Rule of Three

Episode #573

January 25,2020

It is a joke between my wife and i that men can only remember three things at a time. i even use a trick of threes when entering or leaving my car.

  1. Do i have my keys?
  2. Do i have my phone?
  3. Do i have my fanny pack?

If i can count to three, i am prepared to drive or shop.

It turns out that all humans can only remember 3 or 4 things in active memory. Active memory is that part of long term memory that you can act upon right now.

Humans respect this rule of threes in many ways.

When reciting a long number (like a phone number) we say it and write it in groups of threes and fours:

Many plays are in three acts. Literature is broken into an introduction, body and conclusion. There are often three primary characters such as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”.
Three Musketeers, The Three Stooges. Three Little Pigs. Huey, Dewey and Louie. Peter, Paul and Mary. Manny, Mo and Jack. Alvin, Simon and Theodore.

Star Wars was created in a trilogy of trilogies – nine episodes in three groups of three.

The most famous phrases state three key concepts.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — Thomas Jefferson

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” — French motto.

“Stop, Look and Listen” — Railroad crossing safety signs

“Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast.” — Kate Cooper skydiving advice.

We divide Time itself into threes: Past, Present and Future.

When i am doing my safety check before skydiving i check a triad of threes. i point to three buckles (two legs and chest), three handles (pilot chute, cut away and reserve) and three accessories (helmet, googles and altimeter).

i sometimes joke that my own short term memory losses are trapped in a three minute loop. During the first three minutes i am completely lucid. During the second three minutes i cannot remember what happened in the first three minutes. In the third three minutes everything from the first three minutes is accessible and indelible in long term memory. So it goes in a rolling loop. People will say that if you go back to the room where you thought of the thing you forgot you will remember it. i think you are just killing three minutes.

My Yoga studio is Triad Yoga. Their Mission is to deepen students’ awareness of their BODIES, MINDS and BREATH. Another Triad Yoga mantra is “Breathe, Relax and Evolve.”

A rule of proportion and balance in visual art is the rule of threes. Divide the canvas into nine equal squares creating three rows of three squares. Key elements should reside on the dividing lines, at the dividing line intersections and/or within the squares. This technique guides the eye comfortably to the important areas of the art without unnecessary distraction.


My favorite three apps are Phone, Messages and eMail for communication.

From these i am often linked to the next three most useful apps, Contacts, Calendar and Maps (who, when, where).

To complete the triad i use Safari, Notes, and Reminders (fact, thoughts, mind) to tie all nine apps together.

Because i cannot hold more than three things in active memory, i use lists to organize tasks long term. Examples of my lists are Grocery, Home projects, Bucket list, License plates of the USA i’ve seen, Things to do at my desk, Books to Read. With Apple’s Reminders app i can view my lists on all my devices. i can share my lists with my wife — useful for lists like Grocery. i can also mark the items as completed. For location critical items i can assign a location to a list item. When i am close to the Grocery store i receive a reminder that i need ice cream, bread and beer.

i have to go now…

  1. Keys. 2. Phone. 3. Fanny pack. i’m ready.

1, 2, 3’s a charm.


  1. Vic Spindler January 24, 2020
  2. Irv February 6, 2020

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