Burn the Ships!!

February 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Burn the ships

When faced with a dilemma, one so tough that our backs are against the wall and the only options are to surrender or fight, what do you do?

Would you burn the ships as fabled in Cortes’ capture of the Aztec Empire? As the story goes, Cortes’ men were far outnumbered in a country thousands of miles away from their home. Their backs were against the wall and their options were death or fight. Cortes burned the ships to give them the last bit of motivation they needed to conquer an entire empire!

That’s exactly what we should do when faced with a tough problem… annihilate any options of turning back by taking extreme measures that force us to act. I’m tired of going to work, so I’m going to burn my car!!

Wait, does eliminating your options and back up plans really make sense? Sure, it makes for a great story and certainly helped Cortes conquer a far away nation and steal their treasure! Wait, it doesn’t make Cortes sound as noble when I say he didn’t have the best intentions and instead yearned for treasure and loot. The story just isn’t playing out like it should!

Sorry to break the news, but he didn’t even burn the ships. Instead, according to Wikipedia (so it must be right), Cortes scuttled his ships. This isn’t nearly as sexy as burning them, but he did disable them by sinking them. However, it wasn’t to motivate his men, but to squash their hopes of mutiny and loyalty towards the Governor of Cuba. The Spanish had a settlement in Cuba, and some of the native Cubans wanted to go home instead of fighting for the guy who kidnapped them (Cortes).

The funny part is I was originally going to write this post to talk about “burning the ships” as motivating. It sounds like the way decisions should be made – like the turning point in the movie where the good guy gets in his first punch. He throws in everything he has and comes away victorious.

However, after I started reading the real Cortes explanation and thinking about it, the more burning the ships sounds like a terrible idea in real life issues!! Going back to the example I used earlier, should you really quit your job just to motivate yourself enough to finally find something new? Probably not, I used to think that was the only way, but then I learned how to use my job as a tool to get the things I want and need.

It doesn’t sound nearly as cool, and you won’t be applauded by your friends and family for making the bold and drastic move, but I can guarantee it will work out better a large percentage of the time. The key is to start working on your new options now. Don’t make any more excuses. Now is the time to take action.

This still won’t be enough for most of us to make a change. I didn’t finally make a decision to get out of debt, instead I had a breaking point that brought me to my knees.

When will you make the change? Are you fulfilling your mission while pursuing your passions or just waiting it out on the ship? It’s time to take the first step and get moving on your dream.

It doesn’t have to be drastic, it just has to happen. For Nate, it was baking his first pie. For Chris, it was taking the first step to develop a smart phone application. For me, it was starting to write material and reserving my domain name. From there, I continued to work on something every day. Now, it feels like I’m heading in the right direction and can make something out of this.

You don’t have to burn the ships to start moving in the right direction. What are you doing today to pursue your passion?

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