Every step that you take towards your goal is a step in the right direction. A master painter had to begin with his first stroke, a master swordsman had to begin by learning to hold a sword. The first step is the most obvious, but what we often don’t think about or talk about, or maybe what I mean is that nobody tells you – mastery takes a tremendous amount of work.
A master painter may spend hours studying painting techniques, he may spend his entire life painting when he feels unmotivated to do so. He may sacrafice a social life, he may never get married, he may sink into a depression, he may die never thinking his paintings are worth anything. The same with a master swordsman, he may spend his entire life training for a battle that will never come, he may know his students and teachers better than his own wife and kids. His kids may hate him because he spends all his time at the dojo training. A master may have to sacrafice in order to achieve greatness. These are things they don’t tell you when they say “you can be anything you want to be”.
It takes a lot work, it takes resources and time, and you may have to make sacrifices to reach your goal. Ever step you take towards your goal is a step towards mastery, a step towards the mountain. If you keep walking in the direction of the mountain and you don’t deviate from the path for very long, eventually you will reach the top of the mountain. Or at least you will die near the summit in a place that says “I was here” for all time to be witness.
How do we measure success?
Is a certification good enough to measure success? Or is it just a measure of how well you did on the certification exam? Often in real life there is no measure for your success other than the praise of your peers, is it ok to shoot only for this as a goal? Some things are hard to measure, like the ability to draw or paint. From my own experience with art, I know you can learn to paint a decent portrait in just few days but that doesn’t really mean you are an great artist. Nor does a youtube video of you speaking in a foreign language prove anything other than that you can make a decent video.
Does this mean we shouldn’t strive for the respect of our peers?
As a means to an end I suppose not, but then by what measure do we hold our accomplishments against? Certianly you will be the only one who can properly judge your abilities because only you know what it took to get where you are. You will also be held back by the bias of others more often than not. Someone who is a great artist and graduate from a top school will have a hard time getting more praise than someone who is entirely self taught with the same ability, despite the fact that both individuals worked just as hard. Similarly someone who taught themselves a foreign language won’t be judged the same as someone who holds a high level certification in the same language.
The only answer I have is to keep walking towards the mountain. Taking another step every day, and eventually ending up on the summit. I suppose eventually you have to settle for the praise of others as a measure of your success, that or money and material goods. With language, I suppose that to blend seamlessly into the language as you use it in the same a way native does, perhaps you are mistaken for a native, but ultimately if nobody is around to see it or you never tell anyone will it mean the same thing to you?
I already know how much work it takes to create art, so it’s easy for me to make an arbitrary goal for becoming a good artist: the viewer sees the same thing you saw when you envisioned the image in your head and they are moved by it. With language I suppose it’s the opposite, you want to appear so ordinary and mundane that the listener forgets you are not a native speaker.
Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about though, I have to admit I am a jack of all trades master of none myself. I do know that if you can’t read a book, but you start to look up words, eventually you’ll be able to read it. If you listen to enough of a language, *eventually you will be able to understand it. There is work to be done, but if you are willing to do it then you can be anything you want to be. You actually have to do the work though, every day, every day even if you don’t feel like it or don’t want to. The work has to be done.
**I am willing to do the work.
*of course I’m talking about a situation where you are actively studying while listening, eventually you learn the words and become accustomed to the sounds and are able to understand more and more of the language.
**forgive me I’m high on painkillers and caffeine I’ll probably regret posting this pseudo-motivational crap later.