One of the worst decisions I made for my Japanese was accepting a $20,000 scholarship for Japanese classes and materials. Over the next year, I funneled thousands of someone else’s money to a cause that I wasn’t fully committed to. A year later, my Japanese felt crippled and incapable of consuming native material.
Afterward, I invested $500 of my own money to a creator I believed in, and 2 months later I was reading my favorite manga in Japanese.
$20,000 worth of free Japanese ‘equipment’ might seem tempting at first but… ask yourself the following.
Is free really without cost?
How committed are you to reaching Japanese fluency?
Are you making Japanese a priority?
Are you TRULY investing in your Japanese?
Have you made Japanese fluency inevitable?
If anything is clear after years of Japanese, it’s this:
Inevitable fluency isn’t free. It’s pay to win. Fluency demands a cost and requires a sacrifice. And sacrifice is the only way to communicate this priority to your friends, your calendar, and your psychology. After all, Japanese fluency is a lifetime endeavor. It’s also extremely rewarding, exciting, and fun!
But all of those things require sacrifice. Time, money, and energy. And yet, investing in your Japanese is so much more than that. It impacts you, but also everyone around you.
And by the end of this article, you’ll have a much better idea of how to invest in your Japanese so fluency becomes inevitable.
Nothing is Free
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”– Economics
Everything has a cost, and money is only one form of payment. If you aren’t paying with money, then you’re paying with energy or time. Often both.
I remember a Friday night when I was ordering 3 large pizzas with my friends. On the website, I had selected the pizza, the toppings, and the coupon code but… When I hit submit, the web page froze. An error alert told me to call a phone number. And when I did, I was met with elevator music, and a robotic voice telling me to wait. 5 minutes later, a real human took my case, but the guy processing my request kept getting the order wrong.
Meanwhile, my friends had already started conversations and games without me, and kept asking the pizza ETA. By the time our order was on its way, it had been an extra hour of unexpected time suck. As the pizza came, even hot, and we all dug in, I felt a sting of buyer’s remorse. But not because the food was too average, the order was wrong, nor that the price was too high. But because the energy and time it took to decide what to eat, to order it, and put it on plates cost more than I wanted to spend.
Actually, I was offered an even better coupon for calling, and a discount on delivery. Yet, I would have shoveled out more cash had I known I’d have to wait a lot longer. The extra cost wasn’t money. The cost was my precious time and energy with friends. There’s a cost, or a sacrifice for everything, and that includes learning Japanese. That sacrifice includes financial spending, thousands of hours, and tons of energy.
If you’re in it for free, you’re not really in it. And…
If You Want Something For Free, You Don’t Truly Want It.
“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.”– Anonymous
Because everything has a cost, if you don’t pay it, someone else has to.
Consider YouTube, a social media and video sharing site that also wants revenue. YouTube needs money to pay for hardware infrastructure, employees, and to create a financial incentive for creators. YouTube also understands most viewers don’t want to pay a membership fee. So instead of you handling the cost, someone else has to. In this case, advertisers from around the world pay YouTube to buy your attention. Advertisers pay the financial cost, and you pay with your attention.
Almost everything that seems ‘free’ is using this business model with advertising at the core. Because nothing is free, your attention becomes a product that someone else pays for. Or maybe it’s your data. Free to play games? If they don’t have advertisements, then they attract “whales”. And whales are fine with paying your share of the cost, at the expense of playing a more elevated game. Even Hulu’s current low tier membership includes advertisements, and those who would rather pay with money than attention can pay a premium price.
There is always a cost and a sacrifice that you need to make. If you aren’t paying with money, then you’re paying with your attention. And fluency is impossible when your attention is on advertisements, not Japanese.
Plus, nobody else can pay the cost for your fluency. At the end of the day, it’s not about what you want… But what you are willing to sacrifice to get it. What are you willing to sacrifice for your Japanese goals? If you aren’t willing to sacrifice for a PS5, a new car, or the perfect date night with your significant other… If you won’t put in the time and effort to make it happen, then you probably don’t want it enough. And most of the time, you won’t get it. What you want becomes the sacrifice.
In only a few minutes of scrolling through the Japanese Level Up posts and learner stories, you can see the blood, sweat, and tears of hundreds of learners who achieved what they wanted because they were prepared to sacrifice. Here’s a definition of sacrifice:
“An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”
Make your Japanese important, or your Japanese will be the sacrifice.
The Biggest Secrets are Behind the Paywall
An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends– Benjamin Franklin
There’s an incredibly important 25% of secrets that creators withhold, only for those interested in taking their Japanese to the next level. If creators gave it all for free, they might not be able to make a living. But they also wouldn’t be able to tempt you to financially invest in your Japanese.
