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It Counts If You Let It

May 12, 2013
By

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” ~ Walter Elliot

You rarely get instant full victories. Everybody knows that — even optimists.

But what almost no one knows is that you can and do and will get instant partial victories. All. The. Time.

And guess what? THEY COUNT! These count!

If you count them, that this. If you will let them count.

Life is full of these little wins. Every day, we’re winning.
The trouble with us is that sometimes we don’t let them count. Indeed, some of us never let it count.

The world is not being a jerk to you.
You are being a jerk to you.
The world is not being hard on you.
You are being hard on yourself.

You sit there, and you’re like “I only know one Japanese word.”

Well, isn’t that more than zero? That counts, buttface!

“Well, maybe I’m learning this Japanese word, but there are so many I don’t know.”

And?
Your point is?

Is this one word you’re learning right now, is it or is it not a part of the Japanese language?
And will knowing it mean that you know more Japanese now than you did earlier?
And those other words, are they or are they not also single words?

How many words are you supposed to learn at a time anyway? You have 2 hands, 2 eyes, 1 mouth, ~1000 minutes in a day (only a few hundred once you deduct “maintenance” activities).

“Well, maybe I’m learning this Japanese word, but there are so many I don’t know.”

So what you’re saying is this word doesn’t matter, right? Because there are so many thousands of others. OK. There are over 7 billion human beings alive today: many more than there are, ever have been or ever will be words in the Japanese language. Let’s go kill your parents. What? What, that’s less than 0.000000014% of the total population. 2 in 7 bill, bro. Don’t be so stingy! What’s 2 bucks to a billionaire, son?

See?

It counts.

There are more people than kanji in the world. Yet you would never kill a person because they “don’t count”. So why denigrate your learning progress because it goes one or two words or kanji at a time?

There is no such thing as large victories. The late Stephen Covey used to talk about the private victory that precedes the public victory. What he really meant was that there are no large victories. Just jillions of tiny ones that we lazily sum up and call a single, large victory.

When you accept that, you win. You’ve already won. But if you don’t accept it, you’re screwed, because nothing will ever be good enough. And when nothing is good enough, nothing is what you’ll get. Yeah? You like that? It’s a little pun I picked up from an Archie comic in the 1990s…

No.
Don’t go.
We’re not done yet.
Because I don’t think you get it yet.

Let’s take track and field. 5000m. Or, the marathon. Take the marathon. Hmm…I dunno, temperamentally, I’m more of a sprinter myself, but…whatever. Take any race in track and field. Any distance.

Guess what? It takes more than 1 step to win or even just finish the race. Even the short ones. Even the 100m dash. Even the indoor 60m dash. Even the long jump, which isn’t even a race, takes more than one step.

But which step counted? Which step won it? The last one, right? So, let’s just take out all the steps like we did your parents a few paragraphs ago and case closed, right? Trim the fat, skip the foreplay, straight to DVD and ownage, right?

Oh, what’s that?

All the steps counted? All the steps helped? All the steps brought you closer to the goal? At no point would it helpful to be go “I’ve taken all these steps but I’m still not done; this race is unfinishable!”?

Oh.

Nature, the Universe, “the Situation”, Snooki, whatever you wanna call it…is always…conspiring to help you. Trying to throw you a bone. But it only throws you cells because it doesn’t wanna crush you. And because people who can’t appreciate cells…I mean, would you give a grown dog to someone who was mean to puppies? Golden retriever puppies? That are so cute you just…nnnnrrrgh. Not pet owner material, right?

Events are like that. They have a way of not being events. Instead, they tend to drip out — BTW, Tuvok’s voice in Spanish “Star Trek: Voyager” is awesome — rather than coming in a torrent. And it’s just as well because people are pretty bad at handling a torrent; even a thirsty man doesn’t actually want to drink from a firehose. In fact, it would actually be rather cruel to violently hose down a dangerously thirsty person instead of giving them water in drinkable amounts. What’s that? Am I speaking from an experience I had one summer in Canada? Oh, no, no, no…

The whole system seems set up to almost always only give people what they can handle 1. Or maybe it isn’t, but it’s cool and useful to think of it that way — in a Douglas Adams Feng Shui sorta way. It’s almost as if there’s a rule that says: if this joker can’t appreciate one Japanese word, then don’t give him any more. Now, a part of you is going: “I’d feel much more appreciative if I had 10,000 Japanese words”. No ya wouldn’t. You’d find something to hate about it. Just like most lottery winners find a way to replicate their exact pre-lottery problems but with bigger numbers.

