Burn the Boats vs Plan B - What's the Best Way to Approach a Big Goal?

What's better - to burn the boats, or have a plan B when pursuing a big goal? Here's what 25 personal development and business experts have to say...

Burn the Boats vs Plan B - What's the Best Way to Approach a Big Goal?

To burn the boats or not....

That is the question for today's expert roundup. 

I recently had the privilege of interviewing 25 bloggers within the personal development and business niches, to get their viewpoints on a question that's likely had relevance to every single person during at least one point in their life

Here is the question and topic I posed:

The concept of 'burning the boats' is associated with ancient military commanders who would instruct their men to burn the ships before a conquest, so as to create a point of no return. The soldiers would be left with no other option but to conquer the island or be killed.


More recently, the phrase has come to represent leaving no other option for yourself in the context of something that you would like to achieve. What is your opinion:

  • Do you believe in burning the boats to achieve your goals? 
  • Does a plan B distract you from your plan A?
  • Or is it too risky?

Curious to explore perspectives on this thought-provoking topic, I invited a wide range of thought leaders - including bloggers, LifeHack.org and Medium contributors, entrepreneurs and authors - to chip in on this discussion. 

The result? 

Though I had anticipated that the question would generate interesting responses - I was still blown away by the depth and diversity of the replies I received - with very compelling arguments at both ends of scale

I invite you to read the responses below. You'll also find my comments at the bottom of the article.

If this is the first time you've ever considered this topic, I encourage you to explore the following discussion and perspectives with an open mind, so as to be able to form your own authentic response at the end. 

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25 Responses to Burning the Boats:

Focus on One Thing
Nils and Jonas Salzgeber

Burn the Boats vs Plan B - What's the Best Way to Approach a Big Goal?

Burning the metaphorical boats can help you reach your goals. I know because I've been there. Nils and I quit our apartment and our jobs to go and live in Egypt for a couple of months. The idea: work full-time on our blog. No distractions. Just work, a true brother, and a lovely beach for smart breaks.

It surely helped us at the time. But after seven months, we ran out of money and flew back to Switzerland, and moved back in with our parents for a couple of weeks. We worked in construction to earn some money so we could move into an apartment together again.

There is no one right way that works for all. Some might need some pressure. Others not so much. What surely helps is a distraction-free work space. Focus on one thing. Whether that means to burn the boats or not might be different from person to person. And no matter which option you choose, chances are, you'll have to adapt your plan as you go. Stay flexible and open-minded. And hang in there. Sooner or later, you'll reap what you sow.


Nils and Jonas Salzgeber are the founders of the popular personal development website, NJlifehacks.com. They're also international authors who've sold over twenty-thousand copies worldwide. Their latest book is The Little Book of Stoicism.

There are a Million Ways to Skin the Cat
- Dean Yeong

I don't believe in burning the boats to accomplish goals. There are a million ways to skin the cat, as there are a million ways to accomplish one's goal.

There's a difference between having no other options for the "destination" and for the "way."

Let's say the goal is to accomplish a certain financial goal, having no option to the vision/goal means you'll do whatever it takes to get there — which I think is great. But when someone starts a business to achieve the same goal and leaves himself no other options even when the business idea or model has failed, that's irrational.

Be firm on the vision, the end; not the way; the mean.


Dean Yeong is a 2x Quora Top Writer whose work has been featured on Inc, HuffPost, Observer, and many other major publications. His free email course, Mental Models for 10x Performance, teaches proven strategies to maximize productivity and output.

Plan, Burn the Boats, Make Another Boat 
- Steven Aitchison

I am a great believer in this concept, however, I believe we should plan the burning of the boats and there are three stages to it.

Stage 1 - Planning

For example when I left my full time job in 2012 I did not wake up one day and decide to burn the boats and leave a well paid job.  I planned ahead and for months I worked hard to bring in as much income as possible from my part time business.  I got to a stage where I believed I could earn more if I was working full time in my business as my part time income was good.

Stage 2 - Burning the boats

Once you've made your decision to burn the boats stick to it and always look ahead toward your outcome, don't keep looking back.  There's going to be some hard times to come and that's what life is about, You get to know yourself when you make bold decisions and ride through the rough storms.  You become a much stronger, much more confident person than you could ever imagine.

