Sunday, April 21, 2024

Burn your ships

I entered bookshop to buy a book and returned empty handed, I planned to be a medical practitioner but ended up being marketer, I thought of switching the job but continued with the same one for so many years, I set target to read a book in a month but ended up starting half a dozen and completing none. The story is similar for every human. There are many instances where I reached for the best and settled for lesser options. The problem – probably the lack of unhindered commitment to one cause.

I’ve grown up reading and learning about plan B. In case my plan A doesn’t work, I will have something to fall-back upon. Many a times I work and get satisfied with plan B. I don’t burn my ships every time when I have a fall-back option ready; and frequently, I rush for that. My escape route is ready all the time; what a mental peace to have fall back options. Seems familiar to you… its obvious!

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?

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.

“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.”

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

Companies who burnt their ships to move to newer technological innovations are the success stories of today. Pagers to smartphones, cathode tube TVs to OLED 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 does burning the ships means to me and you?

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

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 ones 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.

I think many a times, that why I have plan B ready? Maybe I wish to cling to safety harness. Somewhere I doubt the success of plan A. This fear may act as hurdle for success.

I frequently commit myself by artificially creating the point of no return. This enhances my energy and focus.

  • I resigned from the job and plunged to entrepeneurship.
  • I opted for non-refundable tickets to commit to my programs of studies, travel.
  • I quit smoking and announce it to my family and world.

There are many smaller ways I commit myself by burning my ships.

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

Choose carefully and burn your ships…

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Hardeep is an entrepreneur, marketer, blogger, an ardent reader and avid writer. He expresses his unbiased views especially on the matters of Business, Tech & Life through this blog. He can be reached at


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