The “Rule” of Three…or “How I stopped looking like I didn’t have an answer when asked a question.”

Early in my professional career someone, I can’t remember who, gave me a small piece of advice that I have carried around with me and use quite often.  It’s a simple little tool that makes you look incredibly smart even when you are caught off guard by a question.

But before I bestow this little pearl of wisdom (for which I am sure you’ll thank your lucky stars you happened upon this blog) just a little background.  Early in my career I seemed to be doing the usual job hopping thing and going on a lot of interviews.  Like most people I was terrified of screwing up the interview and not getting the job.  Being in IT, the field is usually quite competitive, so to land a good job you need to look sharp.  The “Rule of Three” (as I call it) does just that.  I attribute it with landing at least my last two jobs.  But it is useful in many day-to-day situations as well.  I guess to be honest, I’ve used it more outside the job interviewing process that within, but I think you’ll see it’s value shortly.

So let’s imagine you are in an interview and you are asked one of those questions that are just out of left field and you have no idea how to answer.  For example, say they person says something like “who are your favorite sports heroes and why?”  In your head, you are probably saying “what the hell is this guy talking about?”  But instead of getting flustered and babbling like a loon, just look at them and simply say “I have three sports heroes….” and then list them off.

The trick is to say “I have three (fill in the blank here).”  The blank is whatever question or topic the person asked about.  It can be three of whatever they asks…favorite vegetables, personal achievements, disliked colors,  grammatical errors, etc.  It really doesn’t matter.  The key is to state that you have three of whatever and to gesture the number three with your hand.  Then explain the three items one at a time, calmly, and with enough detail to allow you time to think of the next one but keeping it concise as possible.

For example, it the question above, I would respond (and mind you, I am not a big sports fan) with something like this:

“I have three sports heroes.  The first is Wayne Gretzky because of his skill as a player and his determination to be the best.  The second is Walter Payton because of the love he gave to the game, his tenacity,  and the way he treated others.  And the third is, well, a team…the 1980’s U.S. Olympic Hockey team, because of their spirit and the way they never gave up even when faced with much tougher opponents.”

Now honestly, I just wrote that stream of conciseness style.  I had no idea what I was going to write just now.  I didn’t think about it and, except for editing the spelling and grammar, it is just as it came out.

I’m not sure how it works but it does.  I have often put “on the spot” and used the “Rule of Three” successfully dozens of times and each time i develop more and more faith in the process.  The key to it, I believe, is that the exercise focuses your mind on the subject and hand, breaks down the question into “chunks” that are easy to handle,  allows you time to think about the points (while you are discussing the others), and makes it appear as though you are quite decisive, knowledgeable, and thoughtful about whatever subject you happened to be asked about.  

The hand gesture indicating the number of items you have is useful because it helps you focus and not stray from the topic at hand.  Additionally it helps you remember what the first two were when you get to the third in case you want to recap or they ask you about a particular point.

Of course, you can make it two or four or however many points you want, and I would encourage doing so (espicially if using the rule several times in succession, lest they think you’re some deranged person fixated on the number three like Jim Carey in “23”.)  And practice youring the rule in non-critical situations.  It’s kind of amazing how well it works and how easy it is to use.

Give it a try.  What have you got to lose?

(I’ve got three things to lose…first, I have…)


Evernote – The latest app I am crushing on.

I like to think of myself as a fairly early adapter, but on occasion it seems like somehow I seem to miss the boat on some app or cool website.  Others, like Google Apps (which some seem to be HUGE fans of but I frankly hate) I just avoid.  Evernote is one of those apps.  Evernote is a simply a notetaking evernote2app that can collect text, images, and audio and store them in “notebooks” created by the user.  These notebooks can then be shared on various platforms (iPad, iPhone, android, PC, mac, etc.) and/or with various users across the internet.

I first learned of Evernote two years ago, but only within the last two months have really integrated it into my daily routine.

For example, as an IT Admin, It is sometimes hard to keep track of various changes I have made to the systems and on the network.  And now with a new network admin starting, it is even more important to track the various changes.

(A word of caution: obviously Evernote is a public website and while it may be password protected, it should not be considered “secured.”  I do not put anything on Evernote that I wouldn’t throw away in the garbage can.  I put no sensitive or confidential information on Evernote and would recommend that same precaution to anyone using Evernote.  Sensitive network information should not go into Evernote.)

So with Evernote I can track changes and share it with others or just use it simply to remember what daily changes I have made to the hundreds of moving parts that comprise the network.

But that is just the surface.  Anything worth remembering can go in Evernote.evernote

Pictures from the internet.

Maps from Google Maps / Mapquest.

The Safari “reader” feature is ideal for capturing text from web pages and pasting the data into a notebook.

Voice memos and video memos.

Outlook 2010/2007 (and perhaps other versions) have an Evernote plug-in that allows emails to be saved right to Evernote.

But the strength of Evernote is the ability to synch the notebooks and data across multiple platforms.  I can create notes on my pc during my daily routing and view them in my iPad during my weekly review with my supervisor.  Likewise, a quick note or picture or even audio message on the iPhone is synched back with the Mac or PC automatically to be reviewed later.  Additionally, on the iPhone and iPad, Evernote will also geotag the note, which can be additionally handy for photo notes.

The storage plan for the free account seems to be pretty generous, limited to 100,000 notes of 25 MB each for basic users, 250 Synched notebooks, and 60 MB of bandwidth per month.  But for those who find that still too limiting there is a premium account that ups the cap on bandwidth to 1 GB/Month and ups the note size to 50 MB each and much more for $5.00 per month or $45.00 per year.

It may have taken me a while to find it, but Evernote is the best app that I never even knew I needed!