Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Repetition is the Mother of Skill

Time we had another Words of Wisdom. 'Repetition is the Mother of Skill.' No-one seems to know where this saying comes from, but it was made famous by American success guru Anthony Robbins. So what's behind it? If you train and practice, you gradually adapt to improve at whatever you are training and practising at. If you lift weights your muscles get stronger, if you run regularly you find that you can run further and faster. If you practice mental arithmetic you get much better at it. If you practice technique in sports or music you improve. This is one of the most important lessons in life. We are told 'practice makes perfect' when we are young, but somehow this message doesn't quite hit home, perhaps because a lot of hard work and effort are involved before you register real improvement and there is no such thing as instant success.

But there is plenty of good science to prove it is true. One of the most remarkable findings is about the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for spatial memory. Tests on taxi drivers prove that their hippocampuses grow larger than on people who don't have all their knowledge of places and how to get to them - and the longer they've been driving, the greater the effect.

The good news of all this is that the amount of practice you do far outweighs the aptitude you may have to start with. The bad news is the '10,000 hour' rule, that to achieve real expertise at anything you need to put in 10,000 hours of focused practice. That means that if you spend, say, 25 hours a week on your training, eight years of hard work. So, if you really want to succeed at, well, anything, that's what you've got to put in. How many hours do you put in? Repetition is the Mother of Skill.