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The Art of Focus: F the Big Picture

May 5, 2013
By

He who tries to defend everything, defends nothing.

Frederick the Great

Okay, so that quote doesn’t directly fit the title (or this article), but a modification of it does.

He who tries to learn everything, learns nothing.

This, however, does match my point. Many, many times there are great ideas that fall to the wayside because of a lack of focus. Many times I, too, have been guilty of this. It’s ever-to-tempting to bounce around in Japanese, not focusing on any one thing.[1] It’s an easy trap to fall into: you start Kanji, but then realize you need kana too. While jumping to hiragana, you realize you need to learn both sets of kana and how to read them. Soon after, that annoying little voice inside your head[2] reminds you that you need to be able to understand it, speak it, write it, carry on conversations with native Japanese people…

Woah, boy. Easy.

Slow down for a moment. Back the hockey puck up. Aren’t we putting the cart before the horse here? If you aren’t even through the Kanji phase, why are we talking about anything else?

You’re looking at the big picture, that’s why. You’re trying to emulate Rembrandt when you can’t even hold a paintbrush yet. It’s akin to attempting to make Escargot when you burn scrambled eggs. You have motorized the cart while forgetting to tell the horse. Poor horsey. 🙁

Looking at the big picture (that is, looking at everything that we “have” to learn) is not only dangerous, but it’s unproductive as well.

The Big Picture on Why to Not Look at The Big Picture

Why dangerous, you ask? Simple – looking at the large scope of learning (or getting used to) Japanese can make it look like a daunting, near-impossible, endless task.[3]

By nature, humans don’t like monumental tasks. Japanese “in general” is what many consider a monumental task, but, let’s face it: learning any new language is. Keeping the scale of this in mind is dangerous because it is very demoralizing if you sit and think about it. So, instead of thinking about how much there is to do, put that energy into completing one more task.

So, why is it unproductive? Honestly, that’s pretty self explanatory as well. The more time you think about the list of things to do, the less time you’re spending actually learning Japanese. Again, spend that energy learning Japanese instead.

Learning “everything”[4] won’t happen. Don’t focus on becoming fluent. Don’t focus on making lists of what you have to do, or keeping progress as you go. Do focus on where you are currently. Do focus on the task at hand.

Do one more card. Learn one more Kanji, kana or sentence. F the big picture, you don’t need it. Nobody ever learns all there is to learn about Japanese anyway, so the “big picture” of “everything” is useless.

Focus on the task at hand. Focus on completing that next attainable goal you’ve set.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Sometimes bouncing around can be a good thing, but try not to do it too much.
  2. I’m not the only one who has one of those, right? Right?
  3. Well, it is endless, but impossible? Nah. Daunting? Maybe, until you hit the “clicking point”.
  4. There really isn’t an “everything” to learn. There are many, many things, but not a conclusive collection that could be enveloped into a package of “everything”.

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