Burn The Ships: A Story of Betting on Yourself
In 2012, I bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco with no job or apartment. Something in me simply felt compelled to go figure it out. A few nights before I was supposed to leave, I remember having an argument with my parents about what I’d do for food, money, etc. I, twenty-one at the time, college graduate, was in tears. I wanted to make it work so bad, but maybe I was wrong. What if I wasn’t fit for the challenge?
I’m extremely blessed with supportive parents, though I don’t blame them for their loving skepticism. I’d feel the same in their shoes. Regardless, a few days later, I left home. And guess what, guys? Magically, I’m still in California.
Burning the ships comes from Hernán Cortés, arguably one history’s most badass explorers. Cortés led the Spanish conquest of Mexico, discovering and ultimately catalyzing the fall of the Aztec Empire. According to legend, Cortés “burned” his ships upon arrival, preventing any cowardly or unloyal crew from sailing back to Spain.
The Magic of Sink or Swim
When you buy a one-way ticket for anything, you instantly mitigate the possibility of failure. In my personal conquest of San Francisco, I knew it was going to be stupidly difficult. BUT, I was committed to doing whatever it took. I even bought a concert ticket well past the date of when I was going to run out of money, further incentivizing myself to find a job. I really wanted to see that concert.
It's amazing how fast you can learn to swim when someone throws you into the deep end of a pool (hopefully nobody actually does that). Burning the ships is about eliminating failure as an option. Because if there’s ever a choice between succeeding and dying, I’ll take success every time. Sure, the safety nets of life make us feel comfortable, but they significantly lower the stakes.
I’m not suggesting you turn every scenario into a do or die situation. In fact, unless you have the world’s strongest nervous system, DON’T do that. Still, there are times when we absolutely must burn the ships. If you’re committed and willing to do whatever it takes, your backup plans are redundant.
Onwards, brave explorer, new worlds await.