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I made up an idiom that I think describes what I want to say quite nicely:

"If one shoots enough arrows at the target, one is sure to hit the bull's eye."

An actual English idiom I know of that is close in meaning is:

"Throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick"

However, the conceptual image is not as matching, and according to Wiktionary it has a second meaning:

If enough (perhaps false or reckless) accusations are made against someone, his reputation will suffer, whether or not this is deserved.

But I want the idiom to paint a positive image. For example, I would say the idiom when I help someone remember something by giving it a shot in the dark and getting it right miraculously after some guesses.

What is the English idiom I'm looking for?

  • Probably just plain old "trial and error" will do. – Dan Bron Jan 17 '15 at 22:31
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    “Persistence and determination are always rewarded.” ― Christine Rice – Edwin Ashworth Jan 17 '15 at 23:11
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    "Failures are the stepping stones to success." – ermanen Jan 18 '15 at 0:51
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    "347th time's a charm." – Hot Licks Jan 18 '15 at 4:19
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    A bit sarcastically you could say: Even a blind hen eventually finds a grain. – rogermue Jan 18 '15 at 5:01
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Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

A blind squirrel has no practical option but to keep searching for nuts in spite of its natural limitations. The phrase is often used by the skillful to disparage the lucky breaks of others, but it is also used by the skillful to point out that luck played into their success. Just as persistence and luck intersect in real life, the blind squirrel proverb intersects with the motivational mantras:

Persistence overcomes resistance!

or

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

The blind squirrel proverb lands closer to the expression of:

sheer luck

The motivational mantras land closer to the expression of:

try your luck

or

ride your luck

The following are not idioms per se, but they turn a good phrase for the intersection of luck and persistence:

“Diligence is the mother of good fortune.” Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

"Luck comes and goes; you have to seize it." Jean Van Hamme

“I didn't wait for Luck. I tore after it with a truck.” A.A. Bell

“While persistence offers no guarantees, it does give 'luck' a chance to operate.” Tom Shippey

“Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer. But don't forget to put out your nets!” Lloyd Alexander

“Luck is distributed at six in the morning” Luis Zamarro Fraile

“A trifle can be enough when luck is on your side.” Margi Preus

“As regards the extraordinary prizes, the element of luck is the determining factor.” Theodore Roosevelt

And the following quotes turn a good phrase for the intersection of persistence and success:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Woody Allen

“Fortune sides with him who dares.” Virgil

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
“Kites rise highest against the wind...” Winston Churchill

“People who avoid failure also avoid success.” Robert T. Kiyosaki

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried...” Theodore Roosevelt

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard

“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.” Will Rogers

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” - Dale Carnegie

“Don't be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed.” LeBron James

“Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.” Robert Lois Stevenson

The intersection of these ideas seems to be a popular theme, so if you persist in your archery word picture, you may have stumbled blindly onto an idiom for the future.

Shoot enough arrows, and you may hit a blind squirrel.

or

Even a nut might hit the bullseye.

Or some combination of the two ;) I'll give you a one week head start to register a trademark!

  • The first one is good, but I hope there is an idiom with a better imagery. With shooting an arrow at a target, you can talk about how far off was the arrow from the bull's eye, indicating how close or similar were the proposed solutions to the truth/best solution. – Gao Jan 17 '15 at 23:51
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    Blind squirrel nuts were the first thing that popped into my mind as well. +1. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 18 '15 at 1:32
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    First rabbits, now squirrels? You keep a veritable menagerie of idioms! Hard to compete with that. +1! ScotM – user98990 Jan 18 '15 at 1:57
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    Sorry, but it's a blind pig and an acorn. – Hot Licks Jan 18 '15 at 4:19
  • The pig and the acorn is how I first heard it, but it seems the squirrel is more popular ;) – ScotM Jan 18 '15 at 20:42
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"You've got to kiss a lot of frogs" (before you find your prince - from the fairy story The Frog Prince, where a prince has been turned by magic into a frog and can only be restored by a kiss from a princess).

Alternatively there's the infinite monkey theorem:

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Also a (lucky)shot in the dark

  1. an attempt to guess something when you have no information or knowledge about it
  2. an attempt to do something without knowing much about it
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    Kissing frogs--excellent word picture for the operation of luck! – ScotM Jan 18 '15 at 1:27
  • The Cupid's also got to shoot a lot of arrows. – Gao Jan 19 '15 at 8:38
4

"Even a broken clock is correct twice a day"

1

Are you looking for "a lucky strike"?

  • "Did you know the answer?"
  • "No, it was just a lucky strike."
  • Close, but "a lucky strike" has no emphasis whatsoever on effort, though. The idiom should express or show encouragement of making many attempts to increase the likelihood of finally arriving at the truth, which may not have been thought as possible initially. – Gao Jan 17 '15 at 23:46
  • I like it, but check this out: etymonline.com/… – ScotM Jan 18 '15 at 2:19
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The ones that I thought of:

"Practice makes perfect."

"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration" - this from Edison who tried thousands of materials to make a working incandescent light bulb filament.

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Short & simple: success through persistence

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