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Social Resistance

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Social Resistance

When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson (or so I’m told — ‘coz you never quite know with these Internet quotes, do you?)

In life, oftentimes, the real choice isn’t between success and popularity, but between success and immediate popularity. It’s a toughie. Tougher, in fact, than the actual success path (“a day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work” and all that). Which is both good and bad, depending on how you look at it 😀 .

To me, that’s the real meaning of “delayed gratification” — the lonely gap between when the old social grouping rejects you and you’re again gratified by the acceptance of some new group.

I think we all have the power to establish and maintain good habits, but when threatened with the withdrawal of the camaraderie, admiration or love of our peers, that’s the real fork in the path; that’s where we make or don’t make ourselves. I imagine it’s where people who did keep on keeping on came the closest to cracking.

We can console ourselves with the knowledge that real camarederie wouldn’t have turned sour so easily. Although, that can feel quite hollow in the face of what seems to be the end of the world. And it is the end of a world, just not the world.

Maybe all the noise that adults make about teenagers and peer pressure is really adults projecting their own challenges with social resistance. Who knows? Anyway, enough psychobabble from me; I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

My point is…if you can either insulate yourself from or completely break through social resistance, then you’re well on your way to becoming unstoppable. For good or ill.

So, if in doubt? Screw ’em. They’re replaceable. As callous as that may sound, it’s really no more callous than the open derision of people making feeble attempts to put you in what they presume to be your place. A place that’s invariably insultingly low. If anything, breaking social resistance is an act of charity, an act of love for at least one person — you — which is more love than your would-be detractors are showing anyone at the moment in question.

Social resistance is…it’s almost like a prank. I’m speaking purely in a metaphorical sense, but it does seem as though it’s all this sort of Zen-like episode of Punk’d on a massive scale, and the joke is on you. Mmm…Punk’d isn’t really the most apropos comparison; I was just feeling nostalgic about that show.

What I mean is this: it’s almost as though social resistance is difficult-seeming and difficult-looking by design, because once you can ignore, deflect or otherwise transcend social resistance, everything is, relatively speaking, a walk in the cake.

Maybe mental state alters behavior, and behavior alters mental state. And maybe the behavior of rejecting social resistance has profound effects on one’s mental state. And maybe these effects bleed into other areas and help us be more effective. And maybe that’s why we sometimes over-esteem celebrities and other people who have succeeded in one field: since experts can seem superhumanly good, we assume that they’re all-round superhumans.

I remember one time, writing out for an English friend, some of the various alternates of the sword (劍) character: 劍・劒・劔・釼・剣 … and she went “you see, I’ll never be able to do that [you must be magically talented]”…and it was kind of mini-heartbreaking because my intent had been to prove that any fool can learn kanji, not that I knew kanji. Daniel Coyle of Das Le El The Talent Code calls this the “HSE/Holy [Crap] Effect”.

Social resistance is like a matte painting of a formidable fence separating the worlds of those who do succeed (in many senses), and those who don’t. Once you realize the fence is fake, you simply walk off the set of the little Truman Show that had been going on and oh crap another pop culture reference. Thereafter, you may not become instantly unstoppable, but it will certainly take a heckuva lot more to faze you. By the way, “heckuva” sounds…Slavic if you read it a certain way.

So, it can pay to be a bit detached and solipsitic about it all. Like when your friends tells you about their drama and all you can do is laugh — you care for your friends, you’re just not taken in by the drama because you have the mental removal to watch it as farce. That kind of bemused detachment can be a great asset. And people may call you on it, and get upset at your lack of emotional abandon, but…more detachment will probably solve that as well.

The funny thing is, though, all of these ideas can be used to justify anything, good or bad. Then again, trains can be used for suicide, but we’re not outlawing them any time soon.

AJATT is often described as cultish. And it is, because I have carefully laid plans to whisk you all away to a compound in South America where we can watch anime and drink colored sugarwater. But really, what it is is that many paths, religious or secular, requiring significant investments of self, time and resources, are likely to at some point bring one into some level of conflict with common behaviors and levels of self-management that are considered “normal”.

Case in point: one or two of my Japanese friends sometimes make fun of me learning Chinese, yet these same kids — the same ones doing the mocking — also wish they knew Chinese, and even make half-hearted attempts (book purchases) in that general direction. Whenever we’re geeking out by my bookshelf, and things go quiet for a while, and the dust settles, they invariably sigh something we might loosely translate as: “dag, yo…I wonna know me some Chah-nese”.

