Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.

The achievers throughout history have had a higher tolerance for mastering repetitive tasks. This has allowed them to excel in their field and master their chosen craft. This often comes from seeing the tangible results that come from patience, discipline, and sustained effort.

Dispersed and Isolated

In early 1665 Isaac Newton was a 23 year old student at Cambridge University. He was about to take his exams in maths when suddenly ‘The Great Plague of London’ broke out.

With deaths growing by the day, many Londoners escaped to the countryside spreading the disease further, eventually resulting in Cambridge University being forced to close.

The students left and fled for safety. For most, nothing could have been worse. They were scattered living in small villages experiencing intense fear. They were cut off from their peers and educational institution and experienced intense isolation for the next twenty months.

For many, their active minds had nothing to work on. They found themselves bored stiff and would become passive, simply waiting for the plague to pass.

For Isaac Newton though, the plague months represented something very different. At Cambridge he had been troubled by a series of mathematical problems that challenged him and his professors. Stranded at home in Lincolnshire he decided he would spend the time working over the same problems until he cracked them.

He brought with him a large collection of books which he studied with an intense focus. Each sentence could provide the answer to help him solve these pesky problems. He worked through the exact same problems day and night until he figured them out.

The Apple and the Tree

He would wander outside and continue his thinking, often taking a seat in the apple orchard next to his house. He would look up at an apple dangling from a branch and compare it to the moon behind it in the sky.

To his eyes, both appeared to be the same size and were both suspended in the air. He would ponder the relationship between the two – what held one thing on the tree and the other within the Earth’s orbit – eventually leading to his ideas about gravity.

As his knowledge deepened he began to conduct his own experiments, and his mind seemed to flow from problem to problem. The more problems he solved, the more he wanted to study, leading to more connections and greater insights.

While other students were bored, scared and just killing time, Isaac Newton passed the entire 20 months without thinking of the plague. In that time, he had essentially created modern mathematics, mechanics, and optics. It is considered the most prolific, concentrated period of scientific thinking in history.

Master the Mundane

Isaac Newton had of course possessed a talented mind, but at Cambridge nobody suspected him of such genius. It took this period of forced isolation and intense work to transform him.

It was the process of continuously trying to solve the problems that enabled Newton to become a success. He never gave up and soon realised that the impossible was possible. Once he broke through on one problem he realised that hard work and perseverance was all it took. It meant that the next impossible task could be solved in the same way.

It’s all too easy for us to just call him a genius; “I could never be like that” we may say, but this is simply not true.

If you exercise, then you know that you don’t get big and strong from working out just once. You have to lift those weights again, and again, and again. It’s all about reps, reps and more reps.

So why is our approach to life any different? We often become bored of repeating the same mundane task repeatedly. We try something, find it hard, find it boring and then just move on.

Try to master the mundane, all it takes is just repetition, repetition, repetition.

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