Author: Jon Dao

English Lesson: To Wrap My Head Around

English Lesson: To Wrap My Head Around

To understand feels good. Not being able to understand feels bad. And, being able to express you don’t understand is super important.

Having a variety of expressions is also helpful. Too often, non-native speakers will jump straight to “I don’t understand”. Depending on the context, straight and to the point can be best. Unfortunately, if you’re always too direct and basic, it makes your language comprehension skills seem lower than they are.

If you’re in the intermediate-advanced range, you should know different ways to dance around your unfamiliarity:

  • I tried, but I still don’t get it.
  • I’m not sure I follow.
  • I think I might, but I’m not positive on what you mean.

Those kinds of phrases, while natural, are a bit harder to utilize.

It might be easier to use a substitute like “to wrap my head around” (to comprehend, to visualize, to understand fully/well).

Most of the time, you’ll use this phrase in the negative form:

  • I hear you, but that’s so hard for me to wrap my head around.
  • I can’t quite wrap my head around it.
English Lesson: More (ADJECTIVE) Than Ever

English Lesson: More (ADJECTIVE) Than Ever

If you learn English in the traditional academic sense, of course you’re going to learn about adverbs. The concept of an adverb is easy enough to comprehend. The cool thing about adverbs is they seem pretty easy to use too.

Adverbs can detail and add emphasis to your adjectives and verbs.

Unfortunately, if you’re attempting to elevate your English ability, you’ll want to wean off heavy adverb usage. “Good writing” advises minimizing it, but as the Conversation Coach let’s focus on how it affects your speaking.

Even when someone says “I don’t speak English”, s/he is going to know these words:

  • very
  • really
  • so

And when we use them in sentences, it can look like this:

  • I’m very happy. / This is very good.
  • I’m really happy. / This is really good.
  • I’m so happy. / This is so good.

Great! All “perfect” English. As you go down the list, it sounds more and more natural.

So what’s the problem?

If these are the only ways you know how to add emphasis, you sound too basic. That’s more of a problem with “very” than “really” or “so”. A little variety is good, so here’s a simple way to add variety: more (adjective) than ever.

Modifying our list from before:

  • I’m very happy. –> I’m happier than ever.
  • This is very good. –> This is better than ever.

By using this phrasing from time to time, you can sound like you have a stronger command of English without that much more effort.

To Get Worked Up

To Get Worked Up

My client, “T”, had heard about a problem patient. His colleagues said,

“This patient really gets worked up.”

What does “worked up” mean?


If you’re “getting worked up” over something, that means you’re irritated and on the way to being angry.

So could you just swap out the words? Sure.

Then, why would people use “worked up”? Remember, being a better speaker means you get to have a preference for which words you use. You can develop your own speaking style.


You would rarely use “worked up” for yourself. It’s much more common to use it to describe someone else.

“Wow, he’s really getting worked up over this meeting.”

In other words, you’re surprised that the meeting is bothering him so much.

Let’s took a look at some more nuances:

  • I’m angry. (perfect English, but it just sounds too simple to be said)
  • I’m really upset. (similar problem as above, but now it sounds even more formal; by sounding too “polite” it really won’t convey your feelings)
  • This is pissing me off. (very casual, you’ll totally sound like a native speaker)
  • This has me all worked up. (technically correct, but still sounds weird because it’s not common to use it for your own perspective)
  • I know I shouldn’t be getting so worked up over this. (using your own perspective, but it’s downplaying the situation; sounds ok)

Don’t Confuse With:

There are a lot of phrasal verbs using “work” as its base, but many of them are positive in meaning.

work out – to exercise

“I try to work out three times a week.”

work out – to negotiate, to come to an understanding, to solve a problem/disagreement

“We managed to work things out.”

work up to – to gradually reach a point

“It’s rare to be hired as a CEO. You need to work your way up to that position.”

Think Less, Talk More

Think Less, Talk More

I’ve been pretty absent online in 2018. For one, I didn’t create a lot of content: podcasts and video fell to the wayside. And even when I wrote, it was just so… empty. Bare bones stuff.

That was my attempt to be efficient– direct and to the point.

But then it was just words on a page with no life. No spice. No zest. That writing didn’t give any sense of Jon Dao.

And the real killer is– one of my big learning moments of last year– no matter how simplified you try to make a lesson, sometimes it just doesn’t stick anyway. So damn, what’s the point, right?

knew the whole social media puzzle wasn’t something I was going to crack anytime soon, so I let my online projects sit to the side. I focused on my in person clientele and through working with them I keep getting ideas:

  • December Dumps
  • Check Your Case
  • Endless Insecurity
  • You Don’t Know You

And none of those things make any sense to you, but oh man, I’m excited to develop those bullets into media when I get the time.

Hm. So there’s another epiphany…

On the fitness front, I’m constantly telling people to adapt to the time available. Embrace the 15 minute moments to workout instead of searching for the hour long stretches that just might not manifest in your current lifestyle. Things don’t need to be perfect. Things don’t need to be crazy. You just need to find consistency.

On the communication side, I’m constantly telling people to get outside their head. (This is in the context of working with people who overthink, deal with self-esteem issues, struggle in finding the confidence to speak.) Crafting the “perfect” thing to say in your mind is too slow of a progression. You need to talk things out loud. You need to refrain from being overly self-critical, so you can stumble towards success. It’s tougher, but the improvement rate is so much faster.

And so with both sides, I realize I’m not doing such a good job of practicing what I preach. Oh sure, I’m consistent with my own fitness. And, I developed a good system of consistency to re-ignite my Japanese study.

But, for whatever reason, that didn’t work with the whole online thing. I overthought that to hell.

I didn’t refrain from being overly self-critical. I had no chance to stumble because I didn’t even move. I stayed inside my head. I’d dream of the ideal and put things off until they were “perfected”.

I want to be the guy who practices what he preaches. Sure, I’d like to be cool too. I’d love to gain a bit more notoriety. But more importantly, I want to do it Ghandi-style: I want to be the change I want to see.

In order to encourage others to take action with less reserve, I need to be making strides too. I’m hoping 2019 is one of my most creative years ever.