Rinse, repeat, … but don’t forget apply

In today’s society, the phrase “rinse, repeat” has two meanings:

  1. a dogged approach; persistently following the same steps repeatedly until you achieve your next goal;
  2. a sardonic approach; foolishly following the same steps repeatedly, hoping to achieve a better result than last time

The origin of the phrase is the instructions on a shampoo bottle: apply, rinse, repeat. While “rinse, repeat” is beneficial and necessary (in hair and in life), I think more emphasis should be placed on the first step: apply.

Woody Allen is credited with the saying “80% of success is just showing up” and Albert Einstein with “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Essentially, both are saying you can’t get to the “rinse, repeat” steps until you have first done the “apply” step.

For me, this first step goes beyond showing up– to really stretching yourself  and taking a risk. For instance, when my daughters entered the workforce, I gave them the following advice: “Apply for the job that scares you, but excites you.” They quipped they were not qualified for those jobs. I retorted that if you only apply for jobs you’re qualified for, then you’ll be bored on the second day.

Before this, when my daughters applied to college, they didn’t know how to do differential equations or read ancient Greek. And that didn’t matter, because they had already demonstrated in high school that they possessed the ability to learn and the eagerness to explore new horizons.

So, I encouraged them to “apply”– to define the first step on the journey and get going. They tried, they didn’t like, so they moved quickly to “rinse, repeat.” They used the knowledge and skills acquired in the first apply to define the first step in their next journey.

Apply, rinse, repeat.

I find, you’re never too young or too old to “apply.”

I am a CSC Distinguished Engineer with 40 years in IT and 25 in Performance Engineering. Recently, I listened to my DE colleague, Frederic Auberson, describe his Predictive Extensions for Rail (PXR) that he applied in a recent engagement.

His presentation included neural nets, Hadoop, machine learning, and dozens of other modern technologies. But the one that caught my ear was Titan, a “graph database.” What’s that? How’s it used? Who uses it?

I contacted Fred and asked him to give me some guidance to begin my investigation. At this point, I was “applying,” seeking something new, something different, something that scared and excited me.

This is a great way to keep your career moving ahead and to find something new and interesting to direct your next steps. When you’re ready to “apply,” simply reach out to someone who is doing something that interests you. You will likely find that they will happily share their experiences and get you connected with people who are starting on a similar journey. After all, whatever they are experts in now was once something new to them.

And, be ready to share your experiences, as people like that are always ready to learn something new to start their own “apply, rinse, repeat” journey. I know I am!  

How do you use apply, rinse, repeat to keep learning and propelling your career forward?

Ken Gottry — Distinguished Engineer

Calling himself the “Everything Else Guy,” Ken Gottry is a performance engineer whose wide-ranging technical expertise ensures that systems perform, are secure, fail over, and are easy to operate and troubleshoot. If a client has technical questions about anything other than application coding and data models, they go to Ken.


  1. Hi Ken. This is inspirational. I suppose we should be open-minded and willing to explore new things.


    • Ken Gottry says:

      Hi Mickey,
      What you are familiar with is called your “comfort zone” for a reason. In these days of uncertain employment, it’s understandable that some live by the motto “he who does nothing, does nothing wrong”. I am nearing retirement, children raised, and financially stable. I hope when I was 40 I approached life with the “apply” attitude, but I likely tempered it with “I have to keep my job so my family can be secure”. Or, maybe I have always followed the doctrine of apply, rinse. Repeat.


  2. Francis Mensah says:

    Hi Ken,

    This is very inspirational and full of wisdom. It is indeed true that a journey of 1000 miles begins with a step. Sometimes failure brings out the best in us to achieve excellence.


  3. Ken Gottry says:

    Hi Francis – I am fortunate to have two great daughters who have taught me much about how to be a happy and successful person. When I started, I thought it was I who was to teach them, but I quickly realized it’s the other way around ;- )


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