By Mark Evarts, Tomahawk Recruitment, March 08, 2019
The Master Stroke of Hernán Cortés
In 1519, Hernán Cortés led 600 Spaniards on 11 ships to Mexico to battle for magnificent treasure. On arrival he set fire to all his ships to send a clear message to his men that there was no turning back unless they won. It was a master stroke in leadership that we are still referencing 50 years later. Rather than become dispirited, his men rallied behind him like never before and within two years he succeeded in conquering the Aztec empire.
Conversely, ancient Israelite armies would surround enemy cities from three sides, leaving one side open for escape. They knew that as long as the enemy had an escape route, they would not fight with maximum intensity. In most cases, this played right into their hands.
Both of these approaches play on the same psychology. The power of commitment. At its essence, burning boats represents a point of no return. All thoughts and efforts must be focused on succeeding, as there’s no way back.
Ships, Fire, Battle… And Your Career
To achieve great results in our careers, and especially when shifting careers, decide what to do and then be willing to forge ahead without second-guessing yourself. Make that phone call, tell that truth, follow through on what you say you’re going to do, and most importantly back yourself. You may fail, but so what? At least you’ll know yourself as someone who gave it their all.
Safety nets can protect us, but they can also reduce the effort, focus and commitment that we invest in ourselves. Playing safe is a valid approach but will usually result in unfulfillment or limping when you could have sprinted to success.
So, when you make that decision, whatever it is; go for it, burn your boats and anything you see as a potential crutch.
Trust your inner voice and never look back.