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a blog by Chris Barrow

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist – 5th time lucky?

The authentic derivation of the phrase “third time lucky” is unknown.

Modern history attributes its origins to English Law and a rule that, after three attempts, if the authorities could not kill a prisoner by hanging them then they were to go free.

John “Babbacombe” Lee was a West Country sailor who, in 1885, was sentenced to the drop for the murder of Emma Keyse and, after the team at Exeter prison failed on three attempts, had his sentence commuted to “life” by the then Home Secretary and was subsequently released.

One wonders what Lee thought of this process and how he was around rope later on. No doubt a fascinating interviewee on facing eternity.

By the way, there was no such Law in the statute book at any time, so don’t build you own hopes up if you have treason in mind and a thick neck.

The record book shows that versions of the phrase were in use earlier – and opinions differ.

Is it a reference to the Holy Trinity?

Robert the Bruce’s spider?

A message to the Church in Corinth?

Nobody knows.

The principle, however, of perseverance in the face of adversity has considerable traction and is taught from our early years as a rule of good society.

Paradoxically, that gives the clever author the opportunity to take the route of contrarianism – people such as Tom Peters proclaiming that to “fail fast” is always better in business.

So where does that leave the budding (or bruised) entrepreneur?

I reflected the other day that, in the last 10 years I have tried unsuccessfully on 4 occasions to build a scaleable business that would give me an escape route from the tyranny of consultancy – that “time for money” trap that has given me and my family a good lifestyle but no capital.

There are no corporates paying inflated prices for coaching practices in a desperate land-grab to fool private equity managers and cash-rich pension fund investors before the bubble bursts.


Four times, either I chose the wrong people, the wrong idea or the wrong time (on one occasion, spectacularly, all three simultaneously).

Four times, I found myself swinging from a self-tied knot.

Four times, I survived, albeit with significant rope burns and an aversion to standing over business trapdoors.

I’m thinking that maybe I deserve a pardon now?

“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.”

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