A young woman walked through the park one day when she spotted an old man sitting on a bench, drawing. She thought she recognized him as one of her favorite artists and moved in for a closer look. “It is you!” she said when she reached him. 

“Please, please,” she asked. “You must sketch my portrait. It’s my dream.” 

The old man looked into her eyes and began to move his hand along the paper. Moments later, he handed her the sketch.

“It’s wonderful,” she exhaled. “Thank you, thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“5,000 Francs, madam,” said the old man. 

The woman’s face lost its color and she began to frown. “Please, Monsieur Picasso… How could you charge me so much? This sketch only took you a moment.”

“No, madam,” Picasso replied. “It took me my whole life.” 


This story is often told to help artists think about how to price their work, but when I hear it I think of something else: Repetitio mater studiorum est.

That Latin phrase, engraved somewhere along the sprawl of the former empire, means: Repetition is the mother of all learning. 

It’s easy to forget that behind almost every masterpiece is a lifetime dedicated to the craft. Behind every “overnight success” is hundreds of thousands of repetitions and hours of practice. 

Some say it takes 10,000 hours of experience to reach mastery. Some say it’s less. Others will tell you that only perfect practice makes perfect. But whatever the magic number or formula for mastery is, one thing is for certain: You need to get your reps. 

Good or bad. Focus or distracted. Get your reps.

Repetition Rerum Adiunctorum Aequet
(Creativity Equals Repetition)