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.
“Let’s get physical, physical..let me hear your body talk.”….Olivia Newton-John, metaphysicist and 80’s pop star.
One of my lockers where I cage my books and laptop. Physical activity can be a form of review, which is really key to moving forward in your life. The physical act of going through spaces wakens up ideas and possibilities. Pick one space to “review.” Throw out the irrelevant bring forth the joy.
A couple of posts ago I quoted Snoop Dog, and now I am quoting Olivia Newton-John. Yeah. That’s how I roll. Just the other day I was reviewing my samurai notebooks, where I put ideas and borrowed inspirations and information. As I often do, I use a timer to keep me moving through different tasks. (Timeboxing, read about it later.) I wondered whether I should time the physical act of getting an old notebook out of a storage space. I decided to include it.
When you are making moves towards your goals, you are also making physical moves. Yes, Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and sonnets and all that, but does anyone talk about how many times he had to sharpen his quill? There are all of these unsung moves that needed to happen. Do you want to play guitar? Hey, you know the guitar is not going to get out of the bag by itself.
Ay, here’s the rub. Sometimes making the physical move gets you a little further along your “goal.” You’ve gone through the small act of getting the guitar out of the bag, you’ve tuned it, and strapped it around your neck. Are you just going to put it back down? Probably not. This little physical motion is already giving you momentum.
Khatz over at AJATT taught himself Japanese in fifteen months. A lot of how he explains he did that is physical. Not only was he listening and watching Japanese all the time, his walls and bookshelves were covered in Japanese. The key part is fun. Yes, I get frustrated that I fumble over “stretch” activities I am learning on the guitar. But once I have that guitar strapped around my shoulders, I make time to actually “play” with the guitar.
Make it so that you literally trip on the material you want to become. Inside you will find two lightweight notebooks (one current and one for review), a Japanese book on guitar, and random junk. 🙂
Part of the game becomes finding ways to “physical-ize” your goals. Here are some of my recent moves:
leaving a music theory book underneath my laptop so I there is more of a chance that I will look at it
making sure I always have a Japanese book in my “man-bag”
leaving a travel-sized guitar in the closet at work….buying a $20 tuner . . . after all the work is done for the day I try to spend 15-20 minutes…reviewing and/or farting around
making sure that the battery on my computer at the Writer’s Room stays charged at 80-90%. This means I need to show up everyday and work
make Netflix work by constantly having Japanese DVD’s in my laptop
keep various “study” and “fun” windows open on the browser so they are just there
Make 2013 the year when you get physical with your goals. Let me hear your body talk. Body talk. 🙂
Still waters clearly reflect the possible. Clearing your desk/room is one way to clear your mind and learn more effectively.
A big snowstorm hit a few days ago and unfortunately my oldest daughter had a fever and we didn’t head out for sledding. Before cabin fever set in, I resorted to extreme measures–I began cleaning. I didn’t clean the whole apartment but focused on the stacks of books and paperwork that was starting to make the apartment look like New York City on the second day after a snow storm. Before I take off on another six hundred word essay here are some reasons cleaning is learning:
It’s important to throw things out. It’s important to decide what isn’t important any more. It’s taking up space physically and mentally. ( This goes for your flashcard decks, too. See AJATT on the importance of deletion.)
Cleaning and arranging is an active way to arrange priorities. Sorting gets you to think about what is important, inspiring, or fun. For example, which of the 15 books around our bed do I really want to read?
Cleaning is like an spaced repetition system. Sorting and trashing is like a review of your whole life and priorities. It reminds me of places I’ve been and places I want to be. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, suggests cleaning out a closet when you are creatively blocked.
It’s a “one-minute” reading opportunity. I get a fair amount of professional literature. A lot of it is interesting material, but just letting reading pile up doesn’t help me. I quickly skim headlines, headings, quotes, and ideas before I throw the articles out or selectively save.
Having a clean, calm space is like having a clean mirror. It’s much easier to see and clearly reflects your mind. Anybody who personally has seen my classroom, desk, or room knows that I need to practice what I preach here. However, I’ve noticed that when everything is neater, I “feel” more capable.
