Burn your Ships

November 2, 2018 By Hardeep Kumar 0

You entered bookshop to buy a book and return empty handed, you planned to be a software engineer but ended up being marketer, you thought of switching the job but continued with current one, you set target to read a book in a month but ended up starting half a dozen and completing none. The story is same for everyone. There are numerous examples where you reached for the best and settled for lesser options. The problem – lack of commitment to one cause.

You have grown up reading and learning about plan B. In case your plan A doesn’t work, you will have something to fall-back upon. You always work and get satisfied with plan B. You never burn your ships. You always have a fall-back option ready; and at most of the times, you rushed for that. Your escape route is ready all the time.

There is a legend about Tariq ibn Ziyad, the famous Muslim general in 711-718 A.D. , who gave Gibraltar its name. Tariq decided to invade Spain. He landed on the shores of southern Spain with a small army of 7000 Muslims. Once everyone landed, commanders asked Tariq if they should leave some soldiers to guard the ships. To everyone’s shock, Tariq ordered to burn the ships. Tariq knew that his army was far outnumbered by Spanish forces. He created the point of no return. There was no option left with soldiers but to win. There was not a single ship which could take them back. Escape routes were closed. The rest is history. For the next 800 years, Spain remained the Islamic stronghold.

Let’s shift focus to around 1000 years ahead. A Span­ish con­quis­ta­dor, Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, landed on the shores of Mexico with some 600 Spaniards, 16 horses and 11 ships. Their aim – to conquer the empire which had the world’s greatest treasure of gold, silver and Aztec jewels. In the past, the armies with the greatest of resources couldn’t able to put their hands on that abundant wealth. The odds were against Cortés and his men. Cortés and his army stayed on the shores and he awoke the souls of his soldiers with emblazoned speeches. One day, he uttered three words which would change the history of the world and did the entire miracle – “Burn the boats”. He created the point of no return. There was only one way out for his men, die or ensure victory. And they fought the battle of their lives. Today we know, Cortés became the first man in 700 years to conquer Mexico.

Alexander also burned his boats upon arrival on the shores of Persia. History remembers him.

All these great fighters had unwavering faith in the commitment and single point focus. Had there been any plan B in their list, the history of the world would have been different.

What burning the ships means for Business?

Entre­pre­neur Troy Tyler wrote in the Fast Com­pany, August 2000 issue about “burn­ing boats”:

“Strat­egy is all about com­mit­ment. 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.”

Successful organizations surge ahead, creating point of no return, committing completely and reap the benefits of success. Companies can’t move forward by clinging to their past.

Companies who burnt their ships to move to newer technological innovations are the success stories of today. Pagers to smartphones, cathode tube TVs to LED TVs, bulky machines to sleek laptops/tablets, companies burnt the ships to board the next bus of innovation. Apple, Samsung, Google, Dell, Microsoft, and many others lead the pack.

What burning the ships means to you?

Burning of ships means to create the point where all your energy and efforts are focused to one goal. It means the only option of success with you. It means giving your best as if it is the question of life and death for you.

Having the option to win or die looks extremely scary. Human psychology is designed to opt for the safest options, hence escape route is important, but this drastically reduces your commitment to single goal. Motivation by fear is the biggest force that has moved great armies and individuals, but I consider this as the motivation by trust.

Think once, why you have plan B ready? The reason you have plan B is that you have deep fear within. Somewhere you doubt the success of your plan A. This fear is the hurdle for your success.

In other words, commit yourself by artificially creating the point of no return. This will enhance your energy and focus many times.

  • Marry the person you love.
  • Resign from the job to pursue your entrepreneur dreams.
  • Opt for non-refundable tickets to commit to your program.
  • Quit smoking and announce it to your family and world.

There are many ways you commit yourself by burning your ships.

I’ve burnt my ships… What boats and ships you’ll burn???? Remember, Carrots work well for success, sticks work even better!!!

Create your own sticks.