On my 30th birthday I think of all the times in which people ask me if I “feel old”. The fact is, I feel wiser and more confident with each passing day, despite the fact that this decade has probably been the most difficult one of my life (granted, the sample size is not large).
At age 20, I was a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem while abroad from Wesleyan University. Looking back, I think that I was a LOT less restrained and a lot less “polished” in terms of my behavior. Paradoxically I was both an iconoclast AND very religious. The maturity that I’ve acquired since then, despite the fact that most of it happened as a result of negative experiences, is, oddly enough, something that I’m grateful for.
At age 30, here I am in Brooklyn, teaching a multitude of languages to very curious and smart people. It was something I’ve dreamed of doing since before my Bar Mitzvah. I also wanted to be a hyperpolyglot throughout most of my life, but I think a mixture of having discovered the right blogs and the right tools made it possible.
Also, perhaps at this juncture I’ll make a list of the worst things about my personality, as well as the best things.
- I question myself very often, perhaps way too often.
- I have a narcissistic streak in which I sometimes seem openly concerned for the way that I am perceived.
- I set EXTREMELY high standards for myself, even to my detriment.
- I am difficult to impress.
- I tend to blame myself for anything bad in any situation.
- I am on an endless quest for self-improvement (and this attracts other people with similar qualities into my life).
- I take advice from people readily and I apply it (my rabbis and coaches have noted that I do a “fantastic” job at applying advice and changing my behavior when asked).
- I am difficult to provoke and remain calm in a lot of situations (to a degree that sometimes scares people, but also enables them to put their trust in me).
- I make an uncanny amount of connections between things in my brain (this is probably my BIGGEST advantage as a learner).
- I pride myself in being different and taking “roads less travelled”.
Now for the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life so far. I may have written an article like this before, or possibly not. Honestly, I can’t remember.
Here we go!
- Frame Your Life as a Story or an Epic in Conversations.
Characters such as Abraham and Odysseus are memorable because their characters are formed via transformative journeys.
Even if you haven’t left your hometown, you can still see yourself on a similar type of journey in a sense.
For me, the fact that I hopped between Orthodox Jewish Day School and Inner-City Public school and then Wesleyan University and then 20+ different countries made me a bit of a confusing fellow earlier in my life but an “epic character” later on.
Given that I downsized my religiosity, that also adds another element as well. Given that I became a hyperpolyglot, that also serves as a “twist” in a sense. Given that I stopped pursuing advanced degrees to create my own game(s), that shows deep courage.
Find what your story is.
- To Teach Well, Think about What your Boring Teachers Did and Do the Opposite of What They Did.
Granted, in this clip my body language could…improve a bit (I think that I’m shaking too much). But hey, it was my first time.
Note what I did in the clip. Used a theatrical style filled with energy. I spiced up my presentation with artistic detail and tiny “blink and you’ll miss it” details (including having hid several of my gaming user handles in the presentation).
I’m not dismissive of anyone’s questions and I answer them on point. If I don’t know something, I say that I don’t (as what I did with Yanjaa Wintersoul’s question about learning from different consoles).
Richard Simcott approached me after the presentation and said that he was told “excellent things” about my presentation including several wishes that I could “come back” for future Polyglot Conferences. (It seems unlikely that I’ll be in Fukuoka for the 2019 Polyglot Conference, though).
- If You Want Something, Take the Necessary Steps to Get that Something IMMEDIATELY.
Life getting too routine? Draw up a multi-step plan on how to change it and do SOMETHING to change it.
Too concerned about a flaw in your life? Speak to a friend about it.
Want to learn the language of your dreams? Start NOW!
I could go on.
- Make Lists Often.
The self-descriptive article at its finest.
- Realize That a Lot of Advertising and News Articles Are Meant to Tug at Your Insecurity for Clicks and Sales.
They are most likely overstating many problems (with some noteworthy exceptions) so that you can feel more immobilized and click.
- The Aging Process Does Not Have to Be an Evolution from Idealism to Conformity.
It may be tempting to think so at times, but one way to counteract this is to constantly “open doors” in your life with new skills and expanding the world of you.
- If you’re Over-Analytical, Know When to Turn it Off.
THIS is something I have issues with. Still.
Whether it be with students’ feedback or internet comments or even dislikes on videos, do realize that creating hypothetical situations and “stories” can actually be harmful. A lot of this has to do with competitive school culture, but once you really leave you’ll realize that most human beings are actually quite forgiving of…almost anything, actually. As long as it isn’t done out of pure malice, that is.
- Ask People Questions About Their Story. Frame Their Lives as a Story.
For example, I’ve met Jewish converts and “newly minted” American citizens on a weekly basis for some time now. I’m curious to hear about how Judaism / American-ness makes them feel. Same for many other identities as well, whether it be discovery of a language like (Spanish / Danish / Yiddish / Thai / etc.) or having recently moved to New York City.
Often I got remarks like “I’ve always wanted to open up to people about this, but they almost never asked”.
- Open Doors for People (Well, Yes, Literally, but Also in a Figurative Sense)
When I was in Yad Vashem in December 2012 (which, looking back on it, was one of the most transformative months of my life. I visited Skansen in Stockholm for the first time and visited many of Israel’s holy sites that I hadn’t seen before), there was one remark from a Swedish priest that still rings with me to this day.
“There were some of the teachers that tried to open doors for me. And there were others that tried to close doors for me”, he said.
In my teaching and in my conversations, I want to make people realize that their dreams can come true. I praise people for their tough decisions and their artistic determination. I want to act as an energizer and let them know that becoming their ideal self is always possible.
- Know that You are a Legend and Other People Will Remember You.
Perhaps this one requires a good deal of egoism. But egoism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you use it to lift other people up, especially in times of despair, then it can actually be a divine virtue, in a sense.
See yourself as a legend beyond compare, as if the future of the world depends on your every action, in a sense. See yourself as a comic book character with layers of deep change and vulnerability. See yourself as someone who has to use his / her / their powers for good. Use that power to make others believe in themselves and feel appreciated and cared for.
After all, YOU may be the person upon whom the future of humanity depends. And you may not even know it yet!