3 Second Rule Your Life

Back in the day, days long before co-sleeping and proudly showing off pictures of my son’s teeth, I dabbled in the dark arts of Pick Up Artistry (PUA), a strange subculture made famous by Neill Strauss’ book “The Game.” For those unitiated, “The Game” showed Strauss’s evolution–or  devolution depending on your perspective–from interested journalist to fully certified pick-up master–from gameless tool to lothario extraordinaire.

The book was filled with specific and effective tactics for meeting women, something I desperately needed at the time. I was pretty lousy at meeting women, and the ones I was meeting were pretty lousy. The book and some subsequent study provided a much-needed lesson plan for my theretofore elementary understanding of the courting process.

I never incorporated most of the tactics because they were so certifiably sleazy: Carrying bags filled with magic tricks to entertain women (aka “Demonstrating High Value” DHV), wearing outrageous clothes (“Peacocking”), etc. But there was one tactic that could have easily been taught by a Zen master as some guy with a feather boa teaching dorks how to pick up drunk coeds. It was the 3 second rule.

The 3 second rule says that if there is a girl that you are attracted to, and assuming there are no boulders or other legitimate obstacles in your way, you should approach that girl within 3 seconds. The reasoning is that the longer you think about doing something, the less likely you are to do it. Don’t think, act.

I met my wife using the 3 second rule, though I didn’t know it at the time. After giving her a protracted stare on the L-train, I started to talk to her. For whatever reason (I probably didn’t want her to think I was a perv), I did not think about talking to her. I talked to her. Had I rehearsed what I was going to say, had I thought about what could have happened if she was unwilling to speak to me, had I thought about anything, I probably would have not talked to her. No wife, no proud papa.

This act, like many throughout my life, demonstrates the counterintuitive phenomenon that action, often with little or no thought, is the gas in our lives’ motors.

Most of us overestimate the merits of thinking. We believe that if something is subjected to enough mental scrutiny and rigorous argument, we will somehow arrive at the right answer.

Let’s not confuse thinking with meditation. Thinking is not getting quiet enough so a natural answer can arrive. Thinking is usually a bunch of words constructed in such a way as to provide reasons why not to do something or why something can’t be done. By the time the analysis is over, minutes, hours, days, often years, have elapsed. Good thinking!

What many of us thinkers tend to miss is that real knowledge is acquired in the doing, not the thinking. For example, we can think that touching an open flame is dangerous, but taking the action of touching a flame will teach us forever (lots of flame references here).

Today, consider using the 3 second rule. Whether you want to talk to that girl or guy, try something new, take a risk at work, try to do the thing within 3 seconds, before thought sabotages forward progress. 

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