If and when these conflicts occur, sometimes, compromise and negotation work. Other times, resolute boldness is called for. I don’t know which will be which for you. For example, I don’t object to people suggesting that my daily life be composed of a variety of activities. But I will happily walk, run and fly over, around and through people who think they have the authority to decide or even suggest the details (time, place and content) of those activities. Those are my “rules”, if you will. Yours may differ.

Let me give you a little story from the halcyon days of when AJATT was just me being me in Utah. My friends wanted us to watch Pulp Fiction together…in the living room. I like hanging out with people while not doing the same thing, so I was like…yeah, cool, whatever. I didn’t want to watch something in English, but I was willing to watch it with them, so I was going to read Japanese on my laptop while they watched. I often read and watch at the same time.

This compromise upset them. They wanted the movie to be watched in their way (laptopless) on their timetable (now). These were hardcore computer geeks; they knew about geeking out; they should have known better. In the end, after about 90 seconds of failed explanation, I simply went and did something else in Japanese. They got even more upset. About eighteen months later, one of the people who had been there apologized for the entire incident; in his own words, I had been right and he wrong; he hadn’t realized what I was trying to do; he now knew that I had needed to do what I did.

Rarely is all this drama an issue; usually, it doesn’t even come up. But sometimes you do have to choose between something you really want and like, and just being liked. Fortunately, when you choose the former, you do tend to get new likers. Either completely new people, or the same old people post-change-of-heart.

Do what you need to do. Do what makes you happy and comfortable. Getting the job done? Well, that counts as part of “comfort”. Sucking at Japanese made me uncomfortable. So, go become great at Japanese or whatever 😀 .

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  32 comments for “Social Resistance

  1. Chuck
    January 28, 2010 at 13:39

    By, “any fool can learn kanji, not that I knew kanji,” do you mean, “NOW that I knew kanji,” or what?

    • metoob
      February 10, 2013 at 08:29

      no. he didn’t mean to display his knowledge of kanji; he meant to show that even he could become good at kanji.

      • ライトニング
        February 10, 2013 at 09:34

        A little over 3 years late 🙂

      • Chuck
        February 10, 2013 at 09:44

        I agree with your interpretation.
        What were you thinking, me from three years ago?

  2. KREVA
    January 28, 2010 at 14:01

    Who said KOOL-AID and アニメ?! I’m there! 😀

  3. Drewskie
    January 28, 2010 at 14:15

    “AJATT is often described as cultish. And it is, because I have carefully laid plans to whisk you all away to a compound in South America where we can watch anime and drink colored sugarwater.”

    Actually, that sounds kind of nice. Maybe I’ve been wrong on this whole “NO CULTS” business after all.



  4. アメド
    January 28, 2010 at 14:55

    Interesting post khatz.

    I think that most people think well this happened to me actually, that when you invest a lot of time in the language. They tend to think you’re “obsessed” or “crazy” in a sense. But now that i think back to like 5 months ago and compare it to now. I’d say it was well worth it to immerse myself in Japanese via SRS anki,drama’s,animes,etc,etc. People tend to think of you so differently when you’re doing something outside the group. But ironically when you do accomplish it, the very same people will come back and ask “WOW how’d you do it?”. Seriously i’m not surprised that one can learn japanese in around a year and half. It’s all possible. Like for me i kept thinking that i wasn’t improving at all. But just today i was playing FF13 in full japanese and it surprised me that i could understand all the tutorials and even something things that i didn’t know the readings too i still understand everything. It was strange b/c i wasn’t expecting it. It tends to creep up on you slowly. If i’m improving this much in 5+ months then once it reaches full year and half. I’m pretty sure things will be awesome by then.

    Social resistance always do come to mind when one learns a language. But to be honest, it really shouldn’t matter to you. You’re learning the language, therefore you’re going to get something good out of it. Not referring to anything selfish but you’ll definitely prove why you were doing this for. It will show later on

  5. Chris
    January 28, 2010 at 15:27


    He means he wasn’t trying to prove that he knows kanji, but rather that anyone can learn it.

  6. Chris
    January 28, 2010 at 15:39

    By the way Khatz, any chances on a Chinese post one of these days? 😀

  7. Lane
    January 28, 2010 at 15:59

    That was a good one. Lots of good feedback as well.

    I’ve always sort of been the type that floats between groups, and I’ve sort of nestled in with a group consisting of “fringers” and japanese students. They’re all pretty supportive. This all came after several years in college. Nobody from my highschool went to the college I chose. So I was thrust into The Great Wide Open and it took a few years to make the connections I have now… So that’s all kind of nice.

