Burn Your Ships

When the Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortez, landed at Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico in the 16th century, one of the first things he did was burn his ships.

His goal was to conquer this new land by pushing west to the Pacific. By burning his ships he eliminated the possibility that his men would lose heart and sail back to Spain. The presence of the ships gave Cortez’s forces an alternative if they lost the fight that lay ahead; burning the ships gave the men a powerful motive to win. Convinced that they could not turn back, they were better able to focus on the goal and do what had to be done to reach it.

We would all do well to do the same.

Unfortunately, many of us never achieve this focus. We have realistic goals, but we never seem to make much headway to reach them. Many of us have good ideas, but we don’t execute them.

Instead, we waste time. We take detours. We put off things that we must do. We dawdle over those things we start to do.

We postpone actions that would move us along toward our goal or the execution of our idea. If we run up against an obstacle, we hope it will go away. We fail to realize that we have to take on hard tasks first if we want the rest of our journey to be easier.

We get mired in trifles and excuses. We tell ourselves that there’s not enough time or that we’re not sure what the next step should be. We claim that we don’t have enough resources or that we haven’t been given enough support.

All of us seem able to find excuses to justify what we want to do rather than doing what is difficult or unpleasant. Only the successful do what has to be done, without dawdling, detours or excuses. They commit to a goal or an idea, then they burn their ships and move ahead, convinced that there’s no turning back.

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