Half of the suggestions in this book are about keeping things neat. Neatly arrange your shoes, notebook, etc. I don’t quite live this book, but when I do arrange things neatly I feel calmer and accomplished.
I’m not alone here. Both STUDY HACKS and Zen Suggestions for Simple Living call for cleaning and simplicity as way of
clearing your mind and getting better results. Studyhacks recommends that you start any study session by cleaning your desk. (A principle I often break. :). Don’t wait for the perfectly organized space to pursue your dream, but remember make cleaning and organizing part of your learning toolkit. Clean up your act!
It’s time for the reader’s voices to be heard! Show us your crack, honey! What are you reading or listening to that is fun or just moving you forward.
I will start:
I’m reading a page or two of BECK, a Japanese manga about a rock and roll band. It reminds me to keep thinking/doing guitar and also let me experience adolescent non-polite language. I don’t use a dictionary.
This is a reference manga for the manga series, “Beck.” The manga is about a 90 lb. weakling who joins a rock band. (I didn’t end up following the manga or the anime.) The music guide gives background to all the characters and all the real-life music influences that run throughout the manga. If I read this, not only will I know more Japanese, I will also know more about rock and roll music history. Amazon Japan Link.
Bedtime reading. I’m re-reading 禅、シンプル生活のすすめ. or Zen Suggestions for a Simple Life. I read the table of contents and let the suggestions soak in until I am sleepy. Suggestions include waking up 15 minutes earlier and greeting the day with deep, relaxed breathing.
Half the fun/learning was just browsing. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the book was Zen based. (I read everything but the biggest kanji on the cover. 🙂
When my children are playing by themselves and not turning me into a hospital patient or おおかみ (wolf/monster), I’ve been skimming the honey from Puerto Rico: A Political and Cultural History by Arturo Morales Carrion. I’ve been reading the book backwards like one of the Japanese authors suggests you study history books. I’m getting ready to teach a course on the Caribbean. I’ve been reading the first sentence of most paragraphs and extracting the honey where it smells sweetest.
oodles and oodles of podcasts and now that I brought Snow Leopard (I have an old Mac) home, I have ramen sized servings of Japanese rock and roll (Guitar Wolf, Urufuls, Happy End, etc) ….fun!
If you’ve gotten hooked on CRACK (reading or listening), show us what you’ve got. If you haven’t gotten the crack idea yet from me give khatzumoto at ajatt.com a um, crack.
What do you pull out when you want to stretch your mind and use those little moments? Show us your CRACK.
Make honey. Find honey. Share honey. Use your samurai mind to add sweetness to life. Photograph from unprofound.com.
Sometimes I am as optimistic as a Russian novel set in gulags of Siberia. However, I am finding that optimism is not necessarily something that just magically happens but something you can develop as a habit. I don’t know if this habit will transform your life or anything, but it has slowly transformed how I approach learning and writing. (I owe a lot to AJATT.com and its constant and various ways it encourages persistence and fun.)
I celebrated with neighbors and friends in NYC on New Year’s Day. A mix of traditional Japanese osechi and other delicacies for a tasty new year.
I’m not a New Year’s Eve guy. I have nothing against other people’s celebrations. For me, I like to start the new year well rested and not hung over. I went to bed at 9:30. I celebrated New Year’s day at a mid-day party with Japanese New Year’s food. I don’t necessarily have resolutions, but I have some general directions I’m taking. Maybe they’ll help you become a content samurai and help you know more, do more, and play more in 2013:
read the table of contents before and after I read a book
add speed to the game
play/study with the things that intrigue me
turn the things that bother me and seem impossible into a game
honor the vessel aka find ways to get off my derriere
go a little berserk (which I discovered is also a manga while trying to figure out the exact spelling)
Read the table of contents before and after I read a book
I can be a perfectionist and that sometimes prevents me from playing around with really helpful books, in English and Japanese. I feel like I have to read it cover to cover and I get the いやいや attitude about reading. Lately, I’ve been re-reading Study Hacks! and focusing on the table of contents and just having fun with it. Let the content warm the cockles of your heart. More of that, please.