Stage 3 - Making another boat

The third stage is something we don't talk about but have to.  What if it all fails? You've burnt your boat, you've done the best you can but it failed to work out for you.

First of all, you've learned loads about yourself and gotten to know your strengths and your weaknesses.  You know what you can do.  This is the point where you decide either you keep going and see what happens or you build another boat for yourself.

E.G. - You tried your hardest to make a business selling personal development products, it doesn't work out as planned, but you loved the process of creating products and marketing.  you build another boat by teaching others how to create a product and market it online.

So burning the boats is much much more than we can imagine.  We truly grow as human beings when we don't leave ourselves a choice, but a strange things happens when you leave yourself no choices, more choices appear in front of you.


Steven Aitchison has been ranked the #1 personal development blogger in the U.K. As an author, speaker and business coach he has amassed over 5 million followers worldwide. His latest book is the The Belief Principle

Plan B means doubting Plan A Will Work
- Luminita Saviuc

I remember hearing that story many years ago and at that time I thought it was a BRILLIANT idea! I still do! ⁣

Do I believe in burning the boats to achieve one’s goals?⁣


The way I see it, in this now moment, humanity as a whole is invited to burn its boats and FREE itself of the many limitations, programs, fears, and toxic thoughts that have been keeping all of us in a dark and scary place. ⁣

We are all invited to burn our boats. And instead of walking by sight and being immersed in fear, chaos, and darkness, as we have been for so long, to learn how to walk in a state of absolute faith and surrender.⁣

  • Faith in the truth of who we are.⁣
  • Faith in our ability to rise above all nonsense, darkness, fear, and illusion;⁣
  • Faith in something bigger and nobler than anything this world has to offer.⁣

And surrender… ⁣

  • Surender to a greater and nobler version of ourselves. ⁣
  • Surrender to the unknown, trusting that we are not alone in this world. 


Looking back won’t get us anywhere. Nor having a plan B… ⁣

Having a plan B is doubting that plan A will work. And where there is doubt, there is fear. And where there is fear, there is no true faith, trust, or love… ⁣

We’re either all in, HOT in the pursuit for that which we love more than anything in this world. Or we’re not all.⁣

There is no in-between.⁣


Luminita Saviuc is the founder and Blogger-in-Chief of Purpose Fairy, home of the most viral personal development article on the Internet, 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy, shared more than 1.3 million times on Facebook and beyond, and now the subject of her latest book that was published by Penguin Random House.

Analyze your Personal Comfort Level
- Kat Boogaard

Honestly, I think the merit of the "burning the boats" concept really depends on your personal comfort level with risk.

For example, I hear from a lot of people who want to pursue freelancing and eventually turn it into their full-time job. 

For some of those people, it works best to take the leap and quit their 9-to-5 right away. This lights a fire under them to make the freelance thing work, because they have no other options.

But plenty of others prefer to build their freelance careers slowly, working nights and weekends while they still have the comfort and security of a steady paycheck.

So, I guess I don't have one firm stance on whether or not "burning the boats" is a smart strategy. I think it really comes down to how serious you are about achieving your goal—and just how much risk you'll deal with to make it happen. 


Kat Boogaard is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer, mainly covering topics related to careers, self-development, and freelancing. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Every Girl, The Muse, and many other publications.

Completely Burn the Burning the Boats Idea
- Daniel Riley 

Burning the Boats - Taking a Risk

My personal take on this would be for people to completely burn the ‘Burning the Boats’ idea. This all-or-nothing approach to life might be romanticised and even fetishised in the world of celebrities, cinema and other forms of media but it is completely unrealistic and not only saps the fun and enjoyment out of life itself, it is completely absurd in a practical sense. 

One of the biggest illusions that human beings (especially arrogant war leaders or otherwise) believe in is the idea of absolute control. Unfortunately, it is usually only unexpected events such as pandemics, untimely deaths, or a sudden deterioration in health that snap us out of our bubbles of thinking that we are in control and not nature herself. 

Even in war itself, miraculous evacuations like Dunkirk helped to turn the tide in Europe during the Second World War. A ‘burning the boats’ approach would have been extremely reckless.

