The Power of Repetition

man swimming in olympic size pool

One of the most important lessons for us to remember is how important repetition is in everyday life.  In the bestselling book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell brought to light the 10,000 Hour Rule.  He said “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness”.  Now there have been many that have argued that there is no magic number and that for some people it may be 2,500 hours and some it may be 25,000 hours to mastery.  Regardless of the number, repetition is a key ingredient in 3 major areas of our lives.


John Wooden is one of the greatest coaches, leaders, and teachers this world has ever seen.  He led his UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA National Championships in a 12-year period, including a record 7 in a row.  He is famously quoted saying “The eight laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition”.  The quote makes the point clear that repetition is key, but why?  Repetition is a key learning aid because it helps transition a skill from the conscious to the subconscious.  Through repetition, a skill is practiced and rehearsed over time and gradually becomes easier.


I have learned that whether teaching sales, parenting my children, or coaching clients, repetition is arguably the most important skill for me to impart.  It has been said that it takes 66 days to create a new habit.  As with most things this varies per participant, but the point to remember as the teacher is to reinforce the same message frequently.  Saying something one time and expecting it to be retained and followed through with is naive.  Remember to have patience and give grace as everyone learns at a different pace.  The great news for you as a teacher is you don’t have to be that creative but rather follow through on your initial teachings.


Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the greatest speeches of all time on August 28, 1963, to a crowd of 250,000.  The “I Have a Dream” speech has endured as one of the signature moments of the civil rights movement.  In the speech, Dr. King repeated the phrase “I Have a Dream” eight times to emphasize the importance of that dream and the movement.  I realize that comparing our everyday speak to that historic speech, may feel like a stretch but it shows the importance of repetition.  According to recent studies, the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today.  Knowing that alone, we may have to repeat ourselves several times (typically 3 times) to ensure the message was heard.

Whether we are learning something new, teaching a lesson, or speaking with our spouse, repetition will be your asset.  I know the feeling of wanting to be creative and have something new to share but don’t be afraid to put that “song” on repeat.  “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief.  And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen”. -Muhammad Ali


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