Greatest hits: My four “Two Things” things

I’m on a mailing list where a friend once asked everyone to chime in with what the “Two Things” are in their chosen fields or areas of interest. He referred us to a website that explains the “Two Things” concept:

The Story of the Two Things

A few years ago, I was chatting with a stranger in a bar. When I told him I was an economist, he said, “Ah. So — what are the Two Things about economics?”

“Huh?” I cleverly replied.

“You know, the Two Things. For every subject, there are really only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Ever since that evening, I’ve been playing the Two Things game. Whenever I meet someone who belongs to a different profession (i.e., a profession I haven’t played this game with), or who knows something about a subject I’m unfamiliar with, I pose the Two Things question.

The site also helpfully lists the Two Things about “The Two Things”:

  1. People love to play the Two Things game, but they rarely agree about what the Two Things are.
  2. That goes double for anyone who works with computers.

I replied with these sets of Two Things:

Software engineering (and engineering in general)
  1. Fast, cheap, good: choose two.
  2. Perfect is the enemy of good enough.
  1. It’s better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here.
  2. There are two kinds of pilots: those who have landed gear up, and those who will. [applies to other dumb mistakes too]
  1. Everything is just a phase.
  2. The sooner you accept that your most beloved possessions will be destroyed, the happier you’ll be.
Dog ownership
  1. If you don’t have the time for a proper walk now, you’d better have the time to clean up a smelly mess later.
  2. You can’t fool your dog.

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