When to Burn the Boats | The BridgeMaker

When to Burn the Boats

By on Mar 12, 2009


Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible. – Mary McCleod Bethune

Commitment takes courage. Many times we are content to stand on the sidelines and just watch as the game is being played. It’s safer there; but there’s no action and no opportunity for success, or growth.

Sometimes we just need to jump into it and see what happens. Sometimes we just need to burn the boats.

The ancient Greek warriors understood this idea. These Greeks possessed an unwavering attitude to victory and commitment. When the Grecian armies landed on their enemy’s shore, the first order the commanders gave was “Burn the boats.”

These commanders knew the power of motivation and necessity. With no boats to retreat to, the army had to be successful in order to survive. As the soldiers watch the boats burn, they knew there was no turning back – there would be no surrendering.

In our lives we need to do everything possible to make good decisions. We may not always be right. But if we follow a process of gathering the facts, analyzing the risks, and creating a viable plan based on the information available, more times than not we will make the proper decision.

However, fear can keep us from moving forward. Consider the missed opportunities in your life. Think about the relationships you didn’t pursue, or end. Think about the career opportunities you allowed to pass by because you were more comfortable with the status quo. Think about the dreams and goals you once had, but are now stuffed down into a seemingly unreachable place. Imagine if you had burn some boats along the way.

A leap of faith is just that – a leap from what you know and trust and to the unknown. Frequently, growth lives on the landing spot where you leap. The question then becomes, “do I leap”; “how do I know I know if I’m following my heart’s desire and not just making a stupid mistake?”

The answer is you really don’t know, for sure. The Greeks didn’t know, for sure, if they would be victorious, but there were extremely motivated because there was no other course; no other way. They didn’t think about the “what ifs.” they only thought about how to prevail and win.

You have the same choice in front of you. Perhaps there is a book you have always wanted to write, or a business you have always wanted to start; or someone you would like to approach and begin a conversation.

Safety nets are good because they can protect you from pain and injury, but they can also keep you from really putting it on the line. The suggestion here is not to do your due diligence or act in a rash manner, but rather once you have completed your discernment process and your inner voice; your inner wisdom, says, “Go!” You go!

Remove the obstacles and the excuses. Storm the shore with the attitude you will be successful. Set fire to the boat that took you there and watch as it lists in the water and then disappears.

Turn around and look forward; look ahead. Leave your fear and regret at the bottom of the water with the boat and begin moving in the direction you want to go. Surrender to no one or nothing and fully commit. You will get to where you want to go. You will be victorious, too.

The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

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  • Dan

    Beautiful written. I was just writing a chapter in a book called “Back-Ups Hold You Back” and was looking for this quote about the ancient greek’s burning their ships and found this beautifully written piece.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderfully written article.

    You may not know the results, but if you think you will fail, you will. Do not leave your life to chance and luck – if they help you along the way – so be it.

    Thanks again,

  • Sam

    Thank Alex for sharing this wonderful article. Well advised.

    One must be able to know him/her self…how capable of he/she is to endure hardships and obstacles that comes in his/her way. I mean one must know his/her level of tolerance…that all can be learnt and raised by trial and error excercise but once you succeed to attain your extreme degree of endurance, you will stand out with all your confidence to overcome any situation you might be in. so the point is, when You know yourself, you know when to take step and how to cope up with things that mingle in. You wont be asking The time to burn your boat…Because you know.

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  • Calet

    Alex Blackwell: Thank you. It does make sense, and now I’m able to understand that expression, and ready to use it as well. Thank you, again.