- 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
- Speaking: You Don’t Have A Linguistic Problem, You Have A Humanity Problem — Why You Still Suck At Speaking and How to Fix it Fast
- 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
“If you’re going to spend most of your time experiencing rather than accomplishing, then perhaps it makes sense to focus on the quality of your daily experiences and not merely on the heights of your accomplishments. ” | Steve Pavlina
“The key to strategy… is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory.” | Cavilo, The Vor Game
“…you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.” | Friedrich Nietzsche
We’re often told to go after what we want.
But what if what we want is far away? What if it’s not within our control? What then? Are we just SOL? Do we just give up?
If you want to get what you want, stop trying to get what you want.
Stick with me for a bit.
If you desire certain effects, stop desiring them. If you love certain results, stop loving them. If you want to achieve something, some goal, some aspiration, then stop trying to achieve it.
Wanting to know Japanese, doesn’t get these ↓
into your head.
Wanting to get there doesn’t get you there. Trying to get there doesn’t get you there — it just gets you tired. Trying to reach just makes you pull muscles. Motion in the general direction of “there” by whatever means of locomotion is available…that’s all that gets you there. Motion causes a change of position.
If you want certain favorable effects, do not fall in love with those effects. Fall in love with their causes.
Now, there are good reasons for finding this logic suspect:
- False Causes
- In the past, through malice or ignorance, we have come to believe in false causes. No, eating your vegetables will not turn you into a fighter jet like Michael Jackson in Moonwalker. I speak from painful experience.
- Means/Ends Confusion
- It’s possible to get so wrapped up in means that the ends become confused or even forgotten. For more on such pathological obsession with process to the detriment of meaningful results, see “Japan, Employee Life In” for details 😛
- Urban Living
- Not growing stuff divorces us from opportunities to observe long-term causal chains in nature. This leads not just to an ignorance of such causal chains but to a thoroughgoing disbelief in their very existence. I wanted to use the word “thoroughgoing” at least once in my lifetime. And look at me now. All grown up.
- Bad Science
- Deterministic proclamations from fields like evolutionary psychology and genetics, fields where talk too often outpaces actual hard knowledge, lead us to self-fulfilling beliefs that things are more fixed than they actually are. It used to be old men with beards in the sky. Now it’s molecules in cells. Conjecture and BS remain conjecture and BS, regardless of whether they come dressed up in cassocks or labcoats. Or jeans. Or sweatpants.
- Desire Works…Sometimes
- Strong desire can often lead to massive action on causes. But it’s a bit of an unreliable vehicle. It’s too vague. Why bother with the hit-and-miss mind job of maximizing desire, when we can more directly and coolly play the cause card? Right? Right.
So you do need to think a bit to avoid certain pitfalls of the the cause-centered path…the path-centered path…the journey-centered journey. Fortunately for the intellectually lazy (yours truly included), you don’t need to think that hard. The common sense of the average toddler will do. It’s that unvarnished, unsocialized frankness that can say that the emperor is naked, caviar just tastes of salt, and only a fraction of classical music is actually any good. It’s your inner pipsqueak. Listen to that voice.
Back on topic. You can’t control too many effects. But, as it turns out, you don’t really need to. The trick is to control the causes. Grab a hold of those causes and never let go. Squeeze them. Milk them for all they’re worth. Max out the cause card.
You can’t control whether you’ll make any friends or not. But you can control the number of people you meet and how humane 😛 you are to them. That’s enough.
You can’t control whether or not you’ll win a Stanley Cup. 1 But you can control the number of hours you spend on the ice, messing around with puck, net and cones. That’s enough.
You can’t fully control when exactly you’ll become awesome at Japanese…not in an immediate, satisfying way. But you can control how much and how often you expose yourself to Japanese. That’s more than enough.
You can’t control the results, but you can control the things that produce the results. And that’s more than enough. You get to control the journey, where most of the time is spent anyway. That’s freaking awesome. Imagine if you couldn’t control the journey? Imagine if you could only control the fleeting arrival moment. You could go anywhere you wanted, but you couldn’t choose how to get there. That would suck.
Hold on a sec, though. Stop the irrational optimism train before it runs over that gaggle of schoolchildren: what if your life sucks so much that you can’t even control the causes? Easy. Give up.
…and run up the causal chain. If you can’t control the causes, control the causes of the causes. Max out the causes of the causes. Max out quaternary causes and reap their effects, which are tertiary causes. OK, now you have tertiary causes. Max them out and reap secondary causes. Max out secondaries and reap primaries. Now you’re at primaries. Max these out and you’re at your precious effect destination.
“All Japanese all the time”. AJATT is all about maxing out the cause card. It’s too stupid and straightforward to fail. It’s based on the childlike realization that Japanese people, the people who are the best at Japanese, also spend the most time in contact with Japanese. In fact, the average Japanese person spends as many hours in contact with Japanese as she does breathing air.
You can’t be born in Japan. You can’t have Japanese parents. You can’t control who your parents were. You can’t control how or where they raised you.
But none of that matters. That’s first quarter stuff. Don’t waste your time trying to control the first quarter from the second. Play the game now. Realize that you’re a member of the global elite. You have literacy, electricity and home comforts. I know you do, because you’re reading this.
You can cast aside the false causes (first quarter excuses) and pick up the real cause card. You can spend all your available (“free”) time in contact with Japanese. You can Japanize anything and any moment and any place that can be Japanized. You can max out the Japanese fluency cause card. You can rip these remaining three quarters a new one.
Because there are always three quarters available 😛 .
In a cause-effect universe, precursors are just about omnipotent. And guess what? In all likelihood, you already control more precursors than you need to to reach your destination…
So, now, giving up on something far too early, which is when most people give up, becomes not a question of “lacking moral fiber”, but one of poor arithmetic. You’re pronouncing your own death from dehydration when you have unfettered access to a fridgeful of water two feet away. It’s just unnecessarily premature. You can always give up later. You have all of the time you’ll be dead, practically all of eternity, in which to give up.
Before you worry about what you can’t do, do everything, and I mean everything, that you can do. Before you worry about the resources and abilities you don’t have, first exhaust the resources and options that are immediately at your disposal. You haven’t “paid your dues” 2 as it were, until your cause card — time, energy and productive thought invested in practice, in things that cause desired effects — is maxed out.
- You don’t try to win Stanley Cups as such…I mean, if you want the stupid cup so much, you can just break into the NHL back office or wherever and steal it. Or…I dunno…have a local handyman make you a replica. Bottom line: it’s an oversized cup named after some English geezer called Stanley. Really, who gives a crap?
You don’t try to win Stanley Cups. You just go to practice more and learn to skate and puck-handle better. You eat well. You exercise. You play. And maybe you put the puck over the line more times than other groups of people, and then they let you touch the shiny object. The point is, you were having fun playing hockey. You focused on cause. ↩
- I. Hate. This. Phrase ↩