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The Fork, The Choice and You

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Engineered Inevitability

What deserves your closest attention is neither your ultimate goal, nor your track record, nor your overall plan, but your next choice.

What are you going to do next?

Ultimate goals are heavy; they weigh on the soul. They’re useful and everything, but you can’t have them in your head all the time because the difference between that ultimate goal and your current state can be quite heart-crushingly large.

Track records can be depressing. You’re just going to be seeing all you haven’t been doing. I wouldn’t say never look at these, but if you don’t keep your exposure down, it will make you sick.

Overall plans are similarly crushing. The thought, the sight of all that’s still left to do — that long, empty, open road — is not exciting.

Which leaves your next choice. Your immediate next action.
It’s just one thing.
It’s simple.
It’s practically instant gratification.

Let’s say your ultimate goal is Japanese fluency.
Your track record is spotty or non-existent.
Your overall plan is to follow something along the lines of AJATT/AntiMoon.

What is your next choice?
Simple: Do something. Anything. In Japanese. Anything counts.
Any. Thing.

One simple choice. Through this one simple choice. you’re bringing yourself closer to the ultimate goal; you’re building a new, better track record and you’re following the overall plan.

That’s all there is to it.

When I say I am not smart, have no talent, and have no willpower, a lot of people think I’m being modest. Trust me. I am neither smart nor talented nor “disciplined”.

With Japanese, I just made simple, local choices. At every fork in the road, I chose Japanese. That is sum total of “the plan”. If there is truly no choice, then it’s obviously not a fork. But you would be surprised how many opportunities there are to fit Japanese in some crack somewhere somehow (because concurrency counts).

This is an incredibly dumb algorithm. It is so dumb that a computer could do it. Even a lazy, good-for-nothing boy from Kenya who forgets to shower all the time — such a boy could execute this algorithm.

Observe, a pseudocode implementation of the basic AJATT algorithm.

while ( breathing )
if ( anyOpportunityExists )
else takeNextOpportunity(asap)

It’s that simple. Make the big plans if you want. Keep the logs if you want. But know that the forks in the road are where things actually get decided.

Series Navigation<< It’s Not The Years, It’s the Seconds: A Stack of Washingtons Is Not Worth The Same As a Stack of BenjaminsIt’s Not Time, It’s Choice >>

  25 comments for “The Fork, The Choice and You

  1. Jon
    December 30, 2009 at 03:58

    Now let’s see an implementation of anyOpportunityExists and takeNextOpportunity and the population of anything 🙂

    (Not that this detracts from your overall point, but the terms are still too informal for programmatic execution)

  2. December 30, 2009 at 05:00

    LoL. I hate you 😉 Haha…Telling the truth about my code…
    It’s open-source, tho’ — you fix it! 😀

  3. Drewskie
    December 30, 2009 at 07:44

    I’m sensing a pattern here. First, someone calls Khatz out for a transcription mistake, and he breaks his long-standing comment silence. Now, someone calls out super-vague pseudocode (though I would suggest there’s no such thing as vague pseudocode–isn’t that the point?), and he breaks his silence again. Khatzumoto-comments are now only drawn out by embarrassment.

    Khatz, learn to shower!

  4. Lokideviluk
    December 30, 2009 at 07:56

    I know your against these sorts of applications but I’ve found just including some Rosetta Stone time in my Japanese “Hmm what should i do now” moments really has helped. It may be super polite and typically not how the “kids” speak japanese but i figure its better than no japanese.

  5. shintemaster
    December 30, 2009 at 08:52

    Good post Khatz. If ever you need to explain the AJATT philosophy in the smallest amount of words possible, this is it.

    It really CAN be that simple.

    Set your hompage to Reviewing the Kanji so that you can do your out of date review before browsing – you’d be amazed how often you’ll do them now!
    Put some music on in the background while cooking – make it Japanese.
    Cooking your favourite Udon recipe? Try finding a recipe written in Japanese – I find recipe’s (especially of foods you’re familiar of) very simple to follow even when you don’t KNOW all the words.

  6. December 30, 2009 at 09:51

    Haha, great code. But if it’s a while loop, do you really need the else clause? XD

    • 星空
      November 15, 2010 at 09:12

      there is no ‘else’
      the ‘while’ is “breathing” so the ‘else’ would be “death”
      an ‘else’ can’t possiblly exist.

  7. David
    December 30, 2009 at 11:01

    I think I have found Bizzaro Katzhumoto.

  8. アメド
    December 30, 2009 at 11:35

    I don’t know if this is the site to discuss this but has anyone had dreams in full japanese? It’s weird as I’ve only had two dreams in Japanese before. One was all full of kanji characters and the other full of japanese speech. Anyone care to share there own dreams-based on japanese in someway. Unno if this is anything related to learning japanese but I guess nothing wrong with it. I guess i’m asking this because i’m not yet capable of thinking in full japanese yet or fluent yet. But it’s weird b/c I remebering just a week ago I was listening to japanese+watching anime for like 90% of the day. And I literally was dreaming in japnaese in every sense of the way lol. It was sooo weird. Anyhow anyone care to share?

  9. December 30, 2009 at 11:36

    Khatzumoto really needs to just up and start a general personal development blog. For real. The stuff in this post could so easily be applied to any aspect of life.

  10. Chris
    December 30, 2009 at 12:22

    As a wise guy once said “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”.

