Action is Easy. Decision is Hard.

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series The First World Problem is Choice

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”
Elbert Hubbard

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
Amelia Earhart

Action is easy. It’s not like you’re a coal miner. What do you do, really? What does the actual work in your life consist of? Click here. Shuffle paper there. (In all likelihood), be you student or stock broker, you manipulate text for a living. And you do it sitting down.

Now, decision, decision is a different matter altogether.

Decision is hard.

Decision is hard. Decision is tough. You don’t have enough information. You don’t have enough time. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There are consequences. The consequences are real. Apple doesn’t make time machines.

But decision, too, is only emotionally hard. Again, it’s not like you’re lifting 90-pound roof slabs all day in the Utah summer heat. You’re not a coal miner. You’re not a janitor. You’re not oppressed; you’re not gay.

Which means that your life is easy and only your emotions are making it hard. Which means you’re being a drama queen, because you do no manual labor; you have no struggles; yet there you are creating struggles within yourself for entertainment. For drama. To make yourself look and feel important — look how important you are, with all them tough decisions you done be having to make, standing their like Atlas, the very weight of the world on your aching shoulders.

So decision is easy. It’s already physically easy, because everything in our lives is 1. And it’ll be emotionally easy, too, as soon as stop having emotions about it.

Which SRS? Which book? Which kanji method? Where to start? What to start on?

‘The fark cares? It’s not like you’re disarming a bomb there, champ; this isn’t a Kathryn Bigelow movie. We sit around clicking mouses and eating candy and getting fat. This is modern life. And it’s easy. Some would say too easy, but those people are sick, twisted masochists — I happen to like things too easy :P .

So stop being such a queen and just pick whatever. Decide. Either way, it’s easy in that all action in your cushy, sedentary life is easy. It’s easy to do; it’s easy not to do, and — now that you’ve given up the duh-rama — it’s easy to pick as well.

Go on, timebox it. 90 seconds. Pick. Click. Move on with life.

Your life is easy. Stop the drama. Just sit back and enjoy being rich and privileged. What’s that you say? Not rich? You have a computer, an Internet connection and you can read the English language. Trust me: you’re rich. We are the elite of the world. Enjoy your clicking :P .

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  1. we tend to look more like Roman senators than Spartacus; our lives are so physically easy that we literally pay people money to induce us to engage in some meaningful physical exertion

  25 comments for “Action is Easy. Decision is Hard.

  1. Pingfa
    July 8, 2012 at 01:07

    Man, you are so right. I know many people will despise what you’ve said here and say to themselves ‘no! My life IS hard! You don’t know what it’s like, maah laaf ;-(‘ but the reality is most people have it pretty darn good. Most people are rich (yes, you are), have so many luxuries and barely need to do anything more physically taxing than picking up a few clothes and tapping a keyboard, and nothing mentally more taxing than, I dunno, watching a movie by Stanley Kubrick or sumin.

    It is something I have always disliked about the people where I live. A ridiculous number of people here are living on benefits, they don’t have to work to survive and they have plenty of money to spare, yet they complain ‘I barely have enough money for ciggies ;-(‘ and get drunk every other night. There are a ridiculous amount of clubs, drunk people and underage pregnant girls where I live.

    You got it. Britain. ;-)    

    I call these kind of people ‘TV people’ Their life is an episode of Eastenders. They follow the script perfectly. Sometimes I think I’m living in The Truman Show.

    • マルク
      July 8, 2012 at 10:54

      I dunno why you got so many dislikes, but both you and Khatz are correct. I wouldn’t use the term “rich”, per se, but I’d definitely use “privileged” and “lucky” and such.

      Either way, good points from both of you. 

  2. caleb
    July 8, 2012 at 16:46

    I’m a pedicab driver.

  3. Rout
    July 8, 2012 at 23:47

    Just goes to show how powerful of a force boredom is for us. Because let’s face it, doing stuff in a language you can understand will always beat doing something in a language you can hardly read, when it comes to fun.

    But I’ll stop being a drama queen now and go back to playing that Pokemon game that came out in Japan a few weeks ago :p

    Good article, at any rate. Short, but I feel it’s about something we really should keep in mind in our daily lives. I hate to be cliche, but it really had quite an effect on my thinking. 

  4. July 9, 2012 at 03:08

    Story of my life.

  5. フレヂィ
    July 9, 2012 at 09:33

    Let me shed some light on it, actually…I won’t even bother! Because most people will never really understand that this “What’s that you say? Not rich? You have a computer, an Internet connection and you can read the English language. Trust me: you’re rich.” is so true…

    In any case, great article. 