This approach would not have accounted for a staggering loss of soldiers, a debilitating loss of morale and an important re-evaluation that eventually led to the demise of the Nazis. It would only care about winning the battle, not the war.

If ‘burning the boats’ is a reckless and arrogant approach in war-time, it is even crazier to apply such a radical approach to trying to achieve our goals. People who do use this approach - just as in the war example - don’t account for the many unknowns that life inevitably throws at us. 

Firstly, our goals change with time. This isn’t accounted for in a ‘burning the boats’ approach.

Secondly, our goals aren’t usually what we actually want, they are what we think we are going to get when we accomplish them - whether that be a sense of achievement, happiness, peace or something else. 

The most common ‘Plan A’ that people have is to make a lot of money. Except, with a little bit of digging, we usually find that they only want money so that they can live comfortably and have a relaxing retirement.

Dig a little deeper again and for most people, a relaxing retirement wouldn’t actually involve sipping cocktails on a beach for 20 years straight, it would involve getting out in nature, appreciating life and spending more time with loved ones. Money itself is seen to be just a means to an end, after all. 

Finally, and perhaps the most subtle point of all, is that a ‘burning the boats’ approach makes you completely oblivious to the spontaneous and beautiful unfolding of life and all of its opportunities. 

There’s nothing wrong with having a Plan A. Just make sure you orientate your plan around reality, not reality around your plan.


Daniel Riley is a LifeHack.org contributor and owner of a popular personal development blog with an ever-growing community of dreamers, doers and life enthusiasts.

Burning the Boat Doesn't Always End Happily
- Calvin Rosser 

Ten years ago, I was a poor kid from Orlando. I lived with a mom who made less than $15,000 a year, and I believed that attending an Ivy League university was the best path to improve my circumstances. Despite having little evidence that I was even qualified for the Ivy League, I "burned the boat". I applied to eight elite schools and gave it my all. No “safety schools.”

Burning the boat worked out for me. I was accepted to Princeton on full financial aid. My four years at Princeton transformed me intellectually and tapped me into the world of economic opportunity. My vision played out as planned.

But looking back, I don't think burning the boat was the right decision. And it rarely is. Because even though my story had a happy ending, it doesn't mean I made a good decision. Sure, applying to a small group of schools made me work harder and improve my applications, but I could have easily been left without any acceptance letters. And my life would have played out very differently. It would have been smarter to have at least one or two backup schools.

To draw a parallel to the investing world, it's rarely a good decision to invest all of your money in a few stocks. It may work out, but on average, it's better to invest your money in a diversified portfolio. You improve the probability that you achieve a good return while mitigating risk.

The same is true for life. You may have your eyes set on a glorious Plan A and gun for it with all you have, but that doesn't mean that you can't benefit from having contingency plans. Contingency plans are your lifeboats. They prevent you from drowning if things don't work out. And because you survive, you have another day to work toward your dreams. But if you drown, that's it. You're done.

In many ways, getting what you want in life is about surviving to fight another day. With time and persistence, you almost always win. But if you burn the boat and drown, you're just another fallen solider with dreams that never panned out.


Calvin Rosser is a writer and startup operator on a mission to empower 10 million people to live a more fulfilling life. He created Life Reimagined, a weekly Sunday newsletter for creators, entrepreneurs, leaders, professionals, and everyday folks who want to get the most out of life.

I'm a Big Believer in Having a Plan B-G
- Vicky Oliver 

I am actually a big believer in having a Plan B, a Plan C, and a Plan D-G.

The path to dream fulfillment is never a straight line, and many times you think you know the steps but for whatever reason they don't work.

People whom you think will be helpful may not be, and help may come from a more random source you never could have predicted. I also believe that baby steps are sometimes just as significant as giant leaps, and that as long as you are stretching to your goal, it's within sight.

I will also say that I believe that it is important to love what you do. When you love what you do, each baby step, each baby milestone is such a great achievement that you can feel really great about celebrating.

Having a plan B-G actually helps me focus better on plan A. I can give it my all because I know I have back-up plan after back-up plan. Thus I can go after Plan A fearlessly.


Vicky Oliver is a Lifehack.org contributor as well as the author of 5 bestselling career books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005); Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008) and Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to be One) (Skyhorse, 2015).

