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3 sets of 3's


The last time you went to the grocery store you probably had a list. If you only had to pick up three items or less, my guess is, you usually don't bother writing them down. It's when you get to four or more that a list is helpful. This is because we can remember things in threes fairly effectively.

In ancient rhetoric, the rule of three is called Tricolon. The word comes from the Greek "tri" meaning three and "kolon" meaning a clause. When things are put in three's it emphasizes, energizes, and unifies. Get it?

Here are some famous uses of tricolon...

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
-Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

"I came, I saw, I conquered." -Julius Caesar

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom." -Charles Dickens

Discussing ancient rhetorical devices and grocery lists isn't the point here. We're looking at sets of three basic life values to remind us of their importance. For our first example let's check out the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Honor code:

"We will not lie, steal, or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does."

How would you walk and talk if your honor code was this clear?

Here's another set of three you might be familiar with. Although not avoidable at times you probably try not to...

  • Whine
  • Complain
  • Make Excuses

My parents didn't explicitly say not to do these things. They addressed them as they appeared in my behavior growing up. As we navigate life's ups and downs the temptation for these to come out is often too hard and we lean on them. It's how we work through them to discover the reason for our frustrations that teaches us their importance.

Working through these helps us grow into the person we want to become. A person others can trust. A person we are proud to be. A person who others would like to emulate. Not imitate, but model themselves after.

Here is another set of three to help further guide how you show up so others are seen, heard, and valued.

  • Feel
  • Felt
  • Found

I know how you feel...

I've felt that way before...

Here's what I found out...

Living into each of these principles of three isn't just for us, it's for others as well. This is how we display our leadership. Ultimately, we can't treat anyone else any better than we treat ourselves.

Not lying, cheating, or stealing are obvious ways we can be a decent human. Not whining, complaining, or making excuses takes additional growth and commitment. Showing up to give to others takes courage and vulnerability. All these human skills are how we learn to be human through our interactions with other humans.

To make the world a better place we must rise with the occasion when these "three's" challenge us. Along the way, you'll be proud of who you're becoming and who you've influenced to be better on their journey!

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