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Identity and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

August 27, 2010
By

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.” ~ Muhammad Ali

Pretend you are Japanese. Tell yourself you are Japanese.

Who you think you are matters more than who you actually are. Who you actually are only describes your immediate present position (P) — the sum of all your previous direction vectors. But who you think you are will determine your direction of motion, and your direction of motion over time will determine all your future positions ([P']).

Simple example: a car sitting at a traffic light 2 blocks from the Wal-Mart is in a great position to get to Wal-Mart. But if it suddenly tells itself that only geniuses can visit Wal-Mart, pulls a U-turn and heads home all dejected, then no matter how close it was, it’s not going to get an Always Low Great Value price on pistachio nuts. All because of a change in direction. Your “car” is always moving because time is always moving.

  • Who you are = Position
  • Who you think you are = Identity
  • Identity = Direction
  • Direction → New Positions
  • New Position(s) = Actuality

It’s all a simple matter self-fulfilling prophecy. Auto-suggestion. You become it because you said so. Muhammad “I am the Greatest” Ali did this kind of thing all the time; we forget that he was actually kinda scrawny for his line of work. But then again, he never said he was bigger or stronger than George Foreman. He just said he was better-looking and would beat him.

You’re Japanese. What could be more natural than…doing stuff in Japanese? And you know what happens to people who do stuff in Japanese? They get in a position to do even more stuff in Japanese. Soon enough, like tar in a smoker’s lung, they get these pieces of Japanese left in their head. They’re scarred for life.

Go scar yourself :P . Go cause changes in the structure and contents of your brain. Everyone’s doing it. You don’t have to change your hardware. Just your software.

Then again, all this may not be necessary any longer. Back before this website existed, there were few places online that told you flat out: “you can and will do it”. The general attitude was so violently negative that I personally needed to swing the psychological pendulum in an equally extreme opposite direction. So maybe you don’t need do think this way any more.

But, what the heck…if you’re looking for some fun, you might as well. The cool thing is, you don’t even have to totally believe it for it to work; I don’t think any of us totally believe anything. You just have to believe it enough for your behavior to be affected. Pretend. What if it were true? What if you were Japanese? Give it a whirl. Go be Japanese. It’s fun. And legal.

No! Stop! Stop giving me your money! I don't want it any more!

The Emotional Sentence Pack
The MCD Revolution Kit

29 Responses to Identity and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  1. Leonardo Boiko on August 28, 2010 at 00:23

    I can play RPGs in Japanese now! WTF! I don’t know how or when this happened. One day, after some months of AJATT-style constant exposure to the language, I just tried and found out I can get the gist of the plot, manage inventory etc. Sure, I’m probably unable to understand Xenosaga at this point, but I finished Chrono and Subarashiki Kono Sekai and am now playing Dragon Quest V without any major trouble. It happened under my nose and I never saw it coming. I still have no idea how my brain can do this, but it can. This is awesome.

    One of my best decisions was to make my DS library exclusively Japanese, even though I “wasn’t” able to play them at the time. At first I was bothered by having to forgo all the text-heavy games; but hey, now there’s plenty of stuff I can already play, and after a few more months of this I’ll probably be able to read anything. I learned English by playing translated jRPGs, so I’m optimistic about what game-playing will do to my Japanese skills :)

  2. Joe on August 28, 2010 at 00:47

    This is what it’s all about. If you want to learn Japanese, you have to change your mindset. You have to change your very lifestyle even, and I think that’s what scares people so they stick to mediocrity when it comes to languages. But the rewards for learning another language are so incredible they are more than worth the cost. It wouldn’t even call it a “cost” at this point, either. Learning Japanese has genuinely been a blast, in large part thanks to this website.

    Tonight I had the most unreal night out in Japan since I’ve been here. I’ve only been studying since 2008, but tonight I met up with a bunch of other (Japanese) people that I met via Twitter. There were 12 or so of us. The town I’m in held an event by which you could buy tickets which you could redeem to buy a small food item and one drink at a variety of restaurants. We ended up going to four total. The whole time, I was talking, joking, laughing, completely without being conscious of any though process to produce the words I was saying or understanding. It was like I was speaking English, which was a first for me.

