Burn. The. Boats.

Jesus sometimes said some wacky stuff.

At the end of Luke chapter 9, it’s a bit shocking when he tells his followers not to say goodbye to their parents or to ‘let the dead bury the dead.’

When Jesus talked about hating your parents and picking up your cross, he wasn’t trying to tell his followers that they shouldn’t honor their family or that they should live a beaten-down life–he was trying to make a point. He meant that to truly be a disciple, to truly be “sent”, you have to “not love your life to the death.” — be truly willing to give your life to the Message and the Call.

In 1519, when Spanish explorer & conquistador Hernando Cortez arrived on the shores of Mexico, once his troops had disembarked from their ships, he ordered the ships to be burnt.

In effect, there were two options: victory or death.

As leaders, we need to learn to burn the boats behind us.

Burn The Boats.  Commitment.

There’s No Plan B.

The Aztecs had a horde of gold and wealth, an advanced culture, and strong borders. For hundreds of years no one had been able to match them in battle. Cortes’ men knew this, and in the back of their minds they were probably already planning their way home or onto the next (and hopefully easier) conquest.

So Cortes manufactured some commitment for his men.

Commitment. Commitment. Commitment.

What if there is no escape hatch, no backup plan?

There is one way, one message, one solution for the challenges that the world offers: We must give our life 100% for our calling, whether that’s the foreign mission field or your office building. We must be sold-out, no matter what we choose to do.

Want people to follow you? Why would they commit to you if you aren’t committed to yourself? If you’ve got an escape plan just in case times get tough, people aren’t going to follow you. That would be asking for failure.

We live in a world of options. And that’s created people that can barely choose what cereal to eat in the morning, let along choose a path in life that could cost them time, money, or hard work.

So commitment is the only way to truly make a difference in this world.

What Are Our “Boats”?

What are the things in our lives that we are holding onto that we need to let go of? Is it a past romantic relationship we haven’t gotten past? Or is it our family dysfunction that we use as a crutch?

For me, it was the military. For years, I kept “my options open” to return to the military, whether in the reserves or as a contractor. I’ve had to let that go to truly devote my full efforts to my calling. No looking back. Burn the boats.

What is it that you are holding on to that needs to be let go? Or are you sold out and committed to see your dream happen?

  • Ms. Patti

    Good stuff Dave! Burning those boats is costly BUT SO WORTH IT, RIGHT?
    Proud of you and Bec! xoxo

  • Anonymous

    I know one thing that has held me and many people back is the fear of the unknown. Burning that boat is sometime hard to do, but it is so essential when it comes to living a purposeful life. Great thoughts man.

  • Dan,
    You’re exactly right.  But when we “burn the boats,” our fear of failure (or desire to succeed) should overcome our fear of the unknown.  When there’s only one direction to go, we go.

    Thanks for the kudos!

  • Dave,

    Great post. I have heard this story before and it’s acted as an incredible wake up call for me. It was led me to make crazy all out decisions! 

    On the flip side, I have witnessed people who are unwilling to burn their ships. People that hold on to other options. And I have witnessed those people unable to truly succeed at the dream in their heart. 

    This all comes back to faith. Are we going to trust Christ fully. Trust that he will provide the lamb in the thicket, even when we don’t see it at first.

    Faith is being SURE of what we hope for and CERTAIN of what we do not see.

    Successful people understand that the God given vision in the mind is as real as the air they breathe. Just because they can’t see it tangibly, they know it already exists.