2017 Resolutions Update - March

Posted: April 01, 2017

Hi everyone, Matthew Donovan here. Today is the fourth of April, and I just wanted to record the March update for my 2017 resolutions. I have my computer on with a list of my resolutions so that I remember what order I have everything listed in. Anyways, let's jump right into it.

Improve both German and Italian, and explore a 4th language
The first resolution on the list is languages. I'm nearing 90 days in Czech. I believe that 90 days is coming up at the end of this week, the 7th of April, I believe. I'm not quite sure what's going to happen in April, but look forward to the April update to see how April went, and also my ongoing Czech videos - there should be another one posted probably tomorrow to give you more details and updates in Czech. During March I dialed back on the iTalki lessons. You may remember that during the month of February I had about 20 hours worth of 1-on-1 in Czech, and also five hours of 1-on-1 in German. I've dialed this back during the month of March. I think I spent a total of five or six hours talking in Czech. I had my one lesson each week with Jan, and I had a second, usually a half-hour lesson throughout the week, with Eva. I've slowly beein dialing back with Eva. Personally I've been preferring the conversations that I've been having with Jan. He was on vacation this past weekend, so we didn't get to chat, but going forward I'm thinking once a week during the month of April. It's very good to have these conversations.

Also, what I'm noticing is that I've been able to put sentences together in my head. The biggest issue is that I don't have the vocabulary, but I'm finding that the words I do know I'm able to use. I'm able to just rattle off certain sentences, for example, Mluvim trochu česky, ale neznam mnoho slova. I can speak a little Czech, but I don't know many words. Maybe nemám mnoho slova would be better (I don't have many words) but anyways, that's all about how things come out in conversation. As long as you get the meaning across... that's what I've been finding to be the most important. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to think about exactly what they want to say, but what's important is to just get the meaning across. When I speak, I'm not afraid of making mistakes, and I'm not afraid of looking like a fool. All I want to do is try my best to get that meaning across, and I do that just using the words I know. One thing that I have also been doing is going through, usually on my iPad, on LingQ, a complementary tool to iTalki, to help me build my vocabulary. I read through different stories and lessons on Ling. What I'm noticing is that I'm slowly learning more and more of these words. There was one story where I flipped to a new page and I understood almost every word. Now yes, these were more basic words and people were talking about "Does anyone speak Czech?", "No, I don't speak Czech, I speak Russian", "I speak German", or "I speak French like a Frenchman", things like that. What was exciting for me is that I was able to pick up on německý (German) and ruska (Russian). Nejsem česke, jsem ruska (I'm not Czech, I'm Russian). And maybe I don't have that correct. Now, while maybe if I were to hear it I wouldn't understand it, reading through I was able to pick up probably 90 or 95% of the words on this one page, and once I did that I went through and made sure I had all of the translations, and then I listened to it. After having read through it, when I listened to it I was able to understand what was going on. There's a 10 minute long story, granted, it's a basic story, but I've been listening to that probably 5 or 6 times this past week. I try to listen to it once per day. And, as I said, it's about 10 minutes long and I have the text, I've read through and translated all of the text, but every time I listen to it I understand slightly more. Once I understand this at about 90%, I'm going to move on, pick a new story, and read through that and learn the vocabulary. I also am going through on Radio Praha (Radio.cz), where they have radio articles and also the transcriptions. So I can listen to the audio and get the text at a higher quality and a higher level than the beginner content that I've been reading on LingQ. Right now I understand maybe 10% of that, but the mix is always good. You need some challenging content as well as some easy content... some listening, some reading. Your brain needs to change things up in order to exercise. Your brain is just like any other muscle in your body, you need to change things up in order to strengthen your brain in the way you need to. That's been great.

Other than that, I haven't done much during the month of March in terms of languages. I've been largely focusing on Czech. To some extent, I'm looking ahead to figure out what I want to do in the future. I went and spent a bit of money to buy beginner books for Russian, Greek, Swahili, and Estonian, if I remember those correctly. I still haven't decided what I'll be doing next or even when I'll be switching, but if nothing else I think I want to go at least until the end of April on Czech. I'm either going to make this an every term thing, so that it corresponds with my school terms, or I'll do 6 months, or who knows. Maybe I'll decide after 100 days that I want to switch things up. I don't know yet, we'll see going forward. Overall, March was good in terms of languages. I feel that I'm really making a lot of progress, especially doing this reading. Being able to notice that I'm learning more vocabulary and understanding what's going on, this is great. I'm very happy with the progress during the month of March, and it's super exciting for me to look at this and say that "It hasn't even been 90 days and look at where I am". I feel relatively confident that people taking a whole year's worth of Czech classes are probably at the same level that I am right now. I have these basic understandings of the verbs, the sentence structure, the conjugation, understanding, and I can form sentences. Granted, my biggest issue is that I don't know the words. People who are taking a year-long class might have that advantage, but I think I'm at a comparable level, and seeing that it's only been 90 days is just huge.

