“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward towards success.”
― C.S. Lewis
I do not enjoy repetition at all. I’m not a fan of repeats in television shows. Even if I turn on my favorite television show and see that it is a repeat, I’ll switch the channel. I just loathe repetition. If someone tells me the same stories that they have already told me before, my eyes begin glazing over and my mind wanders. I think it may be suppressed rebellion coming forth from my childhood.
My third grade year in elementary school, we started learning multiplication. The teacher presented the lesson and taught us how to multiply, but I couldn’t grasp it at all. I was lost and I didn’t tell the teacher I was lost or my parents. I just daydreamed while she taught multiplication and made lousy grades during it. I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t share those F papers with my parents. My day of reckoning happened when I got my report card for those six to nine weeks. A big fat D sat neatly alongside the word Math. This was my first D on a report card. I brought C’s home before and they were bad enough, but a D was terrible. I was scared to death about what my Mom was going to say or do. I already felt like the class idiot because I didn’t understand multiplication and I didn’t want to feel even worse when I saw my mother’s disapproval of my letter grade. I couldn’t hide my report card; Mom knew when to expect it. I nervously handed my report card over to her when I walked in the door. I cannot recall exactly, but I wouldn’t doubt that I excused myself quickly to the bathroom as soon as the envelope touched her fingertips.
She was upset and involved Dad in being upset about it as well. They both came to me at bedtime and asked why I made such a grade in math. They asked if I just didn’t understand the lesson, if I was paying attention, and all those other parental questions. I fessed up and said that multiplication was confusing. They were upset that I didn’t let them know, but they were also aggravated that my teacher didn’t inform them earlier of my struggle. Anyway, I was placed in the other math class; you know “the slow class.” My inability to multiply was making me feel like a loser with a capital L. My grandmother reminded my dad of his or his brothers struggles with math and gave him an old set of records she used to help them. It was a sing along of each multiplication table. The collection was a dual sided five record set. The records were copy written in 1956. When I was in third grade, it was mid 1980’s. The sing a longs were honestly catchy, but sounded like most music back in the 50’s. Squeaky clean, super chipper, rhyming ditties sang by a Dean Martin wannabe. My parents decided for me to listen to the records after school each day and then at night when I went to bed, they would play one of the records for me to fall asleep to. This was a special level of repetition hell to me.
My dreams became numbers dancing in my head to these ridiculous lyrics. “You can surprise all the people in all the stores, counting your change, when you know your fours…..4X1 is 4…..and so on.”
Strangely enough, I started to grasp multiplication. The sing songs were being etched into my brain. I sat in math class and the little ditties would pop into my head, whispering the answer to each problem. I learned multiplication by repetition. I still didn’t understand it completely at first, but learning it started with repetition.
As much as I detest repetition, I know that it is a valuable way to learn. Repetition causes things to stick to your mind. It helps you recall the order of what you are repeating or remember the way it looks or sounds. After you repeat something over and over, it begins to sink into the subconscious to where you recall it without overthinking. That’s why practice is important in music, sports, exercise, reading, and anything else we do in life that takes skill.
Spiritually speaking, I’ve had to repeat a lot of life lessons in order to finally get what God was trying to tell me the first time around. Maybe I wasn’t completely paying attention or I just didn’t understand what He was trying to teach me. Those repeat lessons are aggravating, they can be boring, they can be mundane tasks, or they can even make you feel like a complete idiot. But, it’s best to not flip the channel or turn it off, like the way I do television shows. Instead, repeat it until it sinks into your subconscious and you just know it completely without second guessing it.