I was looking at my notes from Furuichi’s book ,１日３０分を続けなさい！Each Day 30 Minutes. Learn to Win! and was reminded of his hint to study things while they are hot for you. That is the best time to study. Looking at my notes on Furuichi’s book he seems to do a lot of calculating of how much time you can gain and up your skills or become a better person. But he also emphasizes the joy part of the game and that you never know where it will take you. Follow the rainbow.
Turn the things that bother me and seem impossible into a game
Osechi ryori includes sweet black beans and other foods, some which symbolize health, wealth, and happiness. I say yes to it all!
I bought a guitar tuner and have a guitar strategically placed in a hidden location away from home. Am I going to be Jimi Hendrix? Probably not. But I can take one part of the piece and dip into Jamplay.com. If music is a language, then maybe taking a little piece every day will help me communicate with music. Today power chords. Tomorrow the world.
Go a little berserk!
Steve Chandler, in his book, Wealth Warrior, asks the question: “Are you willing to go berserk? . . . . It’s usually a person’s unwillingness to go crazy (in a good way) that has them stuck with a boring and financially demoralizing life. ” Study and act on your dreams, inside and out. Don’t be afraid to pull out from the crowd and do what you need to do. Read the book backwards. Find ways to serve. Go berserk! Join me.
One study hack I enjoy is just reading the table of contents. It reinforces positive information I want to have or it’s a nice review of a book I’ve already skimmed. Easier to read on a fast moving train, too. Writer’s Room mug in the background. 🙂
I do crack whenever I have a moment. Well, a crack is actually a moment because the crack that I am using is cracks in time–little moments when I can do a little part of a dream: study a little Japanese, add a couple more sentences to my blog, look at the Circle of Fifths and wonder, what the heck!
“すきまの時間を活用する”：Use Cracks in Time
My trusty vibrating timer. What I like about this timer is that once the timer goes off, it starts counting up and reminds me of how much time has elapsed since I last spent time on focused tasks: writing, cleaning, SRS reps, etc. It’s a gentle way of keeping me honest. Here 21 minutes have elapsed since my last flashcard reps.
I didn’t even know I had a crack “problem” until I started to read Study Hacks by Ryuusuke Koyama (in Japanese). I didn’t even know the word すきま (crack, crevice, gap, opening) until I found this little pocket sized guide to how to more efficiently leverage your mind to learn what you want to learn. Basically, he says you should take advantage of any little moments available to learn and do what you want to learn. He makes two interesting points:
Use the time you would normally be “doing nothing” to study.
The short “crack time” creates a sort of nervousness that can lead to more effective studying.
Use the time you would normally be “doing nothing” to study/play
Koyama says you should take advantage of time commuting to work, waiting time, etc to pull out your smart phone and check out your latest Evernote entries. (I’m still just playing around with this tool to capture notes for guitar scales, notes on Mangajin’s Japanese Through Comics, etc). You could also use Anki, Surusu, or any other SRS system. Or you could just pull out the fun book you are reading in your target language or subject.
You can do crack in the elevator, on the train, waiting for the train, while your children are up to mischief (oh how lovely! you’ve unspooled the toilet paper onto the floor–again!), etc.
“Crack time” creates a sort of nervousness that can lead to more effective studying
Koyama points out that short periods of study have a powerful little benefit. 緊張感。A feeling of nervousness. You set a timer for four minutes and try to get started on the paragraph. You get started and the timer begins to run out and you try to finish and get one more idea down on the page. Little chunks of time turn can turn everything you are trying to attempt into a little game.
And it works best when it feels like a game. If it starts feeling like work, play a new game or just space out.
I know there are going to be a lot of articles and promotions for how to achieve goals for the New Year. But just sit back, relax, and do crack.
There’s nothing like a point card to motivate me to read Japanese. I get double points for buying books on any day with a three in it.
楽しいながら成果が上がるスキルアップのコツと習慣： Improve Your Skills While Having Fun
Study Hacks begins with three glossy pages with photographs of the essential goods you can use to improve the effectiveness of your studying and introduces three key points:
Get goods that will help you concentrate wherever you are.
Use your ears to study. [ラク耳勉強法」Shut out distracting background noise.
Get the “goods” that will help you multiply your study results and passions.
