- You’d Be Speaking German Right Now If…
- Don’t Be The Kaiser or the Fuhrer
- The Art of War (Sort Of) Applied to Learning A Language: Logistics, Supply Lines and Force Concentration
- War! What Is It Good For?
- The Forever War and The AJATT Way
- What Being In A Forever War Means For You
- The Myth of Invincible (Asian) Languages
- How (and Why) to Make and Use Entropy Bombs
- Entropy: Fight the Power
- How and Why the Principle of Proportionality Works
- You’ve Got 99 Million Small Problems — Not a Big, Single One
- Remember That You Are, Were and Will Always Be Human: Infinite in Possibility and Finite in Action
- How Learning a Language is Like Conquering a Country (But Not in the Way You’re Thinking)
- Why America Doesn’t Win Wars Any More and What (Ironically) That Can Teach You About Learning Languages
- The Art of the War of Learning Languages: Sun Tzu on Immersion
- Fight Battles, Not Wars
- How to Worry Correctly
The other day, a good cishet male friend of mine, Dexter Kent (which, and I cannot stress this enough, is not his legal name; and he hasn’t told me what his preferred pronouns are, so, Phuket like Thailand, I’m goin’ in raw) asked me:
“Khatzumoto, no homo, but you are a beautiful man. Your eyes shine like balls of obsidian. Your thighs aren’t big; they’re just the right size — after all, you were just #bornthisway #bodypositivity #lovetheskinyourein #becauseyoureworthit…”
And he actually said the word “hashtag” each time, which, like, weird. Anyway, so he continued:
“But tell me, Oh Khatzumotian one, do you think it’s possible that a person could do all his immersion and all his reps and still not be fluent?”
Dexter is a perfectionist. A killer of SRS decks. A man guilty of deleting entire SRS decks (rather than single bad cards) multiple times. What he was really asking is: “what if I do everything right, everything I’m ‘post [supposed] to do; what if I eat Jhene Aiko’s booty like groceries, and I still don’t become fluent?”
And I told him: first of all, stop making facile rap references in our conversations. It leads to stereotyping. And then I preceded to channel the wisdom of our Lord and Savior, Sean Corey “Jay Z” Carter, consort to the Her Creolic Majesty the Queen Bee, and said this:
“If you’ve got a language problems, I don’t feel bad for you, son. But you don’t actually have any big problem(s). You just have tens of thousands of small ones. Don’t solve big problems. Solve small ones.”
Everybody has problems. Everybody. From Elon Musk to children who stay slumdogs and don’t become millionaires. Everybody has problems. Perhaps even very serious problems.
But nobody actually has big, giant, insoluble problems. Nobody. What they actually have is an abundance, a profusion, a proliferation of teeny, tiny little — and more or less soluble — problems.
Depending on how you count them, these problems number from the high five figures all the way to low eight figures. It just depends on how granular(ly?) you want to go.
Overwhelm comes when we use abstraction (abstract thought) — an ability that is not unique to but is highly developed in humans — against ourselves. All overwhelm is due to a bunching up, a rounding up our problems.
- I’ve got to get my life together
- I’ve got to learn this language
- I’ve got to be neater and cleaner
- I’ve got to wash these dishes
- I’ve got to do the laundry
- I’ve got to write to this person
- I’ve got to write to that person
- I’ve got to write to all these people
- I’ve got to get better at communication
No. Stop. Stop it. Get some help.
Slice. Salami. Your problems may be Xerxes’ Grand Army, but you need to filter them through the Pass of Thermopylae so that you’re only hitting one at a time. Let’s just forget that Thermopylae was actually a Persian victory: historical accuracy be damned straight to heck if it gets in the way of one of my silly metaphors. The point is, a tiny army held off a much larger one because the former thought of a way to negate the latter’s numerical advantage. The lesson is: don’t be an idiot and face your problems head on in a grand field battle. Harass and skirmish them like the wily guerrilla/lone sniper you are.
Guerilla. Small war. Your problems don’t nag you; you nag and nibble at your problems. You booby trap cars and run nighttime sneak attacks under cover of fun against your problems.
Sniper. Ingress. Action. Egress. One man (or woman). One mission. One rifle. One target. One round (hopefully)…at a time. Then you move on to the extraction point.
Do not solve any big problems any more. You are out of the Big Problem game. Retire your jersey. You’re never coming back. Solve teeny tiny problems. Learn the one word (phrase) that is in front of you right now. Nothing else. Here. Now. This problem. Nothing else exists. Nothing else matters.
It is good to think big. We can. We probably should. But remember that we can only act small. We have big brains, but tiny hands. Heavy brains, but light hands. Big lungs, but tiny hands. So think bigly, breathe deeply and do one small thing.
You do not have a big problems. You just have a huge number of tiny, easy problems. A gigantically (but not infinitely) long string of fun, small, easy problems. And what do we call that? A game.
Now go play.