As an entrepreneur, you know that success doesn’t come easy.

It takes grit, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks. One of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to make tough decisions and commit fully to them. And sometimes, that means burning the boats.

Burning the boats is all about eliminating your options.

It’s about putting everything you have into your business and leaving no room for doubt or hesitation. It’s about committing to your vision and being willing to do whatever it takes to make it a reality. And let me tell you, that’s not for the faint of heart.

But here’s the thing, my fellow entrepreneurs. If you’re not willing to burn the boats, you’re not ready to be in this game.

You can’t hold back, and you can’t be half-hearted about it. You need to be all in. You need to be willing to take bold steps and make tough decisions, even if it means facing failure.

In my recent conversation with Matt Higgins, we talked about his wildly successful entrepreneurial journey starting as a high school dropout. We talked about one of his favorite concepts that applies to entrepreneurship which is ‘burning the boats’.

So today, we are going to take a deep dive into this concept and explore what burning the boats means and how it can help guarantee your success as an entrepreneur.

Let’s go!

What Is Burning The Boats?

The phrase “burn the boats” comes from a story about the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. In 1519, Cortés arrived in Mexico with a small fleet of ships and a few hundred men.

He was there to conquer the Aztec empire and claim its treasures. But as they landed on the shore, Cortés immediately ordered his men to burn the boats. He wanted to send a clear message that they had no choice but to succeed or die trying.

He knew that if his men had any way out, they might hesitate in battle. They might second-guess themselves or try to retreat. But by burning the boats, Cortés sent a message that failure was not an option. They were going to win or die trying.

And you know what? It worked.

Cortés and his men went on to conquer the Aztec empire and claim its treasures. They achieved something that was considered impossible at the time. And it was all because they burned the boats.

How Does Burning The Boats Apply to Entrepreneurship?

Now, you might be thinking, “That’s a great story, but what does it have to do with me?”

Well, as an entrepreneur, you need to adopt the same mindset. When you start a new venture, you need to be all in. You can’t hold back, and you can’t be half-hearted about it. You need to burn the boats.

So what does burning the boats mean in business?

It means eliminating all your other options. It means putting everything you have into your business and leaving no room for doubt or hesitation. It means taking risks, even if they make you uncomfortable. It means committing to your vision, no matter what.

If you’re not willing to burn the boats, you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur. You’ll always be holding something back, and that will limit your success. You need to be willing to take bold steps and make tough decisions, even if it means facing failure.

Of course, burning the boats is not a decision to be taken lightly. You need to have a solid plan in place, and you need to be prepared to face the consequences of your actions. But if you’re truly committed to your vision, you’ll be willing to do whatever it takes.

Now, it sounds great as a concept, but it’s harder to apply in real life. That’s because we often get stuck in a limited mindset of playing it too small.

The Mindset That Holds Us Back: Playing It Small

As an entrepreneur, it’s all too easy to get caught in a limited mindset, holding yourself back, playing it small, and not fully committing to your vision.

This mindset can be incredibly limiting and can prevent you from achieving the success you desire. So, what causes this limited mindset?

Well, there are a few main reasons.


One of the primary reasons we play it small is fear. We’re afraid of failure, afraid of taking risks, and afraid of putting ourselves out there. We’re afraid of what others might think of us if we fail, or if we’re not as successful as we thought we would be.

This fear can keep us trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and prevent us from taking the bold steps needed to succeed.

Comfort Zone

Another reason we play it small is our comfort zone. We like the safety and security of what we know, and we’re afraid to step outside of our comfort zone. We’re comfortable with the status quo and don’t want to rock the boat.

But the truth is, playing it small won’t get you where you want to be. It will only keep you stuck in the same place, with the same results. To achieve success, you need to step outside of your comfort zone and take bold risks.