Not Whether, But When To Burn the Boats
- JD Meier

While I'm a fan of taking decisive action, I'm not sure "burn the boats" is a helpful metaphor for everyone.  I think you need the self-awareness to know whether you are more motivated by running toward opportunity, or moving away from pain.  

For example, you can swim away from a shark, or you can swim across the pool for the gold medal.  Those are two very different experiences, even if they take the same effort.

Maybe the question isn't whether to "burn the boats" but *when* to burn the boats.  If you find yourself distracted, difusing your efforts, and lacking the full commitment you need to succeed in your greatest venture, then burn the boats and don't look back.   

If you miss the brass ring, remember your greatest growth comes from your greatest challenges.  It's not the goals you achieve, it's what you become in the process. 

One of the worst regrets is missed opportunity.

As Lewis Carroll put it, "In the end... we only regret the chances we didn't take, the relationships we failed to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make."


JD Meier is the founder of the blog, SourcesOfInsight.com, a source for skilled living featuring life hacks, principles, patterns, and practices for personal empowerment. His latest book is Getting Results the Agile Way.

You're Going to Have to Make Some Bold Bets 
- Benjamin Hardy 

If you’re serious about making huge advancements in your life, income, and situation, you’re going to have to make some bold bets.

You’re going to have to put your chips on the table.

Throughout my doctoral research as an organizational psychologist, the singular concept I’ve focused my studies on is what I call, “The Point of No Return.” This is the moment it becomes easier to move toward your goals than to avoid them. Actually, it’s the instant that pursuing your highest ambitions becomes your only option.

How does this work?

Primarily, it happens in the form of an intense investment, which forces you to move forward out of compulsion.

Once invested to the point you must go forward, your identity and complete orientation toward your objective changes.

Because you must go forward, you’re no longer confused about what you need to do. You’re no longer uncertain if you’re going to act. You have already acted, and now you need to make good on that action. And there are several psychological reasons why you need to make good on that action:

  • To not look like an idiot (although this isn’t very powerful)
  • To justify your investment
  • To be consistent with the behaviors you’ve performed (hint: your identity follows your behavior, not necessarily the other way around despite “common wisdom”)
  • Because you truly want to achieve a particular goal, and you’ve now created external conditions that will eventuate in a self-fulfilling prophecy

Once you’ve passed your point of no return, you’ve fully bought into your own vision. You’re committed. Your role, and thus identity, change. You’ve removed alternatives that were nothing more than distractions anyways. You’ve forced your own hand and now must move in the direction you want to go. You’re all in.


Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work and Personality Isn't PermanentHis blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, and many others. From 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer in the world on Medium.com. You can read his reflection in its entirety here

Follow the breadcrumbs that life leaves
- Henri Junttila

I follow what feels magnetic to me. I follow what is interesting and makes my heart sing. Sometimes that includes a Plan B, and sometimes it doesn't. I don't worry about it, because I'm always focused on where I feel drawn to go, and what I feel drawn to do. As I navigate life in this manner, the rest falls into place. Not always elegantly, not always without challenge, but life seems to give me what I need in each moment.

So in other words, I don't try to live according to a concept. I don't worry about burning boats. Instead, I follow the breadcrumbs that life leaves for me. That is the priority.


Henri Junttila is the founder of WakeUpCloud.com, a blog about doing work you love. Since 2009, Henri has been helping people find and follow their passion. You can read his latest books here.

Take a Calculated Approach
- Seline Shenoy 

When You Burn the Boats - Take a Calculated Approach

I think that “burning the boats” can be a useful success strategy in certain scenarios. I view it as an extreme measure and something that should not be taken lightly by anyone who considers doing it. I’ve done it in my own life and this is what I’ve learned: you need do it with your eyes wide open. If you’re considering cutting ties with your past, you have to be clear about three things:

  1. Your intention (what outcome you’re hoping to achieve and how it’s connected to the bigger vision for your life)
  2. What you’re leaving behind (this include both the negative and positive aspects)
  3. What lies ahead of you (research, research, research)

If you take this calculated approach and you come to the conclusion that “burning the boats” is the best step for you, then go ahead and cross that line of no return. Avoid making the decision out of impulse or because you think that the grass is greener on the other side (it seldom is.)


