In ancient times of war commanders would order their soldiers to burn their boats on the enemy’s shores as a signal to incoming sailors that the soldiers were going to win the war or die trying with no chance of retreat. Check out this video about Hernando Cortez who decided to take a chance; burn the boats.
In our lives we like to create options or a ‘plan B’ just in case something goes awry. While this is the intelligent decision, consequently it creates room for error that never allows you or a team to reach full potential. The reason we cling to these ‘safety boats’ is due a fear based on experience and the personification of it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Again this is the intelligent thing to do, especially as a business owner. However we have to create environments where every once in a while you must throw caution to the wind and go for it. I’ve spoken about how a good indicator of proper leadership is knowing that your team will follow you over a cliff. Burning ‘your boat’ is similar, except this time everyone’s livelihoods, passions, and personal intentions are at stake; essentially the plan must work or you’ll die trying.
Burn the ego
The most frightening thing for a CEO or independent business is to not have a project live up to their vision. Just because you plan and visualize for something, does not mean that is how it will turn out; get over it. It is infuriating when things do not fit into the ‘vision boat’ because the vision is perfect in your mind and anything less or different is unacceptable. When you take on a project it is important to put everything into your ‘vision boat’ then burn it. Let me say it again, put everything in your vision boat and burn it; because the result of lowering the expectation of perfection will create room for creativity, a lesson, and ultimately lower your anxiety about anything being perfect. Stop feeding your ego with the “We are the best” mentality because that is toxic enough to sink any boat. Move forward with “We can deliver” to burn your ego and create something withstanding.
As mentioned it is always good to have a back up plan. However consider this: If your business has not grown, because you have not taken a chance you are failing. This is called the Complacency Boat. Businesses should always grow whether that is in tactics, offerings, staff specialties, and upward movement for all employees. When Cortez decided to storm the beach and get the treasure he essentially said we are going to do this or die trying. In a business sense, this does not mean you actually die, it means you are putting everything on the line because you are expecting it to be successful. Thus burning the Complacency Boat. But what if the Die Trying boat goes up in flames and you are stuck on the island of What Now? A true leader will pick up the pieces that are left from the boat and build a house on the island that would be named New Ideas. Not many people will remain after the Die Trying boat goes up in flames. That is alright. As the house of new ideas is being built continue to build more Vision Boats that will travel to a safe complacency island, pillage the island for more new ideas and strategies, burn the vision boat, and be prepared to reemerge as a force that will succeed or die trying; then rise again.