Category Archives: Reading

Samurai Attraction: Get a Little “Shelvish”

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 5.16.16 PM

This is one of the bookshelves I’ve started to go through. Reading is a powerful way to move your life forward. But sometimes we need to give ourselves to not be so precious or serious about our reading. Find ways to be “attracted” to books. Fun is serious stuff. 🙂

This will be the year of getting “shelvish.”  I have been feeling a little overwhelmed that I have all these great books on my shelf that have gone unread and are just “lying there.”   So I’ve begun a one page campaign.   I am going through my bookshelves methodically and just letting myself read one page each night.   Sometimes the information sings to me and I read more.  Many times I get excited and move on to the next book to see myself moving forward.  I bookmark the page and the next night I move on to the next book.

Keep in mind that I am a busy parent and teacher.    I turn to the bookshelf after I finish reading “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Jamberry”  to my three year.  The other day I read two or three pages of David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace:   The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and The Creation of the Modern Middle East.  Last night I read two pages of Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam:  A History.  In the next few nights I will hit Zen and the Art of Making A Living and some other self-helpy materials.  (My bookshelves aren’t necessarily arranged according to the Dewey Decimal system.)  I am also approaching a fun little patch of Japanese manga and self-help books.

We live in an age of information overload and days that may have 1000 demands.   It’s easy to fall into overwhelm.  But increasingly I’m finding it is important to do two things:  1)  think small and 2)  follow joy.    The information or the story or the song has to be attractive and attracted to you because that’s when you can really grow into your skill, into your self the way that you want to be.

Whenever I start to feel a little too precious or self-righteous about reading, I head over to ajatt.com.   The blogmeister, Khatzumoto, taught himself Japanese in fifteen months through fun immersion.  A big part of that involved reading fun materials in Japanese.   One of his latest blog articles is “Multipass Reading:   Be Sloppy the First 10 Times Because You Can Always Come Back.” 

I love this invitation to “read sloppy” because the other option for little ole “perfectionist” me is not to read at all.   Why should I let these hundreds of dollars of books and thousands of hours of human knowledge pass me by because I’m frozen about how to read correctly?  It’s time to be shelvish and just have fun.

If not reading is holding you back, join me!  Let’s make this the Year of Being Shelvish!

Samurai in the Cloud: Bookmark Your Life on the eCloud

The "cloud" is just one more tool to bookmark your life.  Stop worrying and let cloud.

The “cloud” is just one more tool to bookmark your life. Stop worrying and let cloud.

I resisted for the longest time but I am finally on the Kindle “cloud.”  It started with a used Kindle that I bought from a friend, and then I became a real convert when I realized that I could stay “in the cloud” through apps on my iPhone, iPad, or even my computer.

What sold me on the whole process was how I could use the cloud to stay conscious of where I am in all my various life projects.   It’s nice to be in the belly of the subway beast and be in the cloud.  Instead of looking at the skin doctor ads, I can scan a page of “What Color is My Parachute” and work towards finding a new career or re-imaging my current career.   Richard Bolles’ book is now a career searchers’ classic that emphasizes how important it is to really have a vision of what you want before you even search for a career.

Being “in the cloud” I can dip in and out of life process books and always have a constant reminder of where I stand.  The cloud is a way of bookmarking my life.

There is a relationship between my Samurai mind notebook and my cloud.   Since I put juicy quotes and ideas from the various books and projects I am working with and review them regularly (Samurai Mind Notebook),  I am regularly reminded to go back to my cloud for on going inspiration.

The Samurai notebook is a great place to get reminded of ideas.   Theoretically, I review any entry on a roughly algorithmic schedule.   This is great but sometimes it can feel a little haphazard.   Lately for ongoing work and “visioning” I’ve realized I need a more permanent place to keep track of where I am.

Though I can brainstorm in my samurai notebook, google docs is a more permanent place to put final results.  "What Color is Your Parachute" is an interesting, at times challenging way to really explore how you want to go forward with your career.

Though I can brainstorm in my samurai notebook, google docs is a more permanent place to put final results. “What Color is Your Parachute” is an interesting, at times challenging way to really explore how you want to go forward with your life and career. I am still flushing out the categories above.

