigger and big generally things take care of themselves — they fall into place automatically.
Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.
But how do you find these hinges? Well, one thing you definitely don’t do is start sweating all the small stuff. That’s not what you want, it’s not what Richard would have wanted, and it’s a great way to get yourself sad, grumpy, burned out, angry, depressed and…yeah…frowny in the face. You do want to GLOAF it up here. Carlson was and is right: don’t sweat the small stuff because it is virtually all small stuff: this remains a domain-independent assertion of profound correctness; it is a powerful book title and a worthy legacy. The majority of things simply do not and will not ever matter.
So that’s what not to do. That’s the negative advice. But that won’t prevent nocturnal hypothermia for you and Shania Twain now, will it? Time to give you a bit more to take home. So, here’s the positive advice. Here are a handful of ways that immediately occur to me that will help you find them hinges — since we can’t typically see them and they don’t sit there labeled “hinge” — in a relaxed and expeditious fashion:
- Listen to me. I’ve hinted at what the hinges are throughout the voluminous and turgid writing that fills this handsome website 1. I just…never called them that before. But it’s there.
- Chill. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff. Most things are not hinges. Most things aren’t even door. They’re like cellphone bling, optional, a matter of personal taste, and really neither here nor there. At best they give a little grip and sparkle distractingly. At worst they get in the way a little. But that’s about all they do. The majority of things simply do not and will not ever matter.
- Ask questions. Continual questioning. This is easily the best and fastest way. Here are some hinge-divining questions for you:
- How many clicks does it take me to get to Japanese?
- What can I do to reduce this clickcount?
- In what language are my web-connected devices’ home pages?
- How much Japanese is in my field of vision right now?
- How can I increase this ratio?
- How can I get and keep Japanese playing in a one-touch, fire-and-forget way?
- Do I have Japanese TV? Do I leave it on 24/7?
- What do I google when I’m procrastinating in English? Is there any way to look this up in Japanese?
- What are my public and secret hobbies? Any way to get at these in Japanese?
- How many clicks does it take me to get to Japanese?
Observe that nowhere among them questions up there do we have things like “what SRS should I use?” and “what size and color font should I make my kanji?” and “should I use index cards or regular paper for writing practice?”. To be fair, OCD apple-polisher questions like these don’t come up so much any more, but they did used to, and this was because people didn’t know the difference between small stuff (which almost everything is, even the big stuff) and a hinge (the small stuff that moves everything, big or small).
Well, now you know. Small stuff and hinges are the only two types of things there are, as far as you and I are concerned, in this game. As Richard Carlson would no doubt have put it were he alive: Find those hinges and grease them till they shine like a female bodybuilder on ‘roids 😉 . Coz, androgens make you shine more? And, he was toadly into that. And, it’s all small stuff. It’s all a game.
- Sorry, man, I’ve been reading Christopher Hitchens lately and it’s making me want to sound cleverposh in my writing; it’s a phase; it’ll pass. ↩