Light the Fuse — Success is Straightforward When It’s Your Only Option
There is a considerable benefit to coming from nothing. Your choices become very straightforward — sink or swim.
I earned straight A’s in high school because I needed that Wildcat Excellence Scholarship to go to college; I saw no other option.
It worked out.
In my early 20’s, I had exactly enough money for a one-way ticket to China. I had no other cash, credit card, nor another way back to the states. I remember panicking on the airplane because I knew I needed to make it work; I had no other option.
It worked out.
I’m not proud of it, but I finished my master’s thesis in three days and I’d start studying for final exams the night before.
It worked out. I had to work it out because failure wasn’t an option.
This strategy has historical precedent.
In the book “Art of War”, Sun Tzu wrote that to find and maintain focus and resolve, you must “burn your boats” so that the only choice is to succeed — literally, failure isn’t an option.
Hernán Cortés famously gave the order to his men in 1519 to “burn the boats” before defeating and plundering the entire Aztec Empire’s riches.
And again, the same order from Alexander the Great upon their arrival to Persia.
Throughout history, the ‘burning the boats’ strategy has been used to massive success.
When you burn your boats, you either sink or swim. You rise up to the occasion and swim or fall down into your insecurities and sink. When you have no other options, you have no other options. You need to stand on all your skills and abilities to do something great. Burning the boats is motivation on steroids.
Burning the boats brings the best out of you.
You are extremely motivated to accomplish the goal at hand, whether you feel like it because there is no other option for yourself.
Burning your boats is a risky strategy. It causes far more stress than a more methodical and reasoned approach.
I would have preferred to have an emergency fund when I went to Asia.
I would have loved to have had my master’s thesis wrapped up months in advance so that I could relax and party with my peers.
Having wealthy parents would have made my high school experience far more enjoyable instead of studying myself into conniptions.
These weren’t options for me. These aren’t options for many.
When your only options are to succeed or fail, your choice becomes clear.
“One thing I taught myself to do, no matter the problem refuse to lose. So how you winning then, you can choose. If you can’t take the heat don’t light the fuse” — The Siege.