Don't Be Afraid to Burn Bridges That Lead You Back to Nowhere
How often have you heard quotes like these:
“Keep burning those bridges. It’s gonna be lonely on that island of yours.”
“Don’t burn bridges you may have to cross later.” Or my favorite: “Don’t burn a bridge and expect them to send a boat.”
In most circumstances, its pretty sound advice. The one thing they are all missing is that little asterisk (*) that points to the disclaimer: * Unless that bridge is so dangerous that it might collapse and kill you.
That’s the real truth in those quotes. The real meaning is don’t burn any bridges unless its a good idea. Don’t burn them unless it’s the bridge to Han’s island. Don’t burn them unless they are destroying your life. Don’t burn them unless they are holding you back. If they are, it’s your duty as a positive and productive human being to burn those bridges down to the ground and never look back.
"Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge." - Don Henley
If you’re leaving the corporate world to start your own venture, it probably isn’t a great idea to burn that bridge. If things don’t work out on your own, you want to be welcomed back with open arms. During my time in the corporate world, I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times. Don’t burn those bridges.
Unless, of course, your nine-to-five is horrible and you would be forever bettered by never going back. Burn that sucker down.
When you throw that match, you force yourself to never turn back. If you are underpaid, overworked and under appreciated, why not burn it? If you really are good at what you do, and your work is in demand, you can always find someone willing to treat you right and pay you better. This is the Internet age. Companies will do just about anything to get amazing talent in their door.
How about that safe blue collar job? The one where you work with your friends, love going to but it doesn’t pay you enough to survive. You’re not a kid anymore and expenses go up but that old job of yours is too fun to leave. If you know you need to make a change, go find something that is more inline with your goals and burn the bridge to that job. Its holding you back and you can’t have the temptation to go back when your new career inevitably gets tough.
This doesn’t only apply to work.
If you hang around toxic people, get the matches ready. The constant complainers, those that see everything in a negative light, anyone that holds you back or anyone that leads you to make bad decisions…. Why keep them around? Burn that bridge.
It even applies to major lifestyle changes.
Related: How to Quit Your Day Job Gracefully
Want to drop that extra weight? Throw all of your trigger foods out and only shop at places that don’t sell that stuff. Burn that bridge.
How about taking the leap from wantrepreneur to full time entrepreneur? Make sure you have a safety net first (ie, six to 12 months of cash in the bank) and a validated idea, then quit your retail job and build your app out. You can always get another retail job if you need it. Burn that bridge.
(Bonus points if you do it like this. Not always the wisest thing to do, but hey… this guy will never work at this coffee shop again and pretty much needs to make his new gig work.)
Lets take a quick trip down memory lane for a moment.
Once upon a time, I waited tables and cooked at a small steak house on Long Island. For the most part, I loved it. Great people, great hours, solid money (at the time, at least. I was in my early 20s.) But not everything was great.
I knew I could do bigger and better things, but not while working there. Plus, some people were just mean. Some customers and some people I worked with.
Especially one of the managers.
This person made everyone's life pretty miserable when they were in a bad mood. I won’t get into the details, but we had a “disagreement” one night and let’s just say that bridge got burned in about thirty seconds. I missed the people and the work, but I felt great knowing I could never work there again.
From there I launched a pretty successful tech career in NYC. Fast forward a decade and I’m a real entrepreneur (Founder, CEO and CTO) with a few real companies. Turns out it wasn’t a bad idea to burn that particular bridge.
Let’s set one thing straight: If you want to burn that bridge and start working for yourself, the best path isn’t to do the “I’m quitting” song & dance… Not at all.
The best path is to take the leap with a side hustle. Build your app, get it in peoples' hands and make some money. Then when it is time to leap, take the leap. When you want to work on it full time, when you can’t stand working for someone else anymore or when you know if you moved full time into your project it would start earning the big bucks - that’s when you can safely move on. With or without burning the bridge.
Just remember, if you’re doing something destructive that’s holding you back, don’t be afraid to burn that bridge.