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Burn the boats

Burn the boats

At a meetup of entrepreneurs in the city yesterday I was introduced to the phrase ‘burn the boats’. It’s a similar concept to my favorite scene in Gattaca

Legend has it that when Cortes landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he ordered his men to burn the ships that had brought them there to remove the possibility of doing anything other than going forward into the unknown. The phrase is also attributed to the commanders of the ancient Greek warriors who would shout “burn the boats” to eliminate any notion of retreat as they landed on enemy shores.

We live in a culture infatuated with choices, including our love of the option to hit reset, undo, and go home.

We want exit strategies and Plan B’s; but for some things in life, the only way out is by pressing further in. When we don’t burn the boats and we leave room for a way back, we also leave room for hesitation, fear, anxiety, self-sabotage, and resistance to creep in.

And sometimes what got us here, can’t take us there.

When we burn the boats and declare a point-of-no-return we can finally stop looking back and assess the way forward with clarity.

What’s holding you back? Are you in or out? Burn the boats, a brand new world awaits you.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Brian Russell July 28, 2011, 8:51 am

    This is a strong word that needs to be heard. We have grown used to a world in which there is always a parachute, reset button, or someone/thing ready to bail us out. This takes the urgency out of our actions. Thanks for the reminder.

  • geo November 9, 2011, 7:51 pm


  • bryan erwin October 25, 2012, 5:51 pm

    burn the boats

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