Sunday Story…Burn the Ships


I have heard this story so many times and to be honest I have no idea if it is true or not but it does serve to illustrate the point of today’s missal:  Hernando Cortez, in 1519, after landing on the Yucatan peninsula in what is now Mexico commanded his men to “Burn the ships.”  This decision sealed the fate of the Aztec people and their empire and probably altered the course of history throughout South and Central America.  His army was stunned and one man asked “how will we get back home to our families?”  Cortez said, “We will conquer the Aztec army and sail home in their ships.”  Simply put…Cortez created a point of no return.  Win or Die.


Cortez crossed the Rubicon...the River of no return.  Once I have crossed the Rubicon, I can’t turn back. I can’t decide this is a bad idea.  I can’t turn around.  This is a commitment rarely seen in today’s world.  Yet we love the people who represent this ideal.  It is the Jobs and Wozniak in their garage creating Apple Computer having dropped out of college.  The image of Michael Jordan, after being cut from his freshman basketball team shooting free throw after free throw to create what, arguably, became the greatest basketball player to play the game.  Remember our founding fathers?  They all knew that failure was going to result in their own deaths, imprisonment or enslavement of their families and continued tyranny for their countrymen. Over and over we hear these stories of dedication, drive, and determination and we get inspired. It brings tears to our eyes.


In the movie “Facing the Giants” there is a scene where one player, after buying into a defeatist attitude carries another player on his back for 100 yards…a seemingly impossible feat.  Failure was not an option.  He was not given a choice he was only given the option of moving forward.  If you aren’t giving your absolute best you aren’t giving enough.  It you want to see the clip go here:

What is your Rubicon?  What is your river of no return? When are you going to decide to cross it?  When are you going to burn your ships?


There is always a point of no return.  The place where you have gone so far that turning around is no longer an option.   There is only forward.  There is only through to the end.  You might have to alter the route, alter the plan but there is no longer the ability to stop and go back.  There is no re-set button.  There is no Plan B…there is only success.


Too often we want a Plan B.  We want a way out if Plan A doesn’t work.  But how often do you really have a Plan B?  Plan B is almost always some ill-conceived vague notion of doing something else if what we really want doesn’t work.  Just imagine walking into a dark room and taking 3 steps forward when someone behind you pulls the door shut.  You don’t know how to go forward and you can’t go back.  The ships are burnt.  It is a little late for Plan B.  You better find a way out, through or get to the light switch or prepare to be stuck in that dark room for a while…until someone rescues you or you succeed.  Is that your Plan B?  Wait to get rescued?  Is your mama going to show up and pull you out of trouble?  Bad Plan.  How about this one…Succeed or die trying.  When I want to succeed as much as I want to breathe I will be successful.


Plan B is an excuse to fail.  I mean if you have a Plan B and it is so good why don’t you just do Plan B?  Maybe Plan B should be Plan A!  What’s your Plan B if you wake up and you aren’t breathing?  There isn’t one right?  You aren’t breathing.  I am not doing what I should be doing.  When I want to succeed as much as I want my next breath I will be successful.  What do you want as much as you want your next breath? Do you even know?


Therein lays the problem.  You don’t even know where your Rubicon is.  You have no idea.  Losing some weight sounds like a good idea.  Getting in shape sounds like a good idea.  Living a healthy life style sounds like a good idea.  The world is full of good ideas.  The world has good ideas by the bushel.  What the world needs is for you to decide that your weight loss, your physical condition, your mental or emotional state, your substance addiction, your poor relationship with your (pick one—spouse, child, parent) is so important, so critical, so integral to your being that you would rather die than fail, you would rather stop breathing than not be successful.  At that point “Burn the Ships” is a reality.  There is no Plan B. There is only the Plan and there is only the execution of the plan.


Maybe you need to hire a trainer, a nutritionist, a counselor, a confidante, a something to get you up and off the cabana chair to burn those boats.  Maybe you need to make a wager, tell the world in a public declaration or make some grand gesture that will prove to yourself that your journey is one so highly committed, so dedicated that failure is off the table.


I don’t know what will get you that committed. I do know that without crossing the Rubicon ultimate success will elude you and me. It is in the act of crossing the river, burning the ships, creating a do or die mentality that truly amazing and powerful things will come into being.


Go ahead…Burn the Ships…end a life of putting one toe in and pulling out…Burn the Ships




“Teaching Focus, Inspiring Transformation”


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