Del Williams

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Point of No Return

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In 1519, Hernán Cortés, faced with sure defeat since he was outnumbered, had very little protection, and history was against him, uttered three words which ultimately gave him victory. He said, "Burn the boats." 

In today's world we wouldn't think much of those words, but then it meant that his men would  have to either fight to their death or leave this place in victory. There would be no surrender or retreat. Those three words ultimately changed the New World. Wow!

In the current climate, few are like that. In fact, we are constantly taught not to burn our (boats) bridges in case we have to go back. We are taught, in a sense, to be prepared to surrender or retreat. The natural fighting spirit is  pushed aside "just in case."

  • Just in case, you want to go back to an abusive EX.
  • Just in case, you want to go back to a sexual harassing boss.
  • Just in case, you want to go back to the job you hated.
  • Just in case, you want to go back to not seeing your kids grow up.
  • Just in case, you might need that person's help in the future.
  • Just in case, you can fit back in that dress which is three sizes too small.


We live with plan B always at the ready, just in case, we don't like the way plan A is working out. It doesn't matter if we gave up after five minutes, so long as we can pretend we "tried."

What if instead we lived with the "Burn the boats" mentality? I don't mean you go around picking fights or getting out of your character with everyone you dislike, or putting yourself in harms way financially, spiritually, or mentally, but instead, moving ahead with no option to return except through victory (success) or death (not literally).

It has become too easy to give up and spin it as defeat, which in the startup world and business is applauded. Sadly, we do it in our relationships and other areas. What we don't remember is how we are in one area is how we are period. We try to fool ourselves sometimes into thinking we change according to the who or what, but if we are quitters in one area, we are quitters elsewhere. If we are steadfast in one area, it usually holds true in all areas.

Perhaps it's time to burn the boats on the defeatist attitudes and actions, and go all in on Plan A. What may be ahead could be challenging, but what is behind us beckoning us to come back to safety will ensure a life of constant defeat.

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