    At the third restaurant, a camera crew from the prefectural TV station rolled in to get some footage of the event. Being the only foreigner there, I was of course singled out for an interview. It was only the second time in my life I’d been interviewed for TV, but the fact it was in Japanese didn’t deter me. I understood all the questions asked and gave what I thought were fun, interesting, yet Japanese answers (must have been all the TV watching!).

    Anyway, the point is, I am Japanese. Not racially, of course, but in mindset, absolutely. Learning Japanese has been absolutely the best thing I’ve done in my whole life. I look forward to being rewarded for my efforts for years and years to come. :)

  3. Joshua Rodriguez on August 28, 2010 at 04:24

    Its posts like these that make me love you. 大好きです

  4. ahndoruuu on August 28, 2010 at 07:26

    I understand the value of doing this but…how exactly do you convince yourself that you are Japanese? I mean I’ve succeeded with this on a limited scale but there are always little cracks in it. Does it help to simply think “日本人です” repeatedly until it sticks?

  5. ahndoruuu on August 28, 2010 at 07:47

    P.S. This is definitely TABLE O’ CONTENTS material, methinks.

  6. Fdsfdaafsd on August 28, 2010 at 09:42

    Something weird happened to me. I’ve been technically learning Japanese for 2-3 years but that was me being lazy. On my 3rd year I started taking things seriously. One time I tried to quit Japanese in the beginning and it worked perfectly. I did almost no Japanese for months and that ended up being a year. Well it’s my 3rd year and I tried to do that and it didn’t work. Weird because that would mean I WOULD actually like doing Japanese. Strangely I did almost stop doing Japanese for 3 days and thought this was the end. I actually miss it for some reason.

    Kind of scary but Japanese is fun for me. Nothing has changed about me except my entertainment value being only Japanese. So my advice to anybody trying to do AJATT keep going no matter what. Keep going no matter what you do. I know it may not be the same extreme as AJATT but don’t give up. Those discount nuts are worth it. :D

  7. Xamuel on August 28, 2010 at 10:23

    Here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. When I was a little kid, I loved Star Wars, but I had no f&%#ing clue what was really going on. The dialog went in one ear and out the other (but, I guess, the English was absorbed subconsciously on the way). To me, it was just badass lightsaber fights and stuff blowing up.

    If you’re new to Japanese, that’s how Jmedia should be to you. Like Star Wars is to a little kid who can’t understand the subtleties. Figure out how to take pleasure from it despite not knowing what the hell anyone’s talking about. Focus on the badass eye candy…

  8. Peeled Cucumber on August 28, 2010 at 13:06

    ( ´,_ゝ`)プッ At least real-life vectors don’t have to be broken down into their components before you can make good use of them.

  9. Caomei on August 30, 2010 at 03:37

    Hey Khatz… great post, but I have a question:

    Ok, I’m learning Korean, so let’s say I start believing I AM Korean… ok, cool. I know that it works for me and it’s super cool to imagine myself as Korean. But what about the (American) people around me? What do I say when they give me that look of disgust and say “Wtf? Do you think you’re Korean or something? Do you wanna be Asian or something?” I mean, I HATE the fact that on some level, I care a lil’ bit about what others think, but it’s not just that, I’m just really unsure how to go about answering that question (which I know I will get asked very often once school starts up and everyone sees me reading/listening/writing Korean stuff)… I know you had to deal with it while learning Japanese, so how did you handle those remarks?

  10. Maya on August 30, 2010 at 07:27

    @ahndoruuu

    There’s nothing you really need to “do” as such… because you are already Japanese anyway. You don’t need to be convinced or converted; you just need to realize this basic truth.

    Consider this: what are the chances that you, a Westerner, happened to take an interest in Japanese culture? The Japanese language is only 1 out of 7,000 languages on this planet. Japanese people make up 2% of the Earth’s population. And many Westerners resent/have no interest in any culture other than their own. The fact that you took an interest in Japan, out of the blue, and then decided to pursue this interest on such a serious level, speaks VOLUMES. It means that, deep down, there was a part of you that already resonnated with Japanese-ness.

