Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: The recipe for success

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There’s no predicting who will make a successful business owner.

I’ve met people with brains the size of a planet who couldn’t make a go of it and drop-outs who made millions.

I’ve met people with a heart of gold who have lost their shirts and some souls black with villainy who have reached the top of the pile.

I’ve met those who have  started with nothing, others begin with wealth and make more.

There has simply been no correlation between intelligence, integrity and inheritance that have predicated business success.

In my own case, I feel as if I’m a reasonably bright bloke, that I genuinely try to do my best by other people and I sure as hell started with nowt.

But over 43 years in work I’ve made some money and lost some money, experienced a roller coaster ride and find myself at 61 happily working as hard as ever, with one of the best teams I’ve managed to gather around me, doing stuff I enjoy immensely and with no end in sight (mind you, the idea of not working fills me with a combination of incomprehensibility and dread).

So what the devil does generate success?


Let me suggest a recipe:

  • 1 tsp right time
  • 1 tsp right place
  • 1 tsp right idea
  • 1 tsp right people

…stir in a large quantity of good luck…

…bake until ready to serve – no matter how long that takes.

One day, my time will come – and so will yours.

To quote Winston Churchill…

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: People, their dogs and brand management

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An extraordinary encounter during a recent Christmas dog walk along the Bollin Valley.

There we are, me, Annie B and our two Vizslas Kibo and Sami, with Wendy and David and their German Shepherd, Bear.

Bear is huge – he’s a year old and already 45 kilos, a definite HGV in our canine convoy.

Now I’m the first to admit that, when you see a German Shepherd storming like a Panzer division in your general direction, it can be daunting.

In fact, we had a very bad experience a year ago in the Scottish Borders when, during a riverside walk, we passed by a bungalow from which a Shepherd sprang at Kibo, bit him and was only stopped from doing more damage to the dog and my leg by virtue of the fact that his owner appeared through a gate and literally threw himself on the hound to pin it to the ground.

He accompanied us on the resulting visit to a local vet and it was clear when we arrived that Kibo was not the first victim. The owner was genuinely sorry but also transparently concerned that we would lodge an official complaint.

It turned out that he was an ex-military freelance security consultant working in Africa and had trained the dog to protect his wife whilst he was away.

He evidently expected a Mongol horde to invade Hawick and carry off his screaming bride.

The dog was a nasty violent piece of work and deserved to be kept locked away – not my idea of a pet, more a deadly force.

Add that experience to the history of Shepherds as police dogs swinging on the end of their leashes as they snarl at miners, football fans and anti-nuclear protestors and you have plenty of bad press.

Bear, on the other hand, is a big soft lump of gentleness – there simply isn’t a bad thought in his head and he absolutely loves us, our dogs, the chance to play with us and with anyone else he comes into contact with. He is well-trained and comes from a home where love is in the ascendant.

The first time I ever saw him my nerves were a bit rattled by the previous experience described but Annie put me at ease and I quickly came to like his nature.


One could perhaps forgive a solitary dog owner approaching us along the river valley to be on her guard, presented with two ginger gun dogs and a giant Alsatian thundering back and forth along the pathway chasing assorted balls and sticks, whilst we owners are lost in a world of chat.

However, said Hale housewife is idling along the trail, mobile phone pressed to ear and looking very fashionable in her designer jeans, jacket and wellies as two very small balls of white fluff potter about in ever-decreasing circles around her legs.

The thing about handbag dogs is that they no doubt bring huge pleasure to their owners but generally speaking, throw them into a naturally wild environment like a river valley trail and they look like a couple of agoraphobic albino ewoks unwittingly signed up for a Tough Mudder.

I’m sure their normal life consists of sitting on Moroccan pouffes in front of an Aga when they are not nibbling away at fillet Rossini and Duchy originals.

So taking them on a Bear Grylls survival expedition without any training was always likely to end in trouble.

But said white fluffy things never had a say in it.

As we all approached her, she grasped both dogs, stuffed one under each arm and proceeded to march past us, mobile phone still clutched between chin and shoulder.

That, in itself, could have been applauded as a good move – better safe than sorry.

After all, neither of them would have made a full meal.

But what happened next was unexpected – her dialogue with whoever was on the other end of her mobile, at the top of her voice, perhaps so that we could hear?

It went like this:

Youll just have to hang on a minute.

