Burn the boats . In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés started a voyage that would take him from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula. Cortés had 500 soldiers, 100 sailors and 16 horses on 11 ships. The voyage was to take the world’s greatest treasure. This treasure had been held by Mexico for 600 years. For 600 years, other stronger armies with even better resources, tried to take the treasure to no avail. Cortés knew that he would need extreme commitment from his team to win this quest. The odds were against them. They were a 600-man army with little resources. They had to fight the leader of Mexico for SIXTY DECADES.

Finally, on the day when it was time to fight after sailing many miles, Cortés gathered the team. The team expected Cortés to explain strategy or how they would fight for this great conquest. Instead, Cortés spoke only three words:


Cortés and his army burned their own ships! Cortés said, “If we are going home, it’s going to be in THEIR boats!” What happened after that was nothing short of a miracle. Cortés and his army took the treasure. Why? They had no choice. They COULD NOT doubt. The Cuban army had to take the treasure, or die.

Here’s the lesson: Quitting is easy when you have the option.

We all cling to something that acts as our escape hatch or our exit strategy. It’s our safety net to say, “just in case…” What we fail to do is complete that sentence. We lie to ourselves.

We postpone action until we no longer feel fear. Either that, or our actions are shallow attempts never designed to succeed. In reality, we must learn to act decisively in spite of our fear.

It would have “made sense” for Cortés to keep a ship or two. But Cortés & his army had a mission and he knew that the only way to keep himself or his men from quitting on the mission was to take the safety net off the table.

What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. Retreat was not an option. I believe that to truly achieve the level of success we each desire, we have to burn the boats.

Ask yourself what you want. What are you afraid to go after ? What are you afraid to lose ? Why haven’t you burned the boats? Are you afraid of failing?

Burn the boats.

Don’t let fear, failure or the perceptions of others be an option. Remember this, whether it’s your current job, a bad business deal or an unrealistic dream, WE MUST MOVE FORWARD. There are only two possible outcomes: Winning or Learning.

It’s not easy to Burn YOUR Boat. But know this, true success, true happiness won’t come from leaving your boats on the shore & running to them when you are scared. Success comes from no surrender, no retreat. Burn the boats.



9DOTS CEO connects the DOTS every month. Subscribe here (click Subscribe at the top left of the link) to our newsletter so you never miss a post. 

Check back next month & think outside the box with us.