    You already felt connected to Japan… which is, of course, 当たり前. Why SHOULDN’T a Japanese person (such as yourself) be interested in Japan? I would even go as far as to say that your being Japanese is much greater than your being American/British/whatev. You speak English by accident, but Japanese was a decision that you made. And what we choose to become is always a million times more meaningful than we were born with.

    Don’t look for “evidence” that you’re Japanese; you won’t find it anyway. What we call evidence is really just a bunch of random things that that we talk about after the fact (ex post facto?) to stroke our own nationalistic egos. “I’m Japanese because I look Asian and speak Japanese and I eat food X….” Bullsh!t. You’re Japanese because you identify as such. You speak Japanese and eat noodles with chopsticks as a way of making the outer world believe that you sh!t is serious, lest your fragile ego be hurt. Inner identification is where it all starts.

    If you’re still unconvinced, I’d recommend finding some good Japanese friends (even if it’s just people on the internet). Spend ample time with these people – you’ll realize very quickly that you have more in common with them than not. And the things that you don’t have in common yet (such as mannerisms) are because you’re still a Japanese baby. Babies don’t know about manners or how to use chopsticks or how to fill out a 履歴書… but they learn, and so will you.

    If you spend enough time with your J-friends to actually become close, you’ll also start to feel like a member of the gang, and before long you’ll have (subconciously) absorbed so many of their mannerisms that everyone will know that you’re Japanese; it won’t even be a 疑問点. New J-people that you meet after that will seem surprised that you can be so 日本人らしい while maintaining a Western appearence, but you’ll know that it’s a done deal.

    Then again, you know all along that you were Japanese, right? You know from the start this was your destiny, and that nothing and no one could stop you. You knew from the start that it couldn’t possibly be any other way. Now all you need to do is go out and prove it to the rest of the world. So get out there and start claiming what is rightfully yours.

    (I suck at motivating people; I hope that this essay-like mess was at least somewhat coherent… it’s 1am here, to boot, so you’ll have to forgive me. I tried.)

  11. Caomei on August 30, 2010 at 08:40

    @ Maya

    You rock so hard. I’m adding your whole post to my little “motivation/inspiration” document that I usually look at first thing in the morning. ^_^

  12. zach on August 30, 2010 at 11:33

    Wow, you read a motivation/inspiration document every morning?

    You sound too motivated to need to do that… I pretty much sink out of bed and attempt to put in my contact lenses, then go back to sleep for a while.

  13. Caomei on August 30, 2010 at 11:42

    @ zach

    Haha, trust me, I am the queen of laying in bed all day hitting the snooze bar (actually I don’t even bother with the snooze, I just turn the darn thing off), but I will read that document thing when I’m drinking my coffee or eating breakfast (which on weekends is about 2pm >.<)… usually only bits and pieces of it though, just enough to get me going, then I stop.

  14. ahndoruuu on August 30, 2010 at 12:42

    @Maya

    Are you kidding me? If you suck at motivating people, I would honestly be scared to meet someone who’s good at it. I can’t even thank you enough for what you wrote there, it makes sense on so many levels…really. So simple when you hear “it was there all along” but sometimes it takes that external stimulus for you to “wake up” to the truth. ありがとうございます! ^_^