Seline Shenoy is an author, blogger and podcaster. She is the founder of The Dream Catcher – a blog community that connects and encourages people to live their dream life and make a difference in the world. She’s written for several reputed publications and blog such as Forbes, Lifehack.org, NBC News, and many others. Her latest book is Beauty Redefined.

Commitment, Not Reckless Pursuit 
- Danny Newman

Funnily enough, the notion of ‘burning your boats’ has been one of my personal mantras over the last few years! It’s helped me commit to my path, stay true to various goals, and keep my attention forward-facing. I think about it whenever I have a big decision to make.

So, my immediate instinct is to answer this question with a resounding:

“Yes! I do, 100%, believe in burning your boats”.

Like Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, sometimes you’ve got to take the risk, be resolute and relentless, and turn your back on ‘Plan B’ in order to pursue your ambition with the zeal and perseverance that’s required to attain success.

But nothing’s ever simple, right?

Sometimes, having a back door to your ambitions makes total sense.

For instance, when Richard Branson first set up Virgin Airways, he convinced Boeing to sell him a second-hand 747, under one vital condition: they’d buy the aeroplane back after 6 months if his new venture didn’t, well…take off.

In other words, he didn’t burn his boats!

He capped the downside and bought himself a ‘get out of jail free card’ in case Virgin Airways didn’t work out. With his entire company and millions of dollars on the line, that was good, sound, hyper-intelligent entrepreneurial thinking.

Of course, it all worked out in the end anyway. Virgin Airways was a success and he never had to return that plane. But he could have if he’d needed to.

Interestingly, the origins of the ‘burn your boat’ story contain elements of capping the downside too. The whole idea comes from Hernan Cortez, a Spanish conquistador who travelled to the New World in 1519 with 600 men and a single mission:

To conquer the Aztec empire.

That’s why he had his army burn their boats upon arrival. He wanted to send a signal: there was no turning back! It was a case of ‘succeed or die’.

But then, instead of diving headfirst into the fight, he spent months in one place, training his army into an elite fighting force. He then made alliances along the way, teaming up with native rebels who were just as keen to overthrow the empire.

Cortez may have burned his boats, but he also applied strategy, ingenuity, process, and patience.  

Burning your boats is about commitment to a goal- not recklessness in its pursuit.

Maybe, the safe application of ‘burning your boats’ depends on context. Maybe it depends on any number of factors, like your individual tolerance to risk, the possible fallout if things don’t work out (will other people be affected as well as you?), and your resilience to adversity. 

One thing’s for sure, though. The concept of burning your boats is inspiring. Sometimes, in the face of a big decision, the very thought of it can deliver the shove you need to get started. Used in that context, as an incentive for action, I think it makes complete sense.


Danny Newman is the founder of WhatsDannyDoing.com, a personal blog where he shares tricks, ideas and insight to help anyone that's  looking to buck tradition, have an adventure, and live a fulfilling life.

Flexibility is needed to achieve your goals
- Corey Fradin

It doesn't need to be one or the other.

Especially in the context of goal setting. You should certainly commit to your goal and give it everything you can, but if things aren't working you need to have the flexibility to make a change. 

Imagine pulling up to a dock, burning your boat, and then after a week of scouring the land, realize you are on the wrong continent. Well... your boats are gone. So that's a problem. Conversely, imagine pulling up to the dock but never leaving it. You walk onto land but then get unsure of yourself so you get back on the boat. Then you get bored of being on the boat so you get back on land before, inevitably, getting back on the boat. 

That doesn't work either.

I believe that when it comes to goal success, you need to get off the boat and fully commit to what's in front of you. But if you realize that you're not in the right place, you should get back on and chart a new course. 

There's a level of flexibility that's needed to achieve what you're after. Set a goal, commit to it, put in the work, but if, after three months or a couple of weeks or whatever, you decide the goal's not a good fit, make a change. You can either end the goal and start a new one or revise it to better fit what you're after. 

Don't burn the boat, but don't get back on unless you have to. 


Corey Fradin is the founder of QuickBooost - a blog that helps you do more with your time (productivity, goal setting, that kind of thing). His passion for goal setting has led to him helping countless individuals finally achieve their goals

Go hard or Go home
- Jayne Prince

I believe to achieve anything in life you have to work to get it. Hence, the quote, "Success is on the other side of your comfort zone." The terminology of "burning the boats" has definitely stood out to me. Because many of us even though we know that we possess great abilities, we still choose to live below the level of our true ability. 


