Today I went to my second Zumba class – an interval Latin dance aerobics thingy. I am probably not the worst person ever at Zumba, but I am probably in the top two. Despite that, I love the class… and I can’t wait until next Saturday when I get to sweat copiously and humiliate myself again. Why? Let me tell you.

In their charming book The Daring Book for Girls, Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz provide a compendium of girlhood that includes everything from how to do a cartwheel to profiles of famous women spies. I really love this book – and there is a particular quote from it that has been stuck in my mind for awhile:

Forget perfect on the first try. In the face of frustration, your best tool is a few deep breaths, and remembering that you can do anything once you’ve practiced two hundred times. Seriously.

When I thought about it, there are many things that I could not do the first time, or the first 50 times, and I had to work at it. Those skills, that knowledge, I treasure much more than the things that came easily to me.
(list 5) Things That I Had To Practice To Get Good At
  1. Organic chemistry formulas.
  2. Flipping pancakes.
  3. The knit stitch.
  4. The perl stitch.
  5. Understanding Philosophy of Science class reading material.
  6. Editing anything.
  7. Getting my corners to match up in a quilt block.
An article last year in New York Magazine explained that new research is demonstrating that it is important for kids to try, try again. In short, only doing things that come easily may make a kid less likely to cope and adapt when they cannot do something well.
I always have had every confidence that I could learn anything I wanted to – from physics to philosophy, if I applied myself. But doing anything athletic was another story. I have always considered myself clumsy, awkward, and winded too easily.
This image of myself has changed drastically in the last few months. I still am clumsy and awkward, but I don’t wind too easily now. And if there is anything I want to do, I can do it. And I will get there. My trainer, Mandy, has a great phrase that captures this idea – Let’s do something to our bodies that makes them change and adapt.
To do anything, I just need to practice 200 times. Or, in the case of Zumba, only 198 more times.

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