Read more. At least a little every day.
March was another bad month in terms of reading. I finally put my foot down on about the 25th of March, near the end of March, and I looked at this resolution and I said "If I don't start reading, nothing is going to happen!" So what did I do? I decided to change things up. At the start of the year, I was reading non-fiction. I read Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt, David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, and I also read The Linguist by Steve Kaufmann. I've decided ot change this up. At this point, it's the 4th of April, so yes, I'm a little bit into April, but for this past week I've been reading every day, two or three chapters, so not a lot, but I've been reading The Litigators by John Grisham. I decided to switch things up and start reading fiction. I don't know if that was the motivation I needed, just that slight change. I quite enjoy reading fiction, especially John Grisham. I have a lot of his novels, maybe 10 or 15, on my shelf that I have not read. He's a great author, and I fully enjoy reading his books. It's great motivation to sit down before I go to bed, as I said I read two or three chapters. At this rate, I'll probably be done this book in about two or three weeks. That's about 500 pages, and I don't know if that's good or not in terms of progress, since I'm reading about 30 or 40 pages each day, but I'm making progress. What it took was really me putting my foot down and saying, "If I don't start reading, this is never going to happen". Now I'm well on my way, and hopefully this kick-starts this habit again, and I'm able to keep that up. I don't know if it will be possible, but for April, the goal is to read a little bit every day. Once I'm finished this book, I'll have to decide if I want to stick with fiction or if I want to switch back to non-fiction, but the most important thing that I'm very glad with is that I've gotten back on track.

I think I talked about this earlier, but one of the issues I find with New Year's Resolutions is that when they're framed like that, the moment you lose track, or the moment you step off the path, people give up. This is a lifestyle change that I want to make this year. Yes, I had a month and a half where I didn't read that much, but I said that this is a change that I want to make, and it's not a matter of reaching a 365 day streak. It's just a matter of reading more, and then March came and I said "I'm not on track, and I need to change that". So I took a step back to do that, and I hope that I'm going to be able to keep this up. As I said, this past week I've been reading every day. I went home this past weekend, and I made sure to bring my book with me and I made sure to read when I was at home. I'm going to continue that going forward. It will probably be another week and a half until I finish this book, unless I sit down on the weekend and decide to read two or three hundred pages and get the book out of the way. I have been known to do that, so that could happen as well. But I'm back on track, and I'm excited to see what April holds in terms of reading.

Follow the Couch to 5K program with the goal of entering a race during the summer
I made more progress in March than I did in February. In February I ran once, and in March I ran three times. I don't even remember when I ran in February, but I think it was at the end of February. The three times that I ran in March were all pretty much in the first 10 days of the month. I had this brilliant goal to run 9 times, I think, in March, but that didn't happen. I did run a few times. Who knows, maybe I'll try for 5 times in April and I'll slowly step this up. It's important, yes, exercise is important. Don't get me wrong, I do understand and I do appreciate that, and as I said, it's on my resolutions list and it's something that I want to get done. But, and I know this sounds bad, it's not at the top of my priority list, so I haven't been able to find the time. When I sit down in the evening, the most important thing for me is to spend some time on Czech. Also important for me is reading. I would much rather spend a half-hour reading than go down and run on the treadmill. Right now, the issue is that I haven't been able to find the time for either. But when I have that time, I put it towards reading. Something else that I know I've mentioned before is audio books. I don't know if that's really cheating in terms of my reading goal, but I've been listening to a lot of podcasts so I do get that auditory input. That could be an option, to listen and run at the same time, but basically, the moral of the story is that I need to block out the time to do this. I used to go and run whenever I put laundry in. I haven't been doing that, I've just had other things to work on during the time when I have clothes in the laundry machine.

But going forward, I need to work on this. Yes, we're three months in and I've only run four times. It's pathetic, I don't need people to tell me that, I know that myself, so going forward who knows. Maybe it's a matter of sticking a post-it note on my bed so that I see it every night just to remind myself to go out and do this. I haven't been able to bring myself to get up early to go running, maybe first thing in the evenings when I get home from work, who knows. I finish work in three weeks and then I start back at school. I find that I have more available time during the week when I'm in school, yes, I have homework, but I'm only in class for 15 hours. There is homework and work that needs to be done outside of class that I'm not taking into account, but I find that I have more available time than I do now when I'm on co-op. So who knows, maybe things will change in April. Hopefully they change in April, I should have a bit more time since co-op ends this month. This is not a goal that I've forgotten, it's still something that I look at and say, "Yes, I want to get that done", but it's at the bottom of my priority list, and I don't see it moving from that location, so I need to work around it. I need to figure out how to make this happen as it is something I do want to happen.

