…because some thoughts are worth remembering
“Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.” ~from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
A colleague of mine sat at the back of the room in a big banquet hall as a dignitary spoke at the podium. He scribbled some notes on the role of university in economic development, turned to me and whispered, “I’m having problems with my speech”. He was up next. He started to articulate on the challenges universities faced, why the community seemed apathetic, a side note on a failed tech transfer policy and somehow back to complex dynamics with the legislature. “It’s too much for a speech. There’s no narrative. I’m not sure what I’m saying.” Then he scratched out what he wrote. I said, “How about 3 things? Three points you want to say about the topic. Just three.” “Right…,” he said, flipping his paper over and wrote “1.” It was one of the best speeches I heard that conference, and for once, I was sorry that there was no copies of Powerpoint slides people can request after, because somehow he had managed to weave a coherent narrative arc with the three points.
The Holy Trinity in Christianity, triumvirate in politics, mirepoix in the kitchen, there is something magical about having three elements. A list short enough to remember, breaks a tie, and introduces enough complexity by introducing depth and height to any debate rather than falling prey to a “versus problem“.
When life gets too complicated, I reach for the number three.
Photo: Church in Bolzano, Italy
Below: My best company directives were grouped into three. (The poster reads: 3 Commitments: 1. show and tell, 2. keep it real, 3. [be] part of the solution; 3 Elements for new products: 1. scalability, 2. global reach, 3. recurring [revenues])