Ironically, I learned a lot more kanji a lot faster when I abandoned my whole “100% retention or nothing”, “anything less than 25 new kanji a day is a sin punishable by death” attitude. When I let 1 new kanji count, or even 0 new kanji and just reps count, I almost always got that and more. It must have something to do with the winning feeling; it must be self-reinforcing and thus ultimately self-fulfilling.

…Just like the losing feeling — self-loathing.

Self-loathing can always find a way. Not because it’s intrinsically powerful but because we can empower it; we can inject it into any situation, into any condition, no matter how wonderful.
If only you knew how small millionaires feel next to billionaires 2. Or billionaires next to deca-billionaires. Or RTK1 graduates next to RTK3 graduates. Or freshly minted PhDs next to tenured professors. Or Everest summitters next to K2 summitters because Everest is for tourists and posers and pansies — real playaz are on that K2 shiz, son.
There is always a way to not appreciate where you are and what you’re doing and where you’re going.
Now, going that way never helps, but it’s always available for you to take, if you choose to.

People are weird. Always complaining about “the pace of change”, and “things are happening so fast” and “I just need to slow down” and “we just met, why are you touching me like that?”. And then when they’re going slow enough, they’re too slow. Well, maybe things are happening at just the right pace and you need to get with the program. Enjoy the ride. Maybe every stoplight is a chance for you to chill, check out hot people, read a book (I once read a very dense political science tome cover to cover exclusively at stoplights).

Current cosmology tells us that our entire universe was once a cosmological singularity; that’s a fancypants way of saying it was really small. Infinitesimally small. Infinitesimally dense. But this universe…it didn’t give up like a little b###h. It didn’t quit. It didn’t whine about how the other universes had better constants. It just chugged along. Kept expanding. Apparently, it’s even expanding now. 15 billion years later, it’s still doing its SRS reps. Because, WTF, why not, right?

Now, take all that with a grain of salt because my knowledge of cosmology hovers around zero, and our collective knowledge of cosmology can change like an unstable woman (IS THERE ANY OTHER KIND? EH LADS? EH??)’s moods…lol…naw, woman and minorities are great. No, but…you get the idea.

Be grateful, you smelly orifice :P . Smile that goofy smile of yours. What you’re doing? It counts. It helps. It adds up. Every little bit. Every cell. Every molecule. Every photon. Counts. So keep adding. Keep helping.

You want a whole pizza. But you only seem to be getting it one slice, no, one bite, at a time. I feel your pain.
But how big is your mouth anyway?

Inside your own mind, be like a guy talking to other guys about his exploits with the ladies. If you made eye contact, you spat game at her. If you brushed hands, you made out. If you made out, you did it. If you did it, you did it 10 times…That’s a sucky example. But you get it, right? After all, how much dirt does it take to make a white shirt dirty? Not much, right? You can have a 99.9% surface area clean white shirt…but one stain and we say that that shirt is stained. Well, as soon as you stain the white shirt of reality with a bit of progress, you’re winning. Already.

It counts. It works. Let it count. Work it. Count it (mentally, if nothing else).
Don’t let’s turn this into a Scott Tenorman thing with your parents…

Notes:

  1. Imagine how painful it would be if the human gestation period were 9 seconds rather than 9 months. I mean, the violence! Not to mention feeding requirements, I mean…it just doesn’t work.
  2. Robert Kiyosaki, deca-millionaire, talks about feeling like a street urchin next to Donald Trump, and perplexed by the latter’s interest in him.
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11 Responses to It Counts If You Let It

  1. dave on May 12, 2013 at 09:25

    You made me laugh out loud once again. I’ve started to grow accustomed to the feeling you describe in this post. That feeling that you’re numb to the awesomeness that you’ve achieved simply because of the time and effort and experience you spent achieving it. I take to be a bellwether, a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. Hopefully.