    Nice post.

  8. William
    January 28, 2010 at 17:18

    Language acquisition in all its AJATTed glory may be one of the most useful tests of friendship that I have ever encountered. A good friend will forgive you for all of those get-togethers you’ve had in the past four years where you didn’t drink any alcohol, despite it being his twenty-first birthday or graduation or whatever special occasion. But that same “good” friend might not forgive you for sipping the AJATT punch for a mere two months.

    Everyone would like to know a foreign language fluently, although they might not openly admit it. I sometimes feel this feeling we all share may give rise to the particularly harsh attitude that hardcore language learners encounter.Your friends do have right to be angry with you to some extent. They might have wanted to learn French their whole lives but never decided to commit themselves to accomplishing this goal. The very fact that even a minuscule interest in learning a language exists in them but they have not acted upon it is enough to make them feel that they are being betrayed in that they have sacrificed their chance at learning a language, whatever that may mean to them, so that they could hang out with you. And, not surprisingly, when they see you attaining some level of proficiency, but only, as they see it, at the cost of your relationship with them, they freak.

    It is true. You are learning a language, something that interests YOU and not necessarily your friends. You ARE being selfish. You ARE making your dreams a reality, while your friend’s are gathering dust. A sort of jealousy is bound to grow in your friends, it is just a matter of time before the jealousy bubble pops and they think you are a selfish dastard. You can make yourself feel less at fault, by offering them some good old A(X)ATT. But in all likelihood they will turn down your offer but hey, at least you tried.

    It’s a kind of paradox. The ideal friend will be the friend who lets you distance yourself from them, forget about them, make new friends who you talk more with, who won’t hold you back, and who will forgive you. However, a good friend won’t want to lose you. I believe a true friend – a friend worth having – would find a way to fit into both of these. In the end, all that matters is that you did what you had to. The friends that matter will not have forgotten about you when you’re ready to come back.

  9. William
    January 28, 2010 at 17:20

    OH, by the way. I’ve been wanting to buy the Kanjiposter but these message appears on their website.

    The domain has expired. If you owned this domain, please contact your domain registration service provider for further assistance. If you need help identifying your service provider, visit

    Does anyone know anything about the status of the site and if I should get the poster somewhere else (that is if they are sold anywhere else)?


  10. Oldboy
    January 28, 2010 at 20:16

    Great post; I particularly appreciated the anecdote.

    You may want to investigate a novel called The Fountainhead; it powerfully dramatizes the single-mindedness of an architect’s dedication to a creative purpose in the face of public disapproval. It was written in English, but there is a Japanese translation available.

  11. WC
    January 28, 2010 at 21:09

    The Fountainhead is a great book. There’s a movie, too, but the message isn’t as clear as the book.

    And I agree that you have to be ‘selfish’. If you aren’t being selfish, you aren’t being true to yourself. Note that ‘selfish’ and ‘greedy’ are different completely, and taking ‘selfish’ too far is very detrimental… Almost as bad as not taking it far enough.

    To learn any skill, including languages, takes time and effort. The results will be there in the long run. That’s why we have such intense schooling when we are kids, instead of stretching it out through our entire lives… It gives the most benefit that way.

    • Deepthroat
      November 1, 2014 at 06:44


      Also try Atlas Shrugged.

  12. Terence
    January 28, 2010 at 23:15

    I have something to admit, I have more links I’ve been hiding ;_; Here they are…

    Jackie chan’s Drunken monkey(日本語吹き替え):

    Super Size Me(日本語吹き替え):

    Check out this guys channel for tons of 日本語版 martial arts movies:

    The Sixth Sense(You know, the movie with the popular line “I see dead people!”)日本語字幕:

    I know what you did last summer(日本語吹き替え):

    I know what you did last summer 2(日本語吹き替え):

    And I have much more coming ^^ good luck!

    As for the this post, I couldn’t stop laughing at this part “AJATT is often described as cultish. And it is, because I have carefully laid plans to whisk you all away to a compound in South America where we can watch anime and drink colored sugarwater.” because I showed my sister-(who “wants to learn french” but doesn’t want to dedicate as much time to it as I have Japanese. Because in her words “I have friends and a life and therefore(said in a insulting undertone) I can’t sit around all the time watching French tv shows”)-Khatz’s and Sam’s “How to learn Japanese” video. And she said “Wow! He(Khatz) sounds like a cult leader!!! The way he(Khatz) talks about language learning “You must dedicate yourself to Japanese 24 Hours a day” sounds just like the crazy Christians “You must repent for your sins and pray to God 24 HOURS A DAY OR YOU SHALL BURN IN HELL!!!” hahaha.