Enter google docs (or whatever cloud space you like to write on).  I used my samurai notebook to brainstorm and work out some of my “Favorite Fields” using “What Color is Your Parachute.”  However, once I prioritized my favorite interests using Bolles’ system, I put it up in the cloud to be able to work at it from any point on earth.  The samurai mind notebook is more like a sketchbook, while the google docs is a more permanent yet cheap canvas.

The real canvas is my life.  All these different tools are just more ways to play, draw, and create.  Though I try to keep my feet firmly planted on the earth, I am also a samurai in the cloud.  Join me.

 

 

Get in the Fun: Learn a Foreign Language

Use your "addictions" to learn a foreign language.  I choose brain books over manga.  It's just how I roll. :)

Use your “addictions” to learn a foreign language. I choose brain books over manga. It’s just how I roll. 🙂

It’s interesting that as I try to learn Japanese and hunt for books to read, it seems like I am attracted to the same book in different packages.   Basically I seem to be reading the same brain book but with different emphases.   This time I am reading  脳の時間割り  (Brain’s Time Table) .   This book explores how to better use knowledge about circadian rhythms in order to use your brain better.   Hey,  some one should start a website called Samurai Mind Online!

If one of your life goals is to learn a foreign language, I think it is fine to read material where you know or think you know, what the text is saying.  And, I think it helps that it should feel addictive.   These days I am attracted to Japanese language books that also have pictures.   I was attracted to the book’s bright yellow cover and the fact that it had pictures.  Plus, it offered me the promise of being able to use my brain better.  But I thought to myself, “Hey, I have oodles of Japanese brain books at home that I’ve only half way read.  Do I need another Japanese brain book?”  I left the section to scan for more books but the harpy of a book kept calling me.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve gotten from All Japanese All the Time is to go for the guilty pleasures in the language that you want to learn:

Your language-learning method should make you feel guilty. It should make you feel bad. It should make you feel a little dirty. Like learning English by watching Jersey Shore. 

The book reinforces things I already practice.  I am an early riser and walker.  The author, a brain researcher, explains how the sun stimulates brain activity.

The book reinforces things I already practice. I am an early riser and walker. The author, a brain researcher, explains how the sun stimulates brain activity.  Familiarity and fun are key ingredients in learning a foreign language.  Get in the sun.  Get in the fun.

Do I really need yet another Japanese brain book?  Yes, I do.  While it helps do study words and do flashcards, etc, I  need a steady diet of brain candy in Japanese to just keep getting exposed to the language. When I read a Japanese book,  I don’t look up words.  I skip over sections when I start getting tired.  I re-read.   I read the table of contents.  I look at the pictures.

Along the way, I meet a lot of unfamiliar kanji, vocabulary, and unfamiliar grammatical structures.   But I let myself float over this because I also devote time to consciously pushing up on the language with flashcards, sentence study, Jpod 101, surusu, etc.

What’s nice is when these two approaches meet and reinforce each other.   That’s what it is all about.

 

 

May the Non-Force Be With You

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town.  Easy enough and a little adventure to boot.  You don"t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new.  Look for small but powerful shifts.

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town. Easy enough and a little adventure to boot. You don”t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new. Look for small but powerful shifts.

I’ve been in Japan for about three weeks now.  The jetlag has gone away and I am coming to my senses more.   But I’ve noticed one strange thing.  Up until a few days, I had not bought reading material.  Reading is part of my immersion path (I don’t want to say strategy-because that sounds a little too calculated).  I go to a manga cafe almost every day and I have the opportunity to check out magazines and manga every day and I do.   There are a few bookstores close by and I’ve taken the opportunity to go browsing there a few times.  But I’ve only taken one item home.

I’m not worried.   First of all, the fact that I can stroll into a Japanese bookstore, browse, and realize that I am not interested in anything is a big victory.  I know what each section is, I can skim the titles, the table of contents, etc.  One of the things that I rediscovered through AJATT is that reading doesn’t have to look pretty.  In “Why the Way We Read Sucks” series AJATT really explores how to really get the most out of reading by avoiding the stifling obligation patterns we learn at school.  For me, reading is fun but what makes it more fun is also about making choices, rejecting,  and jumping around the text.  Browsing is a powerful reading activity.

Browsing is also a powerful review though it may not feel lik it.  Browsing is a reminder that the most important review is in real-life, in navigating, hunting, and just plain old having fun.  There is a time and place for hard work and effort in real life but fun can work too.   There is a time to be the worker ant and soldier on for the colony.   But there should be time to be like the hummingbird, flitting around and looking for nectar.  There is a time for “force” and “study” but the fun stuff reinforces it and gives it life, too.

