Burn the Ships – Cortez allows for No Turning Back…

Commitment is the foundation of all Success

This phrase “Burn The Ships” comes from a historic conquest of history when, in 1519, Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico on the shores of the Yucatan, with only one objective…seize the great treasures known to be there, hoarded by the Aztecs. Cortez was committed to his mission and his quest for riches is legendary. Cortez was an excellent motivator, he convinced more than 500 soldiers and 100 sailors to set sail from Spain to Mexico, commanding 11 ships, to take the world’s riches treasure. The historic question is “how a small band of Spanish soldiers arrived in a strange country and swiftly brought about the overthrow of a large and powerful empire that was in power for over six centuries?”
For Cortez, the answer was easy. It was all or nothing! A Complete and Total Commitment. Here’s how Cortez got the “buy in” from the rest of his men. He took away the option of failure. It was conquer and be hero’s and enjoy the spoils of victory…or DIE! When Cortez and his men arrived on the shores of the Yucatan he rallied the men for one final pep talk before leading his men into battle, and utters these three words that changed the course of history. “Burn the Ships”.He met with resistance from his men. “Burn the ships,” he repeated. He then uttered these words “if we are going home, we are going home in their ships”. With that, Cortez and his men burned their own ships, and by burning their own ships, the commitment level of the men was raised to a whole new level. A level much higher than any of the men, including Cortez, could have ever imagined.

Amazingly, the men conquered the Aztecs and had succeeded in something where others had been unsuccessful for six centuries. With the victory Cortez and his men took the treasure. Why did they win? They had no escape. No fall back position. They had no choice! It was “succeed or die”. Their ships were burned. They had no way to get back. Their backs were to the wall.

To “really succeed” you must have an attitude much like that of Cortez and his men. Cortez and his men did not have a “crutch” or “fall back position”. They frankly didn’t have any options. It was simply “succeed or DIE”. Pretty strong position, isn’t it? How would you like to be engaged in fighting someone with that level of motivation and commitment?

This is the level of motivation and commitment you must have. The “BURN YOUR SHIP” level of motivation and commitment. Take away your crutches and excuses and burn the ships that are keeping you from achieving your goals. Identity the ships in your life that are keeping you from accomplishing dreams. I have a saying and it’s “Dream Big”. I have a new saying and it’s “Burn your Ship”. You see, whatever prevents you from achieving your goals and dreams are ships that must be burned. Not dismantled, or run ashore…but burned and destroyed.

If we know that our ships are still out there, when things get tough we instinctively head for our ships so we can escape. It’s just human nature. The path of least resistance. This level of thinking and commitment sees sacrifice as a positive thing, not something weird or impossible, but something to be cherished and fought for. Cortez didn’t allow himself or his men to have the option of going back to Spain. By removing this option, Cortez and his men were forced to focus on how they could make the mission successful. And so it is with you. How can you make the missions in your life successful?

This is really a story about commitment. Commitment is the foundation of success. Not a single accomplishment is ever achieved without it. By focusing on commitment, we seal our future.

Check out Moving Forward by Israel Houghton… SONG

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About Gary Coiro

Nonprofit & Church Leader Nonprofit Leader and Consultant since 2004, following 15 years as a pastor. Competencies include board development, fundraising, staff development and management, strategic planning, church work, Bible teaching, and capital campaigns. Currently consulting and serving on the Church Ministries Management Team for a large multi-cultural evangelical church.
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