It’s 2015. Media is everywhere — it’s literally in our pockets. Success is constantly thrown in our face. This guy’s startup is worth this many billions; that guy’s dick pic app sold for that many billions. It’s impossible to avoid.
Naturally, it makes us hungry. We want success. We crave it. We want to be badasses, but how do we get there?
Usually, we begin by listing all the reasons not to do it. It’s risky. It’ll take this, which I don’t have. It’ll take that, which I don’t know how to get.
So what’s the best way to start? Burn the boats.
In 1519, Hernando Cortes landed on the beaches of Mexico fiercely committed to conquering the richest empire known to man: the Aztec Empire. Once his army cleared their boats and prepared to march towards the golden temples, he stood atop the beach’s highest peak for what all expected to be an electric rally speech.
Instead, he ordered just three words: “Burn the boats.” He stared at his army, eyes focused like a wolf stalking a baby deer, and said again, “Burn the boats.”
His men turned and hesitantly torched what had become their homes, leaving Cortes’ army only two options: conquer the Aztecs or die.
The Aztec Empire fell two years later, in 1521.
If you really want to force yourself to succeed, try leaving yourself no other option.
A good example? A nifty DJ by the name Elephante. Elephante graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics. He then moved to LA, where he worked full-time for a top-tier investment firm while following his passion, DJ’ing, on the side. After 2 years he said, “fuck it.” He quit his white collar gig that most would die for and went went full-time DJ.
Today he’s got 100,000 followers on Facebook, millions of plays on SoundCloud, and thousands of people stampeding friends just to touch him while he jockeys that disc.
Why? Because he burned the boats.
Now, I don’t think Elephante drove his company-leased car to a nightclub and burned it in the parking lot. And I don’t think you should either; that’s both morally wrong, dangerous and illegal.
But the metaphor still stands. Sure, it’s easy to list a million reasons not to do something. It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s financially irresponsible.
You know what else is risky? Burning the fucking boats and marching towards the Aztecs’ temples with no way out. But when you’ve got no other option, you may just conquer.
So do yourself a favor and burn the boats. Leave yourself no option but to succeed. Conquer or die. Sink or swim. If you’ve got what it takes, you’ll make it. If you don’t? Well, we live in America — you’ll be fine.