Number 10, Numbers, 10, Ten

The Law of Threes and Tens

The Germans have a saying, “Aller guten Dinge sind drei,” which translates to “All good things come in threes.” I have sat in classes – and given classes myself – where a particular topic was best broken down in tripartite fashion. Perhaps, it is just the way I have been conditioned, but dividing things into three parts seems to be a useful method of working toward the mastery of something.

Then comes 10. Our decimal system is based on it. Maybe that, in and of itself, is enough said. We have ten fingers and ten toes. If we are tense, we are often told to “Count to ten.” I am not going to get into the history of 10 in our society but most of us realize that the big one zero occupies an exalted position.

Which brings me to threes and 10s. In business, in school, in life in general, we often need methods to help us grasp a complicated topic or simply to develop a methodology to approach a given undertaking. Considering that, I offer you the law of threes and tens.

Mind you, I just made this law up (unless someone else has already.) So, it is not so much a law as a potentially guiding principle. Anyway, here it is: When approaching any task, break down the components of that task into no less then three and no more than ten major steps. I believe there is some natural psychological magic in this. Hmmm, psychological magic, I think I will discuss that concept in another column. But I digress.

Back to threes and 10s. Think of how publishers title self-help books. We often see works touting the 3, 5, 7 or 10 secrets of whatever. I intuit that there is something inherently appealing about this. The literary marketplace seems to bear me out.

When working to succeed at something, we need a variety of tools in our tool box. One tool is our philosophy – how we look at life and our undertakings from both a big picture and small picture perspective. A second tool is our energy level. The more energy we have, the better we can work towards our goals. And last, but by no means least, is our operational methodology – how we work at getting things done. This is where the law of threes and 10s could come in handy.

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.


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