This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of AJATT's patrons!

If you would like to support the continuing production of AJATT content, please consider making a monthly donation through Patreon.

Right there ↑ . Go on. Click on it. Patrons get goodies like early access to content (days, weeks, months and even YEARS before everyone else), mutlimedia stuff and other goodies!

The Patience Paradox: Asymmetric Patience

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Patience
  • Patience
  • The Patience Paradox: Asymmetric Patience

“A lord spoke to his servant one day:
Lord: Be sure to plant that cherry tree this afternoon.
Servant: But it will not bloom for 40 years!
Lord: Better make it this morning then.”

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Chinese Proverb (or so the Internets claim)

“If you want fruit today…too bad, you should have planted an orchard 5 years ago. But if you want to eat fruit in 5 years’ time, then you had better start planting an orchard today.”

So here’s where it gets weird. You want to be patient and impatient at the same time. You want to hold one attitude, to be in one emotional state, and its polar opposite, toward the same subject at the exact same time.

Be patient enough to wait for results but not so patient that you do nothing to produce them.

Be patient enough to wait for effects. Be too impatient to wait to start on causes.

As with the vocab paradox, be nonchalant, careless even, about reaping: let the harvest come when it comes. But be a stickler for sowing. Always be sowing. Like a dandelion, always be putting seeds out there.

Patience is directly proportional to duration: screw how long that tree is gonna take to grow; don’t even worry about it. Conversely, urgency is inversely proportional to duration. If it’s gonna take a while to bear fruit, then for that very reason, do what High Expectations Asian Father would tell you to do: you plant now!

It’s just like how you give power to Russell Crow, I mean, Maximusbecause he doesn’t want it. You do the opposite of what your intuition wants to do. You build a new intuition — a new skill, a linguistic intuition — by ignoring your current one. You make planes by not flapping. You work with the fact that the Earth is round even though it looks flat.

But enough fake Asian talk from fake Asian dads. Get real: fire up your iPod and VLC and YouTube — start that Japanese playing again.

Be patient about effects. Be impatient about causes.

Series Navigation

  11 comments for “The Patience Paradox: Asymmetric Patience

  1. August 15, 2012 at 00:29

    Great paradox right there!
    In the end it’s all about where your attention wanders…let it wander on your target language long enough to start getting results, and pull it away from that whiny mental voice complaining about not being there yet.
    Awesome little post as Khatz!

  2. August 15, 2012 at 02:03

    You had me till VLC… CCCP codec or Mplayer OSX all the way baby 😛

    • Es2Kay
      August 15, 2012 at 18:28

      KMP + occasional MPC-HC = forget about codecs problems
      VLC is good too if you can deal with terrible interface and lack of customization

  3. ebutler
    August 15, 2012 at 02:43

    “Other researchers have documented similar differences in the way specific cultures realise particular genres. For example, Celce-Murcia and Olshtain (2000: 149) cite research that shows that Japanese expository writing ‘has a number of rhetorical organisational patterns that are quite different from those found in English expository writing. In some of these patterns, the main theme is not foregrounded as it is in English but rather hinted at’. They add, ‘English teachers may view English essays written according to one of the Japanese organisational patterns as lacking in coherence and unity, and thus rate them lower than essays written with English organisational patterns’.”

    No idea how they conclude this for Japanese. I’ve read a lot of things in Japanese, and I’ve never gotten this impression, yet I seem to understand it OK. Maybe I’m just oblivious to it, or maybe I’m just used to it?

  4. ebutler
    August 15, 2012 at 03:00

    This one is kind of like the “kill your heroes” post and is kinda like the job-ability system of Final Fantasy V, and is probably one of the most insightful things I’ve ever read on language learning, and seems to almost sum up what you want us to do:

    “The question then is (as ever): how does this apply to the learning of a second language? How does one ‘populate the words of others with one’s own intentions’? Eva Hoffman (1998: 220), a Polish teenager learning English in the United States, describes the process of appropriation: ‘Since I lack a voice of my own, the voices of others invade me… By assuming them, I gradually make them mine. I am being remade, fragment by fragment, like a patchwork quilt’. In a similar, patchwork fashion, a student of academic writing will selectively imitate (or copy) features, both micro- and macro-, of a model text as a first step in discovering her own academic ‘voice’.”


  5. olimay
    August 16, 2012 at 11:16

    This is a good “barbell” strategy, in Taleb’s terms.

  6. Tsubasa
    August 17, 2012 at 23:37



    I really love this post.
    Especially this part, “You work with the fact that the Earth is round even though it looks flat.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *