Why burning the boats is terrible advice

Burning the boats at the shore

You’ve heard the story about burning the boats right? Legend has it that the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes told his 600 men to ‘Burn the boats’ when they arrived in Mexico in 1519. He wanted to ensure his men had no option but to succeed in plundering the riches of the Aztec empire.

Here’s the thing – Hernan was kind of like Google or Apple with an incredible amount of resources at his disposal. And us? Well, we are not Hernan. We are probably living a comfortable existence in a developed country. We would probably not die for startup success. We, in the modern world should probably be smart enough to ignore this advice.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of startups, more than ten. I’ve also had a lot of projects. The large majority have failed in financially. I’ve had two startups in which I succeeded in selling the business. I never burned the boats once. I always had some boats hidden away under the bushes by the shore for a quick and painless escape. Once I even joined another army (went back into a corporate role). I always had some form of investment to fall back on, safety cash, shares and housing. I even continued to make passive investments while I was bootstrapping my startups. And it is this reason alone I could keep on playing the game. I could keep going back into another startup and try again. I’ve got friends and colleagues who went all in, and now have very little to fall back on. Sure, we all approach things in different ways, but for me startups are an infinite game that I want to keep playing, therefore, I always keep a few boats by the shore.

See the amazing reviews of my book – The Great Fragmentation.