Want To Win? Burn The Boats!

Imagine this: you’re hanging out at the dock one day, looking for work and maybe an adventure. You hear rumblings of a great voyage about to take place and are intrigued to learn more.

After hearing a few details about the journey you pack your things and board the ship ready for whatever awaits beyond the horizon. Prior to leaving your safe and comfy home, everyone’s expectations were clear; simply arriving at your destination would be a best-case scenario. Somehow, miraculously your ship arrives roughly where you’d hope to land. You take a deep breath while examining the new, strange and exotic land where you just arrived.  After unloading the ship, you huddle with your compatriots and eagerly listen to the captain for further instructions. After congratulating you all for the successful voyage he asks you all to turn around to look at the boats in the water. The boats have been your home for countless days and nights and your last connection to the homeland you left beyond.

Then it happens. First a spark, then a flame and finally a wave of heat thundering towards the shore where you and your fellow adventurers watch as the fleet burns in the water. A shocked and uneasy feeling pervades the audience as you all realize there’s no going home. You’re in this strange land to stay and you’re going to have to make it work.

The above technique may seem extreme but has been employed by leaders for hundreds of years. As I read and discover more about leadership, I’ve found a common thread that runs throughout – all successful people have one thing in common; they burn the boats.

What does that mean in today’s day and age? It means that without a burning desire to make it work, most often people won’t. When we provide ourselves with an out, a way of reverting back to previous behaviors, habits or business practices, often we will. We find comfort in the familiar and solace in knowing what will greet us the next day. However, in a society where things move fast and the best way to make your mark is to do something different or to add your unique spin, we are at odds with our natural inclination.

Ultimately, this is a conversation about fear. Fear motivates people to seek the familiar and I believe that fear is what stops many people from succeeding. Present us with something new and often we’ll find a reason to return to the old. It’s absolutely necessary to have fear and impossible to rid yourself of it but truly powerful leaders learn to address the fear then overcome it in a productive way.

Most of the best brands out there have had an “all in” moment at least once in their company’s history. I don’t advocate taking unnecessary risks that could ruin lives. But I do advocate removing the safety net. How do you know when it’s your company’s time for an “all in” moment? Use your gut and believe in your intuition; it’s gotten you this far and will always serve you well so long as your pursuits are well intended.

In my experience, the best things to occur here at Roma Moulding happened when we’ve burned the boats. There will be fear and insecurity but when you honestly open-up to your team and say, “let’s work together and do whatever it takes because we’ve burnt the boats and there’s no going back,” you’ll be surprised at how they rally and rise to the occasion.

Here’s what you need to do in order to burn the boats:

  1. Share the Vision: You need to believe in and share your vision with those around you. Check out this blog I wrote titled, Dream Big, Dream Often for tips on sharing your dream with others.
  2. Devise a Committed Team: Now that you’ve shared your vision, find those that are adventurous enough to cross an ocean with you. If you’re having troubles bringing great people onboard your team, I recommend a blog A Is For Awesome, B Is For Better Keep Looking that I wrote earlier this year.
  3. Foster Leaders Within the Group: You need trusted people to help you make your vision a reality. You likely already have a budding superstar on your team just waiting for the opportunity to put all they’ve learned into action. Wondering how to develop outstanding leaders? Check out my blog on Beyond You Leadership.

Once you’ve completed the above you’ll be ready to remove your safety net and truly commit to the task at hand. Congratulations my friend, you’re ready to burn your boats!

Has your company ever gone “all in” on something? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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