  11. Greg
    December 30, 2009 at 13:38

    What I try to do is to fill the gaps with up and down activities in Chinese. I have my power study methods: textbooks, SRS reps… basically active studying. But I also have my laissez-faire study methods. Basically, I found the gaps in my day where I wasn’t doing something Chinese related and filled it in. My down activities involve watching a drama series I quite like, Chinese translations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, manga, news, music videos, etc. Things I would do to blow time procrastinating in English, I just turned into Chinese. I made sure I had a variety of down activities that I would like to do. I don’t always want to read a novel, so I’ll switch to a comic book instead. Maybe I’m lazy to read, or what I want to watch something while I eat, so I pop on the drama. Or, maybe I just want to sing poorly to drive away my friends, then I go for the music videos.

    All in all, it’s actually really easy to do it’s just hard to start. Wikipedia is a good place: look up what you like in English, then click on the “other language” sidebar and find the name of the movie/book/series/author in the language you want to pursue and then go find it 😀 That’s what I did anyway.

    Hope it helps! 🙂

    And a P.S. you know how most of what we say in English is probably quoted from someplace else? Movies, books, TV shows, etc? Those ‘catchphrases’ probably exist in other languages too, you just have to watch and read a lot and they’ll start to pop up. Plus it’s fun to pick a character to “speak through”. I found my voice through a combination of Keitaro Urashima and Arthur Dent. Chances are if you love then in English, you’ll love them in your target language too.

  12. Ken
    December 30, 2009 at 15:24

    “Khatzumoto really needs to just up and start a general personal development blog. For real. The stuff in this post could so easily be applied to any aspect of life.”

    ajatt *is* a general personal development blog. Do you think anything he’s said here is at all specific to learning Japanese?

  13. Gav
    December 30, 2009 at 18:49

    We don’t really need to shower as much as we think anyway.

  14. KREVA
    December 31, 2009 at 03:56

    Gotta love the loop! 😀

  15. Chris
    December 31, 2009 at 19:00

    Here I was thinking I was the only one who skipped showers.

  16. Spence
    January 1, 2010 at 04:41

    short and sweet… just what I was looking for. Some times taking the japanese route causes more stress than it is worth. Like wearing head phones in the house, It is a huge deal in my house. So, I switched to listening with speakers. Little things like that make it less stressfull. On a side note, has anyone’s parents ever threaten to kick them out of the house if they don’t stop AJATTing? Well… this happened to me yesturday, not fun folks. I think its time to lay low. Use the foot in the door affect (start changing small and then slowly build up the immersion).

    Best of luck to all.


  17. qaz
    January 1, 2010 at 04:53

    Khatzumoto: have you ever realized that AJATT is basically a way of placing one’s self in the halting problem? there is no final output(spoon) o_O

  18. Chuck
    January 1, 2010 at 07:10

    Katz, are you aware that many people are using you as their “person” primitive down at Reviewing the Kanji?
    It would seem that your blog is quite good at getting into people’s heads…

    “On a side note, has anyone’s parents ever threatened to kick them out of the house if they don’t stop AJATTing?”
    No, but… they made me go back to Spanish for a while.

    If I listen to Spanish all day, I can think in it almost exclusively. I’m not quite that far in Japanese yet.

  19. アメド
    January 1, 2010 at 08:21

    Hmmm, thinking in japanese will probably take alot of time. I’m not quite at that level yet, but I am general understanding japanese easier than a few months ago. I can even predict what ppl say now in most situations(not all of course). But i still think i’m far from fluent yet. I remeber talking on the forum for reviewing the kanji. And i said i dreamt in japanese. And some replied back that, dreaming in the japanese means you’re developing+gaining fluency. But when i look at my skills+success so far in Japanese. It’s still not where i want it to be. I used to add so much sentences before, but I have lower that now. Cuz they reviews were building up alot for the past few days. So as of today I’m at 5100 sentences. Feels good to be this far into japanese and wanting to go far and very far into japanese. I’m sure my motivation to get fluent+the love of japanese will get me fluent in no time.(1 year i;’m hoping?!, ppl say that’s the benchmark year for some majority improvements). But as long as people keep going, they will reach there goal. For some sooner than later.

  20. Drewskie
    January 1, 2010 at 11:32

    Spence, I think it depends on what extreme you take AJATT to as to whether or not the people around you care. Khatzumoto rightfully pushes 100%, but you can shave off 10-20% and skip all the ‘alienating friends and family’ sacrifices. My dad invited me to see Avatar with him last week. I’m not about to tell him “Nope, it’s in English.” When my friends recommend a book, I pass, but when they want to hang out and play Rock Band, I’m there.

    My unwillingness to make social sacrifices almost made me avoid AJATT entirely, but it’s turning out fine. I’m making some fantastic progress. Yeah, I’m not going to pull a ‘Moto and be in Japan a year from now, but I’m not in such a rush.

    It comes down to the fact that AJATT is not completely binary. Yeah, you need the mega-monster-personality-changing-commitment, but you can go 90% and make a lot of progress. What you need to decide is whether or not 6 months matters. For me, I’m 8 months into AJATT (5 kanji, 3 sentences, immersion for last 4), and I have a year and a half of college left. If I take even twice as long as Khatzumoto did to be reasonably proficient, none of my plans will change.

    So to answer your question directly, no. No interventions, no “You’re taking this a little far.” I annoy my friends when I reject English media recommendations, and I annoyed my family when I told them I don’t want anything in English for Christmas, but that’s all pretty tolerable, so nobody bats an eyelash.

  21. January 1, 2010 at 18:18

    This reminds me of that one thing Khatz said … hell, it might not have even been on this site. Something like… you don’t know Japanese, you just get used to it as long as you keep doing it *constantly*.

    So much truth in that. It’s pretty much like f**king magic once it happens, and you realize you’re following all (okay, 99.9%) of the 漢字 in the 字幕 during an 映画 or ドラマ or even during some バラエティー show.

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