Once upon a time, long, long ago in a beautiful, far, far away land, a certain Captain Cortés rolled up in a battalion of ships, dropped anchor and set upon said beautiful land with ambitions of conquest.
His sailors were tired, hungry and weary from their expedition and Cortés knew that conquest was only possible with an appropriately motivated team. And so Cortés did the unthinkable.
He instructed his men to burn the ships. All of them. I imagine some of his men sniggering a ‘say what now?’ under their breath only to be speared with a sword through the gut. Of course the rest of the crew fell to the task of burning the ships without further incident and Cortés found a spot in the shade, pleased with himself for a good day’s work and scheming all manner of strategies for settling into his new home.
Maybe it happened that way. Probably not. The point is though that once the ships were burned, there was NO RETREAT. It became conquer or perish. Do or die. And from my limited experience, that would certainly up the ante from a motivation point of view.
As much as Cortés’ story is a fantastic story; it’s also my story and it is also your story.
No matter what you are pursuing, for as long as it remains possible, retreat is ALWAYS a desirable option. And yet, once our backs are to the proverbial wall, we summons resources and conjure the super powers that allow us to do the seemingly impossible and create new and exciting destinies that often exceed our wildest dreams.
Until then, we keep our options open, cling to our escape hatches and establish an exit strategy even before we take our first step along the route to our imagined promised land.
We all say we want to do good, we want to change, we want to improve ourselves and our lots in life, love, money, etc. Yet, how many of us take that intention to the next level and truly commit with unquestionable resolve…..unless our backs are to the wall?
Out of habit, we cling to our safety nets “just in case…” What we fail to do is honestly complete that sentence. We play games and we deceive ourselves. If we were honest, we would say, “This is my safety net just in case I get scared.”
We delay action until we either no longer feel fear or something more frightening is birthed from our inaction. Or sometimes our trickery is really talented and we take action that is no more than feigned attempts never designed to succeed.
In reality, we must learn to act decisively in spite of our fear.
Burn The Things that ‘Makes Sense’
Surely Cortés could have spared a ship or two and burnt the rest of his fleet just to get his point across. But Cortés was having none of that. His message was simply: ‘Be victorious or be martyred!’ Oi!
With the option of retreat off the table, Cortés forced the level of commitment required for success.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: What are my ships? What am I afraid to let go of? In what ways is my ‘logic’ actually nothing more that self-deception or a ruse to stay safe?
I can’t answer that question for you, but I can give you some areas to consider as you mull over the question, “What ships do I need to burn in my life?” Take a look at the ‘Burn The Ships’ Resource, and feel free to share in the comments.
As you consider each one, if it jumps out at you, ask yourself why. What is it that makes it hard to burn? Is it a false sense of obligation to it? Is it fear of the unknown? Is it fear of being perceived as a failure? What is it?
What ships are holding you back and keeping you safe? What ‘ships’ have you burned? What ‘ships’ have you had to burn more than once?
How did it feel? How does it feel now?