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Should You Burn The Boats And Go All In On Your One Big Dream?

I just finished reading (well listening to) but audiobooks count as reading, right?
Either way, I just finished Matt Higgins, Burn The Boats.

I knew about the book well ahead of time because I’ve always been connected to his work through Gary Vee’s content.

I was looking forward to it for a while, kind of like when a new record drops, for a couple of reasons.

One, I personally have gone back and forth in my mind about when it will be the right time to burn the boats and go all in on the Just Keep Learning podcast.

And secondly, I felt that the information in the book fits perfectly into the clarity that I am trying to provide in these posts on finding your one thing and figuring out how to pursue your own goals. 

What Does It Mean To Burn The Boats?

When Matt Higgins says “burn the boats,” he’s referring to a metaphorical concept that emphasizes total commitment to a goal, often in a business or entrepreneurial context.

The phrase comes from the story of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who, upon arriving in Mexico in 1519, ordered his men to burn their ships so they couldn’t retreat or sail back to Spain. By doing so, Cortés ensured that his troops had no choice but to move forward and conquer the land.

In a modern context, “burning the boats” means eliminating any potential fallback options or safety nets, forcing oneself to fully commit to a particular path or goal.

This can be a way of creating a sense of urgency and determination, as there is no turning back or giving up once the “boats” are burned.

Should You Burn Your Boats?

It is important to note that this approach might not be suitable for everyone or every situation. It can be risky to quit everything else and focus on one thing, especially if that one thing isn’t cash flowing yet.

When we quit making money to focus on art, it puts a lot of pressure on the creative and can even ruin the experience. Going all in, at least in the traditional sense, may lead to a lack of flexibility or increased stress. 

While it’s essential to evaluate your own circumstances and risk tolerance before adopting this mindset, burning the boats can mean something different for everyone. 

Over the last while I’ve shared all about removing your old thinking, gaining clarity over your goals, and choosing one thing to focus on.

Naturally, this is where we all tend to ask three questions.

What steps do I take to achieve my goal?

How long will it take?

And, should I go all in?

So, my own experience and expertise, as well as a few things I learned from Matt’s book can really help us out when we get to this point.

What Does Matt Higgins Say About Going With Your Gut?

A big theme in ‘Burn The Boats’ is to ask yourself the question, “Who do you want to be?” 

Instead of talking about what you want to be, or what you want to do, you must first ask yourself who you want to be?

These big existential questions should really be driving our life decisions. Figure out what problems you want to solve, who you want to help, and why you do what you do. These types of questions let our authentic values and motivations shine. 

In the book, Matt Higgins shares some critical, challenging, but incredibly helpful questions that can keep you pointed in the right direction.

  1. What qualities make me someone I could respect and admire?
  2. Do I want to spend my days creating from scratch or executing someone else’s vision?
  3. Can I tolerate the risk of an uncertain future, or do I need predictability to thrive?
  4. Would I rather be thinking or doing 
  5. Do I feed off of human interaction or does it drain me?
  6. When have I been happiest and what would it take to feel that way again?
  7. What do I want my Epitaph to read?

You Must Ask The Right Questions, Not Get The Answers

This concept, of not stressing about the answers, but asking the right questions reminds me of a scene in the movie I Robot, where the doctor is telling Will Smith repeatedly, “my responses are limited, you must ask the right questions.”

Well the seven questions Matt Higgins lists in the book to better understand our personal philosophy are the right questions for life.

Answering these seven questions can help us better understand ourselves. This line of inquiry is a great way to fully understand who we want to be?

It’s not that important to have specific, confident answers to the questions.
What is valuable is actually thinking about them.

I mentioned in the last couple posts that there are a few things that hold us back. Dream blockers, myths about productivity and if I added a third thing, it would be a lack of self awareness. 

These answers are different for each of us, and they should be. They should be different because they help us achieve self awareness. Without self awareness throughout our journey, we feel like we’re wandering, aimlessly, until we arrive somewhere. And it may not be in line with our true values.

To use a silly example, imagine winding up in Northern Alaska, when you had wanted to take a trip to Disney World. We would be so confused as to how we ended up there. Especially when we have the ability to punch a destination into a map and get directions instantly.

So even if we are journeying the pathless path, trying to figure life out, what are some things that we can all do to make sure we have just the right amount of an aim?

18 Things We Must All Do While Taking A Leap Of Faith

Some of us might burn the boats, some of us might wait thirty years while making some progress on the side and many of us fall somewhere in between. For each person the plan is unique, and it changes.

But we do need to show the universe that we are serious by taking as much of a leap of faith as possible toward our current vision.

So what I would like to do quickly, is name a few key points that every single person, no matter how much you are going all in, should do right away to show that you are committed to the success of your one thing.

You should be able to check every single one of these off from day one as you pursue your own big dream.

  1. Being ready is a lie.
  2. Choose your own adventure.
  3. Focus on the why, not how, especially at the beginning.
  4. Seek discomfort and gain energy from the right amount of stress.
  5. Dream so big that most people will say it’s unrealistic.
  6. Take action first, then gain feedback, pivot, or keep going.
  7. Get off the fence. 
  8. Preparation is a myth.
  9. Make mistakes at full speed.
  10. Trust your instincts.
  11. Keep the moon in the window.
  12. Effort has compound interest.
  13. You are building a skill that is transferable.
  14. Create for your audience, ignore the haters.
  15. Use failures, big and small, as building blocks.
  16. Go with your gut more than someone else’s playbook when coming up with solutions.
  17. Don’t wait to build a team by learning from and leaning on others.
  18. Don’t wait to take your maximum possible leap of faith.

Waiting to feel more confident, or prepared is a misconception. It doesn’t exist. Confidence and competence feed off of each other. Like a tennis match, your skills transfer back and forth between improving a skill, feeling confident, facing challenges and then repeating. So just get started

What To Do To Achieve Our One Thing?

It’s so much fun to get to the point where you have a big goal.
And no matter how much you burn the boats or patiently build on the side, there is always one big question that still hangs over your head.

What actions should I take to be most effective in achieving my vision? And that’s why over the next couple of posts we’ll take a look at reverse engineering our goals, and dreamlining, a fun term that I stole from another incredible podcaster and learner, Tim Ferris.

Thanks for reading. Your pal,
Justin @JustTries 


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