Can You Get a Second Chance?

Bill Abbate
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Are you in the "everyone can have a second chance" or the "there's no such thing as a second chance" camp? Is either camp correct in their assumption?

While looking into the term "second chance" to better understand it, I was surprised to find many quotes stating there are no second chances! This spurred my curiosity to go deeper, as I had previously taken for granted that second chances were common.

Let's examine the "believers" and "deniers" camps to understand better where each is coming from on the subject of second chances.

Before diving into the subject, let's go to the dictionary to see what it says about second chances. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the noun, second chance is:

"an opportunity to try something again after failing one time."

By that definition, it seems pretty cut and dry. An opportunity is simply repeating an attempt after failing.

A second dictionary I often use is the Oxford Languages online version. Unfortunately, it does not list the phrase, so you must look at each word. Combining the words show:

"the second possibility of something happening"

This definition seems to make an even greater possibility of a second chance, or does it? Why do so many people say there are no second chances? Let's explore!

The believers camp

Have you ever met someone who got a second chance at something in life? Most of us have, and you may be one of them. I have always believed in second chances.

One of my second chances was falling in love and marrying a wonderful woman after my first wife passed away. Another was surviving some severe heart attacks and getting another chance at life. And those are only two of the more serious second chances I have experienced. Like many, I've had a number of second chances in my life.

Here is what a couple of others have had to say about this subject. Let's first turn to one of the most important Welsh poets and authors of the 20th century.

"Life always offers you a second chance, it's called tomorrow." Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Next, we will travel to the continent of Africa for the wisdom of a modern-day, well-known author, sociologist, and banker from Nigeria:

"In life, we all have a second chance but it's what we do with those chances that counts." Abdulazeez Henry Musa

And finally, here is what a current best-selling author has to say about second chances:

"It has been said that sometimes the greatest hope in our lives is just a second chance to do what we should have done right in the first place." Richard Paul Evans (1962-present)

Each of the above quotes makes a strong case for second chances. What is your opinion on this matter? I would love to hear your views in the comment section below.

The deniers camp

As someone who enjoys taking different perspectives, this camp's point of view does make sense. It is not unusual for a dictionary definition to miss the mark and not capture a subject in its entirety. You can find this in many of the articles I have published.

One way to approach this perspective is to ask, "Can anyone truly experience identical circumstances a second time?" The answer is no, as time and matter have a way of not allowing anything to be exactly duplicated. If you want to know more about this, Google the terms "duplicates paradox" and "duplication theory."

Since we cannot go back in time, no two circumstances can be completely identical. The best we can get is another chance at something similar.

For example, look at the words of a well-known English lawyer, judge, politician, and author from the past:

"We all have to learn, in one way or another, that neither men nor boys get second chances in this world. We all get new chances to the end of our lives, but not second chances in the same set of circumstances; and the great difference between one person and another is how he takes hold and uses his first chance, and how he takes his fall if it is scored against him." Thomas Hughes (1822-1886)

The interesting thing I discovered in examining the denier's camp is many of their references to second chances tie to one thing. Some refer to life in general, while others are more specific. For example, look at what this English author and playwright had to say in the last century:

"There is no going back in life. There is no return. No second chance." Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)

Then there is the famous British philosopher who said:

"One life; a little gleam of Time between two Eternities; no second chance to us for evermore!" Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

Moving from the past into the present are the words of a well-known current writer and journalist:

"It's hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment." Jeanette Winterson (1959-present)

While he was not exactly a denier, the following was said by a beloved American humorist early in the last century:

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Will Rogers (1879-1935)

Are not all of the above quotes true? We only get one shot at life on this earth, after all.

Time and second chances

A large determining factor as to whether we get a second chance or a second shot at something is time. Some have a second chance at marriage, but not necessarily to the same person. Others get a second chance at another job or living life in another town. Or we may get another chance at something in a later stage of life. But, these are more of another chance, a second shot, rather than a second chance at the same thing. Time won't allow it to be otherwise.

A well-known musician from the past had this to say about time:

"Time is your only enemy, it disappears very quickly and never gives you a second chance." Steve Douglas (1938-1993)

Once time has passed, it is in the past and unchangeable. So why worry about getting a second chance? Instead, shoot for another chance at whatever it is you want!

Final thoughts

It isn't easy to discuss a topic like second chances in such a short article, but I hope you have gained a broader perspective on its meaning.

Even if a second chance is not an option, that doesn't mean we can't try to do something again! When it comes to being a writer, read the words of a well-known author now in her nineties:

“In books, as in life, there are no second chances. On second thought: it's the next work, still to be written, that offers the second chance.” Cynthia Ozick (1928-present)

Still, no one is guaranteed a second chance, as stated so well by another current best-selling author:

"Sometimes we don't get second chances, … Sometimes things just end." Colleen Hoover (1971-present)

I would love to hear your perspectives and thoughts on this subject. Please leave your comments below.

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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