Many creators use a business model based on holding back information. They give you 75% of the content for free, and lock the most important 25% behind the paywall. The cost of ‘free’ Japanese becomes the cost of the secrets that likely make the difference. After all, if the ‘secrets’ weren’t that big of a deal, why bother selling them? Someone else would be giving it out for free!
For JALUP, I would say those secrets are the organization and novelty of the JALUP decks themselves.
But the content locked behind the vault could be materials, resources, or knowledge that make the difference between success and failure. The difference can be:
- Confidence and validation that you’re going in the right direction.
- Organization of information that makes learning faster and easier.
- Novelty of a new idea that has yet to explode around the world.
- Level of training that only a few can access..
- Efficiency hacks and processes that will save you hundreds of hours.
Of course, creators want to be helpful, which is exactly why they try to tempt you with the best secrets.
They want to see you commit to your Japanese. And they keep the best 25% for only those who are willing to sacrifice for their Japanese. Not sacrifice their Japanese.
So Creators just want my Money?
Creators and teachers also need money. They need a business model because they have sacrifices to make and families to feed. Creators are human too, and they wouldn’t be in the business unless they loved it. But that’s precisely why they need financial support. YouTube view times, Facebook likes, and high fives are great… But that doesn’t equal money. And if creators are forced to spend their time on a different job, They will sacrifice content. If they don’t make content… Well… You won’t have content.
Creating can be incredibly stressful, and personally frustrating. When income is also on the line, the ‘love’ of the process can quickly sink into doubt, frustration, and collapse. As a result, most creators personally find and support a cause to push themselves at the worst of times. To help them sacrifice.
It might be helping others enjoy learning Japanese, or raising living standards for household pets. But when a creator’s world seems on fire, they turn to their cause, and they turn to you. Your gratitude keeps them going. Your happy comments, your social media shares. And your purchases.
When you buy a JALUP deck, you’re not just making a purchase. You’re supporting Adam, and allow him to continue making content. When you support a creator on Patreon, it’s the same thing. And in turn, you’re also supporting the creator’s major cause. Helping creators make content more widely available helps others discover content — just like you did.
Therefore, when you financially support creators, you are also serving others.
You are the Cause
“Success isn’t about how much money you; make it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”– Michelle Obama
Income isn’t the most important reason creators want you to buy their products. Ask the creators around you how often they give their best content and creations away for free. How often they sacrifice their time, energy, and money. Ask them where it all started.
The vast majority of the time, money is not the motivation. “The cause” is. You are. In this case, teaching Japanese is “the cause”, and your Japanese fluency is the result. Money is only a means to advancing the cause. But supporting creators by buying their products does much more than expand the cause to others. It’s an opportunity to sacrifice for your Japanese. It’s an opportunity to show your commitment to Japanese through your wallet.
And when you make that investment, that’s a glorious moment for creators. Not because they get a receipt with money, although that is also exciting. But because you made the leap to invest in yourself. Invariably, fluency requires sacrifice, and creators know this.
Leveraging your Psychology – Sunk Cost Bias
“You commit the sunk cost fallacy when you continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort)“– Arkes & Blumer, 1985 (The Psychology of Sunk Cost)
It’s not just creators who want us to financially invest in our Japanese goals. Our psychology does too.
We’re wired to avoid loss, and sunk cost bias describes the phenomenon where we continue our behavior due to previous investment. We don’t want to lose the progress and work that we’ve done and spent. Sunk cost bias could be good or bad, but one thing is for sure. You can leverage Sunk cost bias for investing in your Japanese.
The more time you spend with Japanese, the harder it will be to quit. The more energy you’ve spent with Japanese, the less likely you are to stop. The more money you’ve thrown into Japanese, the more consistently you will advance. Without financial investment, studying Japanese can be at the whim of the day’s emotions.
What will you do when you don’t feel like doing Japanese? Alternatively, if you know you have a $60 piano lesson next week, are you going to practice? If you sacrifice to pay school tuition or pay for JALUP decks out of pocket, your psychology is much more likely to push you to get back to Japanese.
A cost is only a sacrifice if you have to give up something else you truly wanted. The sacrifice of $400 to one person may be just as much of a personal sacrifice of $5 to another. The magnitude for sacrifice changes depending on the circumstance.
Decide how much you want Japanese. Then, sacrifice financially, invest in yourself, and leverage your psychology to grow your Japanese.
Love what you invest in
Sunk Cost bias can feel negative, so here’s a more positive way to describe it.
“Love comes from work. It’s not a feeling. It’s committed action. And commitment is a byproduct of investment.”– Benjamin P. Hardy
By investing in your Japanese, you commit to your Japanese. By taking action on your commitment, you will grow to love it more. The more you sacrifice for Japanese, the more time you will dedicate to Japanese. With more time, comes more skill, and the better you get, the more you’ll enjoy it.