Lots of pictures.  Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know.  All part of letting the non-force be with you.

Lots of pictures. Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know. All part of letting the non-force be with you.

I finally found a book at the local Numazu bookstore.  It is a visual guide to how to use an i-Pad mini.   Recently, I’ve been looking for books with a lot of pictures.    Besides the pictures, the nice thing about the iPad book is that I kind of know how to use an iPad already and I am really interested in learning how to use new apps.   I already have the inner motivation to use the knowledge in the book.   I already know a lot of vocabulary but what really helps to “read” this book is my slowly growing knowledge of kanji.  I don’t look up words, write down key sentences, etc.  I am enjoying what I am reading and that enjoyment is sealing the deal on whatever worker ant work I’ve pushed through.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa.  This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa. This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Currently, I am in a manga cafe in Mishima, a quick train ride away from Numazu, where I usually go to the same chain store.  But it was a little bit of adventure to find this place, the books and lighting are different.  I  have work in English to do, but with frequent breaks of intentional Japanese study and just “goofing off.” Currently, I am browsing and looking at book about the pop culture (video games, pop stars, and manga) of Japan in the 80’s.

Use your hard power.  Use your soft power.  Fly like a bee and sting like a butterfly and vice versa.  May the non-force be with you.

 

“Weaponize” It

In real life, swords and spears are a little too pointy and scary.  As metaphors they great.  Nice quote from Boldt:"The Warrior is totally alive. He accepts his life and his death.  Most people accept neither.  They live in terror of death and muddle through life half asleep, scarcely aware of the dangers and opportunities that lie all around them."

In real life, swords and spears are a little too pointy and scary. As metaphors they great. Nice quote from Boldt:”The Warrior is totally alive. He accepts his life and his death. Most people accept neither. They live in terror of death and muddle through life half asleep, scarcely aware of the dangers and opportunities that lie all around them.”

I’m trying to re-envision for work, for myself,  my audience and students.   I bought Zen and the Art of Making a Living, by Laurence G. Boldt, many years ago but was put off by its size and its tendency to ramble.   But I’ve decided to put a few minutes each day into reading it and its starting to get its grip on me.   Zen contains a lot of questions and exercises to reflect on your life, vision, and how to translate that into a career.

The effect of Zen and the Art of Making a Living has the potential to be even more powerful because I have put key parts of it into my samurai mind notebook.  A samurai mind notebook is just an over the counter-notebook that I fill with inspiring ideas, skill work, and reflective exercises.  What “weaponizes” the notebook is that I review these notebooks on a rough “Spaced Repetition System” schedule.   I have an easy to use system where I am reviewing my notebooks 1 day, 2-3 days, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year basis.   If I hit upon positive knowledge or inspiration or even reminders to follow up on different projects, I place that in the latest notebook.

Reviewing my notebook, helps me create my own inspiration and information ecosystem, that reminds me of what is important to me and through others’ word helps me expand in areas where I want to grow.   Looking at my notebook provides a little immunity from the information ecosystem that the media provides us: despair, statistics, stories of violent crime, etc.   So instead of picking up the daily rag and reading about who is divorcing who or who killed who, I get a little message that directs me to myself and to how to best serve the world.

For example, one of the fun ideas I’ve gotten from Laurence Boldt is the idea of playing the career game without getting to wrapped up in it.  I put one of his affirmations into my samurai mind notebook:

Because I choose my career with full awareness, I am able to play with intensity without getting serious.

I wrote that quote into my notebook on June 9th and then came across it again in relaxed reviews on June 10th, June 11th, and June 13th.  I would then come across that thought a week later, two weeks later, etc.  If upon review, my spine tingles and my heart quickens and I realize I really need that thought right now, I will copy it again into the latest notebook entry so the thought gets further looped into my daily routine.  A useful thought is now further “weaponized” into my  mind.

Keeping a samurai notebook is one way to fight for your life.  A notebook helps fight against mental decay, despair, and has the potential to multiply the benefits of any self-improvement work you are doing.  Pick up that pen.  Use it.  Weaponize.

Samurai Addiction: Become A User

This book is huge but I like it.  Reading it on an iphone breaks it up into bits.  I skim until I get to the interesting parts.  I use it as a treat to keep pushing.  Yes, nerd alert.

