It was the year 1519. Hernán Cortés and his few men, horses, and boats had landed on a vast inland plateau referred to as the Yucatán Peninsula or, as we know it, Mexico. This Spanish conquistador and his men were about to embark on a conquest of a powerful empire that hoarded some of the world’s most awesome treasures: gold, silver, precious jewels were just a part of what was waiting for them should they be able to conquer and to take over this land. Anyone who succeeded in their quest to conquer this Aztec kingdom could lay hold on this incredible treasure.
Cortés had only 600 men, none of whom had encumbered themselves with protective armor, and conquering the Aztec empire, with such an extensive territory, was a death wish. This daring undertaking was made even more insurmountable by the fact that for more than 600 years, conquerors with far more resources at their disposal, who attempted to colonize the Yucatán Peninsula, never succeeded.
Cortés was well aware of this fact, and it was for this reason he took a different approach when he landed on the land of the these powerful Mayans. Instead of charging through cities and forcing his men into immediate battle, Cortés stayed on the beach where he landed and awakened the souls of his men with emblazoned speeches designed to invoke a thirst for a lifetime of fortune amongst his troops.
Ironically, it would be three words Cortés murmured that would change the history of the new world. As they marched inland to face their enemies, Cortés shouted with a loud voice, “Burn the boats!” If Cortés and his men were on the brink of defeat, there wasn’t an exit strategy in place to save their lives. The command to burn the boats left Cortés and his men with only two choices: Either fight and win, or die because they eliminated the possibility for retreat.
We know today Cortés’ decision to burn his boats panned out. Hernán Cortés became the first man in 600 years to successfully conquer Mexico. Though many historians still dispute Cortés burning his boats, he wasn’t the first man to make such a bold, strategic decision that would ultimately ensure victory.
Was this act of burning the boats a mock dramatization of bravery or a cleverly constructed strategy? In Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War, it brings to light the logic behind these decisions: If we eliminate or eradicate any possibility of retreat from the minds of those who are facing opportunity and if we commit ourselves without any inhibitions to the cause, which is win, conquer, accomplish, defeat is not an option at all.
All of us have a strong propensity to retreat and return to what is familiar and what is known to us. This propensity is so powerful at times it becomes necessary for us to identify the places, things, people, ideas, mindsets to which we default. If we’re serious about winning at the next level, we have to consider eliminating those.
Ray Edwards shared on his vlog, “What got you here is not going to get you there.” If – and I do mean if – you and I are going to realize the success, influence, impact, blessing this season has to offer, it’s going to require we burn the boats.
What is it that brought you to this place right now? What is the ship? What is the vehicle? What is the thing that got you to this threshold? Identify what it is. Know what it is. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s been a great thing. But is that now holding you from possessing the thing that’s in front of you?
In the past, how have you responded when you recognize resistance or you become aware of fear or a fear of the unknown? Have you retreated to a place that was familiar, comfortable, known? Own that.
What are you clinging to as your fallback? What have you perceived to be your safety net? What do you need to eliminate? What do you need to light it up and destroy it, eliminate it, move it out of the way so that you have nowhere to go but ahead?
Are you willing to commit everything to the pursuit of your destiny, calling, the new level waiting for you right now? Your greatest days are in front of you. They are not behind you. You can go back, and you can be comfortable. You can go back, and you can be safe. You can go back, and you can avoid risk. You can settle back into what has been for many years.
If your heart is pulling on you, if your desires are saying, “I know there’s more,” if you’re a person of faith and you sense God is saying, “I have something bigger and more influential. I’ve got something more quantifiable. I’ve got something awesome for you right now if you’ll just step into it,” if you sense that call it’s simple. Burn the boats.
Will you say yes to the possibilities before you, or will you retreat to mediocrity?
Burn the boats. There are treasures waiting for you. There is nowhere meaningful to go but forward.