This becomes a loop, and will actually help secure fluency. If you never stop learning Japanese, then it’s only a matter of time before you hit every one of your Japanese goals. Invest to love Japanese, and you’ll never quit.
Clarity also comes with true sacrifice. Before you give up an important alternative, you will want to know exactly what you’re sacrificing for. More clarity will make it easier to take action, and to spend higher quality time with Japanese. As you spend more time, you’ll gain more confidence, more clarity, and more focus.
As long as you continue to invest in your Japanese, your love for Japanese will only grow, as will your self-confidence and capability. You can increase your love for Japanese by making it about not just you, but those you care about. Find ways to include others you care about, and your love for Japanese will also increase. But at the end of the day, loving Japanese must come from investment and sacrifice.
Otherwise, you will rely on passion, which easily stagnates, and fizzles.
The Unique Power of Money
As effective as the cost of time and energy can be for learning Japanese… They have extreme limitations that money does not. Which is interesting, because the vast majority of the time, money is earned through time and energy.
In many ways, money can quantify time and energy. Simplified, if you earn $10 an hour, then $100 in your wallet could be as valuable as 10 hours of time. And money can be saved and used later. But time and energy must be spent one second after another. You can’t spend 2 minutes in one minute… Nor can you save one minute to use for later… But in one minute, you can spend $1, or $2,000. And with money, you can invest thousands of hours of time, in one minute.
Money is powerful, where you can commit to a year’s worth of training in an hour.
It might seem tempting to only spend your time and energy on Japanese, searching for free materials and trying to dig up the gems of content in the furthest parts of the web. But the real cost of finding those materials for free won’t be the time it took you to search. The cost will be your fluency that needs immediate leverage of hundreds of hours and buckets of energy. And that kind of immediate investment is only possible through money.
If you want to truly sacrifice for your Japanese, pull out your wallet.
Importance of Quality
“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.”– Zig Ziglar
But you shouldn’t just go buy any product to show your Japanese commitment. Quality matters. This is true for non-paid and paid products. Most creators are trying to give you their very best, but you also need to make sure that their treasure map takes you in the direction you want to go. Make sure the content you invest in is good, and right for you.
The most powerful engine won’t get you to your destination if you’re pointed in the wrong direction.
Quality determines whether or not you’re spinning your pedals and going nowhere, or making fast progress towards your destination. Which is why you need to do research, find the quality you want to bet on… And personally make the decision on where you want to go. And then invest hard with time, energy, and money. The quality of your input will determine your results.
Make sure the sacrifices you make will take you where you want to go.
No Money? Create It
“Focus on circumstances and you’ll be a consumer. Focus on capacity and you’ll be a creator.”– Kade Janes
Money doesn’t grow on trees. But money is abundantly everywhere. You just have to earn it. I know exactly what it’s like to be a poor college student… Or a gameboy wanting 3rd grader. And there is money, you just need to find it. Be creative, and offer your services. If you’re an artist, do commissions. Programmer? Automate someone’s workflow.
As odd as it might sound, even a part-time job at McDonald’s could earn some Japanese lessons every month. Too young to get a job? Ask to mow lawns, do chores, or help with yard work. Maybe you need to sacrifice your fun money for a month. Or perhaps you can find a way to contribute to a creator — in exchange for their content.
Again, creators want to see you make progress, and I guarantee most creators would be willing to work something out. You just need to take the initiative. Communicate. And invest. Whether you consider yourself a business person or not… Use your talents and get something in return.
It might not be easy, especially at first. But if you get creative, I’m confident you can find a way to earn money. Try not to use age as an excuse, I’ve seen middle school students making bank on candy bars. And at my best, I was selling video game secrets for wads of cash in elementary school.
Don’t make the excuse you can’t invest with money because you don’t have any. Go make some. Invest in your Japanese. Sacrifice for your Japanese. It’s rewarding for creators to see you invest. It’s helpful to others who can discover the content you support. And it’s crucial for taking the next step to your Japanese goals.
Nothing is free. If you want to reach Japanese fluency, you need to sacrifice. If you don’t, Japanese IS the sacrifice.
Creators want to see you reach fluency, and every time you bet on them, you also help others around you. But most importantly, you show others, and yourself that Japanese is important. Leverage your psychology, and understand the significance of money for personal investment.
So what now?
Invest in your Japanese now. This could be buying your first Jalup deck. It could be signing up for a Kanji service. It could be as simple as a once a month conversation call with a Japanese native. But get some skin in the game. Sacrifice a little.
After all… the “Free” version of Japanese is the most expensive road to fluency. It’s murky, unclear, and unaccountable. It might even cost you your fluency. But investing in yourself and finding the tools that make the journey a blast? Priceless.
Need one-on-one help with your Japanese? I offer private Japanese coaching services and help with kanji here.