• The Importance of Frustration

    by • July 10, 2013 • Languages , Learning New Skills , Life Lessons 2 Comments

    I think one of these days I’m going to rip somebody’s head off.

    I’m back in Japan and meeting with people speaking Japanese, trying to practice my Japanese some more, etc. I still fail.

    One day I’ll have a really good conversation that lasts about an hour and I’ll be really proud of myself because I understood almost everything and the conversation flowed well. I’m speaking in Japanese!

    The next day, I’ll be having a conversation and then I’ll realize that I have no idea what this person is talking about. The last 3-4 sentences they said absolutely didn’t register at all. Now I’m completely lost. Now I’m getting frustrated. Now I’m getting mad at myself. And, now I’m tuning out even more. I look at them, their lips are still moving, they’re still speaking Japanese, but I’m not catching any of it.

    “Fuck this. I’m going home.” I think to myself. “I’ll never speak Japanese. This shit is too hard. It makes no sense.”

    And, that’s it. Once I’m frustrated I zone out.

    I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish I didn’t get frustrated. But I do, I’m human.

    But, the truth is…

    Frustration is part of the learning process.

    In Josh Kaufman’s  book: in the chapter on learning programming he mentions:

    ”If you can avoid the impulse to throw your computer across the room, the instant feedback can make programming quite addictive.”

    The thing is: the impulse to throw your computer across the room while learning programming is very real .

    As is saying to yourself, “Fuck this language. I’m going home.” when you are learning a new language.

    It’s part of the human experience. Nobody is harder on us than we are on ourselves. But we’re never hard like this on others. In others we see the progress. If you have a child, or a friend, or you’ve ever been a tutor or a teacher, you know what I’m talking about.

    Back when I used to tutor people in math I’d always see it. The student would be getting it, they’d be getting it… and then, they’d come to a new problem, a little more complex.. they’d almost have it figured out and then… BAM! the pencil slams down on the desk. “I’m just not good at math! I’m not made for math! My daddy wasn’t good at math! I’m not good at math! That’s just how it is!” I think I just lost him.

    We don’t like experiencing difficulties.

    Why can’t this just be like the Matrix? Why can’t I just plug something into the back of my head and learn Kung-Fu instantly?

    Man, that’d be awesome.

    But that’s not reality . Reality takes work.

    Reality takes frustration. A few computers thrown across the room.

    Stay away from me while I’m learning. I might rip your head off.

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    Consultant. Entrepreneur. World Traveler. Tester of Conventional Wisdom. Avid Learner.

    2 Responses to The Importance of Frustration

    1. July 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Having been to Japan, kudos on not having ripped off anybody’s head already. I tried learning Japanese for a year and ended up switching out. I’m trying to learn German now – very frustrating but not as brain-meltingly difficult since at least I’m working with the same alphabet now!

      • William
        July 11, 2013 at 3:22 am

        Yeah – Japanese can be particularly fun. Especially coming from English I think – since both languages evolved on islands (Japan and England) in relative isolation from other languages, they make for an interesting case study for how two languages can be so different.. to say the least. (Not total isolation mind you. Japanese adopted Chinese characters. English has Germanic roots and a large French influence.)

        I know nothing about German. Do you find that the fact English is supposedly “Germanic” to help at all? or they still quite different languages I imagine..

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