Burn The Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potential
by Matt Higgins
This book truly blew me away. When we see successful people, we often think they came from money, attended the best university, or lived in the affluent part of town growing up. Matt Higgins debunks all that and more in Burn the Boats, including settling for the slow progression to the top. His vulnerable storytelling captivated me, explaining how to own your journey, pursue a path on your terms, achieve success, and burn the boat to pursue your next endeavor with joy and conviction.
The book reminds us: “The greatest regret people have on their deathbed is that they never pursued their boldest dreams.”
Burn the Boats provides the blueprint for pursuing dreams with ambition and how a compelling why? is needed to bring true satisfaction.
And while his achievements to date are incredible by any measure, his deep empathy for helping others on their journeys inspired me the most.
“There is simply no higher use of my life than to help others on those journeys.”
“We all have choices to make. Do we intervene, or do we look away? Even a small gesture can alter the trajectory of someone’s life, if perhaps just supplying hope in darkness. Now I can be that ray of light for someone else who desperately needs it.”
Thank you, Matt Higgins, for sharing this gift that challenges us to inspect our lives and gives us the courage to burn the boats!
To accomplish something great, you have to give yourself no escape route, no chance to ever turn back.
We are so out of practice tapping into our own internal navigation systems that when we’re about to make a bold move, our first impulse is to undercut it with a backup plan.
If you’re someone who’s worried you won’t succeed, you’ve already failed.
Greatness doesn’t emerge hedging, hesitating, or submitting to the naysayers that skulk in every corner of our lives.
Studies have convincingly shown that backup plans hobble us on the road toward success - the abundant choices end up rendering us paralyzed.
The key to unlocking potential is to embrace your highest competitive advantage: you are the only one who has the full story of your life. YOU are the one subject about which there will never be a great expert in the world. And so, of course you will see your part forward before anyone else will.
The best dreams are the ones that energy from somewhere deep within you.
“I don’t want to hear what you want to be. I want to know who you want to be.”
Most of us talk ourselves out of sticking with our instincts.
Before we can burn the boats, we have to be confident in who we are, unafraid of being felled by the forces gunning for our demise.
To make progress in our lives, we have to ignore the negativity and pursue our ambitions no matter what anyone else is saying.
Self-talk has been proven to list us up - but it depends on how you do it.
Notice I referred to myself in the third-person: “Matt, you belong.” Using your own name, rather than “I,” lets you self-distance in a way that makes the pep talk more likely to resonate.
Your shame can become your strength, too. Whatever you worry is holding you back is just a part of your story.
The difference between victory and defeat is leaving the losses behind.
On the other hand, if you love yourself, and you own your story, you can turn your pain into the asset that drives you, not the anchor that drags you down.
No one will reward us for how much we cowered in the face of fear or buried ourselves in the traumas of the past.
Anytime you are depending on someone else’s behavior for your prosperity, there is risk.
But it’s never going to be easier to take a gamble than it is today.
If you wait to act until others validate your vision, it’s far too late.
Backup plans can make you feel safer and help you cope with uncertainty, but they also reduce the likelihood that your primary goal will ever be achieved.
You can’t waste your mental energy looking for a way out or an alternative plan. All of your energy needs to be directed toward your goal or you’ll never reach it.
Fantasies are always to be taken seriously. When your brain is telling you something, don’t dismiss it.
Some people tell me they can’t go all in because they have to feed themselves. But they’re missing the point. Use your common sense to mitigate risk. Have a second job. Have a third job. Going all in is different from having no downside protection.
But you do have to commit. When you create backup plans, and the more plans to back up your backups, your hedge becomes your crutch.
We’re all supposed to understand the virtues of spreading our risk, of not putting all our eggs in one (unproven, uncertain, guaranteed). But I believe you dilute your doubt by cultivating your conviction.
The degree to which you diversify should have an inverse relationship with how convinced you are of your success. It is counterproductive to spread your energy across a landscape of opportunities such that you can’t actually invest your full set into any of them.
You need a healthy dose of fear - but not an excessive amount - to perform at your best.
Self awareness is the greatest source of value creation entirely within your control.
If you look at your day and see that it’s mostly filled with tasks you’ve already mastered, you’re too comfortable.