How To Overcome This Limited Mindset

So, how can you overcome this limited mindset and start burning the boats in your own business? Here are a few tips:

  • Embrace failure: Failure is not the end of the road. It’s a learning experience that can help you grow and improve. Embrace failure as a part of the process and use it as a tool for improvement.
  • Set big goals: Don’t settle for mediocrity. Set big, audacious goals that will push you outside of your comfort zone and challenge you to be your best.
  • Take calculated risks: Don’t be reckless, but don’t be afraid to take risks either. Do your research, weigh your options, and then take the plunge.
  • Surround yourself with positivity: Surround yourself with people who support your vision and believe in your potential. Avoid negativity and naysayers who will only bring you down.

By adopting a mindset of growth and possibility, you can overcome the limitations that hold you back and start burning the boats in your own business.

How To Apply Burning The Boats To Your Business:

Now that we’ve talked about the importance of burning the boats and overcoming the mindset that holds us back, let’s dive into how you can apply this concept to your business.

How exactly do you burn the boats with your business? Here are a few tips:

  1. Commit fully to your vision: You need to believe in your idea with every fiber of your being. You need to be passionate about it and willing to fight for it.
  2. Set clear goals: You need to know what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. Write down your goals and make them specific and measurable.
  3. Create a plan of action: You need to have a roadmap for how you’re going to achieve your goals. Break them down into smaller, actionable steps.
  4. Take risks: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes, the biggest risks lead to the biggest rewards.
  5. Be prepared to fail: Failure is part of the process. Don’t let it discourage you. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.

Burning the boats is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re willing to make the commitment, you’ll be well on your way to success. Just remember, you need to be ready to adapt to whatever comes your way, including overcoming the inevitable failures along the way.

How to Handle The Inevitable Failures

When you’re pursuing a burning-the-boats strategy, failure is a given along the journey. But don’t let that discourage you. The way that you handle failures makes all the difference in your ultimate success.

It’s essential to have a strategy in mind to be able to handle these failures with the right mindset and approach.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when dealing with the failures along your journey.

Rewrite Your New Path of Success to Incorporate That Failure

When you experience a failure, it’s important to take a step back and assess what went wrong. But don’t stop there.

Use that knowledge to rewrite your plan of action, taking into account the lessons you learned. Adjust your goals, strategies, and expectations, based on the new information you’ve learned.

You can even take this a step further, and rewrite your new vision for success to include this failure. You can see this failure as a necessary stepping stone to reaching your goal.

This way, you’re not just rebounding from a setback, but you’re also improving and optimizing your approach. Failure can be a valuable teacher if you’re willing to learn from it.

Never Allow Your Identity to Get Defined By a Failure

It’s natural to feel disappointed or even devastated after a failure, but it’s important to remember that your identity is not defined by your failures.

Don’t let your setbacks define who you are as a person or as a leader. Instead, use them as opportunities to showcase your resilience, creativity, and adaptability.

Remember that your worth is not determined by your success or failure but by your inherent value and your character.

Always Stay Intellectually Curious About Your Failures

Curiosity is the key to continuous learning and improvement. When you experience a failure, don’t just move on from it. Take the time to analyze what went wrong and why.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • “What could I have done differently?”
  • “What did I learn from this experience?”

Keep a growth mindset, and approach each failure as a chance to gain more knowledge and improve your skills.

Facing failure head-on and learning from it is essential for any entrepreneur pursuing a burning-the-boats strategy. By taking a new approach to failure, you can turn setbacks into stepping stones and come out stronger and more successful than ever before.


Entrepreneurship is tough; we all know that.

It takes a whole lot of grit, hard work, and the guts to take risks. One of the best strategies you can put to use to guarantee your success is burning the boats.

The story of Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors is the perfect example of how burning the boats can lead to success. They achieved the impossible by eliminating their way out and committing fully to their mission.

As entrepreneurs, we need to adopt the same mindset. We need to burn the boats, eliminate our fear of failure, and step outside of our comfort zones.

When you burn the boats, you leave no room for doubt or hesitation. You go all in and commit to your vision. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re willing to burn the boats, you’re ready to level up in this game.

It’s time to stop playing it small and start setting big goals that will push us to be our best selves. If you want to hear more about this, check out my full conversation with Matt Higgins, he has a ton of knowledge to share on this topic.

This article was originally published by Scott D. Clary on Hackernoon.