Ive had to lift the dogs up and carry them.

Theres a giant Alsatian here and you know what they are like.

They are vicious.

They are trained to attack anything and kill it.

Ill have to get past them.

The four of us just stopped in our tracks, listened and looked at her in silence and stood there open-mouthed as she walked past us, without making eye contact.

Unsurprisingly, this brief encounter occupied us in conversation for quite some time afterwards.

Wendy and David were outraged that someone could show such ignorance and prejudice and insult their dog.

Annie commented on how Hale housewives are such paper-thin muppets.

Yours truly recognised a blog post when he saw one.

A post about how appearances can be deceptive, how first impressions can take a lifetime to overcome, how the management of brand perception can be so tough to change, how affluence creates ignorance and unpredictably strange people can be.

The difference between losing and failing

Plan A or Plan B, concept of choice

I was in conversation with a dental practice owner back before Christmas who was (not for the first time) musing over whether to sell a secondary site.

His main practice is profitable and growing (with our help).

The secondary practice is stagnating, largely because he simply cannot be there in person often enough and, while the cat is away, the mice are playing.

We looked at the numbers – break-even.

We measured the hassle factor on a score of 1 to 10 (where 10 is a pain) and the score was 8.

We discussed what would have to happen in order to turn the site around:

  • Find a stakeholder associate – someone with skin in the game
  • Invest heavily in marketing – the existing patients are few in number and unsuitable in genre
  • Conduct intensive training on performance and behaviour for the existing team – real habit changing stuff

And I asked the dentist whether he had the passion to make this work.

His reply was a clear “no”.

So I recommended he place the practice and the property up for sale.

To which he responded “but won’t that be an admission of failure?”

So I had to offer some advice:

  • Winning is what happens when you make a decision and it turns out to be correct
  • Losing is what happens when you make a decision and it turns out to be incorrect
  • Failure is what happens when you don’t make any decision

When you win, you learn and you evolve.

When you lose, you learn and you evolve.

When you fail, you learn nothing and you stay the same.

Indecision ultimately leads to extinction.

Everyone reading this post will have won some and lost some (me included) and, in so doing we become wiser.

The failure is the procrastinator who never decides and, thus, never learns.

Dentists not clear about costs, says Which?


Thus reads the headline on the BBC News website on a sub-zero Monday morning in January 2015.

I sit in a cold waiting room at Wilmslow Station, waiting for the 06:11 to Euston, along with around 20 others who are hunched over their devices, re-connecting with the grid after the weekend and, no doubt, reading the same headlines.

I’ve already been challenged by my taxi-driver on the 15-minute journey to the station who has heard a radio report of the same story even before our 05:30 rendezvous, commenting that “presumably dentists are ripping us off” as his automatic explanation for the media coverage.

I, of course, look the offending article up on my iPhone and discover, surprise, surprise, that Which? magazine has been at it again.

That this crippling revelation of a profession in disarray has been based on their researchers visiting 25 practices and a survey of 1,000 people, 80% of whom said that they trusted their dentist’s advice on treatment but 40% of whom couldn’t understand the charging system/costs.

I’m on a Virgin train. I don’t understand their charging system, largely because I can’t be bothered finding out – I just need to get to where I’m going.

That’s 25 practices out of a total of 10,000?

So presumably if Which? magazine tell us that 25 rats out of 10,000 took the correct turn in a maze, then we’d better watch out because they are on their way to world domination?

Or if I ask 25 people on this train how they are going to vote – we can save the money and cancel the next General Election?

I’m all for the research and the critical eye that regulates a profession – but basing your opinions on Which? is like asking the Beano to take a look over nuclear plants in Iran.

It’s just a comic book, there to entertain people whilst they are waiting for something else to happen.

Their “dentist knocking” can be predicted to occur, like the smell of a stink bomb on the last day of term, as they circulate from dishwashers to detergents, hotels to hover-mowers, with the core presumption that “everyone is ripping us off” and masquerading behind public interest whilst chasing subscribers.

Personally, I would never want to do business, or for that matter, go for a pint, with anyone who read it.

The kind of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Who will ring every motor dealer in Britain and drive them nuts to get £50 off the price of their new car and then take a train from Cardiff to Inverness, pick the vehicle up and drive it home, thinking they have a bargain and have fooled the sales person.

