Run like the wind, cover your ears, and don’t look at what’s behind you:
Honestly, you have to:
- Really want to learn Japanese from the bottom of your heart (this will give you motivation).
- Pace yourself properly, based on your own schedule and needs (this will sustain you).
- Be incredibly disciplined and stick to a schedule (this will provide a rhythm to carry you forward).
Cherish every mistake, it will only serve to make you better. Challenge yourself by trying to read things even at a low level. Diversify your exposure to the language through grammar, listening, and games–silly apps, music, movies, etc.
Personally I feel the first ten levels are the hardest, because your mind is still learning to process this entirely new language, you’re still learning how to schedule and pace yourself (and maybe biting off more than you can chew), and you still don’t know quite enough to comfortably read and engage with Japanese “in the wild.”
The later levels can be challenging because you are continually packing in more and more information and stretching the limits of your memory. This is also when your reviews will grow, so you have to push harder and spend more time studying. Your commitment and discipline will be tested. However, the reward is higher: with each additional level, you will absolutely see your comprehension skyrocketing. Getting the gist of things is not uncommon. Eventually, you come to real understanding.
Overall, it just takes a lot of work, a lot of love, and absolutely no room for fear.