Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Fun of Hubris

Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew?  You know that choking feeling when you do that?  And how people facepalm since you straight up told them that you were going to do it?  Yeah, that feeling.  It's not pleasant, is it?  You start to wonder if people think you're incompetent, especially after the seventh time you do it.

Maybe you said you would run a marathon three months from now, yet currently can't run a mile.  Is there the possibility if you making it?  Of course.  But the odds are against you.  Weather will keep you from training.  Excuses will flow.  Injuries will happen.  By the time of the marathon, you can only run a few miles.  This was me three years ago.  While I completed a 10k (I ran two thirds of it and walked the rest), I had originally signed up for the marathon.

So what did I do now?  I'm not sure if I mentioned it here, but I had planned to move to Japan one year from now, though work, and live there for two to three years.  To do this, I would need to have a high level of Japanese.  Could it be done?  Of course.  Can it be done while working full time?  Yes, but it would be difficult. How about when you have a history of burning out from trying to learn the same language too fast in the past.  Well...

Even with me moving my planned transfer to next summer, it wouldn't be enough time.  I'm still at a beginner level in Japanese and would need to be at least at the upper end of the intermediate level to really have a chance at getting a role at my company's Tokyo office.  There is a test given by the Japanese government, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, the JLPT, which is broken into five levels.  I had planned to work toward the N4 level test, the second easiest, for this summer.  There is an online test I can take, one that isn't an official test but is still well regarded, that I would have taken in the fall to see if I should take the N3 or N2 level tests when it's offered in December.  I would have taken the online test again in the spring to see what level I would be at for the summer JLPT.

Ah, hubris, my good friend.

I've been learning Japanese for a couple of years.  You do recall me saying how I'm at a beginner level, right?  I've burnt out multiple times over the years.  Months could pass before I picked it back up again and restarted my studies.  I guess that didn't humble me enough.  I think I have always pushed too hard and too fast.  Being in my mid-30's, I want to enjoy the results of something.  And so I wasn't smart about getting to the finish line first.

I have actually fallen behind in my studies already.  While I'm catching up, I have so long to go and so much to learn, that I know I'll fall behind again.  Falling behind is what caused me to burn out last time.  If I burn out, I'm done.  Because of that, I need to slow down.  I have too many things going on and it's causing me to fail.  I can't keep learning multiple kanji a day, multiple vocabulary, grammar points, reviewing all of the above, listening to Japanese, practicing speaking...  With my full time job, I just have too much going on.

Hubris is a humbling experience.  Or at least it should be.  Until this point, I've been ignoring it, and have paid the price of wasted time and effort.  By continuing to do this, I'll accomplish nothing.  I have enough time left in my life that I can afford to slow down.  By learning fewer kanji and vocab each day, I'll have fewer to review.  That should make life easier.  I'll get there one day, I'm too stubborn to do otherwise, but that day will be further into the future.

I will one day pass the JLPT N1 exam.  I will one day spend time in Japan and speak with the locals in their own language.  My pace may be slower, but it's a lot more steady.  With such a weight off my shoulders, I can stand taller and see further.  And what I see is Japan.


  1. Everyone has these moments Matt. Just take it slow and work towards your goals. You'll get there eventually, as long as you keep on walking. Good luck!