Have you ever been to a party when suddenly you hear someone on an instrument? It could be a guitar, a piano, a harmonica, it doesn't matter. You follow the sound to find a crowd of people standing around, quietly listening. You ask what's going on only to be cowed by the attractive girl standing next to you when she shushes you. The song ends and people clap and before anything can happen, the musician has started in again but this song is funny. Everyone is laughing and clapping along. They might even be joining in on the chorus. They are involved. And this musician has them in his palm. But it's the third song he plays that really nails it. It's beautiful. It's sad. And now everyone who has been listening is in love with him. And when he is done, he stands up to applause and cries for more. But he is modest, and says that he will maybe play more later.
What this musician has done is apply the rule of three and a story arc to his skill set. He has taken his abilities and presented them in such a way that they are not only psychologically pleasing, but entertaining as well.
Let me explain.
One cannot read mythology, religion, the occult, or even science texts without coming to notice the ubiquity of the triad. The world, it would seem, is governed in sets of three. From the holy trinity to the rule of thirds in photography, the human brain desires to perceive things in collections of three. Even Zeus' lightning bolts are referred to as trifurcated and it has been perceived that when jokes are presented in threes, they are far more likely to receive applause.
So what is the obsession with three?
That is a topic, however interesting, that should probably be addressed in another article on another blog (or more likely tucked away on some back shelf of a musty library.) But there is an important lesson we can take from the concept. The human brain, be it in studying religion, or art, or simply being entertained, wants to organize elements into triads.
Perhaps you are familiar with the standard story arc: the rising action, the climax, and the resolution. You may have heard of this trinity before when studying creative writing or theatre. The fact remains, that three is a number you can rely upon.
I once had a professor, and perhaps I've mentioned him before, who was an absolute curmudgeon. He was unpleasant, and difficult, and absolutely brilliant. He once said something to me that has stuck with me forever. He said, "Everything is an opportunity for design." And he was right. There is not a single element of daily life that is not an opportunity for presentation. How you dress, how you converse, how you socialize, even how you sit at your desk are all prime examples of opportunities for designing the self. So why not take the opportunity to design some entertainment as well?
It is important, as a gentleman, that you be able to be entertaining. And in order to do this, you must understand that the essence of entertainment is the control and manipulation of your audience. When telling a story, if you do not take the audience on a journey, then the story will fall flat. If you do not bring in the audience, capture their attention, and then knock them dead, then you will have failed as an entertainer.
Mastery of an instrument is a beautiful thing. The memorization of poetry, commendable. Knowing more card tricks than any other living human would be a feat to be sure. But without proper delivery, your attempts at entertainment will fall short.
It is with this in mind, that I recommend always having prepared three separate elements of entertainment. If you happen to have a deck of cards on you, make sure to be practiced in three tricks. The jokes you tell should always travel in threes. And in your stories, make sure to follow the standard story arc.
With study, one will notice that the "rule of thirds" can be understood to be almost fractal-like in nature. You have three stories. One of the stories is about three characters who get into three situations that follow the story arc of thirds. And in each section there are three comedic points. A well crafted story is as well though out as a painting or a poem.
Of course there are people out there who can do this naturally. And that is an amazing thing. Much like Mozart could compose at will these people can create stories flawlessly that make you feel exactly what the story teller wants. But for the great majority of us, entertainment is a skill set. And it is an important one at that. Be you in the boardroom, the classroom, at a party or with a friend, if one is a bore, then one quickly becomes isolated.
These are simple rules, gentlemen. And not difficult to follow.
Know what your strengths are, practice those strengths, and then perfect an "act". Because there is no worse feeling than losing your audience. And everything is an opportunity for design.
Until next time, be a gentleman.