75 Times (Hey hot shot, show her something else your not good at.)

Jacobs ladder


How many times does it take to get it right? We have all tried at some point to do something that looked or seemed impossible. And then we have all heard the age old saying if at first you don’t succeed try, try again. But the bigger question is; how many times do you try? I mean seriously how many times do you try to accomplish said impossible task before it is deemed truly impossible?

So let me relate a little story to you that may shed some light on just how many times it takes to learn and accomplish what may be deemed and impossible task. Let’s use a Jacob’s ladder amusement as an example (see photo for description). Several years ago I rented a space at the local county fair to vend BBQ sandwiches and make some extra money for my catering business. Across the way from my food booth was a Jacob’s ladder amusement and a speed pitch, both owned and operated by a father & sons team. The father Carl was a true Carnie at heart. He had a rough look and a gravelly voice. His sons on the other hand were in their late teens with a clean handsome look and dressed in t-shirts & jeans but stylish. Carl would run the speed pitch and the boys would tend to the Jacob’s ladder. So the first day I looked the Jacob’s ladder and no one, I mean not one person made it more than half way up the rope ladder. There has to be a gimmick. But what is it? As the first day ended Carl comes over and starts talking to me about my signs. He is telling me this whole long and in-depth process about how my signage has a glare from the night time lights and it is making it hard for the people passing buy to see my sign and blah, blah, blah… This guy Carl had it down to a “T,” I mean everything! This guy was in your head as you walked by. He watched every little movement of the people passing by. So now here I am over at my BBQ booth watching Carl watch the crowd. I was starting to get the feeling that this could actually be an art or talent of some sort. Yes I was young and naïve to all of this. I was new to my catering business and although I had been to this fair many times in my life as a patron, I had never seen it from the other side as a vendor, and this was starting to get interesting.

So I watch Carl closely and this guy really had a knack for getting people to dump money on the speed pitch. He had a line for everybody and he would just antagonize people in a subtle or sometimes not so subtle way and suck them into playing the speed pitch. He would see the typical beef cake coming down the line with the Barbie doll chick on his arm and Carl had his little microphone and amp set up. Without looking the guy in the eye he would say “hey hot shot, show her something else you’re not good at.” That line made him more money than you could ever imagine. It also got him roughed up a few times. I seen a big marine after dropping $25 grab Carl and jack him up with one bear like hand and make a fist with the other, draw back and well… it looks like it is going to be lights out for Carl. His two sons are standing there and they don’t even flinch. Then like magic Carl talks the guy down easy, he just keeps talking to the guy and the marine lets go of Carl and moves on. Now Carl doesn’t flinch, he just sits back down on his little stool and goes right back to his antagonizing of people without missing a beat. As the night ended I go over and talk to Carl and sons and they were just acting like it was a normal thing. His one son tells me of a time when a guy got mad at the speed pitch and pulled a gun on his father. He said my father just kept talking & smiling and the guy got pissed and walked away… he laughs.

So now you kind of know Carl and this Jacob’s ladder just made me mad looking at it. Because while Carl had his groove going on at the speed pitch, his sons had this thing where they would climb up the Jacob’s ladder like they’re walking down the street. And as if that is not enough they would stand up and walk up & down the ladder like it was almost effortless. Backwards even! So after a few days of this I felt that I knew Carl well enough that if I bribed him with some good BBQ maybe he would let me in on the secret as to how the boys could walk up and down the ladder when most people could only crawl halfway up before falling off. So I ask… and to my surprise he said sure I tell you the secret. There is no secret, just do it 75 times. I looked at him and he looked back at me as he ate the BBQ sandwich and with a mumble as he ate he said yup, 75 times that what it takes. He said I bought that ladder game a few years ago, brought it home and set it up in the back yard. My oldest boy and a friend helped me set it up. I went in to eat my lunch and as I sat at the table I watched out the window and by the 72-73rd time my boy made it to the top. Then his friend did it. So later when my younger son came home he started at it. On or about the 74th try he made it to the top. It was at that time I started to realize 75 seemed to be the magic number. He went on to say that it had become a running joke with him and the boys that when somebody failed or messed something up we would say “just do it 74 more times and you’ll get it right and he laughed. He continued… as more and more friends came to try and climb the ladder it seemed almost every person fell right into the 75 try system. Do it 75 times and you’ll make it to the top.  As long as you have the power, the strength and ability you just need to practice 75 times.

So this “75 tries and you’ll make it to the top” kind of stuck in my head over the years. I never really applied it to anything, but when I fail at something no matter what it might be, my mind drifts back to August of 1997 and “Carl the speed pitch carnie.” I think the real lesson is just keep trying… but after 75 times and you haven’t made it happen… well you might want to rethink your tactics, but you never give up. Giving up is for losers and I don’t blog about that.

SO no matter what it is… as long as the ability and strength are present the practice will make it happen. It will happen, it is going to happen and you will make it happen just keep practicing.

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