One may be the loneliest number, but seven too stands apart. Apart should not be confused with alone. In fact, seven has a lot of company.
Certainly, there are top ten 10 lists (or even commandments) – and there are also top five lists for those good ideas that are harder to articulate. However, more often than not, and from blog posts to presentations, 7 is the magic number: 7 tips, 7 ways and 7 reasons. I too have dabbled with the magic of seven in the title of some posts…this one notwithstanding.
Six and eight are not without virtue: the six-string guitar, the six shot revolver, and six degrees of separation. Likewise, there are Eight Crazy Nights, oxygen has the atomic number of 8 and Eminem’s 8 Mile topped the charts at number 1 after its release. Eight may also be practical — 8 tips might rank better in search with all those sevens flying around.
All that considered, there’s still something about the number seven. There are seven days in a week, seven seas, seven wonders of the world, seven primary colors, seven deadly sins, and Snow White had seven little companions. Even Steven Covey wrote about seven highly effective habits.
“Ask a number of different people to give you any number between one and ten, and most will choose seven,” wrote Richard Phillips, a freelance educational writer based in the UK. “Ask people to name their favourite number between one and ten, and again most will say seven.”
Wikipedia notes 7 is the fourth prime number, while Dictionary.com defines 7 is an adjective, meaning “one more than six.” It’s also a noun, “the cardinal number that is the sum of six and one.” According to Google, 7 is the new 14 (see nearby screenshot). 7-Up is the un-cola.
Se7ven was a movie released in 1995 and starred heavy hitters like Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow. Seven.com belongs to a company serving up mobile apps. Vegas might champion the lucky number 7, where a “dice roll is usually made of 5 + 2.” The Roman numeral for seven is depicted as VII. The Illyrians, whose land lay between Italy and Greece revolted (and later lost) against the Romans in the year 7 A.D.
So what is it about 7 that captures the mind? I like to think it’s akin to social graph theory, where the average person can actively cope with about 150 contacts effectively. Seven of anything is about the extent of what we can absorb in one sitting – where six is too few and eight is too many.
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