Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hooptedoodle #6 - The Three Excuses Rule

Like everyone else, I came into the world knowing nothing, and have only occasionally managed to improve this situation - and always, I believe, by personal experience. Maybe I was never a good listener, but words of received wisdom only ever come back to me when I am trying to strip off curdled varnish, or lying in hospital, or pleading with the bank, or whatever. By and large, I found stuff out the hard way - one day you will see me listed in the Darwin Awards.

Once upon a time I used to go running at lunchtime with a group of colleagues from work. We used to go Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Life being what it is, now and then someone would send a message apologising for absence - popular reasons included:

(1) I have to look for a present for my wife's birthday - you know how it is.

(2) I think I have a cold coming on - I'll give it a miss today.

(3) I am struggling to finish off a presentation I have to make to the Board this afternoon.

No-one could take exception to any of these, obviously, and the runners would look forward to seeing their missing companion next time. Occasionally, someone would come out with a multiple reason:

(1+2) I have to do some urgent shopping, and anyway I'm not feeling too great, so I'll not be running today.

Poor chap - such a strong case for not being there might even generate some sympathetic (if monosyllabic) discussion during the run. But only very rarely did anyone attempt to claim that they had three simultaneous good reasons for absence. At that point it becomes obvious that they are making it up. The chances of anyone having that good a reason not to do anything at all are so remote as to be discounted without further thought.

Foy's Seventh Law is known in our family as the Three Excuses Rule, and states:

If someone has three good, separate excuses for not being able to do something, that person is lying - they just don't want to do it.

This is a very useful rule indeed - you will regularly be able to use it to judge the merits of politicians, and to apply it to discussions with tradesmen, mail-order retailers, your children, all sorts of people, in a great many practical situations. Only yesterday, the phone helpline for my Internet Service Provider had three excellent reasons why we had no broadband for the second time in four days, and the girl appeared mystified when I laughed as she got to the third excuse.


  1. The three excuses rule might also have some application in wargaming. Consider the number of bloggers who share grandiose wargaming plans (the imagi-nations crowd is riddled with them) online. They talk incessantly about their not inconsiderable purchases, different rules, uniform design, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah. . . and yet very little ever seems to see the light of day? Curious.

    Best Regards,


  2. Ah yes - that will probably be because of the difficulty of getting suitable figures, the impact on painting schedules of holding down a top job, and then there's all the background reading [BONG!] - goodness - is that three already?


  3. hmmm I hate to be the one to bring this up,not actually being a devious person, but its also a good tip. If you happen to have 3 perfectly valid reasons for not doing something, remember, there is no need to share them all, pick the best one and go with that, otherwise, she errr..I mean they might not believe you.
    "Protest not too much"


  4. Ross - good strategy. But what if she/they knows about the 3ER? Then you may be quizzed until you are forced to admit that your reasons are actually better than stated, in which case you may be in trouble. Tricky.

    There may be an alternative Zero Excuses approach, where you say "I'm not doing it, just because I don't want to". No - that's not going to work, is it? It does sound strangely familiar, though. Needs more work.