Burning the Ships

In his acclaimed best seller, Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill tells a very motivating story.  So it goes, a great warrior was leading his troops against a much more powerful foe.  His army was significantly outnumbered by the opposing force, but avoiding confrontation was not an option.  He and his team set sail toward enemy territory and with every mile, he could feel the confidence of his army waning.  As they arrived, this lead warrior made a brave decision.

Standing on the shore of the enemy, after they’d unloaded all of their equipment, he ordered his cavalry to burn the ships.  He demanded their attention, then, with the lives of young men in his hands, spoke with conviction: “You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores unless we win! We now have no choice—we win—or we perish!”

And of course they did.  They defeated the opposing army.

Within this tale lies an important lesson, an example we can all follow.  With the removal of failure as an option, one is forced to find ways to succeed.  A burning desire- where the term comes from, actually- is the result.  Or at least it can be.

The challenge for us, then, is to be creative, to find ways that we can remove all options of failure.  You hear tales about it all of the time.  The woman who buys a one way ticket to Hollywood, knowing she will become an actress.  The circus performer who removes the net, making it impossible to lose focus.  On a personal level, I feel it when I go for a run and knowing that I have to run my way back no matter where or how far I go, willingly go down that long street that will add another two miles to my trip.  I used to do it in the gym when I was younger, too.  Without a spot, I’d put on the bench press bar a weight that was right at the edge of my limit.  Either I had to lift it or I’d get hurt- or at the very least be extremely embarrassed.  I do not suggest doing that, by the way.  In fact, I am telling you not to do that.  But it does underscore my point.

Believe it or not, starting this blog had the same effect on me.  I debated for months whether or not I should do it.  I questioned if I had anything worth sharing with others.  I knew it would be time consuming.  And I worried it would make me vulnerable to criticism and reproach.  But above all else I wondered if I’d run out of ideas.  Even though I had a lot to say about a lot of topics, it certainly wasn’t without bound.  Right?  It couldn’t go on forever; sooner or later I’d come up blank.  Right?  I could see myself sitting at a table in Starbucks, staring at the laptop with nothing to say.  A scary, even paralyzing, feeling.

But then a burst of excitement came over me.  A burning desire developed.  Because I knew that, while it would inevitably prove difficult at times to come up with topics to write about, it would also require that I continue to fill my “bucket” of thoughts, experiences, and accomplishments.  By starting this blog, I was presenting myself to the public as someone worth listening to.  This knowledge would then force me to continue to learn, to continue to grow.  Stephen Covey calls it “sharpening the saw.”  And it is important if you want the road you are currently on (and we are all on a road of some sort; some dirt with rock, some nicely paved) to lead to success.  The problem with most of us is that we wait until tomorrow to learn and grow.  We tell ourselves we’ll join the gym next month, that we’ll enroll in classes next semester, that we’ll start managing our money better next year.  The problem is next month, semester, or year never comes.

So, we have to step in and save ourselves from, well, ourselves.  Creating ways that ensure success takes courage.  It takes faith.  And it takes discipline.  But if we are to reach our full potential as human beings, as parents, as professionals, and as students of life, then we need to overcome the inertia of self doubt and fear.

And sometimes it means we have to burn the ships!

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About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

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