You need to really understand your why. What’s at stake? Imagine yourself on the other side, having done it, and done it will. Think about the person you’ll be, the way you’ll feel, and the opportunities that will unfold.
If you won’t give things up to reach your goal, it’s probably the wrong goal.
When it comes to achieving professional success: make yourself indispensable at whatever task you are assigned, no matter how menial or seemingly trivial.
I order to win big, you’ll need to be able to turn your fear into action, using anxiety like a tool, letting it drive you higher and higher.
A partner is either a force multiplier or an energy vampire. There’s no in between.
Almost every uncomfortable situation can be reframed by substituting two little words - have to - with get to.
Imagine the truest and fullest disaster playing out, and then get practical. What do you need to put in place to make it through?
Thinking it through gives you a plan, and frees your mind from focusing only on the fear.
Never be limited by what things look like today. You can always reverse course tomorrow.
Crises force us to act. They give us no choice but to summon all of our strength and will because we know that the alternative is that something will be lost.
You need to structure your big bets in life to give yourself time to be right.
The biggest job of a leader is putting great talent in place and helping them shine.
The reality is that everyone has a leverageable asset - a quality, a circumstance, a story - that can move them due north to their dreams.
I tell people who just go laid off: Your edge is that you are now untethered to fixed assumptions. You’re free. It’s hard to look at the world with clear eyes when you’re trapped within a system. With all options on the table, you can start anew and really figure out what ought to come next.
I see so many people who think they need to earn their next move, to pay their dues, to wait for the world to recognize their potential and pluck them from their current role into some dream future that I can assume you is never going to manifest itself.
In reality, the greatest spoils usually go to the ones who refuse to submit to a typical roadmap.
Before deciding you need to take a small step instead of a big leap, ask yourself: What makes you think this is the necessary sequence of events?
The incremental approach is why I urge people to escape corporate hierarchies whenever they can.
Never look at one job to satisfy every career aspiration.
Taking risks is simpler when you’ve already taken risks.
I forget that the point isn’t to keep moving, but to maximize the heights you can reach in every pursuit.
Picture your highest ambition - and then take the first step.
Marshall your strength, your courage, and everything in your past that has led to this point, and start moving.
The most important thing we all can do is understand our own gifts and where we fit in the mix.
Burning the boats can put you in a position to find what stirs the most powerful feelings within you.
Burning the boast is about owning the journey.
It’s about giving yourself the best opportunity to divine the path that’s right for you, manifesting your dreams no matter what they are, and seeing them through no matter how far-fetched, silly, or implausible they might seem.
⭐️ This is the real secret of a life and career you’re excited to attack each morning: you need to find the path that allows you to fully be yourself, express yourself, and unleash your power in its fullest form.
The dirty little secret of a successful life is that you can never actually get to a happy place to stop working, stop trying, stop aiming for more.
Success and contentment are built on perpetual pursuit.
The joy isn’t in the life of leisure, it’s in the struggle, the pursuit, the purpose.
It’s hard, and that’s why it’s rewarding, and that’s why it’s worth doing.
To live a life of perpetual growth, you have to leverage what you are doing today to move you closer to what you want to do tomorrow - even if that means doing two, three, four, seventeen things at once.
Your point of greatest leverage is when you’re busiest.
Not when you’re desperate for someone to say yes so that you have a new purpose and something to do.
You don’t need to have all of the answers mapped out before you embark on a big move.
You need to be open to allowing ideas, people, and serendipity into your life.
You can pick your cause, and it doesn’t really matter what is is, as long as it sparks something within you.
What am I uniquely positioned to do that no one else can?
What insights do I see that no one is acting on?
What makes me special, and how can I leverage that to the greatest extent possible?
What, in my heart of hearts, do I really want to do?
The greatest regret people have on their deathbeds is that they never pursued their boldest dreams.
For burning the boats to bring you true satisfaction, there needs to be a why? behind it - a goal that makes all the striving worth it.
The joy is absolutely in the journey, but you still need to be propelled by a purpose large than personal enrichment or ego gratification.
We all need to give ourselves a chance to realize the ceiling of our talents, to find the limits that we’ll never quite reach, to know ourselves and to appreciate our power to make things happen.
If you take anything away from the lessons here, I hope it’s my abiding belief in your infinite capacity to just figure it out. Trust me, when your back is against the wall, and there's seemingly no way out, you will find a way.
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