This book is huge but I like it. Reading it on an iphone breaks it up into bits. I skim until I get to the interesting parts. I use it as a treat to keep pushing. Yes, nerd alert.

I’m reading on the cloud these days and loving it.  I bought a Kindle from a friend and am enjoying the fact that I can read a book “on the cloud.”  I can read on various computers, my ipad, and my iphone.   Ironically, it is not available on the actual kindle.  I am reading The Making of Modern Japan, a massive book that I actually own a print version of.    The estate of the author, Marius Jansen, is probably enjoying a few extra cups of coffee thanks to me.  Reading on the cloud has become addictive but I am learning to use the addiction.

The Making of Modern Japan is not in Japanese and thus takes me a little bit away from my goal of Japanese fluency.  But reading on the cloud has become addictive enough that I have learned to use it.  When I noticed how much time and attention I was putting into the book, I decided to use the energy.  In order to turn the page, I do a rep of electronic surusu flashcards.   (What I really appreciate about these cards is that pretty soon after you do a few, it congratulates you on “repset finished” or something like that.  You feel a sense of accomplishment and can move on.)  You can substitute any short 2-3 minute “push” activity.  After you finish you can briefly return to your non-harming addictive activity.

So the next time you find yourself complaining that you just wasted a bunch of time looking at Facebook, think about how you can use the addictive pull towards healthy pushes.  After checking a screen full of statuses, slide over to your guitar, tune it, and do one little exercise.  Hey, don’t blame me if you end up practicing for half an hour.  🙂  You don’t have to practice for half an hour.  Just five minutes and you can go back to your virtual paradise.

Of course, I could hybridize my crack and find a really addictive book in Japanese and double the pleasure.  But this book has been beckoning me for years but because of how large it is and how I have perceived time, I have avoided it.  Now that I can read it in so many places, I am enjoying it.  (I gloss over the mind-numbing stuff about bakufu administrative structures).   So instead of being pissed off at myself for reading in English, I am surfing the pleasure wave and using it as an incentive to push a little more in Japanese.

Use your non-fattening, non-harming mini-addictions.   Become a pusher.

Samurai Reading Sluts: How to Become One

Pile on the fun with books for fun and profit.  :)  Photo from unprofound.com.

Pile on the fun with books for fun and profit. 🙂 Photo from unprofound.com.

Khatz over at ajatt.com has posted an excellent article called “12 Common Reading Mistakes You’re Making That You Need to Stop Making if You Want to Be Thin and Pretty Like Me.”  Just looking at the title and the summary jolted me into re-reading the Japanese book that has been lingering in my man-bag.  Here’s the helpful snippet:

Stop trying to read in massive chunks of time Most of life is waiting. Most of life is disjoint snippets of time: two, three, five minutes here or there. That’s when you read. Stop trying or waiting for some golden multi-hour block . . .

I think that my problem with reading is that I tend to see reading as a marriage til death do us part kind of process.  Probably what might be most helpful is to adopt a philandering, slightly-abusive role model towards books:

  • Read more than one book at a time.  I have light books for taking on the train, heavy books like Zen and the Art of Making a Living that I work through pages at a time, and books that are pleasing but sufficiently unexciting for right before bed.
  • Graffiti and abuse certain books.  Yeah, get all juvenile delinquent on some of your books.  Some books have been untouched on my shelves for years, and now I am getting use value from them by writing on them, dog-earring the pages, and just making sure that I’m not reading passively.   My music theory book has gotten and will get the most abuse.
  • Read for free until you don’t.   I just recently got a kindle.  It’s so easy to sample books and eventually I end up buying something and supporting authors.    Just skimming and sampling seems to be good for my brain.  I’m out there searching for good ideas.  As of two days ago, I just discovered reading “on the cloud.”  It is so nice to be able to jump into a book from the computer, to the iPad, to the iPhone.
  • Quick and dirty.   Slow and savor the flavor.  It’s all good.  There are so many ways to enjoy reading.   Skip pages.  Read the end first.   (I used to read history books that way.)   Read the first sentence of each paragraph until you hit something good.  I recently read Guitar Zero that way.  Enjoy all the positions.

Most importantly, have fun.  Ironically, this is one of the key messages of the Japanese book that I am reading, 情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術 (Increase Your  Information Rate 10 Times Through the NLP Speed-Reading Method).   There’s a lot of NLP talk about “anchoring” and “filtering” in this book.  Basically, when we have negative thinking towards reading we become less efficient
in retaining information and even continuing to read.

