Pushing Past the Fear in Business

By Tim Lavis

Burning the ships

Have you ever been told to “burn the ships”? Probably not. However you would have heard the saying to “take the plunge” or “take a leap of faith”. To “burn the ships” is not new but I believe it resonates more today than ever before.

So where did ‘burning the ships’ come from?

In 1519 Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz (what we now know as Mexico) to overthrow the Aztecs and take hold of the vast treasures of Gold and Silver if they won. Cortes landed with only 600 men and they reportedly didn’t have any amour unlike their Aztec counterparts. Cortes demanded the ships be burnt. I imagine an army up in arms on the shores of Mexico looking at each other thinking their leader had turned into a madman. The idea was simple, creative, thought provoking and most of all – it worked. Cortes army had no way to retreat. No way to get back home if things didn’t go their way. This army was either going to be successful or go down fighting. There was no turning back here. The idea of having no other option spurred the army into a “grit” mindset that was so motivating that it was almost genius. The troops wanted to get home to their family and the only way that would happen would be from winning every battle they faced over the next two years. They won and now it is used as a great example of how people can do extraordinary things when they put their minds to it and get rid of the exit strategy.

Fears in business…

Too often we get scared when the going gets tough. Too often we have a get out of jail free card. The “we could just leave/end it/not start it at all” mindset is the first of our doubts that come creeping in. Within no time some people have listened to their doubts and fears and the great conquest at hand becomes a project that never gets off the ground. In business CEO’s make decisions to change direction for financial and strategic reasons. That doesn’t mean they have taken the easy path to get back on those ships. It sometimes means that the consumer has spoken and the market for the product isn’t viable. I can think of many products that didn’t last long due to this. What about the products that were great that didn’t make it as it was “too hard” or the going got “tough”. Those products more than likely were replicated and then created by a business who didn’t listen to fears and had determination to succeed. Barriers and obstacles in business appear every day and it is those businesses that let go of fear and navigate through the obstacles, rather than turning back are the ones that should endure the test of time. Yes there are other external factors but the big one is grit and determination. How determined are you to make the business succeed?

Let’s talk about exit strategy…

Exit strategy – what is yours? How could you get out of this quite easily, what fears and doubts are you holding onto? If you have something that you want to work then I would suggest getting rid of the exit strategies, the plan B’s and anything that you can fall back on because until you do your mind will more than likely stop you from achieving the dreams you have. If there is no other way than to move forward, then and only then will your mind be free to ensure success.

Next time you take on a new project or a change in direction, have a think about what will stop you. Will you block out the fears and have the determination to burn the ships?