Enjoy the first co-op term of my program
My co-op term is going well. At this point, we have three weeks left... we finish on the 21st of April. The co-op term has been good. In the month of March I finally had a few breakthroughs in terms of what I was doing, and I was really successful in terms of some of the endeavors I took on. January had a lot of training and February had a lot of experimenting. A lot of what we're doing, to some extent, is luck. Whether or not we get lucky on some of the things that we're working on. Some of the other people did, and I didn't, during the month of February. But during the month of March, it seems like I'm on a lucky streak. We'll see if it keeps up, and if I'm able to transition that into something sustainable. March has been a good month, in terms of co-op, I'm finally starting to see some results for the work that I've put in. I'm very independent with my co-op, a lot of it is just me and the computer, doing work, doing research, running campaigns, and that sort of thing. So March has been good - I'm starting to see some results. The team environment I continue to love the things that happen at Adknown, that whole environment. We go out for lunch every Wednesday, it's great to build team spirit, there is a billiards table and a fussball table in the office, all of that is great to get to know the other employees and the other co-ops. I've been enjoying my first co-op term, and I've learned a lot. Right now I'm working on a co-op report that needs to be submitted to Laurier basically talking about the company, what I've learned, how I've applied my education so far, and all of those things, so that's something I'm working on. Things have been good. I hope things will continue to be good for the next few weeks, and I'll have a final update for you next month with a wrap-up of how I found the entire thing.

Keep at least a 10.5 GPA across all courses
I'm on co-op right now, so there are no classes going on. One interesting thing to point out is that my class schedule came back for the summer, and I was hoping to be in Calculus 3, but that didn't happen. There were conflicts with the class timing and it's physically and logistically impossible for me to be in two places at the same time, and as a result there's no way for me to fit Calculus 3 into my schedule. I'm taking Actuarial Science 231 (ACTSC 231) instead, which is just an introduction to financial mathematics. It's a good thing I haven't spent too much time studying Calculus 3, yes, that knowledge will still be relevant going forward, but I won't be taking it in the summer. I do have a statistics book, but I haven't followed through on reading ahead or starting to study too much. Yes, I have been watching a few videos and learning some key terms, and I've been looking online for textbooks and syllabi. I've already purchased my actuarial science textbook, but this is really a goal looking forward to the summer, looking forward to May when this really starts. I have high hopes for the summer and I know that this resolution is to keep a 10.5 GPA, but I would really like to aim for higher than that, and I think it's possible, especially if I put in the time. At this point, there aren't any huge updates here.

Stay involved during semesters 4 & 5
I have exciting news. I volunteer on the Emergency Response Team, and this past year I was a general member and promotions lead. I applied, and was offered a position, to be an executive next year on the Emergency Response Team. I'm pleased to say that I will be the promotions executive, working with a team of 6 other executives plus the coordinator, so there will be 8 of us in total. As well as 12 general members whom we have hired now, and probably another 8 or 10 that will be hired in September. I'm excited to have a position of more authority and more responsibility for this upcoming year. I'm looking forward to that, so I will be very involved, I imagine, during the summer, with some team building, getting to know each other, and planning for the year, and then once September starts we jump right into the swing of it, we jump head first into the deep end with O-week, volunteering 40 hours, 50 hours. We have a lot of changes coming this upcoming year to the Emergency Response Team, in terms of number of people on the team, when we shift, how we operate on shift, so all of these things will definitely be a learning experience. Lots of time and lots of dedication will be required, but I look forward to that. It's a huge involvement.

I've also applied to be a business teaching assistant for the upcoming year, and I've also applied to be on JDCC, Laurier's business case-competition team. As I said, both of those are application based. I've applied for the both of them, and I don't know if I'll be successful or not. Either one of those, and potentially both, I would be thrilled to be a part of. I think that they would be great things to add to my palette of things that I volunteer with on campus. The interviews happen soon, so I should hear back pretty soon to figure that out. Hopefully during the month of April I will have a better idea of what exactly I'll be doing in the fall. This spring, I also applied to be a marker and a TA for some math courses at Waterloo, so we'll see what happens there.


I do want to wrap this up, I'm noticing that I'm starting to have some issues with my camera and also that this is getting to be very long, it's going to be the longest video I've uploaded so far. Thank you if you've watched all this far. Anyways, to wrap up, one last thing I want to say in terms of volunteering is that I'm so happy that I was able to continue volunteering during the month of March, during the semester, really, even though I was on co-op. It's such a fulfilling experience. If I had to sum it up in 1 word, that's what I would use, fulfilling. It's one thing to go through school, participate in co-op, and work towards getting a degree, write exams, and all of that. But, volunteering lets you do so much more. You get to meet so many other people, there are so many other things you can do during your day to get involved, improve yourself, gain other skills, make a difference in other people's lives, interact with other people, it's such a fulfilling experience. That's the word I would use, fulfilling. So I'm very glad that I was able to spend the month of March, January, February, and I'm sure April as well continuing to be involved, even while I was on co-op. But I am going to end the video there. Sorry for the jump a little earlier. The camera cut out and I had to re-record.


Thanks for watching. I'm hoping to have another video tomorrow or Thursday, talking about Czech. We're reaching 90 days. It's very exciting. I'm looking forward to see what happens going forward in the month of April, but only time will tell. Thanks for watching, talk to you soon, bye. 

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