Back to dentistry and the BBC – the CDO leaps up to defend us like Neville Chamberlain returning from Berlin. The GDC would presumably love to add their two-pennyworth, having secured a mention in the main article – perhaps by the end of the day they will have said something totally narcissistic and deconstructive.

So today – you are all villains in a pantomime and the audience will cry “boo!’ as you walk on stage.

Mr Grumpy (probably an engineer) will walk into your practice in his flat cap and scarf and announce to your bemused front desk team that you are all going to be up against the wall come the revolution. You might want to prepare them in your daily huddle.

Mrs Grumpy (probably a teacher) will sit in your chair and ask if you are going to be over-charging her today.

Somebody might even crack a really funny and original joke about paying for your new car.

Stay calm.

Tomorrow it will be somebody else’s turn, rip-off railway tickets, bent butchers, cowboy cauliflower growers – and in 2 years it will be your turn again.


Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: The year of the big sell-out

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2015 will be the biggest year on record for the sale of independent practices to corporates.

A few simple reasons:

1. Too many independent practice owners have had enough of 3-letter acronyms. FTP, ARF, GDC, UDA, DOH, HTM etc.
2. Equally, they have had enough of troublesome relationships with staff, associates, business partners, suppliers and patients
3. Competition for new business is hotting up, whether on price or proposition
4. You now need to know many things to stay alive in business
5. Goodwill values now offered by corporates are back at a historic high and, although there is much devil in the detail…
6. Screw it, let’s do it

So the head count of independent dental practice owners will reduce this year more than at any time since 2007 (before the banks buggered us all) – and that will start a 10-year trend, reducing their numbers down from c.10,000 to c.2,000.

And so, in announcing my retirement…

No, I’m not retiring any time soon but I am looking at that future market place and in constant conversation with my business partners and team about how we position ourselves (and how I position me) in the future world.


If you are over 50, tired and getting a bit sick of it all – I suggest you go now – call a corporate and take a cheque to add to the net worth you may have accidentally accumulated in property. Five years of biting your lip until it bleeds as you serve your earn-out, listening to all the promises that are never fulfilled and watch your life’s work crumble before you. Grin and bank it.

If you are over 50, full of as much vim and unmedicated vigour as I am and ready for new challenges – want to leave a legacy and not just accumulate a pile of money – stick around, teach yourself the brave new world and join in – but please, no more moaning about the state of the dental market – take advantage of the situation. Open yourself to new ideas and revive the entrepreneur within.

If you are under 50 you have no excuse – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to become one of the 2,000 who will prosper in the new order.

Under or over 50 – aim at £10 million in sales and 25% net profit before tax – in the next 5-7 years. Why not? It will take just as much effort to do that as it will to build £1 million in sales and 25%.

If you achieve £1m you will build a lifestyle business that needs constant attention like a Christmas puppy that will never grow up.

If you achieve £10m you will build a real business that runs with and without you – and you will build a legacy for a next generation, be it family or successors.

I’ve decided I’m going to live to 110 years old and retire when I’m 100, to enjoy 10 years of unprofessional mischief to add to the 39 years of professional mischief I have ahead of me.

I’ve also decided I want to focus my attention on and mentor legacy-builders.

Do join me – it’s going to be a blast.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”

Why marketing is often like taking a new car back to the showroom


You: “I’d like to speak to the manager please

Receptionist: “Certainly sir, can I tell him what it’s about?

You: “Yes, I’m bringing my Aston Martin back and I’d like a full refund please.

A few minutes later…….

Manager: “Sir, what exactly is the problem?

You: “I’ll tell you what the problem is. You told me that the engines in these cars were built by BMW in Stuttgart and that they are some of the best engines in the world.

Manager: “Yes sir, that’s correct?

You: “Then you told me that each of these cars was hand-built on your production line in Warwickshire and tested to perfection.

Manager: “That is also correct sir?

You: “Well the car has been on my drive for 4 weeks now and it hasn’t moved an inch – I have nothing to show for my money.

Manager: “I’m sorry sir, I don’t quite follow? You are complaining because the car hasn’t been anywhere?

You: “Yes – you told me that it would get from 0-60mph in 4 seconds and would cruise all day on the motorway in cruise control – well it has done neither – I keep looking out of the lounge window at home and it just sits there on the drive, costing me a fortune.

