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How to Be Productive (Be Quiet)


I have 387,234,132,138 or thereabouts goals, but I’ve decided not to talk about them before they’re complete. I’m more productive when I discuss things retrospectively.

Think of those who take an IQ test and score in the 99.999995th percentile. They’ve done a fine job on the test, but if that score is the only thing that vouches for their intelligence, maybe they shouldn’t feel so smart. A high IQ test score is sweet because it suggests a high level of intelligence and it’s something people can use to place themselves among the greats, but …

Imaginary Conversation:
Bob: My IQ is 180. Marie Curie’s IQ is 180! I’m like Marie Curie!
Bobette: Curie developed a technique to isolate radioactive isotopes. She won a Nobel Prize in Physics and a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. What did you do?
Bob: I recognized patterns on a test. :) The test says I’m just as smart as she is, so I can get those things too if I want. I’m smart. πŸ˜›

IQ tests are a little (tiny) bit dangerous. They allow test takers to feel accomplished without actually having them do much of anything. People often use them as indicators of potential (i.e. You did well on this test, so you probably learn quickly. You also probably possess the ability to think critically. You may accomplish great things. If you join my organization, you may do your great things there, so I want you). That’s fine, but getting an absurdly high score on an IQ test is not the same as having done something absurdly intelligent or even being absurdly intelligent. The tests are flawed.

In that way, an IQ test score resembles blabbering about goals/to do lists. The thought is there; the potential’s there, but has anything truly significant been accomplished? No. Yet, people love sharing their goals. The hope is that sharing increases productivity. People can get support; others will hold them accountable, etc.

Sharing doesn’t often work that way for me. Instead, I feel accomplished without actually doing anything, lose focus, and become less likely to do what I set out to do. Oops.

Years ago, I bought a ridiculously difficult Korean history tome, a virtual brick written for scholars. I told friends I was going to read it. They praised me for having the idea. I ended up reading one page of hundreds. Did anyone say, “Wtf? That’s lame. I thought you were going to read the whole thing.” No. Did anyone say anything at all to hold me accountable? No. Instead, I had already been rewarded for coming up with a stupid goal. People had said I was intelligent because I’d told them I intended to read a difficult book. In the end, it didn’t matter that I didn’t actually read it. When it comes to shared goals, intentions and accomplishments often get the same reaction. I haven’t found praise for doing nothing (or having stupid goals) particularly helpful.

Besides, when I ban myself from mentioning things, I want to accomplish them more as I love discussing what I adore. I didn’t post about reading Korean literature in Korean until I actually read something. I can’t say for sure whether that did anything, but it definitely feels as though it did. If I were to have posted about it before I’d finished a book, I would have felt a sense of accomplishment and while I don’t think that would have stopped me from reading—it probably would have slowed me down—taken the edge off my hunger to engage in Korean literature because talking about it somehow feels like engaging with it. Reading literature was something I really wanted to do and discuss, so the goal I actually made was focused and extraordinarily realistic. I didn’t go for the thickest, heaviest, most intimidating, and most impressive looking tome around. I went for what I thought I’d actually read.

Bottom Line: I don’t want credit for potential. I want credit for accomplishing things. Sharing goals I haven’t begun working on doesn’t increase my productivity; I’m going to abstain from sharing them. This isn’t to say that I will always abstain. I just want to be careful about it.

Is telling people about this going to help me accomplish it? If my answer isn’t a resounding, “Yes!” I should and will continue to keep my mouth shut and my fingers away from keyboards.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject. I’m interested in hearing them. Everyone isn’t motivated in the same way and it’s cool to see how different people think.

*Photo: My productivity tools in a cafe. iPhone 5; Wood Camera app.


Interesting Things about Gentleman by PSY

I haven’t analyzed music videos on my blog before, but today I thought why not analyze PSY’s “Gentleman” because it’s an ambiguous song that fills me with questions.

First, the video—

I hate to start on a negative note, but the biggest question I had after watching the video and reading many Korean and English articles: does “Gentleman” promote misogyny? Like many others, I want to think that it doesn’t and that it’s satire in the same vein as “Gangnam Style” but the satiric side of “Gentleman” isn’t nearly as clear as that of “Gangnam Style.” PSY consistently acts ungentlemanly; there’s a tiny bit of comeuppance; the video ends.

Regardless, the most WTF moment

image of

image courtesy of


According to various articles I read about the song, “Gentleman” is about a man who thinks he’s a gentleman, but who actually is immature and full of bravado. PSY wanted “Gentleman” to do a lot: convey a sense of irony, be in Korean but with words that non-Koreans can sing, be addictive, be fun, have a specific dance, make people laugh, etc.

Unfortunately, while trying to do all that, what PSY created lyrics-wise is confusing. Is “Gentleman” ironic? Sure. Is it satirical? Uh… maybe. One of the most prominent comments about this song seems to be along the lines of I’m Korean and I speak Korean, but I don’t know what it means.

That’s not to say that the lyrics aren’t interesting, though, because they are. :)

mother-father versus mother-fucker

PSY sings I’m a mother-father gentleman. The fact that mother-father sounds like mother-fucker is a popular grade school joke in Korea (the th sound is hard to pronounce). With a Korean accent, mother-father sounds more like maduh-paduh (λ§ˆλ” νŒŒλ”) and mother-fucker sounds more like maduh-puhkuh (λ§ˆλ” 퍼컀). Most people who speak English as natives don’t have accents that allow for those two to sound similar, so this joke is something new and maybe incomprehensible at first. PSY seems to be going for I’m a motherfucking gentleman.

PSY insults the Korean President?

Next up is the craziest rumor I read: PSY may escape getting banned from broadcast TV because of his mother-father substitution and because he’s PSY, but he could be banned for insulting the President of Korea. μ™œ ν™”λˆν•΄μ•Ό ν•˜λŠ”κ±΄μ§€ (I don’t know if you know why it needs to be hot) sounds like μ™œ λ°•κ·Όν˜œμ—¬μ•Ό ν•˜λŠ”κ±΄μ§€, which is basically the same, except the President’s name, Park Geun-hye, is there instead of hot. I think the idea that he put this in there to insult her is stupid. :)

It’s Easy for Americans to Follow?

I don’t think it was necessary for PSY to make the song easy for non-Korean speakers to sing. People shamelessly butcher Gangnam and oppa, but an inability to properly pronounce those words never stopped anyone from enjoying that song. Still, I think it’s worth noting that effort was put into this because Korean sounds don’t go well with an average pair of North American ears. 말이야, which is at the end of many lines, sounds like Maria. μ•Œλž‘κ°€ λͺ°λΌ (I don’t know if you know) is how most of the lines begin and it avoids Korean’s double consonants and other vowel sounds that are generally hard for non-natives to make.

Also, most of the people in PSY’s video, especially the men, are stars in Korea. For instance, the yellow suit (Yoo Jae Suk) was more famous than PSY pre-Gangnam Style. In Korea, he’s probably still the most famous of all Korean celebrities. Ironically, he’s known for being incredibly thoughtful, a gentleman.


A couple Korean articles: x, x