Burn Your Boats (Metaphorically) and Forge a Path to Success

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I’ve heard a lot of motivational speakers tell the story of how the Vikings would burn their boats when they landed in a place they planned to conquer, so they would have no choice but to move forward. Total commitment, right? They couldn’t just turn back thinking, “You know, conquering this place is harder than we thought. Let’s get back on the boat and go home.” They either had to win the battle or die right there.

Well, it turns out the Vikings didn’t really burn their boats. But it’s still a great analogy about the level of commitment you need to have as an entrepreneur.

What many entrepreneurs don’t understand is that there’s a huge difference between building a business or future that you want to have, versus one that you absolutely must have. While it may not be a literal life-or-death battle like we thought it was for the Vikings, it might feel like something inside of you will die if you don’t keep going and make it happen.

Successful people do burn their boats

I can’t think of any great entrepreneurs who didn’t face incredible setbacks while building their businesses, tons of rejections, failures and obstacles. And if you ask why they didn’t give up, most of them will tell you something inside them just wouldn’t let them. It’s not that they didn’t feel the setbacks — they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t feel the pain after rejection or times of failing to get the results they worked so hard for. But that little voice or feeling inside them compelled to keep going.

I know from personal experience how horrible it feels to run into a brick wall or bomb so much that you just want to pull the covers up over your head and stay there. I can think of dozens of times that I cracked out or cried (or both) while building my businesses, but I always got myself up and kept going.

Why? It’s not about having more courage than other people or even strength. How many stories have you heard about mothers who somehow lift two-ton trucks off their child to save them? Those moms probably didn’t walk around in their daily lives with any kind of superhuman physical strength. Those moms didn’t just want to save their child — it was a must. Their need to succeed at getting that truck off their child was so compelling that they went beyond anything they thought they could do. It was literally life or death to them.

Related: You Have to Fail If You Want to Succeed

The cost of not succeeding

For great entrepreneurs, it’s usually not a physical life or death situation, but the proverbial life or death of their dream or their mission. We often focus on visualizing our purpose and goals (and if you don’t, you need to). But how often do you stop to consider the cost of giving up or playing it small? Because there is a cost. You can often measure the financial cost of giving up by the money you’ll never make, but it’s more than that.

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