We have settled for the standards established by the opinion of others. We are afraid to move beyond our dreams to action. It's more comfortable to think about all we might do, instead of working to achieve what we can do. 


When I read about "burning the boats", these words immediately came in to my mind: "go hard or go home." Our mind is a powerful source of energy. The decisions that you choose to make, and the words that you declare over your life, are the things that you are teaching your brain to process. 


If you give your mind the option of failure, you wouldn't work as hard to achieve your goals, like if you hadn't any other option. You will end up questioning your life. Believing that you don't have the same luck as the successful people. But the truth is that, you've set a limit to your life. And it is only YOU that can break that limit. 


It's important to work hard and never settle for less. To change your life and change the world, you have to stop dreaming and wake up. Stop wishing, instead act on the things that you want to achieve. Either you go hard, or you go home.


Jayne Prince is a self-help and motivational blogger who writes about improving your mindset, understanding your full potential, and discovering your place in the world.

You Need Full Oversight and Control
- Gina Lucia

I'm a firm believer that in order to succeed in business today, you need to have multiple different ways of making money and a backup plan if something goes wrong. No longer can we jump into one thing and stick to it for years. Technology and business are constantly changing and by 'going all in' on one thing, you're leaving yourself open to a lot of risk.

This is particularly prominent with business owners who rely on one stream of income, or one platform to generate their leads. If something were to happen to that stream of income, they'd be in serious trouble. Don't leave yourself in this position, make sure you have full oversight and control over your income and keep adding to it over time.


Gina Lucia is the founder of Limit Breaker, a platform created to support introverted women on their journey of creating, building and redefining what it means to be an introvert in the business world.

The Best Plan B is a Better Plan A
- Rob Bell 

The BEST Plan B is a better plan A. If we are not all-in then we are just in the way. The issue isn't that it gets hard on our journey, the issue is that we've left ourselves an option of not committing or being fully in. That is the mental struggle.


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. He speaks and trains coaches, leaders, and teams on mental toughness. He is the author of 6 mental toughness books, which you can read here.

Live to Fight Another Day
- Maxim Dsouza 

Live to Fight Another Day

I approach goals very differently than war. In the past, I have pursued targets by burning boats and going too far than I should have. Sometimes, you can be blinded by your goal so much that you go all in even if it is for a lost cause. In those cases, the right decision is to move on and chase another sensible goal.

That said, keeping your eyes on one target at a time is critical to increasing your chances of achieving the goal and decreasing the time required to get there. Pursuing multiple major goals at the same time is a recipe for disaster. But at the same time, persistent effort does not always guarantee results. When the outcome you desire is nowhere in sight even after a relentless struggle, the right thing to do is accept defeat and live to fight another day. 


Maxim Dsouza is the founder of ProductiveClub.com, a blog where he shares actionable advice on goal clarity, productivity, time management and decision making. His latest book is The Magic of 2 Seconds

A Plan B 'Gets You Out Of Jail Free'
- Kristof Maeyens

I think 'burning the boats' is a concept that does very well with the 'just jump off the cliff and trust that you'll learn how to build a parachute on your way down'-club. I personally do not belong to that club and am much more risk-aware. I think there are several arguments to be made against it, while I personally don't see any upside.

My main argument would be that none of us have a crystal ball, no way to forecast the future. There are many roads to Rome and the path we set out on initially is hardly ever the final path we walk towards achieving our goals. Furthermore, our goals change all the time as we learn and discover new things, so why would we want to limit our possibilities for course-correction? 

Having a plan B gives us the benefit of emotional stability. It gives us a way to have a way out of a bad situation and gives us the option to act upon it should we so choose it. It's a 'Get Out of Jail Free card' that you have in your back pocket. Just knowing it's there, even without ever needing to act upon it, is extremely comforting and alleviates a lot of stress.

But more importantly, I would argue that 'burning the boats' is nothing more than a crutch. If you can only perform under the kind pressure that tight deadlines and 'burning the boats' strategies bring you, then that is, in my opinion, a huge red flag that there are deeper issues going on. Instead of continually leaning on these crutches, wouldn't it be better to learn to navigate life without them?

