Steve Jobs said a person can only hold 3 ideas in their mind at the same time. A few people can hold 4. The iPhone, as Jobs described it at its introduction, was 3 things: a phone, a music player, and a way to access the Internet (like a computer). But it was actually 4 – the 4th is a camera. Jobs said he had the idea for a handheld computer when he was 19…but everyone would have thought he was insane if he would have said, “Someday, I’m going to create a computer that fits in the palm of your hand!”  Instead, he related it to what people were familiar with. When they actually got it, they “got” it, and many have realized it’s a computer.  If you haven’t realized it, you’re now aware that the device you hold in your hand to surf the Internet, communicate with friends and colleagues and play games isn’t just a phone – it’s a computer – with at least 32 times more memory than the top-of-the-line IBM XT had in the early 1980’s.

Most people are comfortable with 3. In fact, their lives usually revolve around 3 major categories – personal, family, and job. We need to expand to 4 categories – which could cause some to say that the 4th item could be God. Note, however, that God is a category that encompasses the other 3, since we are created by God, our families are gifts from God, and the job we have is a blessing from God.  Therefore, God is much more than a mere element of the system.  In the Apple example, calling the iPhone a hand-held computer encompasses all 3 elements, but as users have discovered, it’s so much more.

Other fields share this same framework. There are 3 learning domains in education – cognitive, affective and kinesthetic. But there is a 4th – conation – that encompasses all 3, and yet, is so much more. In music, 2 notes represent an interval. But three represent a chord, or a triad. There are only several types of triads that can be created from these three notes – a major, a minor, a diminished, and an augmented. Some would argue that there is also a suspended “triad” as well. But add a 4th tone – the 7th, to build upon the root, 3rd and 5th, and the possibilities for tonal varieties become vastly increased. As for the sound difference, it’s what music listeners can identify as “folk” music versus the rich, melodic backgrounds found in jazz as well as lush orchestrations.

It’s been said that the problem with our society is that we’re doing too many things (a quote from Matthew Kelly).  Personally, I believe we’re not categorizing them properly. We CAN do all things…with God, for “With God, all things are possible.” Knowing that God is not so much the fourth element, but is associated with the “emergent property” of the system created by the three elements, we need to realize there are actually 5 elements to every system, and each system has its own emergent property.

As an example, I have organized my “to do” list into 5 categories:  personal (includes family), job, (the Web site which hosts this blog), music, and the Norwin Play It Forward Fund, a non-profit organization my wife and I began several years ago.  For the longest time, I had education as one of the five categories. I wanted to make my educational certification as an Instructional Technology Specialist a permanent one, and wanted to progress toward a doctorate. However, the investment of time and money required to obtain a doctorate would not produce a positive return on investment. So, it was replaced by another element that I felt called to be involved with.

The emergent property of that system is the person God has created me to be, and God is in all things – not just a compartmentalized element of one’s life.  During this special and holy weekend, what are those five things that encompass your life’s systems?  Have less than five?  Perhaps that’s why you’re looking for something that’s missing.  Have more than five? That might be too much.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2020