Top Study Hacks! Recommended Goods
Noise cancelling headphones: Koyama displays the same model of earphones I own, good for increasing concentration and “ear study”
IC Recorder: hey, it’s a voice recorder. Keep your learning on an audio loop
iPod: listen to podcasts in your target language or for your target interest.
Massage oil aroma oil: use aromatherapy when you are tired and concentrate–news to me!
Herb tea: herb tea? chamomile, vile weed! I’ll have to get back to you when I get later into the book.
Shadowing materials: Koyama suggests CNN English Express for Japanese speakers to mimic the sounds of English through “shadowing” . . . if you are learning a foreign language find podcasts, youtube materials of things that you would normally be interested in and just mumble through it . . .
“Evernote: make your own dictionary” . . . .Take advantage of the little chunks of time and use this “remember everything” platform to make your own personal learning dictionary
I have to admit, I don’t get out much. Last week I heard about Evernote from a dad I met in the playroom who said he remembered all our names because he had put th
Just started playing around with Evernote to play around with music theory and Japanese! So far so fun!
m into his Evernote program. However, it took reading it in a Japanese book before I actually looked up the program and began playing with it!
So far so good! I’ve been using it to capture my notes from the Jamplay website to remember things like scale patterns and the Circle of Fifths. I’ve also recorded a few of my “jams” (so not ready for public consumption) since I read in the Advancing Guitarist that it is good to record yourself and periodically listen. Evernote makes it easier to keep track of it all.
I’ve also taken pictures of Study Hacks at junctures where I think there are really interesting ideas. What’s really been fun is that I’ve been able to clip dictionary definitions from Midori into my notes for each image. I’ve also started reading the passages outloud with the voice recording tool. (So far I’ve learned that I need to work on the tonality of my voice. 🙂 )
So far, I’ve gotten a lot out of my $14 besides the extra stamps. Yes, I have read tons of study and brain books and some of this book is repetitive. However, it is interesting to me and motivates me to find new vocabulary and incidentally introduces me to new uses of kanji. It’s not boring. When it gets boring I stop. Boredom kills.
I could read Murakami in Japanese but I am not interested in it right now. I’m learning about learning to learn more Japanese and to help others learn more. Quadruple stamps!
Sometimes you just have to jump into your desired skill to enjoy it. The sign from this ice cream shop in Japan says, “If it drinks and it eats the dessert, it becomes happy feelings about this shop.” That’s my philosophy about deliberate practice in one confusing sentence. 🙂
Hi my name is Juan and I’m going to enjoy myself first. (obscure song reference 🙂 ) What got me thinking in this vein was a quote from my current carry around town book, 1分スピード記憶勉強法: Study Method with One-Minute Speedy Memorizing:
If you read things you are interested and read in a relaxed way, reviewing is easier, and bit by bit the you will be steeped in more vocabulary. If you ride the waves of this “Nice Environment”, you will be able to [read English] without knocking yourself out. Masami Utsude
I actually finished this book a while ago but decided to just carry it around for subway rides, waiting for appointments, etc. It’s fun, easy but with a lot of new vocabulary, and just reinforces positive thinking and methods I want to incorporate into my life and learning. It’s like All Japanese All The Time except it’s written in Japanese most of the time! (There are sample English sentences for Japanese learners who want to learn English.)
A big part of learning involves controlling and nurturing your environment and ensuring that you will both push and relax into your hoped for skill. In the morning I create and study flashcards and all that other Silverspoon-push stuff. In the off moments, I may be listening to Japanese music or watching snippets of Japanese youtube videos. Then, I “read” my Japanese books. I may read every word on every page or just read the chapter headings or the table of contents. I don’t worry if I know every word. I may look at a new kanji compound and think, “Wow, I haven’t seen you before.” And then, I move on. I’m light years away from where I was months ago, when a page of Japanese text put me into a cycle of self-loathing.
Whatever you are doing or try to learn, there is a place for “pushing” and practice but an equally important place is relaxing and enjoying your skill. Create a “nice environment””
Begin by being nice to yourself. Be as nice as you would to a child learning to walk.
Think in terms of games. I just realized that some people have crosswords and sudoku and I have kanji. I’m not going to master “kanji” I’m going to play kanji.