'Burning the boats' sure is 'sexy' and makes for great 'against all odds' stories, but I'd argue that there's a much higher 'fail rate' than we'd assume at first thought.


Kristof Maeyens is the founder of HabitGrowth.com, a website where he helps entrepreneurs become super-productive so they can grow their business without sacrificing a thriving personal life. His free course, Triple Your Productivity in 7 Days, provides actionable tips and tactics to help you get more done.

Burning the Boats as a Lucrative Career Move
- Zachary Sexton

Burning your boats is often a better move than hedging your bets. It can help with procrastination (article I wrote a few years ago on it). It also allows you to generate intense focus around a goal.

For example, I recently decided to go all-in on becoming a Salesforce consultant when I was furloughed from my software training and implementation job this Spring. Because I was all-in, I chose not to distract myself chasing down non-Salesforce jobs during my 3-month, pandemic induced furlough. I just trained on Salesforce Trailhead and connected with other folks in the Salesforce community.

The focus allowed me to pour all of my energy into breaking into the new industry and produced a job offer as a Salesforce consultant before my 3-month furlough ended. The new consulting gig pays $15k more a year in a growing industry. My income will likely double within the next two years as I build up my Salesforce skillset. Burning those (non-Salesforce) boats was crucial to the lucrative career move. 

Bust out the matches baby!


Zachary Sexton is a business technology coach who specializes in organizing and automating the admin for service professionals so they have more time to serve their clients and grow their business.

Two Angles of Approach - Lifestyle or Mindset
- Justin Aldridge

When it comes to whether or not someone should burn the boats, the answer is - it depends.

I know that's not the sexy answer, but it's the truth.

One thing I've come to realize over the years is that THE biggest key to success is personal awareness. Without it, we can't know what our strengths and weaknesses are and where we need to grow.

So, one must truly know themselves to know whether burning the boats is actually what's best for them. 

Let's look at burning the boats from 2 different perspectives: Lifestyle and mindset.

From a lifestyle perspective, i.e. investing the money or quitting the job, the answer really is that it depends on the person.

The reality is, we're all wired differently. Some people thrive on adversity. So getting their backs up against the wall where they have no other choice but to produce is actually what they need in order to put forth the full effort. For others though, going about things in that way would actually cause them angst and overwhelm. 

It's like a mentor of mine once asked me early on when I was trying to decide whether to quit my job and go all in on my business; he asked me, "Justin, do you work well with a gun to your head? Because that's what it's like quitting your job and going all in."

So, whether it's spending the last money you have to invest in a coach or program or quitting your job to pursue your dreams, you have to know yourself and which way will allow you to thrive. 

That's from the lifestyle perspective. 

The other perspective is mindset.

Now, when it comes to your mindset, there is no question - BURN THE FREAKIN' BOATS!

When someone goes into pursuing a goal with a safety net in mind, they're essentially driving forward while looking in the rearview mirror.  Burning the boats, in my opinion, isn't an action. It's a mindset. A way of being. When someone burns the boats, they are saying that come hell or high water, I'm going to accomplish my goal.

What that ends up looking like for that individual person is subjective. 

But what is universal is the fact that anyone who burns the boats in their mind, is fully committing to their success.


Justin Aldridge is an author, keynote speaker and life coach who works with rockstar millennial entrepreneurs and professionals who want to be, do, or have more in their lives and careers. His latest book is Leading With Love.

Don't Let it Be Your Sole Strategy
- Steven Huskey

In a military sense, when a commander ordered his soldiers to burn the boats, this prevented them from retreating, leaving no choice but to stand and fight.

But "burning your boats" is not a way to advance.  It's a way to keep from going back.  For example, if you want to eat healthier, you throw out all the sugary snacks and other junk food in your pantry.  Or a person who wants to focus on work and minimize distractions from social media might delete Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other apps from her phone.  That is burning the boats.

However, you still need a goal and a plan for moving forward.  And as Jeff Olson reminds us in The Slight Edge, "the plan you start with will not be the plan that gets you there."  There are simply too many variables and unknowns to put all your effort in one plan.  You need focus, no doubt.  But you also need flexibility to deal with unexpected situations as the arise.

