Checking in

If you recall, I registered to take the JPLT N4 way back in September, took the test on December 2nd, and finally received the results… on February 7th! These lead times are extreme. You certainly can’t decide to take the test on a whim, and after taking it you have to pretty much ignore the forget about the test and push on. The answer sheets are those multiple choice score cards that I had used back in high school that I imagine fire through a machine rapidly to calculate. Amazingly, it takes 2 months to receive the results. I can only speculate what happens to our answer sheets during those 2 months. Perhaps there is no machine and they are manually calculated. Or someone thoroughly checks all of the answers and ensures that there are no errors in filling out each answer circle wholly without additional answers or marks so that the machine can properly process them. Or, they just put them on the shelf for weeks and enjoy Christmas vacation, come back on January 20th to stamp and send out the results.

After taking the N5 in 2015, I remember that I had taken a nice 1.5 year hiatus from learning Japanese. I learned my lesson and only had an 11-day hiatus this time. Since I had taken the N5 test and barely passed years ago, I wanted to check my status with the N4 test after getting back into the studies, even though I had yet to get through half of the N4 content.

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That works out to almost 39%.

Maybe I was shooting for an upside surprise due to being able to recognize hundreds of kanji beyond the N4 level. It turned out that this didn’t give me the edge that I needed.

Studying Japanese, and my other endeavors, where days turn into months, and months turn into years, comes as a shock when looking back and progress is almost imperceptible.

It reminds me of a couple of movie scenes.

The first is The Shining, where Jack has been writing for a month (only a month!) and Wendy decides to check on his progress.

Secondly, a similar situation from a Beautiful Mind.

Well, I already knew that I hadn’t covered half of the material, but it is discouraging anyway.

This is a juncture where I try to balance the contradictory advice given for goal-setting and taking action. Timothy Ferriss can be taken in small doses, and here is a quick Absolute Motivation interview with him touching on Peter Thiel’s philosophy on the topic.

Why can’t you accomplish your 10-year goal in the next¬† 6 months?

With this thinking, from the outset you would simply brainstorm about how to learn or accomplish something and perhaps the smartest way to do it. Or find that opportunistic niche to explore. You are forced to think outside the box in order to accomplish your goals rapidly. Perhaps the Tim Ferris approach would be to dissect the test question format and find a loophole, or interview people who passed the test and find the optimal methods or resources. Neither of which are bad ideas. 

And then I would say that the opposing traditional and rational advice would be to start, check progress, adjust, continue, or something along those lines. Check your progress and if it isn’t progressing, change what you are doing. I would put this together with Japanese “kaizen,” to make continual incremental progress over time. With this mindset, I would celebrate getting 40% on the next test.

Here is a monologue / auto-biography by the successful real estate agent and investor Mark Ferguson in 25 minutes. He clearly lays out the fact that it took him years of hard work to get to where he is, which leans towards the traditional approach above. But, he outlines that he calculated a goal of how many houses that he needed to sell to do well. Following that, the twist and somewhat contradiction within the single video is that he eventually found a niche that he could exploit and focussing on that propelled him towards his goal rapidly versus his previous years of efforts. But he wouldn’t have known about it had he not been involved in the business for awhile and open to new ideas.

So it looks to be a combination of all of the above. Stick to it, and keep your mind open to a better way. Follow what works.


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