Learning New Things : Time and Repetition


This post could be summed up in a single phrase,

“Practice makes perfect!”

It should be obvious, but it takes time and repetition to get good at things. You’ve probably heard people say things like:

  • 10,000 hours practice to become an expert.
  • It takes 1000 repetitions to create a new motor engram for physical actions.
  • It takes 5000 repetitions to break a bad habit where motor engrams are concerned.

Whether these exact numbers, or even the orders of magnitude, have any basis in truth is not really the point. The message is pretty clear and I believe it. You get good at what you do regularly, even if that means getting good at doing the wrong thing. 🙂

There is no point just telling yourself you want to do something. Get off your ass and do it, then keep doing it until you get good at it.

I’ll give you some anecdotes by way of example.

  • When you watch “experts” at work they will often appear to make leaps of faith and solve problems in a manner that almost appears like magic to someone with less experience. What you’ve not seen is the years of practice they’ve had that has allowed them to spot patterns and anti-patterns, which now allows them to “intuitively” jump straight to the correct answer. Beginners are always looking for “the secret”, but there isn’t a magic button. It’s years of adherence to a meticulous process. Go to sessions by Jonathan Lewis or Kyle Hailey and you will see their process. It’s well defined and almost obvious when they explain it, but it takes effort and discipline, which most people are not willing to put in.
  • People often ask me how I have the time to produce content for my website when it is not my job. I do something most days. I typically use a couple of hours every day to learn new stuff and I get most of Saturday as well. You don’t produce thousands of articles and blog posts overnight. You do little bits here and there for years. The more you do it, the easier it gets to gather the information, process it and produce something. I think it’s obvious to anyone who reads my website and blog I’m not the most literary of people, but I’ve developed an approach and a style of writing that works for me. The fact other people seem to like it is a bonus. The problem with this answer is it doesn’t sound good to people with a short-term approach to everything. They want to start a blog and be an Oracle ACE yesterday. That’s not how it works…
  • I am very flexible. People will often see me stretching and ask me how I got so flexible. My answer once again is, “Little and often!” I stretch in one form or another every day, sometimes multiple times a day. People are rarely happy with this answer, because they want the magical zero effort solution. They would rather spend the next ten years looking for the magic solution, rather than actually getting on with it.

You see the pattern? It all comes down to the effort you put in over a number of years, so you can either start now or wait until they invent that stuff from The Matrix that allows you to download Kung Fu in 30 seconds. 🙂

Check out the rest of this series here.



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

3 thoughts on “Learning New Things : Time and Repetition”

  1. Problem is, you never get credit for those years of expertise which allow you to diagnose the problem correctly and quickly. Here’s how that process usually seems to go, in my experience:

    User/Manager/Developer: Hey. We’ve got a problem. It looks like this… It won’t go away. It’s really urgent!
    Me: That feels like an issue with Component-X. Have you tried re-loading Grommet-Y?
    U/M/D: Well, no. We thought you could try bouncing the database. And if that doesn’t work, re-start Weblogic. And if that doesn’t work, spend hours logging an SR for us, because we don’t know how, and we can’t be bothered to learn because it’s lunch time…
    Me: No. That sounds like a waste of time. Can you please try re-loading Grommet-Y?
    U/M/D: No! Wait there.
    U/M/D’s Director: Please do what they ask. Or else I’ll start shouting.
    Me: [I do what they ask. None of it works. It takes days. The system’s still down. Every morning and lunchtime I send an email asking if they’ve re-loaded Grommet-Y yet.]
    U/M/D: It’s still not working and you still haven’t fixed it. Please come to a 5 hour workshop where we discuss options.
    Me: No. Not until you try reloading Grommet-Y.
    [One Day Later]
    U/M/D: We had the workshop without you. We want you to try bouncing the database again, and restarting the app stack again.
    Me: Have you tried re-loading Grommet-Y yet?
    U/M/D: [Silence]
    Me: Please reload Grommet-Y.
    [Two days pass.]
    [I bump into someone from the Scrum team in the coffee area]
    Me: Hey, how’s that problem going?
    Them: Oh, we re-loaded Grommet-Y and it started working again.
    Me: Ah.
    [while true; then `Waits for “thank you” note, or public credit for solving the issue`; done]

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