Tag: self-improvement

Zoom Out | Make a Bigger Picture

Zoom Out | Make a Bigger Picture

Sometimes the mistakes you make seem bigger than they actually are. That’s because you’re too zoomed in!

Part of the process of improving any skill is to be honest in your own assessment. You don’t want to gloss over problems that you’re making. There’s no point in sugar-coating and saying it was “perfect” when it clearly wasn’t.

That said, it’s a maddening and unproductive path to nitpick apart every single slip up. If you get too caught up in those actions, you might be too entrenched in self-criticism you forget the point.

Are your reflections actually helping to pave the way to something better?

Don’t be too zoomed in.

Zoom out, and make sure the efforts you make to correct aren’t wasted on the trivial things.

It’s not just about seeing the bigger picture, but taking steps to ensure that you’re moving towards a bigger picture.

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

No one likes to be the “new guy”, whether it’s at work, a class, a club,  a game, or group of friends. It can be intimidating. It’s also super uncomfortable because you’re starting at an absolute zero.

You don’t have the rapport that everyone else has built. Your skills aren’t quite up to par. Your abilities are lacking. You feel like you suck.

And maybe you do suck.

But there’s also a huge advantage that comes with being a newb: clarity.

Let’s say that most of the time, no one can eat what you cook. So you work on perfecting your culinary arts. No bites at all become a few nibbles. A few nibbles become an entire plate. Eventually, people just might ask for a second serving!

The same goes for speaking prowess. First, you’re unable to muster a single word, but then you do. Next, you pick up phrases. Your vocabulary builds, and the quality of discussions to be had improves.

And that’s only if you stick with it. Johnny Nguyen from ExpertBoxing put it this way:

“Of everything you do, only [a percentage] of it’s going to be any good… And that’s only going to be when you make your best effort. If you give a half-assed effort the whole time, 0% of it will be good.”

This leads me to the key point I want to cover. No, no, none of that “it’s okay to make” BS. Let’s face it: as true as that statement may be, it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Instead, let’s talk about the difficulty in tracking progression when you’re not a newbie. Building from the ground up, it’s easier to see how far you’ve come. When you’re in the intermediate stages and try to reach the next level, that’s much more difficult to see.

To take it to the next level, you need to revamp how you see and feel progression. Otherwise, your perspective will trick you into thinking it’s not happening. Just like with fitness, your probably have a terrible sense of self-perception.

For the most part, the school system does a pretty good job of setting a sequence of progression. Whether or not you actually get better, because you’re moving along in classes, you feel like you’re improving.

On the other hand, if you focus your efforts on solely using academics as measurement, you’re going to feel unsatisfied. The payoff isn’t really there. Academics are important, but they’re limited in scope. They can’t really tell you how well you’d do in practical application.

Plenty of language learners, however, will stick to that kind of model because it’s the most familiar method of tracking they know.

And this is why an aptitude for conversation doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. This is why the ability to give directions to a stranger doesn’t feel very rewarding. So even if people are experiencing progression in real life, they can’t see it or feel it.

People have been conditioned to think they need a formalized test in order to get a sense of improvement.

How do I evaluate an advanced speaker? I look for someone who can adapt and deliver.

Too often, language learners obsess about finding the “perfect” vocabulary word. They fail to realize that English doesn’t work in terms of perfect word choices. We need words that are appropriate enough for the topic, context, and listener.

In addition, language learners who obsess on an idealized “perfect English” fail to incorporate variety in their speech. They’ll say the exact same things, the exact same way, every single time. A “perfectly” dull delivery rarely sounds advanced.

Very important speaking qualities to possess, but very difficult to evaluate. And that’s why you need a good coach/instructor to pull you out of your head space. Otherwise, you’re very likely to kill your own progress because you can’t see it.

If you can’t see progress, you probably need a different marker.

If you can’t feel progress, you probably need to re-define your goals. You need to remember the bigger picture.

