Whatever You Do, Don’t Burn The Boats



A couple of years ago I decidedĀ  to change my construction business. At the time I was doing 90 percent residential construction. I wanted to break into the commercial market. Because of the cash flow problems I knew that would follow if I just jumped right in, I was doing this gradually. Commercial projects usually pay in 60- 90 days. I would have to pay for labor and materials during this 60-90 days. Without a large line of credit and a backlog of work, it is really difficult.

As the beginning of my work season neared, I was trying to figure out how to make this work. The gradual process of switching from residential to commercial was not fast enough for me. I needed things to move faster. I am getting older and have things I want to do in life. At the time, I was listening to motivational stuff, which I tend to do at the start of yet another year. I was listening to our friend Tony Robbins actually. In the recording, he was talking about going all in and burning the boats. The exact quote was, you can’t take the island if you don’t burn the boats. In other words, go all in and give yourself nowhere to go but forward.

It sounds good. It sounds noble and heroic. I have read many biographies where great men have done exactly this and turned out to be hugely successful. In hindsight, I think this may have been the worst advice I have ever taken in my entire life.

The Idea…

The idea was to take out a loan once I landed some commercial jobs. This money would get me through to the first payment period. Then I would be off to the races.

Now, let me explain something. Going into this, I was completely debt free. Zero business or personal debt. I had money saved, investments, real estate etc.

I figured I had some room to take a little risk. My business had been stagnant for a few years and I needed to do something. So I jumped in. I took out a loan for 50k and increased my line of credit.

I bid some jobs a little cheaper than I should have to load up with spring work. I figured I would fire through these jobs, collect money in 60 days and be rolling. In the meantime, I could bid work for the summer at a higher rate.

The Reality…

Here is what happened. Everything started off fine and I finished a portion of the first job I had bid. I started using borrowed money to pay payroll, material costs, etc. I soon figured out I had bid this work much too low. Oh well, I thought. I will work harder, finish this work and move on to more profitable jobs.

Then the rain came. It rained most of the spring. Every week we were rained out.

The cheaper work I was planning on finishing in the spring got pushed into summer. Then we had a wet summer. So instead of finishing higher priced work in the summer, I was slogging through all this cheap work I had bid for the spring.

By the time fall rolled around, the whole year was collapsing and I was learning a really hard lesson.

The Aftermath…

By the end of the year I was in debt. I had burned through the borrowed money and a lot of other personal money. The year was the worst I have ever had. I actually lost money overall. A good deal of money.

My business was in worse shape than ever and having problems paying suppliers, etc.

Fast forward to now (two years later) and I am still working my way out of this mess. Eventually, I will get out of it and move forward. I am going to lose two years or more that I will never get back. Instead of growing or maintaining, I am rebuilding. Such is life I guess.

The Lesson….

The lesson is this. Don’t take advice from anybody when you know better. I knew better.

To be honest, I didn’t do all of this because of some recording of Tony Robbins telling people to burn the boats. I was already basically planning on doing this. But his ra ra style definitely got me fired up enough to do so. I let my emotions get the better of me. This is what people like him do. This is why I started this blog. To give people real business and life help. Not motivational bullshit.

Business should never be emotional. It should always be methodical. Stick to the basics. The goal should be to make money. Or better yet, never lose money. If you are taking money out of your business and it is profiting, stay the course. Gradually move into new areas.

Don’t burn the fucking boats. Your weapons might fail.

You might need them damn boats to keep the natives from slaughtering you!

The Real Reason Self Help Programs Aren’t Making You A Success

15 or so years ago I ordered my first self help audio program. It was Tony Robbins Personal Power 2. I finished the entire program. It helped. I got into better shape. I figured out a solution for one of my businesses and was overall much more motivated than before. Suddenly I was in the office at 6:00 am every morning. Employees and other business owners in my building commented on it. Things were rolling.

Then the habits I created with this program started to slowly disappear. I quit working out every morning. I started to not be so motivated and pretty soon I had lost the drive I gained during the program. So I decided to try the program again. But it wasn’t new this time. It wasn’t as good. I remember all this stuff I thought. Even when I did the exercises, I didn’t get the same greatness from it. So I ordered another tape program by Earl Nightingale. Different delivery but a great program. Motivated me a little bit but nothing like the first time I went through the Robbins program. Fast forward to now, today.

I have spent the last 15 years reading and listening to self help or motivational material. I have spent countless hours reading. I have watched thousands of videos and seminars and read hundreds of books on the subject. Whether this was productive or not is debatable at this point. I am not living on the beach, working in my dream business. In fact, I am rebuilding a business, in an area I actually hate very much.

In short, what happened is I became a self help junkie. I became more interested in the next thing, instead of what works. If something works you should keep working it. You should not look for a thing that is better. But this is what I have done over and over. It is probably what you do. Everybody does it. This is partially why I started this blog. I knew it would be successful. Why? Because people would rather read about some new trick to make them successful than do the actual work which they know they should be doing. The internet has made this even easier to do. You can get lost for hours and read new insight from somebody, every minute of every day.

I also started this blog to weed through the bs and give people the only things which actually work and will help you improve your life. I have narrowed this down to a few things and that is my message. I am here to give you the few things which really work.

To be fair to Tony Robbins, his program did work. I saw tremendous value from it. Had I been able to turn around my failing business at the time (which is why I ordered his program), I would be telling anyone who would listen how great he was. The truth is I was in a downward spiral and the business was next to impossible to save. This gave me a reason to stop the good habits, because, at the time, they weren’t working.

So what are these few things that work for success in life?

  1. Get and stay in the best possible shape you can. To be a success you need energy. The easiest way to get it is to exercise and eat healthy. Plain and simple.
  2. Make a decision. Decide! Really decide what you want and what you are going to do to get it. Decide to start the business, get in shape, etc. This is your vision.
  3. Have a vision. This is what you want to do in life. Think about it all day. Move towards this vision of your business, body, life. Visualize it, dream about it and make actions towards it.

So the formula is this. Decision+Vision=Your Mission

Decide what you are going to do. Then do it. Create a vision for what you want and make it your mission to accomplish it. Everything else is just bullshit.

This is it. Don’t become a self help junkie. Make your decision, have a vision and make it your mission. Start immediately. No need to plan anymore. We are all guilty of this. Action is always better than none. Use motivational videos and books to get you to take action, not to keep planning.