The past dozen or so years of my life have been dedicated mostly to learning and growth. Not totally singlemindedly, of course; I've traveled around and done fun things and have also put out a respectable body of work, but most of my focus has been on improvement.
And I needed it. I learned social skills, productivity, programming, writing, and some parts of ten languages. I built strong social circles in several cities composed of people I love and respect, built home bases in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and immersed myself in many different cultures around the world.
Time well spent.
Last night I had the idle thought that I should learn Korean. I miss learning languages, and Korean is a pretty good one. Then I thought about how I plan on spending more time in Budapest and how I should learn Hungarian, even though it is, by all accounts, impossible.
And then I thought: enough learning.
I've had a few friends who have gone back to college not because they need another degree or because they have some unquenchable thirst for knowledge, but simply because they don't know what to do with their lives and college is safe. No one (well, besides me...) criticizes you for going back to school, and you can delay having to live life.
It occurred to me that I'm not that different. Everyone is impressed when I learn a bunch of languages, but it's easy and acts as a substitute for things that don't come as easily to me. It's a sneaky trick, probably one that most of us employ from time to time: doing something worthwhile to mask the fact that we aren't doing what's actually best.
We need to balance building assets and knowledge with taking action, and it's fair to say that I haven't been far enough on the action side of that equation for a while.
My friend Noah Kagan came to visit in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. In terms of taking action towards goals, he's one of the best people I know. We spent a lot of time talking about business, and the differences in our processes was glaring. He has concrete goals and takes action every day trying to reach them. I do whatever I think is best, but not towards a particular goal.
As an indulgence to myself, I finished all of the features I wanted to build for CruiseSheet, using today as a deadline. I chose a revenue goal for a year out, projected what I'd need to make every month to be on track, and sent a copy to Noah. From now on I'll take action on things that will get me closer to that number.
There's a time for learning, but there's a time for action as well. Learning is only really valuable when it is applied, so you have to make sure that you are actually using what you've learned. Until April first of next year I'm going to focus only on action. I'm sure I'll learn some stuff, too, but the ratio will be 90/10 or so.
Are you effectively applying your skills and knowledge into action? I bet about half the people that read this think, "Yeah, of course... that's how you live life", but maybe it will be wakeup call for the other half of us.
Photo is, obviously, the Golden Gate Bridge. Some friends and I rented a sailboat and sailed around the bay a little bit.
If you happen to know about real estate in Budapest, will you email me? My name at my name dot com.
Also, if you haven't checked out CruiseSheet in a while, you should! I've done a ton of work on it recently.
Before going to Romania, I decided I'd try to learn a bit of Romanian. By almost any measure it's sort of a pointless language to learn, but I figured I'd get a kick out of pretending to my I didn't speak any for a couple days, and then all of a sudden surprising my friends by speaking it.
My friend Brian did me a huge favor by going to the library, checking out the Pimsleur Romanian I series, ripping it, and then sending me the MP3s. After finishing the first lesson, I was struck by just how much I enjoyed doing it. I've used Pimsleur tapes to learn Chinese, Japanese, and French (which I never finished and consequently don't remember), but it had been six years since I'd started one.
The returns on learning the first bit of a language are huge. While I don't have nearly enough vocabulary to have an actual conversation in Romanian, doing one half-hour tape every day for a month left me with enough to be able to ask directions, order things at a restaurant, exchange pleasantries with strangers, and buy things. I think I successfully made a joke in Romanian, too.
So after all that, I decided that I'm just going to learn every language. Pimsleur has a list of over fifty that they support. I'm going to start with the ones I'm most interested in that have ninety tapes instead of the thirty that they had for Romanian. I did the full ninety in Japanese, and it got me to the point that I could have actual, if a bit kludgy, conversations.
Growing up in Puerto Rico allowed me the privilege to become fluent in both Spanish and English, arguably the 2 of best languages to become fluent in. Early in my teenage years, I became obsessed with Japan, it was a mix of video games, animation, film and cuisine. Then a Japanese family transferred to my school, and I became even more enthralled with the customs, culture and gestures of Japanese society.
I started learning Japanese. I was easily putting in 5+ hrs a day into learning Japanese, albeit at the time, I was learning it highly inefficiently, using bad books, long podcast and overall taking baby steps instead of immersion. I took a break for a while, after progress seemed to slow and hard, and then took a class in Japanese that introduced me to some new books and ways of learning. Suddenly my knowledge in Japanese increased threefold in half the time. But little did I know even class was not the most efficient way to learn.
Due to a lack of Japanese people in my college, and also a waning interest in Japan due to their economic problems, the strong Yen, and the work culture there, I started learning Chinese. Chinese is a completely different languages: multiple tones, simple, short words, and a completely different grammar system. But Chinese didn't click with me. I am not particularly fond of anything Chinese, although I do wish to the travel the country some day, I am not interested in working in China. Furthermore, China’s English education is leagues above Japan ( Japan, even tough arguably the most advanced and developed nation in Eastern Asia, scores really weak on English) with many of my Chinese friends learning conversational English at public schools. Needless to say, I dropped the class.
The day after I dropped the class, I started learning German. being only exposed to Asian languages for so long, I found German to be a breeze in comparison. Not only that, but my reasons for learning German are more solidly founded. For one, I've been to Germany and liked it, I like the young feel of Berlin, how close it is to home and elsewhere, and the lively people and atmosphere. Secondly, Germany is very economically sound and its political system is rock solid, albeit their income tax is insane, making it a place I would consider staying in for an extended period of time. Last but not least, Germany offers probably the easiest, or at least most practical visa in the EU for staying longer in the Schengen area, a self employment visa.
In only a week I've made insane progress, putting in 4+ hrs a day, buying 2-3 books for reference and constantly etching in patterns into my brain. I am constantly setting goals and trying to reach them. Whether it be do X amount of anki cards or write 100 sentences in 20 minutes I've been churning out German.