  15. ReversePsychosis on September 9, 2010 at 06:41

    この話題と同じではありませんが。。。
    I’ve been reading up on AJATT for a bit here- not very long actually. I’ve been studying Japanese for quite a while now, back in 2004, I was intrigued by small words but didn’t know anything about kana or Japanese grammar, until I entered high school and was in a Japanese class in 2008-2010. Back in 2009, I found out I have to be home schooled, I’ve been freaking out over how to continue learning Japanese until I found AJATT. This is great. You may not think you’re a great person, but you’re the coolest teacher ever- if you’d consider yourself one. (Sorry if I don’t seem to be making any sense- I’m slightly incoherent while I am typing this.)
    I absolutely love typing to my classmates from Japanese class. (Although most of the responses are 「何を言いましたか?」 and 「わかりませんでした 」 or my favorite 「moon language の人 ww」.) I am so glad you suggested MyLanguageExchange.com, and I am glad that there’s other people that I can relate to who love learning Japanese as much as a gamer would love the genre they specialize in, and are determined to become fluent- yet, I’m shocked and surprised there’s such simple methods to learn it that actually work. Khatzumotoさん, are possibly the best- (What would you call yourself here?)- I have ever seen yet. You act very natural and casual, while your methods actually work very well! To be honest, I’ve been watching my anime subbed as I have always, but now I cover up the subtitles unless I really don’t understand a particular phrase, I read my manga raw, and I listen to Jrock Horizon as much as possible. I’ve been taking every fork in the road that lead to 日本語.
    So, I tried out MyLanguageExchange, and it was really, really great. I’m very confident about my writing and reading comprehension though I’m still learning a lot of kanji. This really helped me with what areas I should start digging in. Again, thank you for suggesting that site! I have a lot of questions in mind, because I am not quite confident enough to start speaking because my listening skills aren’t as good because my mind tends to stall at the wrong time even though I understood what was said- the first time it was said. Did you ever have this problem?
    It’s becoming more natural to me to not respond when I don’t get something and just remember to look it up later instead of looking silly by pausing the whole conversation just because I forgot what 「唯」 was. However, that is an extremely bad habit in my mind. How do you suggest I try and get over this- or more importantly, is that a sign that it’s still too soon?
    I’ve been learning a lot in the past couple of years and I can tell now that online translators suck most of the time except for just asking for specific verbs or nouns. Is there any that have a really good rep for being accurate with grammar? Most of the ones I’ve seen are powered by Google or and/or Bing and fall into that “sucks” category.
    Also, are electronic translators more or less reliable than ones on the internet? Or just about the same? Normally I use a grammar dictionary but they’re way too head-spinning since they don’t explain what’s being said as well as an actual person would be able to, that’s why I need help.
    Finally, I haven’t been speaking Japanese aloud every single hour of the day compared to before but my English is now sucking because I can’t stop my accent from kicking in. I spent a good fifteen-twenty minutes on trying to pronounce ‘lyrics’ and ‘drill’ properly aloud. Help! Is that normal? (Same goes for a couple of times I caught myself speaking in English but I kept saying 「それとも」, or 「とにかく」.)
    One of my goals is to see my teacher Shimogama先生 when she moves back in Nagasaki with her kid and spouse, and visit her for a day (a simple one with plenty of cash at hand and confidence, right?)- only speaking Japanese. My other goal is to work my butt off for dual-citizenship, move to Kōbe City, Hyōgo Prefecture. I have a whole life ahead of me, but that only means I want to work harder to achieve my goals faster to build more goals and see where I end up in on the other side of the rabbit hole. I know it won’t be easy, but what is your opinion?

    本当に、このサイトに、ありがとうございます!

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  17. Saif on January 23, 2011 at 08:06

    Lol you’ve explained the principle of PD (proportional-derivative) controller at the beginning!
    Wll said, Thanks!

  18. salem on January 27, 2011 at 10:11

    Maya, that post was positively awesome. You definitely ought to open a blog if you haven’t already.

  19. Joe4TheRecord on March 6, 2011 at 20:19

    I’ve been living in Japan for 2 1/2 years. I’ve been dutifully studying using text books and cramming vocab but I’ve never been very good. I decided I needed a drastic change and 6 months ago I started AJATT.

    I have tonsillitis and was trying to find a good doctor to treat me/do the surgery to remove them. Before I always relied on my fiancee, who is Japanese, to help me with this. But she’s away on business so I realized I’d have to go to the doctor’s myself. Now that I’ve done 6 months of AJATT, not only could I explain my situation perfectly and understand the doctor’s responses, I could even read and fill out all the forms! When did I learn to do that?? I couldn’t do that 6 months ago. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in another 6 months. Now I’m going to watch some more Hayao Miyazaki movies.

  20. Dr.SMS on July 20, 2011 at 10:47

    It’s always great to go back and read those old and great posts of yours..

    They always give me hope and energize me to do more…

    thanks a lot man…

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  26. Deni on April 18, 2013 at 02:51

    I needed this so bad this week! I love it and I think it’s so true!

  27. [...] Start going in the right direction from right where you stand. Correct from where you stand, not retroactively. [...]

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