What you can learn from a thousand times


I believe you can become awesome at the stomping unicorn backhand–or many other things–in just one day. Here’s how.

I heard a great story once.

The story

A visiting instructor once gave a two-day seminar at my tennis** club, and he told us about a similar seminar he’d given at a different club.

** The sport has been changed to protect the identities of the innocent. I don’t know tennis from snail polo.

On the first day, he’d taught the class a move called the stomping unicorn backhand. Most of the more advanced students were familiar with the stomping unicorn, but it was sparkling new for the less experienced students.

The students all had a go at the stomping unicorn, and some of them kind of pulled it off.

Then the instructor taught them to defend against the stomping unicorn. Did I say “defend”? Tennis players use that word, right?

Armed men on horseback
Defend this.

Moving on.

The students’ exchanges for the next half hour went something like this. Stomping unicorn! Stomping unicorn defense!

Frustrated (and kind of whiny) student: Why didn’t my stomping unicorn work?

Instructor: Your opponent defended against it.

Frustrated student: So how do I make it work?

Instructor: Go home and practice it a thousand times. You’ll get to know it so well you’ll be able to pull it off no matter what your opponent does.

Frustrated student: …

The next day the instructor watched the students play a few matches and noticed that two complete beginners were using the stomping unicorn every second move and even the advanced students couldn’t defend against it.

He gathered the class together.

Instructor to two kick-ass students: What did you do to get so good at the stomping unicorn?

Kick-ass student: We did what you said–went home and practiced it a thousand times.

Sulky girl in the grass
What? I just did what you said.

Why this story rocks

I love this story because it shows you’re in control. If you want to be amazing at something, work at it. It doesn’t have to take forever.

If you can’t go home and do it a thousand times in one night, maybe you can go home and do it a hundred times. Then you’re only a week and a half away from amazingness.

So if you’re stuck at home with too much time on your hands and not enough books to read, decide what you want to be great at and do it a thousand times.

Happy apocalypse!**

** Yes, I know worldwide coronavirus doesn’t make it an apocalypse and it really does suck. Doesn’t mean you can’t learn a new skill.

What new skill do you want to learn?

Did you know you can get more advice from me by putting your email in the box? Most of it will be even less useful than this post.

Red kite with a piercing gaze
Red kite is counting your reps.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

8 thoughts on “What you can learn from a thousand times”

  1. I know I’m in the future when someone signs their post Happy Apocalypse. 🙂

    I like that story! It’s similar to that “practice for so many hours to get good at something” advice, only this is easier to remember and keep up with, because I don’t remember how many hours I’m supposed to practice and I doubt I could keep up with it if I did. This gives me some hope for my painting.

    1. We’re all in the future, and something here smells funny.

      I’m sure it applies to painting, and that you won’t need to paint nearly 1000 paintings before you notice huge improvements.

  2. Exactly the kind of levity we all need right now. I’m home for the duration starting this afternoon and have yet to decide what I’m going to get good at. I suppose I’ll have a little time to figure it out.

    If I can focus long enough, I might try to start writing another book I’ve been planning. The focus thing is a big if, though. Coronapocalypse and all. 😉

    1. I know what you mean about focus. I work or write for five minutes, then I need to check the news to see if the world has ended yet.

      I think getting started on your next book is a great idea. We can do it together.

  3. Indeed, with all this fretful time suddenly on our hands, we have a responsibility to get good at new skills. I, for one, aim to become proficient at the Hawaiian nose harp. Stay tuned.

  4. That little girl’s face…it is the exact look my daughter gives me all the time!

    Yes, I need to learn something new. Right now, it’s making it day-by-day with two kids underfoot 🙂

    And figuring out how to get words in even while my mind is obsessed with the endless news cycle.

    1. I don’t have the kid issue, but I feel you on the news cycle problem. It comes out as fast as you can read it, and it’s nearly all horrible. It doesn’t leave much energy for anything else.

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