So burn your boats to help keep yourself on track.  But don't let that be your sole strategy.


Steven Huskey is a certified coach and founder of TheExceleratedLife.com, a website where he shares principles to flourish and to live a life of well-being, meaning and purpose.

Adaptability and Agility are Key
- Kathryn Sandford 

Plan B can be a good thing......

Having a Plan B is a sensible idea and it is a good way to manage risk when taking on new challenges that push you out of your comfort zone. 

A Plan B is good when you want a backup Emergency Plan so that you know what to do if certain circumstances arise. With a Plan B, you can predict and plan for these situations - there is a feeling of security when you know that you have your bases covered. 

Or Not.......

However, in these times of disruption and uncertainty, I am not sure that having a Plan B is such a great idea because it gives you certainty and that is the problem when facing uncertainty and the unknown - you can't plan for certainty! 

To be successful in today's world there are 2 skills or traits that enable you to take on the challenges or opportunities  - adaptability and agility. It is these 2 skills that will enable you to successfully navigate your way through the challenges or opportunities you take on

Research also shows that having a Plan B actually reduces your motivation and desire to achieve your Plan A goals. 

There is a quote and I am not sure who said this but I always refer to it when thinking about a Plan B for myself - 

A Plan B gives you permission to fail at your Plan A -  with no Plan B you have no other option but to focus on success and achievement in whatever you do.


Kathryn Sandford is a career resilience coach. She is passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world. Her latest ebook is Practical Ways to Live a Life You Love.

Understand Yourself First 
- Don Dulin

I think this idea is best served on a case by case basis. For some people, this idea is great and what they need to succeed. By having options, they get distracted too easily and never achieve the level of succeed they desire.

But for others, myself included, this idea would not work. Before I enter into anything, I need to sit down and weigh the risks and rewards. And if I decide to go for it, I still need a backup plan or escape plan.

I would suggest people take the time to understand who they are and what works best for them before adopting this or any mindset. Because once you have a better understanding of yourself, you will be able to motivate yourself with the best tips and strategies.


Don Dulin is the founder of UnfinishedSuccess.com, where he helps people improve themselves every day to reach their full potential. His articles have been featured on top blogs such as LifeHack, Dumb Little Man, The Wall Street Journal and others.

Your Intentions Matter
- Akina Marie Chargualaf

Why are You Burning the Boats?

From personal experience, I think the concept of "Burning the Boats" will work if your intentions are truly in the right place. If not, I think the universe will conspire to have a huge check-in with you if you are not.

Of course, I'm just speaking from my personal experiences. To give a brief background, I moved to Bali in 2018 in hopes build a freelance business and establish myself as a writer. I moved out of my apartment, saved as much money as possible (which wasn't a lot), and set sail with a full heart.

The universe had other plans for me that year. I ended up losing my father and moved back home to Guam. There were many times I asked myself if going "all in" and moving to Bali was the right decision and the answer is yes, BUT I wish I was more financially prepared for this big leap.

In all honesty, my intentions at that point in my life were not 100% aligned, and the universe checked-in with me multiple times while I was there.  A Plan B doesn't have to ever be fully fleshed out but instead provides you with a starting point. Mostly everything in life unfolds as we write our story. 


Akina Marie Chargualaf is a Lifehack.org contributor, blogger, podcast host and occasional filmmaker. On her website she writes about love, self-awareness, travel, human interest, and her coffee shop discoveries.

Final Thoughts  - Are You Burning the Boats or the Bridges?

My response to this topic can only add to the thoughtful responses above. 

To be honest, I think there are very few circumstances where people really and truly burn the boats. Most of the time, there are often other options lurking around should we decide to quit plan A. 

But does focusing on all these other possible options distract you from plan A?

Yes, it probably does.

One thing I think we should clarify while on this subject is this: Are you burning the boats or burning the bridges? 

Quitting your job to focus 100% on your business might be burning the boats. But yelling at an employer who has been unkind to you and then storming off because you can make it on your own and you don't need anybody is burning the bridges

Burning the boats can be a brilliant idea, but keep it classy. 

Don't burn relationships. You never know the whole story or how things will play out in the future. 

Think about others who may be involved in your decision.

All in all, live a life that you can look back proudly on.

So there you have it. Thank you for reading.

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