“Burn the ships” a lesson about not giving up on yourself

Burn the ships

Have you ever heard the expression “burn the boats”? It comes from 1519 during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when Hernán Cortés the Spanish commander, scuttled his ships so that his men would have to conquer or die. Basically, he created a point of no return for himself and his men.

What is the lesson here? Giving up is easy when you have the option

  • Let that sink in for a moment.
  • Can you see how often we give up?
  • How easy it is to have one moment derail us completely?
  • How we always leave ourselves a safety net?
  • What if we removed our safety net?

What does it mean to burn the ships?

First I want to say I am not saying to burn up all our safety nets, definitely keep the things that make sense. Examples of things to keep would be your savings, your relationships, your moral compass etc. What I am saying is how can we removed those things we fall back on or distract ourselves with that hinder our reaching our goals. I’m suggesting awakening our awareness of how we get in our own way.

Curious what I mean by that? I’m currently attending a seminar series with Landmark Worldwide and in a recent session our leader Vik sharing his personal experience with a pattern said: “I wasn’t get out alive”. At first, it sounded really extreme, until… I got it. What he was saying was by facing his pattern, by facing the impact it was having on those he cares about most, he couldn’t possibly be the same person on the other side. Thus the version of himself that went in wasn’t coming out alive, he would be a new version of himself.

This really got me thinking about what happens when we quit when we give up when we have a safety net. When we allow ourselves to fall back into our safety we are truly giving up on ourselves. And we rob ourselves of burning away that part of ourselves that holds us back.

Taking a stand for yourself

I recently wrote a post about the movie The Last Word, and the profound message found within (click to read it).

SPOILER ALERT: Before I continue I want to be sure you have seen the movie as I am about to give away a part of it.

I was reminded of this movie again as I heard those words “I wasn’t get out alive”. At the end of the movie Anne Sherman, played by actress Amanda Seyfried, provides the following resignation letter to her boss.

This is not my letter of resignation. This is my obituary. The young girl who worked for you for the last seven years is dead and buried. She leaves behind a lifetime of indecision, hesitation and fear. She will not be missed. She will not be mourned. Because she was really never alive to begin with. But she is now. And she has her entire life in front of her. An entire life just waiting to be filled.

Her letter was clear, it wasn’t that she couldn’t do the job anymore. No, it was so much more than that. She was no longer the person she was before. She had burned her boats and as Vik said… she didn’t get out alive. The person she was now was never going to stand for what the old her had allowed.

My question to you

What would it look like to burn your own ships? If you did what would be different for you?

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