About the “3 words” question

…and of course, the final question: Three words to describe your practice?

Back in 2017, when I sat down to record the first episode, I had prepared some questions. But I have no idea why I said, “…and of course, the final question…”

What I had hoped, and this turns out to be true, is that it would be a great way to give each guest the final space. The question works magic on several levels. It operates as a clear signal—to the guest and to the audience—that we are taking the exit ramp off the highway; the end of this episode is approaching quickly. It also gives each guest a chance to wrap up their thinking, and ensures they always have the final words of each episode.

History

The idea of selecting three words is an amazing tool. A few years back, Yann Hnautra spent significant time traveling in the United States teaching, but also trying to get a sense of what Art du Déplacement meant there, to those people practicing. Off to the side, at most of the events, someone (who was not Yann) took little cell phone videos where people were asked a series of questions. The idea was that he would be able to watch the videos to get a different viewpoint than he would when running events and training with people; Little moments of private candor as it were. “Can you describe your practice in three words?” was one of the questions asked.

There’s an entire episode about the origin of my using this question, Craig Constantine: Three words origin and purpose.

Why does the question work so well?

Choosing three words to describe your practice has turned out to be a much more interesting and intriguing part of the conversation than we had initially anticipated. The word practice , for example, goes beyond movement and often evokes broader images and ideas that reflect an approach to life. The idea that parkour and movement techniques in general are more than just physical has always been behind Movers Mindset. This is why we focus on ideas and reflection, for example, rather than on flashy videos of daring movement. The deeper dive into the mindset of movers is where the real magic happens.

As you might expect, there’s also an episode that unpacks the three words we’ve chosen for the Movers Mindset project, Discovery, reflection, efficacy.

What do people say in response?

Well, they say a lot, and often the best part of the episode is in their response.

Some people have three individual words—sometimes prepared before the conversation, sometimes made up on the fly, and sometimes the conversation has made them change the three words they’re feeling in the moment. Some people give four words, some people take advantage of my suggestion that “hyphens are free”, and some people give a phrase containing three words.

I knew right away that it was going to be interesting. After the first 85 episodes, we compiled by hand a topic that organized what had been said so far. The top five themes we found in people’s answers, or the literal words they gave, are:

  • Play
  • Strength
  • Love
  • Community
  • Fun

I began experimenting with some ways to build a database of the answers so that we could create interactive visualizations. I wanted people to be able to explore similar answers—there are even some identical answers—and to follow common themes in the answers across different podcasts. By the end of 2020 we created the first interactive view of the data, and went on to build a second prototype.

In 2021 I built a new way to visualize lots of things about the Movers Mindset podcasts—not only the answers to the 3-words question. This new system enabled me to create and display a variety of views. It’s a work in progress. With about the first 125 episodes analyzed, the top 5 themes in the podcast are below. (Notice the top five have changed with the addition of more episodes.)

  • Parkour
  • challenges
  • community
  • practice
  • training

…and the next ten most common, (in alphabetical order,) are…

  • Instagram
  • athletes
  • balance
  • classes
  • coaching
  • goals
  • play
  • questions
  • running
  • strength