Burning the ships

Pushing past fear in business

Have you ever been told to “burn the ships”? Probably not. However you have possibly been told to “take the plunge” or “take a leap of faith”. To “burn the ships” is not new but I believe it resonates more today than ever before with entrepreneurs and business owners alike.

What is the story of ‘burning the ships’?

In 1519 Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz (what we now know as Mexico) to overthrow the Aztecs and take hold of the vast treasures of gold and silver if they won.

Hood Sweeney Burning Ship BlogCortes landed with only 600 men and they reportedly didn’t have any amour unlike their Aztec counterparts. Cortes demanded the ships be burnt. Imagine an army up in arms on the shores of Mexico looking at each other thinking their leader had turned into a madman. The idea was simple, creative, thought provoking and most of all - it worked. Cortes army had no way to retreat. No way to get back home if things didn’t go their way. This army was either going to be successful or go down fighting. There was no turning back here.

The idea of having no other option spurred the army into a “grit” mindset that was so motivating that it was genius. The troops wanted to get home to their family and the only way that would happen would be from winning every battle they faced over the next two years. They won and now it is used as a great example of how people can do extraordinary things when they put their minds to it and get rid of the exit strategy.

What does a fear in your business look like?

Too often we get scared when the going gets tough. Too often we have a get out of jail free card. The “we could just leave it/end it/not start it at all” mindset is the first of our doubts that come creeping in. Within no time some people have listened to their doubts and fears such that the great conquest at hand becomes a project that never gets off the ground.

As a business coach I look to understand the paradigm and if necessary question if this is a lack of confidence or is something really holding the business back.  Consider all the products that could have been great that didn’t make it as it to the shelves as it was “too hard” or the going got “tough”. Those products more than likely were replicated and then created by a business who didn’t listen to their fears and had a determination to succeed.

Barriers in business appear every day. Those businesses that let go of the fear and navigate through the obstacles, rather than turning back, are the ones that should endure the test of time.

Yes there are other external factors but the big one is grit and determination. How determined are you to make the business succeed? Who have you employed to help the business succeed? Have you stopped hedging your bets and giving yourself an out? Have you burnt all of your ships?

Consider these questions

The question now is “What excuse has your business used in the past for not completing a task or getting uncomfortable?” This could uncover why your business isn't soaring. Understanding the "why" is important - Why was it a failure? Why didn't it work? Was it one person/role that didn't believe in it?

Now consider the following:  Who was the champion of the change and did they have influence on anyone (anyone to help them drive the change)?

If you have something that you want to work then try getting rid of the excuses, the plan B’s and anything that you can fall back on. Until you do your mind will more than likely stop you from achieving the dreams you have. If there is no way other than to move forward, then and only then will your mind be free to ensure success.

Next time you take on a new project or a change in direction, have a think about what will stop you. Will you block out the fears and have the determination to burn the ships? Could someone outside of the business help with a new set of eyes? 

If you would like to know how Hood Sweeney’s Performance Coaching team could help your business, contact Tim on 1300 764 200 or email.

This advice is general advice only and has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs; and because of that you should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to the your objectives, financial situation and needs.