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You Have Only Three Choices

You have only three choices:

  1. Do it all
  2. Do something
    1. Do something physically easy (fun), but emotionally difficult (brave and unusual, unpredictable outcome)
  3. Do nothing
    1. Do something physically difficult (tiring), but emotionally easy (straightforward, known outcome, done before), like a machine — this is worse than doing nothing.

Number 1 is righteous, but impossible. This is the one most sincere, hardworking people (try to) choose.

Number 3 is the one that nearly all of us choose out of fear, (emotional) fatigue and self-loathing, when we realize that number 1 is impossible. Actually, there’s also a 3.1 that many smart, hardworking people choose, and this is worse than doing nothing. At least when you’re doing nothing, you rest your body and mind, enabling it to take another shot.

The magic choice is number 2. It’s right in the middle. It’s the mediocre choice that leads to excellence.

Learning languages may be a martial art, but it’s not one that will wear you out per se 1. It simply requires some courage to stand out in terms of your choices of both means and ends.


  1. Talking when you still suck can be tiring, but other than that…

  5 comments for “You Have Only Three Choices

  1. Pingfa
    December 6, 2013 at 05:15

    “It’s the mediocre choice that leads to excellence”
    Eh, this is a nice quote. Consistent mediocrity is far better than infrequent bursts of excellence.
    It’s the only thing that’s sustainable. Mediocre is one’s default mode, excellence is an abnormality.

    This is why ‘lazy’ people tend to be more productive than ‘hard workers’ – the most ‘hard working’ people may strain themselves for a few hours, but then they spend the rest of the day unconscious. Hard work breeds slackers.

  2. Rodhi
    December 6, 2013 at 09:25

    Khatzumoto, man! Japanese is my third language and when my brother and I were very young, we decided to learn English but we could not afford to pay. Many of the ideas we came up together (which I’ve been using for Japanese) resembles a lot what you explain in your site. It makes me pretty happy to see there are minds alike in this world although I think yours is way more hardcore than mine. Anyway, thank you for the suggestions of resources, the inspiration and all the other bulls##t you post here. Pretty legit. I’m taking some from you and following my way to master Japanese.
    Wish you the best.

  3. Amphy64
    December 9, 2013 at 17:30

    I’m not sure the idea that option 3.1 is worse than doing nothing always applies. It EXACTLY describes how I’m finding RTK at this point, doesn’t mean it’s not helpful to do it anyway.

  4. Mariah
    December 10, 2013 at 11:42

    Just wanted to share a little win with everyone. I’m reading a murder mystery novel (ガリレオの苦悩) and listening to a molecular physics lecture from Kyoto University on Youtube. I was putting in sentences from my book to my SRS, and I had just learned a new word, and a minute later I heard the word in the video. I’m like “No way! I JUST learned that word! This is awesome!” For those who are curious, it’s 合理的。 Getting closer to fluency every day~

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