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"Don't let a couple losses throw you off course. All you gotta do is win someday." #animequotes I had a question from @jomanh1193 a/b its meaning. I thought it was pretty straight forward, but I can understand how it can be confusing. Most of you probably aren't familiar with the phrase "to be thrown off course". Don't confuse this with "of course" which means "definitely/absolutely". When you're off course, that means you're going on a different route from the map. So in other words, when people fail and lose, they don't feel like they're following their plan. They don't feel like they're meeting their expectations. They feel disappointed. "But all you gotta do", this is a reminder that means REMEMBER! Even if you lose today, you can still win tomorrow. Keep going!

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Remember, true progress doesn’t look sexy. That’s why movies always incorporate montages– watching the daily struggles is boring!

Girl Talk: Xmas Plans

Girl Talk: Xmas Plans

Even before I was teaching through The JET Program, I had heard that the winter holiday was better spent outside of Japan. My professor put it like this, “If you’re used to spending Christmas with family, you’re going to want to make sure you’re home during the break. Well… actually, yeah. You’re just going to want to make sure you’re home for Christmas.”

In my first year, I honored that and flew back. By the summer of  2010, I had spent a good chunk of cash on two more trips for friends’ weddings. Three trips back to the US before a full year of working was unheard of!

That winter I wasn’t going to be going anywhere for sure.

I was kind of excited, actually, to see what Christmas in Japan would be like with my own eyes. The year before, I had the break-up that turned my life around [ed note: I should probably put that story to rest in its own write-up, eh?] so I knew that even an uneventful holiday shouldn’t be so bad.

But I can’t lie, the decorations and scenery slowly started to eat at me. You see, in Japan they treat Christmas just like another glorified Valentine’s Day. There’s no sense of family, charity, and goodwill. It’s all about the Christmas honey, honey! Extra lovey-dovey kudos if you’re able to set up something on Christmas Eve.

So while I was trying to keep my feelings in check and not get too hyped on finding the girl of destiny, I started to think I should do something. I reached out to a friend I knew from college and was thrilled she was interested in meeting up on the day.

The only real “catch” was that I needed to go to her area. This meant forking up $100+ to ride the bullet train from Toyama Prefecture to Tokyo.

We hadn’t really been in touch. I was really trying to go into the day without any pressure. Seeing her again was nice– and just that. Nothing more or less.

I thought this was good. I could enjoy this time for what it was: spending Christmas day with a cutie. We chatted some at a cafe. We walked some around the block. And then, with a little twinkle in her eye, she had something she wanted to tell me.

Whatever could it be? Perhaps the key to all this romance stuff really was playing it cool and having no expectations.

“Anyway, I’m going to let you go. Have fun in Tokyo.”

It was a really long train ride back. I haven’t talked to her since.

Now what’s the lesson to be learned here? Despite my best intentions, were my expectations subconsciously too high? Maybe.

Quick sidenote: over the years, I’ve changed my attitude towards “setting low expectations”. It’s not so much you have to be so careful, and you shouldn’t live your life trying so hard to avoid disappointment. You just need to shape yourself to be able to move past disappointment.

But that’s a lesson that’s better served with a different girl story.

The big takeaway from this bad Christmas tale is this:

Don’t ever have your sights, your plans,
your sense of joy so dependent on another person.
That’s got to be all on you.
Your vision, your goals, your happiness–
that’s all on you.

It would take my several more years to nail down this idea. The romance, the girl, the dating– that stuff isn’t supposed to be a “payoff”. That stuff isn’t a reward that’ll turn your life around and make you happy.

Does it add to your life? Definitely! At least, a good relationship will.

More importantly: doing your own things, having your own plans, and then finding someone who’s excited to join them is way, way, way more satisfying.

Without family and friends around that year, I was right in thinking I should’ve done something. But that something should’ve been my own thing– plans that didn’t hinge on someone else to make it a success.

Have you ever spent Christmas alone?