Manager: “With respect sir, can I ask a few questions?

You: “Go ahead…”

Manager: “Did you put any petrol in the car sir?

You: “Petrol? You never mentioned petrol when you were selling this to me?

Manager: “And, sir, please forgive me for asking but did you, or any member of your family, ever get in the car, press the ignition and try to drive it?

You: “Try to drive it? How the hell am I supposed to know how to drive? I’m a dentist, not a chauffeur, what the heck do you mean? I didn’t buy this car so I would have to fill it with petrol and drive it, I bought it because I wanted to get from A to B faster and in style! Now you are adding in small print. I want my money back!

If that sounds ridiculous, I agree with you.

So why do dentists buy marketing solutions and then assume that they and their teams can just sit back and watch “it” happen?

In dentistry:

The Petrol?

  • The petrol is the number of email addresses you can collect from your existing patients and new visitors
  • The petrol is also the number of new visitors you can attract to your website

The Driver?

The driver is the member of your team who has dedicated time to “DO STUFF” at your end.

Stuff like:

  • Making sure that those precious email addresses are being collected and collated
  • Making sure that business referral cards are being handed out
  • Making sure that direct marketing and digital marketing material (even our own MagicBox™) is being deployed
  • Making sure that written and video testimonials are being collected and recorded
  • Making sure that business2business events are attended and supported
  • Making sure that your digital marketing is analysed every month for return on investment
  • Making sure that your web site remains attractive
  • Liaising with your digital marketing advisors
  • Making sure that your social media channels are busy and well followed/shared
  • Making sure that your blog is updated regularly
  • Making sure that your monthly marketing plan is on track
  • Making sure that conversion statistics are collected from your TCO team
  • Making sure that you are regularly nurturing your prospect and patient database (even our own Artisan™ Lifecycle Marketing systems)

No Petrol and no Driver means a very expensive piece of immaculate engineering sat on your drive and you getting frustrated that you feel as if you are going nowhere (and you are right).

So please don’t buy expensive cars unless you are prepared to put a little in at your end.

At 7connections we build beautiful cars using some of the best engines in the world – we need you to supply petrol and a driver – then jump in and enjoy the ride with us!

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: The sea-change

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“Full fathom five thy father lies,

Of his bones are coral made,

Those are pearls that were his eyes,

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change,

into something rich and strange,

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,


Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.

Thus sings Ariel to Ferdinand (a prince of Naples) after his father’s apparent death by drowning in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Once again, The Bard coins a phrase that has survived into the modern language as a term used to describe a metamorphosis or transformation.

Which reminds me of a post from last summer, repeated back to me during a recent call with a prospective new client.

The point being that there is no point in setting yourself a target that doesn’t require a sea-change in the performance and behaviour of you and your team.

You say:

lets aim at an extra 10-20% in profit and sales next year

They hear:

bloody hell, she wants us to work harder. We are already working flat-out. Just keep your head down and hopefully it will blow over

You say:

Im going to grow the business 100% in the next 2 years

They hear:

bloody hell, she has had a meltdown. Shes read some book, been on a course, hired a coach. Just keep your head down and hopefully it will blow over

The reality is that the first target probably will “blow over” once you get back in the rut of day-to-day business and dentistry.

A useful analogy is my decision to run the Barcelona Marathon in March 2015.

In the absence of the event, I run when I feel like it, for as long as I feel like it.

When I commit to the event – I have to make a sea-change in my performance and behaviour:

  • Longer training runs
  • More frequent runs
  • Low alcohol for 3 months
  • Careful nutrition
  • Losing a stone in weight in the next 70 days

Because if I don’t make those changes I’ll have a terrible day.

The difference between my marathon and your business is that I don’t have to carry the goodwill of a team with me – a marathon is a race with one entrant – yourself.

Your business is more of a relay team, with batons constantly passed from one runner to another.

You cannot expect a relay team to perform and behave if only one runner benefits if you cross the line – everyone must want to win because there is something in it for them.

That’s not just the money – don’t make that mistake.

The right people want to:

  • Feel genuinely appreciated
  • Feel as if what they are doing is “on purpose”
  • Feel as if they have a career pathway
  • Feel as if they want to be part of a winning team

Good money is important but pay and bonuses NEVER buy loyalty, commitment and endeavour.