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop.   Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up.   Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven't.   A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out.  Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop. Reading closely and savoring each word still has its place, but adding a little velocity to your learning game through speed reading or pre-reading is a way to shake things up. Do you have any books on your shelf that you think you should read but haven’t. A quick read might give you the lay of the land to read it or get the best part out. Feel free to eat the best part of the tuna!

The book includes exercises on getting in the right frame of mind to enjoy reading, but it’s also important to change the way we read in order to continue to read.  There’s no one way.   You are not contracted to any book.  Speed date.   Skip lines.   Pick them up off the street.  Have fun.  🙂

Keep it Greasy!: Bookmark Your Talents

Unchain the wheels of your talent.   Little moments of practice.  Keep it greasy.

Unchain the wheels of your talent. Little moments of practice. Keep it greasy! Photo from unprofound.com.

Sometimes some skills seem so far away and our lives are so busy that it may seem like it is impossible to attain certain talents.  Japanese? French?  Arabic?  Guitar?  Coding? Farfegnoogin?  Fuggetaboutit?

But lately I’ve been taking advantage of little opportunities for practice and instead of thinking I’ve got to have it all at once, I’m telling myself, “I’m putting a bookmark here” and then just letting go.  I’m still a “private dancer”  as far as guitar goes, but the days of staying away from the guitar now seems a little foreign to me.  I ain’t makin’ no promises to you, or even myself.  I’m just moving the bookmark a little each day and yes, having some fun.

It’s all part of not breaking the neural chain, man. (hippie voice)  One of the key components of little moments of practice is that they work with the way the brain works.  As books like The Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent point out little moments of practice keep the neural  pathways greased.  The phrase you practiced yesterday becomes more natural and may even enter long term memory.  You want a learning affirmation from me?  “Keep it greasy.”

The beauty of it all is that you will either keep a bookmark in that talent until more time opens up or by taking one small action every day realize that the impossible goal is within your reach.   In other words those little bookmarks of five minutes will remind you that your targeted area is important and/or will become the opening wedge that will lead you to hours of practice and progress.

Who can eat just one french fry?  Keep getting greasier and greasier.

Keep on Hacking, Samurai!

When I first tried to start immersing in Japanese, I carried around a CD player and an electric Japanese dictionary.  (Yes, I was one of those guys who refused to get the latest technology.)  I ditched the CD player many moons ago and when I bought an iPod and then an iPhone.  I left the denshi jisho at home and started using the Midori app.  My arms and my back thanked me as I dropped all the weight.

Midori allows you to create different lists in addition to allowing you to view your history. I started lists of vocabulary from a few books but these days I just try to enjoy books and immerse in vocabulary through context.

Midori allows you to create different lists in addition to allowing you to view your history. I started lists of vocabulary from a few books but these days I just try to enjoy books and immerse in vocabulary through context.

Midori is a robust little Japanese-English dictionary app that allows you to look up Japanese and English words and names, either by typing or drawing the kanji.  One nice feature is that Midori allows you to create word lists and also allows you to create flashcards from those vocabulary.

I have a couple of “rules” when I look up and study vocabulary:

  • I have to be genuinely interested in the word.  When it comes up again on flashcards, I like to have some pleasant association.  Like when I went on a hiking trip with three Japanese folks in their 60’s.   We stopped at a souvenir shop and discovered bags of candied rice grasshoppers (いなご).  Pleasant.
  • I don’t have to “finish” studying vocabulary on my list.  Midori is mainly an option when I don’t have internet access, I don’t have easy access to a book, and have a little “crack” of time.  I just take a little off the top each time.  When it stops being fun or starts feeling like work, I stop.

However, I’ve added a little change to my vocabulary games.  Learning vocabulary by studying words in isolation is not the most efficient way to learn vocabulary.  Both antimoon and ajatt have both clearly laid out why using sentences and engaging content are the best way to acquire vocabulary and another language.   (Informallanguage goes as far as saying “Disregard grammar …acquire vocabulary.  Kind of unrelated but a fun post.)

It's great to look over the history of which words you've looked up.

It’s great to look over the history of which words you’ve looked up.

