Admittedly, I’m no Harvard MBA and my own understanding of the business world is quite literally my own, but I’ve made it a point to listen closely to some pretty amazing people I know when they drop nuggets of wisdom. One of those was uttered by a good friend who had been the Cheif Marketing Officer of the second largest retailer in the US and had recently quit his job to start his own marketing firm. He hired me to build a few different websites for him and we got to talking about what he had planned for his new company. He said the first thing I’m going to do is adopt a “Burn the Ships” attitude. I’d not heard that expression before, so I asked him what that meant.

Apparently, Hernan Cortez had his crew burn his ships so they knew they couldn’t leave.  It’s the idea that if you have a plan B, you will never put all your energy into making plan A successful.  Retreat is easier when you have the option.

Unknowingly I’d already adopted that as a guiding principle.  Starting a new business during the biggest recession since the great depression was hardly the smartest move I ever made, but I decided I’d had enough of working on projects that were uninteresting and not really providing the kind of value I knew I was capable of providing.  I had decided that I would quit the last “job” I would ever have and make it work no matter what.

My risk tolerance is fairly low, but I was convinced that through effort alone I could earn a nice living running a consulting business.  Effort is the one thing we can truly control in our work, so I wasn’t going to cheat myself in that regard.  Luck, smarts and timing are things out of our control, but I believe hard work can help all three of the previously-mentioned attributes flourish.  

Anyway, burn the ships, work hard and lots of good things can happen.