Are You Burning Your Boats?

by Michael Berry on May 22, 2016

You learn in personal development that life is a journey, not a destination.

In February 1519, Hernando Cortez set sail on the final leg of a voyage that was to take him from Cuba, a stopover, to the shores of the Yucatan.

He commanded 11 ships, with more than 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses, bound for Mexico to take the world’s richest treasure. The precious jewels, gold, silver, and sculptures sheltered on this limestone peninsula had been hoarded by the same army for 600 years.

Once Cortes’ troops landed in what is now Mexico, he ordered the ships destroyed by fire.

In burning his ships, Cortes took away all options to retreat and, I am sure, got the full buy-in from his troops to make it a successful campaign. They had no choice. Either drown in the sea or conquer this new world.

Do you allow “what-if” scenarios to dominate your thinking? Do you find yourself questioning your marriage, job or other significant decisions or commitments? Sometimes what is needed is not an external change but an internal one. Burn the boats in your significant relationships or in your vocation and see how creative you will become in making them great.

By committing 100% to them, your higher mind will be able to work far more efficiently in helping you to figure out the rest. A lack of commitment not only creates apathy, but it is emotionally draining and erodes your creativity. Without a clear commitment, you will be defeated even before you start.

In Personal Development there are Five Keys to Burning the Boats

1) Create a “have to” goal. One that will glow white hot within you. Then, burn all the other boats. A terrific relationship with your spouse, a great business, a new venture that changes lives, etc. Having a dynamic visual goal is vital and getting it down on paper is critical.

2) Action is key so act as if success is certain. By burning your boats, you will tap into your faith and create a laser-like clarity that brings everything into distinct focus. Your next steps will just flow since they will be so obvious.

3) Enlist the help of others. Nothing truly significant in life happens without other’s help. God created us to do things together. An individual with a burnt boat is nothing more than a castaway so tap into other’s wisdom and energy and be open to the great unseen forces of God as well.

4) Trust your “higher mind” to formulate connections that you never saw before. By burning your boats, you are simply freeing yourself to do something that you have been most likely been preventing yourself from doing all along.

5) Unconventional success calls for unconventional approaches. We all have hard-wired habits and ways of doing things in our life that, in time, can actually become roadblocks to success. Try completely new, unfamiliar approaches and see what happens. Charts and maps are terrific but, quite often, incredible journeys start by someone acting on one seemingly crazy and paradoxical hunch.

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Personal development is our business and our life.
Michael Berry
In personal development we learn that “we all see and experience the world not as it is, but as we are”.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Monick Halm November 19, 2010 at 5:43 am

Michael, this is a great blog post. I love the idea of “do or die” when goal setting. It allows your mind to know that you’re completely committed. That’s definitely the key to success. Thanks for sharing this.


Michael Berry November 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Yes Monick being completely committed puts that message out to the universe. Thanks for your comments.

Lesly November 19, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Hi Michael,
I really enjoyed this post. Commitment and consistency are two important words when it comes to success, personal and career wise. Trusting your inner “guide”, intuition, “higher mind” is also important. I find when you follow your heart things always seem to work out okay and go in the direction of what you want.

Michael Berry November 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Thanks Lesly for your comments. I especially liked your comment “I find when you follow your heart things always seem to work out okay and go in the direction of what you want.” That’s also true when at the time it seems to be not going well but you can look back and see that it was one of the keys to getting you where you wanted to go.

Deborah Ten Brink November 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Hey, Michael:

What a great analogy! I never would have thought of this. Yes, the journey does indeed begin in our minds. I like your blog concept, “prosper your mind…” because the journey begins there, the convincing or decision making part of the process to prosper your life has to start there. Your blog speaks to the minds of your readers getting them to think about how they do things, and giving tips on how to improve!

It’s hard to let go sometimes when it really is the most beneficial thing to do. Sometimes “burning our boats” so we commit and move forward really is the best for us. If staying and repeating mistakes becomes a habit, you just may have to burn your boat giving yourself no other option then to get on with it!

Michael Berry November 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I love your comment Deborah when you said “you just may have to burn your boat giving yourself no other option then to get on with it!” Right on. I appreciate all your comments so very much. You seem to be a true student of personal development.

SocialBeeOnline November 20, 2010 at 4:35 am

Great post, Michael. This was precisely the advice I needed to hear at this moment in time. I really appreciate it. Keep up the great work.