Find the teachers and tools that you enjoy or at least choose to enjoy your teachers. Currently, I am watching Steve Eulberg’s lesson on the Circle of Fifths on Jamplay. (They have a sale in December! Follow the link on the right) It’s wracking my brain but, hey, I like the guy.
Make time on your side. Use timers to turn the “pushing” part of your day. Lately, I’ve been going at the Japanesepod101..com lessons (check out yet another link on the right) but using incremental and decremental timers (an AJATT tool) to make it all mission-impossibly fun. It’s also part of adding speed to my game.
Let yourself play and play “bad.” I’ve been playing a lot more guitar since I’ve given myself the opportunity to play badly. In fact, it’s been liberating to give up. Nope, I am not going to play like Keith Richards tomorrow. But I can practice this G scale pattern and noodle around afterwards.
I’m glad we all survived the apocalypse. But the timer is still ticking. Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.
One of the nice things about signing up for Silverspoon, an internet Japanese immersion service, is that you get daily servings of corny motivational phrases. After a while they start to rub off on you, and you start to believe that you can accomplish things. (Motivational reps–resistance if futile 🙂 ) Yes, I am not completely fluent in Japanese. (I’ve been doing/not doing Silverspoon my own way so it’s not really an issue for me.) Yep, just having a hell of a lot more fun doing stuff in Japanese, writing more (in so-called English), and otherwise tripping the light fantastic.
Talk about life long learning. I love that there is a book dedicated to teaching seniors how to play The Ventures. But why wait until you retire to do what you want to do?
A recent “casualty” of the corny motivational Silverspoon phrases has been my guitar playing. I haven’t gone anywhere near my Jamplay.com account in months. It will expire at the end of the year. (Check around Christmas time to New Years–they often have discounts if you are interested. Follow the link on the bottom right of this page.) I was doing the usual response: avoiding thinking about guitar or silently beat myself from it.
Then I got one of the 100’s of emails I get from Silverspoon that said: “.000001% is better than o.” That little phrase motivated me to pick up and tune my Fender and do a little Jamplay. Luckily, I had created Anki cards for my guitar lessons and was reminded to go to beginner lessons by Steve Eulberg. I like his lessons not only because they are clear but also because he is cheerful, hopeful, and teaches you how to keep on learning. I’ve been doing ten minutes before I get to bed. I’ve been learning about the logic of chord progressions and playing them. More importantly, getting to the lessons means that I end up with a guitar strapped around my neck and often just end up playing around.
I can’t promise you that I will keep on playing. It’s a one day at a time thing. However, I can take the opportunity to provide you with some pithy “take-aways” from guitar to help you with any skill you want to take on:
don’t wait for the right materials. Don’t fret about the “right materials” or method. You need momentum. Use the “crappy” materials while you find better stuff. Jamplay is actually excellent but I found myself fretting about the dozens of materials instead of actually picking up the guitar. Luckily, I had created an
If you make the happiness decision then maybe you can experience more creativity in your life. Self-loathing and criticism aren’t going to help you. I finally got around to getting out my Japanese guitar books. Learning through love. Trying to make the happy decisions. Two birds no stone.
SRS flashcard deck out of many of the lessons and that gave me ideas of where to begin. Continue.
have some fun once the “heavy lifting” has begun. Once I had my guitar and stumbling through a lesson, I also had the guitar in my hands and ready to play around.
put your money where your mouth is–pay for a service. The fact that I paid X dollars for Silverspoon keeps me going. The fact that I have to decide whether to renew Jamplay got me back to the guitar.
cross-pollinate your interests and “leverage” your interests. I want to know more about music. I could bash myself and note that I don’t know every band that Eric Clapton was in or I could just have fun. Lately, I have been making Japanese
This is a reference manga for the manga series, “Beck.” The manga is about a 90 lb. weakling who joins a rock band. (I didn’t end up following the manga or the anime.) The music guide gives background to all the characters and all the real-life music influences that run throughout the manga. If I read this, not only will I know more Japanese, I will also know more about rock and roll music history.
flashcards about Happy End and Harumi Hosono, some of my favorite old style rock groups. Two birds rocking and rollin’.
A New Year is approaching but don’t wait until then. Give it .00000001%!