In my last article, I gave you my list of what to do or what not to do in a startup. Narrowing in on one of the most important to do’s, I recommended burning your boats as #1. In the early 1500s, Hernan Cortez, a wealthy Spanish explorer, thirsted for the bountiful riches of the Aztecs. Legends were told about the mountains of gold the Aztecs possessed. Although previous explorers had traveled the world in hopes of capturing the treasure, none were successful.
Cortez traveled throughout Spain, talking with people, convincing them to join him on the quest for riches, which had been held by the powerful Aztecs for 600 years. He built up their excitement and eagerness to defeat the Aztecs, and claim the treasure for themselves. Over time, he was able to secure the necessary materials and manpower to complete the quest. Once they set sail on the first leg of the journey to Cuba, there were those who lost sight of the vision. Some of the men who once dreamed of the glorious riches turned into whiners and complainers. Despite the complaining, Cortez and his crew made it to Cuba, where the quitters left, and the remaining crew resupplied the boat, and rested for the final leg of the journey.
From Cuba, they then set sail to the Yucatan Peninsula. Once they arrived, Cortez began training his men, coaching them, energizing them, and continually casting the vision. Cortez constantly reminded the men of their goal, claiming the magnificent treasure, while they polished up their warfare skills on the beaches of the Yucatan.
Once Cortez and his men were prepared to fight and be victorious, he gave a final order. He commanded his crew to, “Burn the boats!” You can only imagine what his crew must have been thinking in that moment! He repeated, “Burn the boats, because if we are going home, we are going home in their boats.” The boats were torched. Burning the boats took away the safety net that if the quest was too hard, they could simply return to the boats and sail home. Their commitment level was put to the test, and they had no other option but to claim victory. As a result of the burning of the boats, the crew did indeed defeat the Aztecs, and claimed the glorious treasure legends spoke about.
Had Cortez not burned the boats, perhaps this story would have a different ending. The path of success requires an upfront payment of commitment and sacrifice. Its human nature to crave safety and security and to avoid sacrifice, submitting to that nature will keep you from your full potential.
History has the wonderful ability to demonstrate our future through the efforts of others. Embrace the challenge of commitment and sacrifice, allow yourself to be inspired, and claim your victory!