Live with passion and purpose,

Michael Berry November 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I’m so glad I was able to assist you Vanessa. It’s funny how things appear just as you need them as long as your open to receive them. Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous November 20, 2010 at 9:02 am

“Burn Your Boats!” I will remember that. It is a great picture to keep in the forefront of the mind. It certainly is an “out of the box” way of approaching things…right up my alley.

Thanks Michael so very much for sharing!

Michael Berry November 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Thanks Bruce, yes sometimes a picture is all you require to keep things on track toward your goals.

Dr. Adam Sheck November 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I agree that sometimes this “No Plan B” strategy is a powerful one. Worked for the Greeks as well. Staying singleminded has a great deal of power.
Thanks for sharing this,

Michael Berry November 22, 2010 at 1:04 am

Yes it does Adam. You’re either fully committed or you’re not. That’s when the law of attraction really comes into play.

Julie Ann November 21, 2010 at 12:53 am

Thank you for that great description. That truly is a wonderful way to look at things. I to find myself trying to do way to many of my goals all at once and from time to time I get frustrated because I feel I am not getting any where. you are right I need to take one at a time and have laser focus on achieving it and then move onto the the next one.

Love always
Julie Elliott

Michael Berry November 22, 2010 at 1:05 am

You got it Julie. And make sure you reward yourself every time you complete one of those goals.

China Sourcing Gary November 21, 2010 at 7:51 am

Michael, I did not realize that Cortez had the sips burned. And it turned out that Cortez was one of the more successful explorers. Sometimes, if we want to be successful, we need to take drastic action. Thanks Michael.

Michael Berry November 22, 2010 at 1:22 am

It’s not just about taking drastic action but just leaving yourself no way out to do everything possible toward your goals. Thanks Gary for your comments.

Shari Weiss November 22, 2010 at 5:58 am

I loved reading this article. Well thought out, interesting and then great advice at the end. I’m reminded though of what hampers so many people in their daily struggles; that is usually that they are inundated with so many problems and challenges that they do not know where to begin . . . so they don’t do anything.
A wise friend once told me — at a time in my life when I was dealing with a half dozen of these serious challenges — that I ought to pick just one of them, focus only on it, and the rest would take care of themselves.
Amazingly, he was absolutely right!

Michael Berry November 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

That is a very wise friend Shari. That’s what happens to most people is they have so many issues they forget to just take care of one at a time, but instead they do nothing because they’re overwhelmed. Oh yes, don’t forget to celebrate each win. Thanks for your comments as always.

daveanddawncook November 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Great post on total, can’t change your mind commitment. You are right that that is what is truly required in most cases and for most of us to really effect change.

We like the story of Hernando Cortez. He was totally committed and allowed his people to match his commitment by making it an all-or-nothing scenario. That sure takes guts and most of us need to have or develop that level of guts.

Dave and I had that level of guts when we quit our high-paying jobs to move 1200 miles away to start our own franchised business. Now we are ready to burn our boat again now that we know that our franchised business was just the purchase of a another job. The exciting thing this time though is that we have a few other boats at our dock that we can take on our continued journey!

Thanks for this great post on total commitment – it has to be 100%!

Dave and Dawn

Michael Berry November 23, 2010 at 1:41 am

Thanks Dave and Dawn for your comments. I heard your story on an interview by someone in the TSA ???? I know it will come to me. Great story and you did burn your boats. I did a similar thing of walking away from a CEO position. During the process I did have to go through bankruptcy but that got me to where I am today because I was 100% committed .

Perry Davis November 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm

“By committing 100% to them, your higher mind will be able to work far more efficiently in helping you to figure out the rest.” Theron Dumont in his book, “The Power of Concentration echoes your statement. Dumont says, “The greatest man would accomplish nothing if he lacked concentration.”

Your Five Keys to Burning the Boats are excellent. Key #4 is a vey important key, Trust your “higher mind” to formulate connections that you never saw before, is one that I under utilize. Thanks for reminding me about this.

Perry A Davis Jr
Music City USA

Michael Berry November 24, 2010 at 1:42 am

Your welcome Perry and thanks for your comments. We all have to keep reminding ourselves from time to time because our old conditioning runs deep and we’ve used it our entire lives.

hacienda in merida October 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Ive always loved this Cortez anecdote, still it requires a lot of courage to burn your boats and you have to be sure of what your doing… but I guess this will make you try harder in the short run and ultimately make you succeed.

Michael Berry October 17, 2011 at 9:25 am

You do not really have to have absolute certainty in what your doing because regardless you will learn from it. People that have to have absolute certainty never take any action.

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