Are you committed enough to Burn the Boats?

When we talk about success in any worthwhile goal, be it business or personal, the first question I ask people is if they’re committed to the outcome.

The first response is always a resounding and often indignant “YES. Of course I’m committed or I wouldn’t being doing this.”

But the truth is that most people are just interested in success. Interested in reaching their goal. It would be a nice to have. They can imagine how cool it would be to have this ‘thing’ but when it comes down to doing what has to be done they falter. They didn’t realise it would be a tough road, or maybe they didn’t realise it would be as tough as it was. So they quit on it.

To me, they were never committed. They were just interested in it.

Being committed, truly committed, means going all in, backing yourself, your goal, your dream.

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It means that you’re willing to take risks and cut off what others would deem to be necessary ‘escape clauses, in case things go wrong’; because you’re committed, you accept that things will go wrong and you deal with them anyway.

If you require escape clauses, in my opinion, you’re leaning more towards ‘interested’ than ‘committed’.

In my experience there are two main drivers for success – INSPIRATION and DESPERATION.

Inspiration is the thing that gets you excited. It’s the ideal, the dream, the goal and the vision. It’s the thing that gets you out of bed and working towards your goal because you’re inspired to succeed and to see the result of what you perceive this goal to be like when you get there.

Without inspiration you will struggle to get where you want to go. You have no ‘WHY’ and without understanding why you want something it’s very difficult to get started let alone to push through tough times.

Desperation is a far more powerful tool. This is when your backs against the wall and you HAVE to succeed, not just WANT to succeed. You’ve heard the saying ‘Beware the wounded Tiger’ or people say ‘I do my best work when I’m under pressure’. That’s Desperation.

A desperate to succeed person will always be far more formidable than someone who has everything in their favour and would like to succeed, but if they don’t they have plenty of back up plans so they’ll be ok.

In 1519 Spanish Conqueror – Hernan Cortes took a small Army to take a very rich treasure from the Mayan’s. In 600 years no Army had managed to take this treasure though many had tried. In fact far bigger Armies than Cortes’ Army had failed to seize this treasure.

Cortes took a different approach to previous Armies. When his Army landed on the shores they didn’t charge through and attack the Mayan’s. He sat them down and talked through basic battle plans but more importantly he spent days laying out his vision of what life would be like for the men and their families once they seized the treasure. He explained in great detail how their life would look and how they would be regarded in their society once successful.

He laid out a vision that touched them emotionally. He explained the ‘WHY’  behind their efforts. He charged his men emotionally so they had a bigger reason to fight well and conquer what no-one had been able to conquer.

Then the day of the battle he said three words that result in one action that changed the world and history.

He spoke to his men once more about the why, the vision….. and then to send his message home he told his men to turn around to look at the boats anchored offshore. The boats that brought them here and would also take them home.

Then he gave the command ‘Burn the Boats’. With that simple command, the shipsmen torched the boats. His men were shocked. They asked why he did that and his reply was, ‘If we go home, we go home in their boats.’

He had purposely placed his and his men’s backs to the wall. They had no option now, they had to succeed or die. That was it. Inspiration and Desperation.

For the first time in 600 years the treasure was taken.

In business too often people place a high level of importance on a safe strategy, an escape clause if something goes wrong. What if we took the path less traveled and Burnt the Boats? What if succeeding was the only option we left open?

Entre­pre­neur Troy Tyler had this to say to Fast Com­pany in the August 2000 issue about “burn­ing boats”:

Strategy is all about commitment,” says Tyler. “If what you’re doing isn’t irrevocable, then you don’t have a strat­egy — because any­one can do it. That’s why burn­ing the boats is so impor­tant. I’ve always wanted to treat life like I was an invad­ing army and there was no turn­ing back.”

This strategy demands commitment to the cause. There’s a few cases in history where Armies have been outnumbered 5:1 and have utilised a similar strategy because it created a commitment in the minds of their soldiers. There is no escape. We must fight, we must win.

In business and in chasing your life’s goals, have that same level of commitment. Go all in, Burn the Boats  and create a mindset that simply does not allow failure to be a considered option.

Sure it could still happen. Statistically it’s less likely, but it could. But if you fail, fail spectacularly knowing you have given everything, committed everything and never allow yourself to think ‘I could have succeeded if I had tried a little harder, worked a little more at it.’

Burning your boats will make sure that you give 100%, it will wring out every drop of what you have. Only then can you fail and say ‘I gave everything.’ More than likely you will have succeeded because you were willing to commit at a level that very few are willing too.

Cortes knew it back then and you know it now.