Burn Your Boats (Metaphorically) and Forge a Path to Success There's a huge difference between building a business or future that you want to have, versus one that you absolutely must have. Here's why you need to "burn your boats" to ensure there's no other path but a successful one.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I've heard a lot of motivational speakers tell the story of how the Vikings would burn their boats when they landed in a place they planned to conquer, so they would have no choice but to move forward. Total commitment, right? They couldn't just turn back thinking, "You know, conquering this place is harder than we thought. Let's get back on the boat and go home." They either had to win the battle or die right there.
Well, it turns out the Vikings didn't really burn their boats. But it's still a great analogy about the level of commitment you need to have as an entrepreneur.
What many entrepreneurs don't understand is that there's a huge difference between building a business or future that you want to have, versus one that you absolutely must have. While it may not be a literal life-or-death battle like we thought it was for the Vikings, it might feel like something inside of you will die if you don't keep going and make it happen.
Successful people do burn their boats
I can't think of any great entrepreneurs who didn't face incredible setbacks while building their businesses, tons of rejections, failures and obstacles. And if you ask why they didn't give up, most of them will tell you something inside them just wouldn't let them. It's not that they didn't feel the setbacks — they wouldn't be human if they didn't feel the pain of rejection after rejection or times of failing to get the results they worked so hard for. But that little voice or feeling inside them compelled to keep going.
I know from personal experience how horrible it feels to run into a brick wall or bomb so much that you just want to pull the covers up over your head and stay there. I can think of dozens of times that I freaked out or cried (or both) while building my businesses, but I always got myself up and kept going.
Why? It's not about having more courage than other people or even strength. How many stories have you heard about mothers who somehow lift two-ton trucks off their child to save them? Those moms probably didn't walk around in their daily lives with any kind of superhuman physical strength. Those moms didn't just want to save their child — it was a must. Their need to succeed at getting that truck off their child was so compelling that they went beyond anything they thought they could do. It was literally life or death to them.
The cost of not succeeding
For great entrepreneurs, it's usually not a physical life or death situation, but the proverbial life or death of their dream or their mission. We often focus on visualizing our purpose and goals (and if you don't, you need to). But how often do you stop to consider the cost of giving up or playing it small? Because there is a cost. You can often measure the financial cost of giving up by the money you'll never make, but it's more than that.
Every time you give up, you chip away at who you are and who you were meant to be. You become smaller. Every time you back away and lick your wounds rather than try again, your dream or vision starts to fade. You influence the people around you — your children, your friends, your team — like a ripple effect. They watch you retreat with your tail between your legs and think, "If they can't make it, I probably can't either." Then they're less likely to keep trying when the going gets tough.
Every time you don't follow through, you deprive people who could really benefit from what you offer, whether it's a great product or a terrific service. For me, I know I can positively impact others and help them achieve the financial freedom and create the amazing life they desire. If I didn't do what I do, how many people wouldn't get those things because I wasn't there to help and inspire them? There are certain people that only you can impact. What happens to them if you give up?
Calculating the cost
Take a minute to really think about this. As an exercise, imagine succeeding at the business you're building. Imagine how that will change your life for the better and the benefit you could offer to others. Next, imagine a future where you gave up or played it small. What kind of future would that create for you? How would your finances look? How would you feel about yourself? And how would that impact others?
Now, if you're just dabbling in business, none of this applies to you. You don't need to do the exercise above. That said, don't expect outstanding results from your dabbling. But if you're really serious about what you're building, take a moment to think about why you must succeed. Then go out and be a Viking!