More Good Advice for Studying

Here’s more advice from Xunzi, which is a follow-up to my last post. I was surprised to see how popular that one was. Anyhow, this is from section 2:

A thoroughbred can travel a thousand li in one day, yet even a tired old nag, given ten days to do it in, can cover the distance. But will you try to exhaust the inexhaustible, to pursue to the end that which has no end? If you do, then you may year out your bones and flesh but you will never reach your goal. If, however, you set a limit to your journey, then you may arrive there sooner or later, before others or after them, but how can you fail to arrive at your goal some time? (pg. 29)

This is the same analogy used in section 1, but here Xunzi goes into more detail, and proposes that having a specific goal is more constructive. It makes a lot of sense to me. For example, when I was studying for years toward the JLPT N2, I had a clear, specific goal and I think I make a lot more progress. Since then, since I have no specific goal, I haven’t made as much progress.1 Likewise, I think I might benefit by having more specific goals in my Korean studies, so I don’t get discouraged.

One other bit of advice on the next page:

If he keeps putting one foot in front of the other without stopping, even a lame turtle can go a thousand li; if you keep piling up one handful of earth on top of another without ceasing, you will end up with a high mountain….Men are certainly not as widely separated in their capacities as a lame turtle and a team of thoroughbreds; yet the lame turtle reaches the goal where the team of thoroughbreds fails. There is only one reason: one keeps on going, the other does not. Though the road is short, if you do not step along you will never get to the end; though the task is small, if you do not work at it you will never get it finished. (pg. 30)

A good reminder for us all. :)

1 I have debated about taking the JLPT N1 someday (since I’ve come this far anyway), but I am just not sure I want to commit to that right now.

About Doug 陀愚

A Buddhist, Father and Japanophile / Koreaphile.
This entry was posted in Confucius, Japanese, Korean, Language, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to More Good Advice for Studying

  1. Michael says:


    I recently took a course that included a concept called Kaizen. It is about taking small steps. There is a book about this too, but don’t have it on the nightstand right now. It is good way of starting or completing a project that has been set aside for fear of whatever.

  2. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve heard of Kaizen before, though only in a corporate context (along with other fancy concepts such as Lean, Six Sigma, etc). I wasn’t aware of Kaizen in a personal context. Thanks for the tip. :)

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