    I couldn’t think of a comeback other than “After one year of studying there language, which one of us is about to turn on a tv show in our L2 and understand an outstanding majority and who can’t? Case closed”…..

  13. January 28, 2010 at 23:54

    After 18 months! Geez…. that’s quite the spat.

    This is good stuff. I’ve only been in China for three weeks and I already have started to consciously avoid the foreign english song singing karaoke outings. Maybe they’ll think I’m an outcast… but hey. I’m here to learn Chinese!

  14. January 29, 2010 at 05:45

    I wish I had had you to read when I was a teenager! You could have been my father figure (instead of tv :P).

  15. Lane
    January 29, 2010 at 06:26


    “Foreigners” typically hang out with other foreigners and not with locals. They form their own little culture bubble. So, by hanging out with locals instead of other foreigners, you wouldn’t be an outcast so much as an … incast?

    I think preferentially hanging out with locals is probably the best way to assimilate. Good for you.

  16. January 29, 2010 at 10:33

    “AJATT is often described as cultish. And it is, because I have carefully laid plans to whisk you all away to a compound in South America where we can watch anime and drink colored sugarwater.”

    Yea, it is funny how cultist the ideas are viewed (sadly), but it is more about updating learning a new language to the current day and age. We no longer have to use paper flash cards, one source of the spoken language (aka the teacher), special books written for language learners, a special non-native alphabet, special meal plans….oh wait sorry I drifted. 🙂

    Anyways back to my paper about “How to Learn a Language” 😉

  17. triplej
    January 29, 2010 at 12:11

    Why does Ayn Rand keep on coming up in these comments?? I guess I remember seeing a poll with her as one of the most loved authors by “non-critics.” Which means normal people. I might have to give her a try, any thoughts on the Japanese translation?

    Anyway, this post definitely strikes a chord with me. I think especially for people living in Japan, like Lane’s comment, it’s easy to get sucked into the foreign crowd, which is really only a very small portion of society creating a micro-environment which effectively shields people from learning Japanese. (here I go quoting Khatzu again.)

    This post also reminds me of what Gary Wolf says about SRSing in the Wired article about Piotr Wozniak, the creator of Supermemo:

    “His advice was straightforward yet strangely terrible: You must clarify your goals, gain knowledge through spaced repetition, preserve health, work steadily, minimize stress, refuse interruption, and never resist sleep when tired. This should lead to radically improved intelligence and creativity. The only cost: turning your back on every convention of social life. It is a severe prescription.”
    (can someone teach me how to make links in these comments?)

    I know it’s been posted somewhere here, but it’s a great read for anyone who missed it.

  18. qaz
    January 29, 2010 at 22:38

    That may have sounded like a fair compromise to you, but in reality, was it? I know if I did the same thing with some of my friends, they may get annoyed too.. but then again I do not hang out with them a whole lot so the time we do get together, I want to show them I appreciate and enjoy the time we can literally SQUEEZE in together.. were you constantly hanging out with friends then?

  19. kak
    January 30, 2010 at 04:23


    Here’s the info for the book “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand in Japanese for ya. A good read! Enjoy!
    ISBN 4-8284-1149-6

  20. Mikhayla
    January 30, 2010 at 04:29

    I think what you said, Khatz, is true for languages, but when applying it to sentence repping, and other areas, like sports and stuff, what you said is half the battle, and then motivation is the other half. If you could get both (social resistance and motivation) down, then you could totally accomplish anything….I think. 😛

  21. January 30, 2010 at 16:49

    Just to be a fool, here’s the foil: Khatz seemed like a cool guy. I wanted to seem cool to Khatz and hang out with/chat with him, but I knew I couldn’t do that if my Japanese was sucky: So I learned Japanese in order for him to accept me 😛

  22. 星空
    November 17, 2010 at 10:36

    this is just a gang of evil people from teh previous article:
    a rehash!

    as it was stated before:
    forget the monolinguals and 日本語でやれ!

  23. David
    January 19, 2011 at 09:39
  24. David
    January 19, 2011 at 09:41

    ^ “i dont even hear you im on a mission”

    Kobe Bryant would make one hell of an ajatter

  25. Sergei
    August 20, 2011 at 23:54

    “AJATT is often described as cultish. And it is, because I have carefully laid plans to whisk you all away to a compound in South America where we can watch anime and drink colored sugarwater.”
    what does it say about me, as a person, if i have little to no trouble with that?

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