One step forward, two steps back.
Ever get that feeling? I bet you do!
It was also the title of a book by Lenin, apparently. Though he was writing about vexing divisions in the Communist party, thirteen or fourteen years before the 1917-18 revolution.
That’s by the by, of course.
The more I know about anything, the more it seems that I don’t know enough about it, and that I’m barely coping!
For example, this week seems to be the perfect storm of website malfunctions, management work with new team members, customer service issues, and perpetually boring but time-consuming ‘end of the month’ tasks, such as payroll and bookkeeping.
I’ve barely found time to squeeze in all the big jobs (so to speak) when, boom, some minor but important technical glitch messes everything up, requiring an hour or two of my attention at a critical moment in my day, yet, frustratingly, still not getting sorted out.
At such times, my thoughts begin with “I wish…”, as in “I wish I had someone I could trust to do this for me”, or “I wish there were more hours in the day!”
But of course, I don’t and there aren’t. And in fact, the “I wish…” approach is unhelpful when it comes to the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ issue.
The problem with feeling like you’re making no progress (with your Italian, for example, or my chess game), is not that you’re actually making no progress. It’s the FEELING LIKE you’re making no progress that’s such a downer.
And having someone to fix glitches for you, or more hours a day, or a much better knowledge of how Italian verbs conjugate, is unlikely to help.
Life is long, and will likely involve an endless succession of irritations and frustrations, to which you might, if you are not both self-aware and careful, react by feeling overwhelmed and demotivated.
What does work is to be objective.
So OK, right now this sucks, and that’s a disaster, and I’m pushed for time, and everything’s a mess!
However, when I come to think about it, this website that’s currently breaking my balls didn’t even exist two years ago.
And the customer service problems that plague me are, in reality, a sign that things are going well. We HAVE customers! Wasn’t that what we wanted, and worked so hard to achieve?
This is a famous effect in language-learning, take it from me.
Invariably, IN.VAR.I.AB.LY, the least satisfied students are the ones who know the most. The advanced-level people, the whizzkids, the language nerds.
The beginners, on the other hand, tend to be all chirpy and full of enthusiasm!
Italians (students of English) tell me all the time things like “I can’t understand EVERYTHING I hear when I watch an American movie”.
Well, duh, of course you can’t. Who could? But the fact that you’re commenting on it, likely enough means that you’re getting most of what you hear, and it’s only that last decile, or three, that’s currently bringing you down.
Think back to the time, I’ll suggest, when your idea of a listening comprehension triumph was to be able to listen to the ‘speaking clock’ and work out what time it was. Compare that to what you can do now.
It doesn’t usually help, but I try. So here, I’ll do it again:
Look back at how far we’ve come!
Haven’t we made amazing progress?
Well done to us!
That’s the way to think of these things.
Instead of beating myself up because it’s been a couple of weeks since I looked at the El Pais subscription that I’m paying for and intended to read every day, I should be reminding myself that this time last year I was messing about with the first Spanish lessons on Duolingo, whereas now I’m doing a conversation lesson with a nice Mexican lady every week, and getting at least a part of my news from the 60-minute lunchtime Spanish radio broadcast.
Poor old Lenin must have felt pretty gloomy in 1904.
Let’s hope he had someone with a positive mindset around to remind him that things were probably better than they seemed!
And that one day, who knows, he’d be able to look back and see how much progress had actually been made.
Three things come to mind.
1. Next week we’ll be having a Free Trial Lesson Offer (for new students only). It’s a chance to try a thirty-minute online class, one-to-one with a native-speaker teacher. Watch this space for details.
2. A couple of years back I wrote an ebook of poems. The title is No Permit’s Required. For the irritating lady who emailed overnight DEMANDING that I remove the apostrophe, the title of the ebook is also the title and first line of one of its (no apostrophe) first poems, which, being the copyright owner, I will feel free to reproduce here:
No permit’s required
to capture moments
from my life
to share with others
From a middle-aged
for those who like
And everyone else
can go to hell
Now did that need a bloody apostrophe? Did it? Language fascists really get on my tits.
Download the FREE sample chapter (.pdf) to get an idea of what you’ve, amazingly, managed to live without. Though there are better poems by far in the full version, hint hint.
Though I admit that that was a marketing blunder. You should ALWAYS put the best stuff at the beginning, I tell our ‘easy reader’ writers. The sample chapter needs to be ENGAGING.
And then I go and ignore my own advice. Duh!
Nevertheless… so far I have sold a grand total of nine copies, which I understand is about typical for a self-published book of poems.
Better still, it’s (apostrophe) garnered two reviews, which is a greater than 20% review rate, so another amazing marketing success!
And neither the sales nor the reviews were to/by friends and family members, I swear.
3. Almost forgot – Tuesday’s FREE edition of ‘easy’ Italian news is ready for you to read/listen to, if you haven’t already done so. Click here.