I recently passed my 666th consecutive day of studying Japanese. It made me think of Satan. They say the devil is in the details, and what that’s supposed to mean is that the chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Or otherwise put: do something well or don’t bother doing it.
My high school German teacher would have agreed with that. I don’t know if she tried to turn her students off, or if she just genuinely loved to nose dive into esoteric grammar. In either case, she never really gave us a chance to get a feel for the language.
A few years later, in a steamy restaurant kitchen outside of Paris, I learnt French almost over night as I had to stand my ground against a sadistic chef. My words didn’t come out right, bien sûr, but they did get the job done (the job being to hurl insults back to where they’d come from).
I dreamt of taking up Japanese for years, but was too daunted. Until I got to a point where I simply got started, and I’ve been spending fifteen minutes a day ever since.
Do I know where I’m going or how long it will take to get there? No. Have I learnt a lot since I got started and do I now have a better feel for the challenge? Yes.
I think there’s a lesson in there that’s transferable to other domains.
I thought of it the other day when I met a friend who’s become something of a phenomenon on TikTok, where he’s now very successfully using his platform to build a social network for clubbers.
Only it didn’t start out like that at all. It started out with him launching a nightlife app a few months before Corona struck. He was out of business before he was even in business.
It would have been so easy to go into hibernation and wait for the pandemic to blow over while dreaming up the next perfect version of an app. Instead he simply did what he could do. Which was to start going to almost empty clubs and film himself while doing it. At first the content was boring, but he kept at it, dedicated to always post daily.
And eventually things started turning around. By the time people found their way back to the scene, my friend had built quite a following.
To me, that story speaks to the power of persistance. It goes to show that you don’t have to know exactly where you’re heading, as long as you dare to start making progress.
Which is not to say of course, that the devil isn’t in the details. It’s just that you shouldn’t worry too much about that when setting out.