”If you want to take the island, burn the freaking boats!” ~ Tony Robbins
I heard this quote in a Tony Robbins’ video on YouTube, and I haven’t been able to shake it from my head since. It’s a single sentence that perfectly captures the reason for so many of our failed endeavors. We want to take the island, but we leave the boats in harbor just in case plan A doesn’t work out. The problem? We fight a much different battle on the island when we know the boats are waiting for us in harbor. A battle we’re much more likely to lose.
The obvious place this applies is in business. We start a project or company on the side that gains traction, but ultimately fails because we held onto our stable income job just in case. The difference in action in an entrepreneur that is receiving a paycheck and benefits each month and an entrepreneur that doesn’t know where the next rent check is coming from is stark. Very stark. Oftentimes in our journey to achieve a quest, it is the burning of the boats that spurs us into heights of action and creation that we would have otherwise never been able to achieve.
This doesn’t just apply to business however. We see this written all over our lives. I can’t tell you how many friends I have that will pursue a dating relationship with someone, yet keep in touch with their ex just in case. That’s a relationship destined for failure because it will never receive the nurturing necessary to succeed with only one foot in the water.
I see it in habit formation as well. Take quitting drinking, or taking a break from drinking, as an example. This becomes a goal for a lot of people at some point in their life. Yet they’ll leave certain clauses in their mental agreement that destine them for failure from day one. It could be something like “I’m allowed two drinks per weekend”, or “I’ll have a drink in social situations just to not make it awkward”. Clauses like these kill the goal before it has even gotten started. If you leave the boats in harbor, you will not take the island. If you really wanted to quit drinking you’d pour every ounce in your house down the drain and burn the damn boats.
This metaphor becomes an incredible tool for reviewing our own lives. We can reflect on our own goals, and ask ourselves if we’re really all in on them.
Have the boats been burned?
We can reflect on areas of our life that aren’t working out very well or need a lot of improvement.
Have the boats been burned?
We can reflect back on previous failures in an effort to learn from them.
Had the boats been burned?
Most importantly, the next time we come across that burning desire or nudge to create, the next time we meet that person that just might be the one, or the next time we set a goal to build or change a habit…
Burn the freaking boats. It’s the only way to take the island.