My 10,000 Hours

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

But perhaps the most consistently overlooked basic of all is an innocuous little item called “repetition.” Repetition is how you become good at any sport, artistic endeavor, math, writing … just about any activity one can think of. We’ve all heard, many times over, the truism that “practice makes perfect.”

Repetition is how I became a certified Microsoft Word expert. In the late nineties, I spent a year and a half writing a Microsoft Word reference guide, a project that required my learning, then repeating, every conceivable Word function hundreds of times.

As a result of all that repetition, today I can perform most Word functions very quickly and without consciously thinking about it. My Word expertise is not because I’m a computer whiz, but because of the enormous amount of repetition I invested in the program.

It’s the same with writing. I’d like to think I’ve improved a great deal as a writer over the past twenty-five years, and I attribute that improvement to having written millions of words during that period of time. In this regard, I often quote Mario Puzo, who summed it clearly nicely when he said, “Rewriting is the whole secret to writing.”

An interesting paradox of repetition is that if you practice something slowly, you’ll 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 wasn’t a great athlete, I loved basketball and practiced it hours on end.

Like most right-handed kids, I couldn’t 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 you’ve 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 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 didn’t 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 – or even a whole story – that causes his tongue and brain to become tangled. The best solution to this obstacle is to practice the material slowly – a hundred times or more, if necessary – until you get it right. Then, it’s 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. It’s one of those basics that are so essential to success, yet so often overlooked.

When all else fails, make sure that you’re not forgetting the importance of repetition in your business– and personal-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 – usually very slowly in the early going and increasing their speed as they progress.

As advertising legend Claude Hopkins put it nearly one hundred years ago: “Genius is the art of taking pains.”

[Ed. Note: If you’re ready for a treasure chest of proven ideas, strategies, and techniques that are guaranteed to dramatically improve your dealmaking skills – and, in the process, increase your income many times over – you won’t want to miss Robert Ringer’s bestselling audio series, A Dealmaker’s Dream.

Robert Ringer is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and host of the highly acclaimed Liberty Education Interview Series, which features interviews with top political, economic, and social leaders. His recently released work, Restoring the American Dream: The Defining Voice in the Movement for Liberty, is a clarion call to liberty-loving citizens to take back the country. Ringer has appeared on numerous national talk shows and has been the subject of feature articles in such major publications as Time, People, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Barron’s, and The New York Times. To sign up for his e-letter, A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World, visit]