In 1519 Hernán Cortés and 600 men arrived in Mexico, on a mission from Spain to conquer the people and claim the magnificent treasures said to be found there. The Aztec inhabitants were obviously concerned about these invaders, and a battle was imminent. Before his men could comprehend the situation, Cortés gave a rather interesting order:
“BURN THE BOATS!”
Obviously, no boats meant no going home, so the men had to commit completely to their mission. The result was a stunningly successful battle, and Aztec empire’s riches soon belonged to Spain, something that armies of thousands had failed to accomplish for centuries prior.
At its heart, “burning boats” represents a point of no return, a psychological commitment where we recognize that we cross a line and move only forward. Every effort is focused only on success.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying “There are a thousand excuses for failure, but never a good reason.” Cortés did what no one else had for one primary reason: He and his men were 100% committed to their cause. His small army became unstoppable because they only had one direction to go: forward.
When we want to achieve great things, in business, in our personal lives, or in both, we must approach our decisions with a level of commitment that will drive us definitively forward. When we truly commit to a cause, our perspective changes — and then nothing else needs to change, because we do, and that’s enough. Instead of seeing obstacles, we see opportunities. Rather than look for excuses, we look for solutions.
I don’t pretend that every decision we make will be good, and we obviously shouldn’t commit to bad decisions. But if we want to be wildly successful in life, this formula works:
• Gather as many facts as possible
• Measure the risks
• Use the best judgment and the insights of others to guide us
Once you make your decision, be willing to stick with it, and don’t allow fear and second-guessing to derail you.
It is time to burn your boats and lock arms with what you want to succeed in.