During the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1519, the Spanish Commander Hernán Cortés burnt his boats after reaching Mexico. The idea behind this was that his men would either have to conquer Mexico, or die. When you’re fighting for survival and your own life, you can imagine you’d work that much harder to win the battle.
In our modern day society, this idea refers to the moment you decide to quit your job, drop out of college, move somewhere and take drastic action to reinvent your life and pursue your dreams. The idea of this can be romantic and seem like the right thing to do, which it sometimes is. A lot of people get stuck in a job which they don’t particularly enjoy and the idea of burning the boats becomes evermore appealing. We hear a lot about the importance of having a job which you enjoy. You should give a big middle finger to anyone who criticises you for chasing your dreams and do whatever it takes, right…?
However, as someone who almost dropped out of University myself, there a lot of things you need to consider before making your decision. Getting caught up in the idea of pursuing your dreams can cause you to lose sight of the practical aspects and consequences of making a rash decision. It’s very easy to get caught up in the motivational talks and think “Fuck it, I’m going to chase after what I want”. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this can be the best decision of your life, but it can also be the worst.
Here are some things you need to consider when thinking of burning the boats and making life-changing decisions.
1. Be Realistic
Whatever you are aiming to pursue needs to be an achievable goal. Leaving your job as a Salesman at the age of 40 and moving to Los Angeles in hope of becoming a Hollywood star is not realistic. In fact, it is somewhat disrespectful of people who have dedicated their whole lives to acting.
You need to have a well thought out game plan of exactly what you’re trying to achieve and how you are going to get there. How are you going to support yourself? Do you need to obtain any qualifications? Do you have the right skill set to get to where you need to be? What kind of funding will you need to chase your goals?
Essentially, you need to drop your ego and seriously ask yourself whether you have the necessary drive and commitment to be able to make your new journey work for you. Avoid getting caught up in the falsely positive frame of mind that “Once I start chasing my true passion everything will just work-out”. To a certain extent, social media is to blame for this as it conditions us to think that we should just ignore criticism and blindly follow our passions regardless of the circumstances. This is a trap that can ruin your life.
2. Recognise Your Advantages
One of the most crucial aspects when deciding your new pursuit should be realising what unfair advantages you have. Are you naturally more adept at certain things? What do you have experience with? These skills can be directly transferred into your new pursuit in life. Adopting an entirely new profession in which you have no experience or transferable skills will rarely lead to success. As much as I want to avoid being a killjoy, this article is meant to be a blunt way of making you realise the things you should consider before burning the boats.
Your unfair advantages are often things you may take for granted. You need to have a think about the things you find easy and can put some serious work in consistently. As well as this, it’s just as important to recognise exactly what you are after. For example, you may associate good feelings with a certain profession but it may not be the profession which you’re after. If I wanted to help people and save lives, I may see being a doctor as my ultimate goal in life. But in fact, I could take several routes related to healthcare. Expand your perceptions and make sure you know exactly what your options are for what you desire.
3. Your Track Record
This is the most important thing to consider in my opinion. Your track record is your history of mental focus as well as your ability to execute and take action. If you’ve lazed around for most of your life and just aimed at being comfortable enough, it’s unlikely that you will suddenly turn into a work machine that can endlessly hustle to achieve your goal. If you don’t have the work ethic to be able to do your assignments in college, is it realistic to expect the same person to be able to run a business and the necessary admin work?
Your track record is something you can begin to build on regardless of your circumstances. You can develop skills from pretty much any job or position. Build up your work ethic and ability to just get your head down at work in certain jobs. Or build up your communication skills and social interactions with other roles. Regardless of what you are doing and how much you hate your job, there is something to learn and skills to develop. These same skills will help you should you choose to pursue a different route in life.
At the end of the day, “burning the boats” can be a truly life-changing decision. To make sure it’s in a positive way, you need to consider the above information and take it seriously before making a choice. Don’t be discouraged by the hard-work, embrace it and fully focus on how you will go about achieving your dreams. Society rewards people who provide value and work hard, not people who feel entitled.
I hope this article has provided some useful insight and helped you if you are currently considering burning the boats. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic as it’s something I went through myself so please comment down below. Thank you!