So if your sea change is to grow your business 100% in the next 2 years (and I believe that can be done) then you will have to implement a sea change in the way that you lead and manage your team, so that they can feel an integral and willing part of the process.

As a coach I love working with clients who are committed making change at that level – I’m bored with 10% growth.

I’m making sea changes in my life in 2015:

  • In my personal fitness level
  • In my balance between personal and professional life
  • In the ratio of work I want to do and work I have to do
  • In the amount of time I invest in writing and reading
  • In my relationship with money and assets
  • In my relationships with business partners, work colleagues and clients

There’s a lot of talk out there at this time of year about GOALS – 90 days and 12 months – I’ve been in the middle of that stuff for almost 30 years now – setting 90-day goals has become such an embedded habit that I rarely even write them down any more (but if you want to you can ask us to send you a PDF or download our set goals using the 7connections mobile app free from the Apple App Store or the Android store).

Personally, I’m getting a bit past all that now.

So I’m not setting any fancy goals for 2015.

I’m asking myself what sea changes I can make into something rich and strange

Can I suggest you may try the same?

And if you need a mentor to help you make that sea change, drop me a line.

Ding Dong – lets hope our bells are those of celebration.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”

Podcast – Chris Barrow: Lessons from a veteran coach

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I was recently interviewed on the “Natural Born Coaches” podcast with Marc Mawhinney.

He asked some great questions that caused me to share my insights on what it takes to build not just a coaching business, but any business!

You can listen at: http://www.naturalborncoaches.com/podcasts/episode-53-chris-barrow-lessons-from-a-veteran-coach/

Or in iTunes at: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/natural-born-coaches/id940465957

After you listen, leave a comment on it or send me a message to let me know what stood out most for you!

The language of uncontrolled regulation and hysteria


On June 15 1692, after a 20-day investigation, the Reverend Cotton Mather reported back to the Salem Town Court on the subject of continuous allegations of witchcraft in the town.

Bridget Bishop had been executed by hanging just a few days earlier, accused of wearing her black clothes in a manner that was against the Puritan code and living in an immoral fashion – this was deemed enough to send her to the gallows.

A stream of further allegations were made between feuding families who had previously disagreed on land boundaries and other matters – and so the court asked the Reverend to investigate and report back, which he did as follows:

1      The afflicted state of our poor neighbours, that are now suffering by molestations from the invisible world, we apprehend so deplorable, that we think their condition calls for the utmost help of all persons in their several capacities.

    2       We cannot but, with all thankfulness, acknowledge the success which the merciful God has given unto the sedulous and assiduous endeavours of our honourable rulers, to detect the abominable witchcrafts which have been committed in the country, humbly praying, that the discovery of those mysterious and mischievous wickednesses may be perfected.

    3       We judge that, in the prosecution of these and all such witchcrafts, there is need of a very critical and exquisite caution, lest by too much credulity for things received only upon the Devil’s authority, there be a door opened for a long train of miserable consequences, and Satan get an advantage over us; for we should not be ignorant of his devices.

    4       As in complaints upon witchcrafts, there may be matters of inquiry which do not amount unto matters of presumption, and there may be matters of presumption which yet may not be matters of conviction, so it is necessary, that all proceedings thereabout be managed with an exceeding tenderness towards those that may be complained of, especially if they have been persons formerly of an unblemished reputation.

    5       When the first inquiry is made into the circumstances of such as may lie under the just suspicion of witchcrafts, we could wish that there may be admitted as little as is possible of such noise, company and openness as may too hastily expose them that are examined, and that there may no thing be used as a test for the trial of the suspected, the lawfulness whereof may be doubted among the people of God; but that the directions given by such judicious writers as Perkins and Bernard [be consulted in such a case].

    6       Presumptions whereupon persons may be committed, and, much more, convictions whereupon persons may be condemned as guilty of witchcrafts, ought certainly to be more considerable than barely the accused person’s being represented by a specter unto the afflicted; inasmuch as it is an undoubted and notorious thing, that a demon may, by God’s permission, appear, even to ill purposes, in the shape of an innocent, yea, and a virtuous man. Nor can we esteem alterations made in the sufferers, by a look or touch of the accused, to be an infallible evidence of guilt, but frequently liable to be abused by the Devil’s legerdemains.