  2. Erik on May 12, 2013 at 13:31

    I was just having a conversation about this with a friend of mine…My friend was like “Wow you can read RAW manga without using a dictionary!?!” And I’m all just like “yeah…but I can’t even read books so maybe I just suck at this Japanese thing”. I guess the irony is I can already do things I couldn’t even come close to about a year ago and I never thought about it. It’s like I have a fear of acknowledging success because It could lead to complacency.

  3. Livonor on May 12, 2013 at 23:48

    lolz, I don’t have those feelings since last year, I don’t even remember how it is being stressed and frustrated about that stuff called “progress”, I’m always feeling awesome about being the f#####ing damn master of the japanese compared to everybody around me and myself some months ago. Thanks Khatz for changing completely my way of thinking.

  4. Pingfa on May 14, 2013 at 23:05

    Just saw this on AJATT’s Twitter: “You don’t “speak” a language. You use it. Language is software. Want more features? Install them.”

    I don’t know why but this quote is possibly the most personally motivating in a while. It’s a great way of looking at it.

    I’ve been putting off learning Japanese for a while, not because I didn’t believe I could do it (I’ve already reached proficiency in Chinese, after all), but because I didn’t want to go through the long process again, months to a year or more of barely understanding anything about anything…
    Yet thinking of it this way, “You don’t “speak” a language. You use it.” puts things in perspective. I don’t have to learn Japanese, but I can use it. I can use it right now.
    Maybe the software is a little barebones right now, but I can always install more features later.

    In any case, I’ve already familiarized myself with most of the romanization, and, and, get this, I browsed through the first few minutes of One Piece with Chinese and Japanese subtitles, as well as Gantz manga with Chinese and Japanese side-by-side, and from what I saw the majority of the Kanji is either the same as Chinese or so similar it’s easy enough to figure out by context. This takes a huge load off me.
    One of my main issues when learning Chinese was not being able to figure out what is actually a word, what to look up, what goes where… but with the Kanji the context is much clearer. A lot of the stuff in between the Kanji are often just chain words and ending particles and such, too.

    Besides that, I’ve been familiar with basic Japanese greetings and perfunctory jibba jabba from Japanese media exposure for years, so I already have a bigger advantage than when I started Chinese. After learning the romanization, it was exciting for me to even be able to understand basic expressions like ‘oi!’ or ‘arigoto’ without being able to look them up.

    Thus, I’ve already gained a number of victories before I’ve even started. It counts, buttface!

  5. 必勝 on May 15, 2013 at 20:49

    勝元よ、この胸の内に涼風を呼び込んでくれるのは今はもう……お前の雲りなき闘志だけだ!

    今は二ヶ月と少しも日本に滞在しているんだけれど、予想していたほどより周りの言葉が聞き取りづらくて、最近、そもそも自分がいったい何のために日本語を勉強しようと思ったというのかとさえ疑い始めていた。
    三年前、日本語を初めて勉強するようになったときからまるで変わってないじゃないか。
    やっぱり俺には無理だった。勝元と成功している他の皆にある何かが、自分にはずっと欠け落ちていたんだ。
    どうせ失敗するなら最初から諦めばよかった。

    と、本気でそう思ったんだ。頑張って小説を読めるようになったのに。頑張って幾千の漢字も
    書けるようになったのに。頑張ってぺらぺら話せるようになったのに。かつて夢にも見なかったことができるようになったのに、今はまだ完璧ではないからとて自分が積んできた努力を全て棒に切るつもりか? ふん、まさか。そんなわけがあるまい。

    有り難う、勝元先生。君がいなければここまで上達することはできなかった。お礼としていつかきっと、日本語をマスターしてみせよう。

  6. [...] thinking small is powerful.   Khatz, the dude over at alljapaneseallthetime.com, calls his immersion service Neutrino.  Teeny tiny particles.  According to wikipedia, my vast [...]

  7. Kayla on June 10, 2013 at 03:12

    I’m guilty of doing this but every little word counts.
    Every minute counts. If they didn’t matter at all, then nothing would matter because hours are the sum of these “sustained” 1-second efforts and my vocabulary gets bigger every time I learn one puny word. Not so puny.

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