Whether it’s a book, a newspaper, or just a tablet computer, I almost always have Chinese literature in hand with me.
And when you do that, you get to meet people who are convinced that they could never become literate.
But you don’t even have to go that far and actually interact with people. To find the most potent source of defeatist opinionation, you need only look inside yourself and the affective states — emotions — you create for yourself whenever you come across a word or words you don’t (yet) know, can’t (yet) read or can’t (yet) understand.
Your ignorance. You hate it. Even though your ignorance is actually your friend — ignorance means there’s more for you to do. Without ignorance, there would be no novelty, no surprises, no discovery, because you’d know everything already. Movies and jokes where you know what’s going to happen are called “predictable”, “trite” and “cliched”. Why? Because you have no ignorance! When someone takes away your ignorance of a movie it’s called a “spoiler”; they’ve spoiled it — like rotten food. Ignorance makes the world interesting. Ignorance makes life worth living.
Ignorance is not your enemy. Ignorance is your friend. Your reaction to your own ignorance — that despair, that self-loathing, and the screw-it-all helplessness they cause — that’s your enemy.
The trick to overcoming your ignorance is not to sit around hating yourself. Don’t hate yourself in general. Free-floating hate is unproductive. Get specific about your hate, get specific about your ignorance. Don’t hate wo/men, hate that one wo/man. Don’t hate Japanese people, hate that one guy at the counter — find out his full name so you can use it as a curse word. Hate is not your problem, sloppiness is your problem, imprecision is your problem.
Hate with precision. Don’t spread it around. Be stingy. Hate with pinpoint temporal-spatial specificity. Find a specific quantum of ignorance and erase it and it alone. Then move on to another quantum. Yeah, there are a lot of words you don’t know, but you’ve got to work with one specific word that you don’t know, not with the fact that “there are (so) many things I don’t know”. That’s not a useful fact; it’s not an actionable unit; it’s not any kind of unit; it’s just a vague, depressing factoid.
Find a specific quantum of solace I mean ignorance and erase it and it alone. Repeat enough times and you won’t be ignorant any more. I mean, not cosmically, of course, but in relative terms, you will turn into well-informed awesome sauce. Socially, you may easily become one of the best in the world in your chosen field.
And I’m not exaggerating. You seriously will become one of the best, like no one ever was, if only because most people give up without ever even trying. And now you’re like “but I done tried already, Khatz, and it didn’t work”. Well, try again. There’s no shame in having to try multiple times. I had to go through RTK multiple times myself, and I kept stumbling and restarting and feeling like a schmuck; it was only Chris Houser and SuperMemo that helped me get through it. Now I’m literate and people think I’m smart. I’m not smart; I’m systematic — I use systems, recipes. Not intelligence, not brute force. Systems.
Like an employee at McDonald’s, I don’t need to be a good cook to make it work; I just run through the sequences in the manual, like popping bubblewrap. It’s like when I did janitorial work — that job was so systematized that a borderline OCD person (me, back then) could come in, get to work, get it right and get it done despite themselves. With AJATT, you can go one further: don’t use learning methods that work despite your faults: use methods that work because of your faults; every bad habit you have can be put to good use.
So…yeah…that’s that story.
Anyway, again, never — not ever — deal with the entirety of your ignorance, neither physically (because it’s impossible) and nor emotionally (because it’s dangerously counterproductive). Do not acknowledge it, pay it no notice. Focus on one quantum at a time. Digital ignorance (I am ignorant of just this 1 thing), analog knowledge (I’m pretty awesome all around).