Burn the Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potential
IF you’re looking to expand your thinking, then look no further than Burn the Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potential by Matt Higgins.
For those of us that have always heard, “Always have a Plan B,” burning the boats may sound reckless. What Higgins is saying is that “you don’t win when you give yourself the option to lose.” Should you process risk? Absolutely. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that could possibly happen?” If that is survivable, then burn the boats.
To accomplish something great, you have to give yourself no escape route, no chance to turn back. You throw away your backup plans and you push forward, no longer bogged down by the infinite ways in which we hedge our own success.
Essentially it comes down to: why do we hesitate? Burn the boats is about overcoming that voice in your head that holds you back—creates doubt. It’s easy to think that you’re not good enough regardless of what you have achieved or where you are at. “Before we can burn the boats, we have to be confident in who we are, unafraid of being felled by the forces gunning for our demise.”
You’ll always have detractors. They can be useful as to where you’ll find resistance. They are often negative because they lack knowledge about what you are doing. They are envious because your success makes them look bad in their mind. Then again, we allow our insecurities and negative self-talk to tear us down before we even get started.
Our weaknesses and shame can be our strength. “Whatever you worry is holding you back is just part of your story. Everyone has parts of their story that they ruminate about, hide from the world, or feel embarrassed to discuss. But once you realize that we all hold those kinds of secrets inside, their power over you diminishes.”
What are you carrying around—the things in your life that you revisit over and over—that could make you lighter if you would reframe it and shed it?
Leaning into your differences—those things that make you unique—will help you to not hedge your bets. Researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found that the mere contemplation of a Plan B diminished the team’s performance and motivation. “You can’t waste your mental energy looking for a way out or an alternative plan. All of your energy needs to be directed toward your goal or you’ll never reach it.”
There are behaviors and thinking that strongly influence our outcomes. Wrong partners can derail you. And sometimes, you are not the one to lead the company forward. Maybe you are the Visionary, and you need a good operator—a Catalyst type—to make it happen. When you want to quit on an idea, you have to ask yourself, is it the idea I’m bored with, or is it really time to bail? “Familiarity breeds contempt. We get burned out and sick and tired of hearing our own stories, even if most of the world hasn’t come close to hearing them yet. You need to structure your big bets in life to give yourself time to be right.”
And you should place big bets, not incremental ones just to play it safe. “If it’s worth going in at all, then I would make the case that it’s worth going all in.” When we get scared, we want to slow down and take small steps instead of big leaps. “But all that does is extend our journey and give us more and more opportunity to turn back.”
The notion of incremental progress is just our attempt to impose order onto the chaos of life and reduce success to some kind of discernable formula. Pay your dues and you’ll be rewarded with upward mobility. In reality, the greatest spoils usually go to the ones who refuse to submit to a typical roadmap.
To make those big leaps, Higgins says, “find people who re better than you at everything one could possibly need to do, and submit to what makes them incredible.”
Through the examples of people who had to cross that barrier of doubt and fully commit to their potential, you will find parallels to your own experience. It’s all here on the pages of Burn the Boats. I think every anxiety, fear, crisis, or doubt you might experience is found in the many examples Higgins shares. When we see ourselves in their life stories, we get the feeling that if they did it, we can too.
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