Clues from Blue’s Clues

Have you ever seen Blue’s Clues? It’s repetitive as hell. And it is amazing – especially if you’re a preschooler.

That show is a stellar example of mindful repetition as the machete of understanding.

In my learning activities, as much as possible, I try to engage in mindful repetition. Repetition where I go over things that I almost know and do them again; and where I go over new things slowly and with growing confidence.

A long time ago I got into the habit of trying to learn very fast; reading at breakneck speed, cramming for tests, jumping to the summaries. This made me quite good in areas where I had very good aptitudes, but it also barred any form of progress in areas that interested me but where my base abilities were not stellar.

Mindful repetition is the antidote to this. Now, when reading literature in a language that I’m learning, I read every page six times (twice per session, and in three consecutive sessions). I repeat the piano pieces that I learn very often, until they truly feel right. And when reading mathematics or computer science, I try to dwell on every formula until I absolutely get it.

I’ve come to appreciate the power of doing this. I used to be ashamed of not understanding something the first time. The Adult says, you’ll never be done, move faster! But the Kid is engaged and goes fast. Actually, faster than a real Kid in many cases, because you can leverage what you know already. The Adult gets in the way, that’s why we take longer to learn as Adults. The expectation of being done faster keeps us (or at least me) circling around real understanding.

So be a Kid instead!

This article is a follow-up to Read The Masters.