I recently learned a few important lessons.
Calling is OK
For a long time I was reluctant to call places and ask questions. When given the option, I sent an email instead. I would never say that I didn’t want to make a phone call, I’d just avoid it. Why didn’t I want to call? I lacked confidence. I was afraid that communicating over the phone would be awkward. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to express myself clearly.
Applying for the JET Program eliminated those fears. I had to make many phone calls while compiling my application. My confidence grew as I practiced expressing myself clearly over the phone. As a result, I am now comfortable placing a call. It’s not scary. I speak clearly and slowly. I am polite and happy. I’m not afraid to ask for clarification or request that someone repeat something.
Since I started the Japanese class at UCLA I’ve been trying to speak Japanese with people more frequently. If I see an Asian person, I make my best guess as to whether or not they speak Japanese, and if I think they do, I go for it. This doesn’t always work. If I’m wrong, and they aren’t Japanese, it’s awkward. A better approach is to ask them if they speak Japanese. This avoids the potential awkwardness of an incorrect assumption.
Open Mail Carefully
I asked a friend and colleague of mine to write a recommendation letter for my JET application. When his letter arrived in the mail I was excited and opened the package hastily. The package consisted of an outer envelope, inside of which was another envelope that contained the letter. In my recklessness I accidentally tore open the inner envelope, which was supposed to remain sealed. Bad news. It was a pain for him to prepare the package and I was running out of time – I needed him to mail another letter immediately. My mistake caused a lot stress and inconvenience for both of us. The entire situation would have been avoided had I just been a little more careful when I was opening the package.
The First Version Always Sucks
The first time I do something, it sucks. It may not be a failure, but the next time I do it will always be better than the first. I will never escape making mistakes due to inexperience. This happens everywhere in my life, especially when cooking, coding, writing and building relationships.
Instead of trying to do everything right the first time, I strive to make the first version as quickly as possible and iterate on it. This gives me the opportunity to correct the mistakes I made early on once I have the experience to recognize them. This doesn’t mean I will be satisfied with a low-quality first draft of something. On the contrary, it means I will avoid considering first drafts “done” or “good.” I will make sure to do at least one iteration on a first draft before I turn it in.
Wait Before Reacting
This is similar to the previous lesson. My first reaction is guaranteed to be more extreme than my second reaction. My first reaction will be too angry, too upset, too negative, too positive, too whatever. It will be an exaggerated version of whatever I’m feeling at the time.
I learned that, even if I’m ready to respond right away, and especially when I feel like I must respond quickly, I won’t. Now, I prepare my response and then wait. I give myself some time to think about what I’m going to say, then I respond. I give my response at least one proofread before sending it. This usually results in a significant improvement in wording or tone, and that makes a huge difference.