  6. blackbrich
    July 9, 2012 at 13:25

    Sounds like first world problems.

  7. Jack Cotton-Brown
    July 9, 2012 at 17:50

    I find that we all have enough resources, we just aren’t being resourceful enough. I thought I didn’t have enough screens in my room 6 months ago, so I bought another. Turns out I didn’t use it very much. I didn’t really need it, I could have done without it.
    On the note of making decisions, I’ve really started enjoying snap decisions. They are extra exciting when the decisions are weighted pretty heavily. Something like dropping a course/taking an extra course at uni or deciding to go on exchange. Big decisions, fun decisions. Life’s too short to take seriously, and all the problems we have with making decisions are just pre-cognitions of what we think the outcome will be like. We never really know. Ever had a friend tell you some stories about where they grew up, and later you get to visit their home/town, and it’s NOTHING like you thought it was? That’s the kind of stuff we do all the time when making decisions. We make the decision in our head, build our little temporary test world up where that decision has been made, and then gauge an emotional response as to how we feel about it. All the while trying to evaluate all of our options and build/test them out in our head. If I ever find myself doing this now, I timebox the choice and pick the one that my head seems to want most. If you do it fast enough, you may even have time left to make a different decision.
    If a decision is rather scary to make, either decide right now when you will take action on it, post-pone taking action on it, or act straight away. e.g. kissing a girl on a first date. Mistakes will be made, tear may be shed, but learning will be had, and that’s the biggest gain in the end.

  8. Raphael
    July 10, 2012 at 02:30


    • フレヂィ
      July 10, 2012 at 11:44


  9. Rout
    July 11, 2012 at 22:32

    I have an off-topic question to fellow Japanese learners. It’s related to learning vocab. I seem to have a problem memorizing the, well, vocab itself. For example, my card in Anki will have 教育 at the front (well, I don’t don’t do cards with isolated vocab words, but you get what I mean), and looking at it while reviewing I will remember that the word means “education”, but I won’t remember that it’s read きょういく. So I will end up failing the card over and over again and needless to say it gets really frustrating. 

    Since learning the readings of individual kanji in isolation seems to be generally discouraged, I’ve been wondering if there is a way to make the process easier, so that it doesn’t feel like banging my head against a wall.

    • マルク
      July 11, 2012 at 23:26

      I’m not to sentences/MCDs yet, so I could be saying something irrelevant, but what if you made a copy of the card that had furigana or the reading in parentheses? And then once that reading is remembered/understood/easily read without a shadow of a doubt, just delete that card and continue using the one that shows kanji only.

      By doing that, you’d get exposed to the card twice as often and when you see the one without furigana, you’ll at least have a somewhat good memory of what it is. 

    • Tony
      July 12, 2012 at 00:09

      This discouraged learning kanji in isolation makes new words pop out painlessly after few reviews when you know already these kanjies (even if you can’t 100% recall each kanji itself). They are those clues that can trigger word pop out if you can’t recall it right away. I don’t understand why people think that remember many thousands of words is ok, while 2-3 thousands of kanjies not? You will just have more relations in your head, and relations is one of the main things, that matter I suppose. E.g. for me 教育 has more than 2 relations in my head (read and translation), I remember each kanji separately, and because of this I can recall some words they are used too, thus making more relations on each new word. And what you are trying (am I wrong) to is the same isolation learning, but not single kanji, but a bunch of them at once, which is much harder.

      • Rout
        July 12, 2012 at 01:26

        Well, what seems to be discouraged is learning individual kanji and their on- and kun- readings without any context. Most people seem to be recommending learning vocab words together with sentences that contain examples of how to use the word and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for well over 1000 cards now. I’m feeling my method could use some improvements, though. I tend to remember the readings of kanji that pop up often, or ones that just get stuck in my head for some reason (分、対、気, for example). But for the new words, containing kanji whose readings I don’t know yet, or kanji that aren’t as common, remembering them at first is a pain in the ass. 

        So if I were to go about learning kanji readings, how would I do it? 

        • endoKarb
          July 12, 2012 at 03:31

          Learning should happen in context. In particular kanji readings are learnt by reading stuff in japanese (with furigana or with a dictionary by your side).
          Learning doesn’t happen in the SRS (well, not mainly). You should add to your deck only sentences and expressions you are already comfortable with. The SRS is chiefly there to make sure you don’t forget stuff you already know.