Lately, I realized that I was falling into the learning vocabulary by isolation “rut.”   So I’ve added a step to Midori flashcard reviews.  Once I come across a word I’ve forgotten, I look up the word again.   Most definitions include sample sentences. I read those sentences aloud (or mumbling if I’m in the subway–just another New Yorker talking to himself in tongues 🙂 ).   I stop before I’m bored.  I “own” a few more words because of that.

The bigger point is to keep inventing games for yourself. Daniel Coyle, author of The Little Book of Talent, writes that when you get in a rut you need to shake it up:

Research by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University and co-editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, shows that the best way past a plateau is to jostle yourself beyond it; to change your practice method so you disrupt your autopilot and rebuild a faster, better circuit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Khatz, the dude that turned me on to that little book, recently wrote “Dude. Do It. It Will Work.”  He explains why you should keep on following your mind and trying new methods:

Because I just know. It’ll work.
And even if doesn’t work…it’ll work.

Why?
Because when you do it, you become a doer, a tryer, a player1. You become the kind of person who:

  1. Has crazy ideas, and
  2. Actually acts on them

I know, doing flashcards differently is not shaking up the world but it’s all part of how I am moving in ways that I wasn’t two years ago.  Party on. Excellent.

Word Warrior: Samurai Vocabulary Power

Why do large vocabularies characterize executives and possibly outstanding men and women in other fields? The final answer seems to be that words are the instruments by means of which men and women grasp the thoughts of others and with which they do much of their own thinking. They are the “tools of thought.“

—Johnson O’Connor

 

Attaining great vocabulary doesn't mean you use the "highest" words all the time.  Malcolm X knew how to shift his vocabulary for his different audiences.

Attaining great vocabulary doesn’t mean you use the “highest” words all the time. Malcolm X knew how to shift his vocabulary for his different audiences.

They say that the Inuit peoples have seven different kinds of words for snow.  Hey, if you are surviving in the Northern regions it’s helpful.   Is it the soft powdery stuff or the crunchy hard, bite through your face stuff?.   An increased vocabulary gives you the capability to have more pigeon holes to understand the world.

Malcolm X discovered that while he was in prison.   Imprisoned in Norfolk County Prison, X decided to fill in the gaps of his education by first skimming through a dictionary then by copying out pages of the dictionary.   He had discovered the Nation of Islam and found that he lacked the word power to express himself effectively.   X flowed between this steady vocabulary study to his own highly motivated reading and writing, freeing his mind even though he was imprisoned:

I was so fascinated that I went on—I copied the dictionary’s next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary’s A section had filled a whole tablet — and I went on into the B’s. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary.

I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors — usually Ella and Reginald — and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.        —-The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X became a word warrior and traveled the world because of his ability to learn.

You don’t have to go prison to become a word warrior.  🙂 .  However, what X’s story reminds me of is the importance of moving between intentional word study and reading for joy, enlightenment, transformation, etc.   Malcolm X started by being highly motivated to read and write texts that inspired and informed him.   Frustrated by his word power he went all samurai by copying out the dictionary.   (That’s not the only option for developing word power.)   His increased word power allowed him to read more, which in turn increased his word power.

When I have a short amount of time, I study using the iPhone with Midori.  I collect words from reading, listening to music, etc.  There's a flashcard program but it only focuses on single words rather than sentences.

When I have a short amount of time, I study using the iPhone with Midori. I collect words from reading, listening to music, etc. There’s a flashcard program but it only focuses on single words rather than sentences.

As far as developing my Japanese vocabulary, I like to follow AJATT’s philosophy of “Let Go, But Don’t Let Go”:

In more concrete, Japanese/SRS terms, this means that you need to be:

  1. Adamant about learning a new word/words every day, but…
  2. Completely relaxed, laidback and lackadaisical with regard to specific words

Learn a word, but don’t bother learn that word. Learn new things, but don’t get hung up about anything in particular. Don’t get stuck on a specific word; don’t have one-itis for any specific word. Screw it. Pick an easier word. Pick a word that’s…I dunno…”giving it up” easier, as it were.

In the mornings, I do all kinds of word study through Surusu, Anki, Japanesepod101.com, and iKnow.   Throughout the day, I do repetitions of the words I’ve studied–or not.   But what is really important is that I have books and media that move me to be hungrier to play with words more–my Youtube music and drama lists, DVD’s from Netflix, my man-bag books, podcasts etc.

Push. Relax. Push again.  Connect.  Free your mind.  Word up.