My Weakness

When I first came to Japan, everyone was all "ここのくうきがおいしいですね". What? My town is famous for cookies!? Apparently, くうき means "air". Delicious air.  Go to a mountain town and tell everyone "自然いっぱいで空気が美味しいですね" and they'll love you.

When I first came to Japan, everyone was all “ここのくうきがおいしいですね”. What? My town is famous for cookies!? Ah, くうき, not クッキー. くうき means “air”. Delicious air. Go to a mountain town and tell everyone “自然いっぱいで空気が美味しいですね” and they’ll love you.


I’m pretty good at controlling my habits. But one thing always slips through the cracks.

Waking Up Early

I’m not a big fan of waking up early, nor am I a big fan of cooking in the morning. I always prefer sleep over food. This of course changes as you get older, but I think it’s mostly about those factors around you that influence what’s going on.

Some people say, “Compared to college, it’s far easier to wake up at 7.” Fair enough. My first couple days here I was waking up at 5 am, and it was easy even if it felt ridiculous to be getting up that early. Who gets up at 5? Grandma, that’s who! But grandma also typically gets to sleep early and doesn’t hang out with her partying friends until the sun rises. Sad life, grandma.

In order to get up early, I really need a reason, like any other person. When I started my life in Shichikashuku, I liked a show called Hook Book Row that came on from 7:25-7:35 every morning (Japanese television schedules be craaaazy). That gave me the incentive to get my act together before then so I could finish the show and run out the door (my school is thankfully very close to my house, so the commute is practically nonexistent, thank God).

But when I got bored of that, I moved on. And for a time, I didn’t have a reason to get up on time.

Then came…

Cookie Clicker

Cookie clicker was a stupid, addictive, brilliantly-made game. It involved clicking a cookie and buying upgrades. Really, doing anything but playing it doesn’t capture how great/stupid it is.

But I don’t recommend playing it. Or, maybe I do?

I loved it, for everything that isn’t worth. My weakness is “leveling up” and “upgrades”, so it was exceptionally easy for me to get hooked. If life had easily visible stats, I argue, I would be so much more inclined to do things. Or maybe that’s the draw to these kind of games? If real life had it, would I want my games to have it? Who knows? Studying History taught me how pointless it is to wonder how things could go differently.

Anywho, that’s not the point. The point is that cookie clicker basically required my computer to be running so that cookies were continuously being made. I would leave my computer on when I went to sleep, but found when I woke up around 6:30 that it was in sleep mode as well. Lose out on cookies being made! No way! So I would get up at 6:30 and make sure my computer was running so that cookies were being made. Once I was up, I might as well do stuff.

Ah, the real point is that cookie clicker helped me get up early again. The day after I quit, I was almost late to work.

Going back to cookie clicker isn’t a good idea. It’s a glorious waste of time and (as it was always open next to my other windows), a huge distraction from important things. Even getting up early and doing things, they were always at half-power, with the other half being directed towards baking cookies.

There is value in getting up early. Or at least, there is little value in staying awake in bed for 45 minutes.

So I had trouble waking up again.

All throughout the winter, I’d get out of bed progressively later and later. Then my water froze. It got so cold in my house that I’d have to wake up every morning to turn on a small heater I set up in front of the bathroom. After ten minutes or so, the ice would unfreeze and the water would flow again. This forced me out of bed. When spring came and with it the warmer weather, in spite of not needing to turn on the heater, I started miraculously getting up at a decent time. Habit.

But that habit died down after a few months, and I found myself waking up late again. What could I do to get up? I placed books next to my bed so I could easily pick them up if needed. But that didn’t work because my room was too dark in the morning to read.

Video games. My beloved. Having a 3DS next to my bed was the best decision I could make. But I needed the right game. Pokemon was alright. Zelda was good. Monster Hunter is terrible. I needed games that I could do something in 15 minutes and feel like I’d progressed.

And it worked all summer. But then a terrible thing happened over the summer. I went home.

In other words, my habits were broken.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was starting a new idle game: Clicker Heroes.

I don’t know which is a bigger weakness: idle games or getting up early. I’m terrible at both of them. Well, I’m pretty good at idle games, but that’s terrible in my eyes. Because they’re such phenomenal wastes of time. Maybe if they were in Japanese I could convince myself to play them, but then…

Is there a Japanese-language idle game out there?

In any case…

What Is Your Weakness?

The key is to find something that works like an idle game. To find study that is actually your weakness. Many people can resist all kinds of study because they’re things that they know how to fight.

My weakness is playing games that have easy, quick accomplishments. That’s probably why Read the Kanji worked so well for me. I could do a few reps and not notice. It’s also why Super Smash Bros. works so well. The longest mode in the game (probably All Star Mode) only takes 5-10 minutes in total. Every morning it’s possible to see some Japanese without even trying. In the words of Khatzumoto, “Make things too small to resist“.

Sitting down with the intention of playing a whole chapter in a video game takes effort. “Do I have time for this?” I think to myself. But just turning on the game? That’s child’s play. Literally. Children know how to turn on things. I think. Those little buggers are dangerous.

When I decide to work on my game, it’s not “Let’s make a whole area.” It’s “Open the program up” or “Stick a tree there”. Movement begets movement.


And then I end up cursing myself for being in bed at 7:10 because I was playing a video game when I should have gotten out of bed at 7:00. What’s funny is that when I’m not playing, I’ll often stay in bed until 7:15. Coming to that realization, I almost always make sure to play a game. Thankfully, Super Smash Bros has a little clock in the bottom corner telling you what time it is.

My two real weaknesses:

1) Things that require no effort doing.

2) Things that are fun to do.

Using both of those as forces of good, combining them with things that I want to do, has been wonderful. It’s not about reading a book. It’s about opening a book. It’s not about making a game. It’s about clicking a pixel. And then something magical happens. Hundreds and thousands of hours of doing what looks like nothing has produced comprehension. It’s produced a game.

Well, that’s how it worked for me. Find your weakness and make it a strength. Apply those interview-question skills! Game yourself!

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