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6,362 posts
msg #48051
Ignore TheRumpledOne
11/19/2006 10:37:35 AM

November 16, 2006

The Magic of Repetition By Robert Ringer

People who can never quite seem to grab the brass ring are often guilty of nothing more than overlooking the basics. By basics, Iím talking about skills and activities such as time management, reading, developing an accurate perception of reality, assumption avoidance ... the list goes on and on.

But perhaps the most consistently overlooked basic of all is an innocuous little item called ďrepetition.Ē In the Introduction to Million Dollar Habits I say, ďSuccess is a matter of understanding and religiously practicing specific, simple habits that always lead to success.Ē

Interestingly, however, when I searched the book (on computer) for the word repetition, I was surprised to find that I had used it only twice. And neither use was in conjunction with developing success habits.

In other words, I never actually explained how to go about forming those habits. Itís been 17 years since I wrote Million Dollar Habits, so itís difficult to recall precisely what was on my mind at the time. In hindsight, however, it appears that I simply assumed the reader would understand that habits are formed through repetition.

In writing circles, this is known as presumption of (reader) knowledge on the part of the author, and itís something that a writer should always strive to avoid. Itís the writerís duty to make certain that not one reader is left wondering, ďBut how do I actually do it?Ē

Every sports fan knows the story of Larry Bird ó practicing on a rickety old basket in French Lick, Indiana eight to 10 hours a day. Even though Bird was not a great natural athlete, through the sheer power of repetition he became a Hall of Fame legend.

Today, of course, there are millions of basketball players, from middle school to the pros, who are great shooters. And they all acquired that skill the exact same way ó through repetition. There is no shortcut.

Repetition is how you become good at any sport, artistic endeavor, math, writing ... just about any activity one can think of. Weíve heard the truism all our lives: Practice makes perfect.

Iíve told the story many times about how I became a Microsoft Word expert. Iím no computer whiz by any stretch of the imagination, but I spent a year and a half figuring out, then repeating, every Microsoft Word function known to mankind. As a result of all that repetition, today I can perform most functions automatically, at lightning speed, because I donít even have to think about what Iím doing.

In fact, if youíre at a computer, I can stand on the other side of the room, with my back turned to you, and tell you what keystrokes to use to perform some fairly sophisticated Microsoft Word functions. Again, itís not because Iím high-tech; itís because Iíve performed those keystrokes so many times that theyíre lodged in my brain.

Itís the same with writing.
Iíd like to think Iíve improved a great deal as a writer over the past 25 years, and I attribute my improvement to having written millions of words during that period of time. In this regard, I often quote Mario Puzo, who summed it up nicely when he said, ďRewriting is the whole secret to writing.Ē

An interesting paradox of repetition is that if you practice something slowly, youíll actually learn it more quickly. I can think of many instances in my life where this was obvious to me. One in particular that comes to mind is when I was in my teens. Though I wasnít a great athlete, I loved basketball and practiced it for hours on end.

Like most right-handed kids, I couldnít shoot a left-handed lay-up worth beans. I was having a terrible time not only shooting the ball with my left hand, but also trying to figure out how to push off with my right foot. If youíve played basketball, you know how awkward this maneuver can be.

I vividly recall practicing the correct technique hours on end in my backyard, where my dad had installed a basket for me. (This was long before the days of Huffy, so it was a big deal to have your own backboard and basket setup.)

I would walk through my approach to the basket, literally thousands of times, making certain that I ended up on my right foot just as I was about to lay the ball up with my left hand. Little by little, I increased my speed, until I finally was able to make left-handed lay-ups at full throttle.

As a result of having the technique ingrained in my head, I ultimately was able to make left-handed lay-ups in the heat of games, even if a defender was breathing down my neck. The reason I was able to perform under game conditions was because I didnít have to think about it. I had done all my thinking thousands of times in practice, which allowed my brain to go on autopilot once a game began.

I have since found that this same strategy produces results in just about any area of adult life. For example, any professional speaker will tell you that repetition is the key to becoming a good speaker. A professional speaker is well aware of the importance of practicing his lines slowly until they become indelibly stamped on his forebrain.

From time to time, every speaker comes across a sentence ó or even a whole story ó that causes his tongue and brain to become tangled. The best solution to this problem is to practice the material slowly ó a hundred times or more, if necessary ó until you get it right. Then, itís like riding a bicycle: You never forget it.

In practical terms, what all this means is that virtually anyone with average intelligence can become an expert at just about anything by employing repetition. Itís one of those basics that are so essential to success, yet so often overlooked.

So, when all else fails, make certain that youíre not forgetting the importance of repetition in your business and life strategies. More often than not, so-called overnight successes are really just people who have endlessly repeated the same actions over a period of many years ó usually very slowly in the early going and increasing their speed as they progress.

As advertising legend Claude Hopkins put it nearly 100 years ago, ďGenius is the art of taking pains.Ē

124 posts
msg #48058
Ignore papagatorga
11/19/2006 4:40:03 PM

Thank you, I sent that to my children. You have been very helpful to me and many many others on this forum.

6,362 posts
msg #48083
Ignore TheRumpledOne
11/20/2006 5:53:32 PM

You're welcome.

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