    7       We know not whether some remarkable affronts given to the Devils by our disbelieving those testimonies whose whole force and strength is from them alone, may not put a period unto the progress of the dreadful calamity begun upon us, in the accusations of so many persons, whereof some, we hope, are yet clear from the great transgression laid unto their charge.

    8       Nevertheless, we cannot but humbly recommend unto the government, the speedy and vigorous prosecution of such as have rendered themselves obnoxious, according to the direction given in the laws of God, and the wholesome statutes of the English nation, for the detection of witchcrafts.

On careful reading, the Reverend gentleman did a rather good job of covering his own backside and committing neither to one side nor the other.

As a result, the court took this as “permission granted” and proceeded to throw men, women and children into a cold, damp prison, purely based on verbal allegations by their natural enemies – as a consequence, a further 23 innocent people were dispatched by hanging, pressing and ducking, within a month.

Only then did the higher authorities step in and put a stop to what had become out of control.

Witch-hunts have, throughout history, produced short-term opportunists who have seen the latest mob hysteria as a chance to further their own career ambitions, from Reverend Mather to Joseph McCarthy, from Enoch Powell to Nigel Farrage, from Bono to Russell Brand.

Eventually, I believe, the public are not totally stupid and common sense can prevail – but not before casualties are taken on all sides.

It is perhaps more sinister when the apparatus at work does not carry a “big personality” but a group of largely anonymous career bureaucrats who are using “the system” to climb a similar but less public (and hence, accountable) ladder.

I’m sure the Reverend Mather, had he been alive today, could have written a mean press release for a professional body under attack.

You can shout back at Russell Brand (he loves it and you will feel a bit better) but shouting at the regulators is simply a dog barking at a lamppost – the dog will become exhausted and the lamppost doesn’t even know, let alone care.

Better, in my opinion, to reduce the chance that you will become a target.

That is about nothing other than:

  • Acting ethically and responsibly
  • Keeping THE BEST notes in the business
  • Conformity

Thus it was in financial services in the 90’s, thus it is now in UK dentistry.

There will be a ducking-stool in your town sometime soon.

Make this a planning assumption for 2015 and beyond:

“Your notes WILL one day be used in a Fitness to Practice investigation. The notes will used to hang you or save you – your choice.

Salem is never far away – we balance on a tightrope as long as the lights stay on, the petrol keeps pouring and the shelves stay full – God forbid I ever see that change in my lifetime.

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist – Falling down

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When someone has had a really bad experience, personal or business, our natural inclination is to help, usually by offering some worldly wisdom such as:

  • If anyone can get it all back, you can (the advice my father gave to me when I lost a business in 1993)
  • The darkest hour is just before the dawn
  • You just have to keep your head down and work through it
  • The good news is there are lots of people rooting for you

and so on.

All of which is true – and gratefully appreciated.

The reality?

Falling down is simple.

Picking yourself back up again is one of the biggest (and the loneliest) challenges you will face.

Because, in spite of the well-wishers and the power-phrases, you are going to have to fight a lone battle (often against yourself) every step of the way.

It will be tough – you will have to grind out every small step, every minor victory – and along the way, the gremlins, the doubters, the well-poisoners and the enemies will throw every trick in the book to try to stop your progress.

The doubters, the well-poisoners and the enemies are easy to deal with – they can go to hell – as my first ever coach Marlene Panet-Raymond taught me well back in 1996 – since when are other people’s opinion of you any of your business?

The gremlins are imaginary creatures who sit at the end of your bed every night, hoping that you will wake up.

If and when you do – they contaminate your mind with negative thoughts and fears, making it very difficult to get back to sleep.

In my own case, I have learned to fight back.


At my age, it’s not unusual to wake up in the early hours.

If I sense the gremlins are in the bedroom, I quickly imagine myself in a submarine, standing before a pressure-sealed door with a huge circular handle.

I have to push the door shut as sea water tries to push against me and into my compartment around the door edges.

If I manage to shut the door and turn the handle, the sea water is stopped and I can get back to sleep.

If not – I may as well get up and type all of those imaginary emails that are floating around in my head.

I’ve discovered an 80/20 rule – 80% of the time I manage to shut the door, 20% it’s time to put the kettle on.

There’s nobody around at 03:30 – you have to deal with it.

Learning to deal with it creates the wisdom of experience – which you then have to pay forward.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”