        • Tony
          July 12, 2012 at 18:42

          No one tells you have learn ONLY isolated kanjies, but I use this step as the first one. Learn interested kanji first. Surely it is not going to go in SRS at once: I prepare physical cards, then for about a week 3 times a day I review them and try to remember, only after that they go to SRS, when I’m sure a remember them strong enough to not fail on 2nd-3rd review. Along all that, you can pick some words and sentences with that kanji (I don’t bother having all ons\kuns covered here) to have a context, but nowadays I tend to rather pick words from context as a zero step – the source for step 1 ‘picking kanji’.
          The main point I would mention – you have to take a bit pain to get kanji sit in your had. But the level of that pain can depend. Review 3 times a day for one week before entering them in SRS seem not much pain and takes not much time (3-4 kanji a day won’t make a learning list large, it takes 5 minutes for me to review or even less in most cases). After that week I’m sure I’ll not completely forget more that 10% of them.
          That’s how it works for me.

    • July 12, 2012 at 04:18

      I second マルク’s MCD idea. I run into the same problem where I will know one aspect of a kanji (be it the reading, meaning, or writing) and another aspect will be lost. I’ve found MCD’s really help.

    • Jan
      July 12, 2012 at 23:47

      MCD’s have helped me a lot with this. Here is what I do:

      Card 1:
      [...]業人口 (my focus here is on 失業) 

      失 [しつ]

      失業 [しつぎょう]- unemployment

      しつぎょう じんこう

      Card 2:
      失[...]人口 (Again my focus is on 失業)

      業 [ぎょう]

      失業 [しつぎょう]- unemployment

      しつぎょう じんこう 

      This way I have a sentence or long kanji compound to help me learn the word, I also see the word twice (one for each kanji reading) and I pass the card only when I can guess the kanji and the reading (in context) correctly. I’m not trying to learn all readings of the kanji, just the reading in this particular context. The great thing about this is sometimes you’ll run into new compounds with the same kanji and they may or may not have the same reading. 

      Card 3:
      [...]業に行きましょう。(Focus here is on 授業)

      授 [じゅ]

      授業 [じゅぎょう]- class

      Card 4:
      授[...]に行きましょう。(Focus here is on 授業)

      業 [ぎょう]

      授業 [じゅぎょう]- class 

      Notice how 業 [ぎょう] shows up here as well. Not only is the reading of this character reinforced with this new kanji compound, but you’ll notice that most of the time this is how it’s pronounced in other compounds as well. Learning a new word later like 卒業 [そつぎょう] will be that much easier. What matters here is that you’re learning the pronunciation in context and not just learning the on and kun (which is “bad” for what we want to do). 

      • Rout
        July 16, 2012 at 23:07

        That’s actually an interesting idea. Some kanji readings (like 業 – ぎょう) get stuck in my head naturally as I keep encountering the kanji in many words, but I guess using MCDs like that could speed the process up. 

        I will give this method a try. 

        • Jan
          July 17, 2012 at 23:44

          It’s actually a really efficient system and has created a self supporting elaborate webwork of vocabulary. A quick example:

          意味 [いみ] -> 好意 [こうい] -> 意図 [いと]
          趣味 [しゅみ]   好転 [こうてん]-> 自転車 [じてんしゃ]-> 自動車 [じどうしゃ]
                                                    運転 [うんてん]         自分 [じぶん] -> 部分 [ぶぶん]-> 部品 [ぶひん]

          I think you get the picture. :D 

    • ライトニング
      July 13, 2012 at 02:19

      I don’t know how long you’ve done this, but from my personal experience, even If you can’t recall the reading right away, the kanji should give you a pretty good guess. For example, Let’s say you forgot how to say 福島第一原子力発電所
      Luckily, that chain of kanji are all simple kanji. And if you’ve been doing it for long enough, you can easily guess the reading based off of previous patterns. Like the 福 in 福島 is read fuku in this sense, just like it is in 幸福, 島 stays the same. 第一, probably is impossible to forget。 原子力発電所. The first 3, 原 is commonly read as gen when it’s with other kanji, like in 原発, 原因 and 原油. 子 can be read as shi when it’s with other kanji, like in 遺伝子 or 子孫。 Usually when 力 is with other kanji it’s read as ryoku or riki, as in 実力(じつりょく) or 大力(だいりき), but from my experience, ryoku is more common. 発 is hatsu here, just like in 発祥(The つ gets changed to っ but they are considered the same) or in 発明。 電 is usually read as でん when it’s with other kanji, and 所 with other kanji is commonly read しょ or じょ

      So you could just try something like that for times when you forget

  10. Romuś
    July 16, 2012 at 04:29

    Your life is easy. It’s not like you were born with no limbs

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