Burn your Ships

Burn Baby Burn
In the good old days, which sources tell me was the fifty year period prior to the release of Brittany Spears' first album, planning - I can safely say - was not my forte. Aside from jotting down the odd dates for an exam or thesis due date, the rest of my life was pretty much without forethought or preparation. I focused on not worrying too much about the next 15 minutes. You understood correctly - I tried not to worry about *the next 15 minutes*. This is a pretty interesting way to live life and I would highly recommend it, especially if you suffer from disorders of the obsessive compulsive type or are involved in any work involving high rise construction or the baking of pastries. The fear of the unknown ends up nicely balanced against the immediacy of the situation. Life takes on the tangibility of oyster flesh and, if you take the leap of faith, it will show you places inside yourself you never dreamed possible.

I digress.

That was the old me. The new me is somewhat different. I can't tell you exactly how it happened. Maybe it was being burnt so many times by oversold theatre shows or the creased foreheads of my friends and family as I was late for yet another birthday. But I cleaned up my act taking notes and drawing planned-schematics of my life to come. These plans would be modified and tweaked repeatedly to achieve the ultimate goal, whatever flavour of the month that might be.
It was when I picked up on the story of a Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés, that my idea of what I thought was robust planning was deflated. Cortés, renowned for causing the fall of the Aztec Empire, was somewhat of a maverick embroiled in an array of controversial undertakings, and depending on which historical reading you rely, was involved in sailing across oceans, pilfering gold and silver, and crushing or impregnating the natives he encountered.

The Cortés story-of-military-exploit which I like best pertains to a decision he made as he landed his troop ships on the shores of Mexico in order to do a little bit of conquestadoring. To ensure his men were focused on the task at hand, and that the idea of retreat and early exit were removed as options, he declared "Burn the Boats!" This destroyed any chance of return to the motherland and kept the eyes of his crew on the ball. Whether this actually took place or not is slightly irrelevant but tells nicely the tale of a man who would do anything to capture victory.

Whereas I had been looking at nothing beyond the future's next 15 minutes, Cortés was destroying everything behind him to ensure focus was maintained on everything that lay ahead.

This new ideology of burning one's mode of retreat was refreshing. In my experience, the fifteen minute rule was riddled with surges of heroic stoicism that thwarted my abilities to achieve any consistency or equilibrium in my quest to disentangle patterns in the chaos. The new approach was far more outlandish and remarkable because it meant that you better have one hell of a plan if you are going to obliterate any means of escape. No cowering behind the cowardly 15 minute window so you can put your brain on idle and go Zen until the world explodes.

The new approach was a clear sense of direction towards something tantamount to enlightenment. The road ahead sharpens and with it come improvements of timing, arsenal stockades, mental fortitude and a powerful mind cleanse which eradicates the irrelevant minutiae and resistance to change.
Simon Lessing - World Champion extraordinaire
In 2007, I together with my good mates Keeto and Blur had the good fortune of being stuck in a traffic jam with the best triathlete in the world of the 1990s, Simon Lessing. We were scoping the bike course for the first 70.3 World Champs in Clearwater and hit some late afternoon traffic in the sponsors van. (Click here for the race report). We quizzed poor Simon for about 3 hours, soaking up every word like the green newbies that we were. Simon was gracious and hardcore and imparted some gems. The one that stayed with me was his answer to what it takes to become a pro. He didn't hesitate and simply responded: "Sell everything, move onto your best friend's couch." These words embedded themselves in the fertile sands of my mind. He might well have said "Burn your boats."

With the end of the first month of 2014 upon us, I think of my planning and goals and keep reminding myself I am a professional from this moment forward. A pro in all things to which I have set my mind.  Not tomorrow or next week or when I finish the project. I am a pro now. Everything I do. Everything I eat. Every act. Every word. Every thought. And now that I think this way, retreat is no longer an option. There's no going back.

And with those thoughts cemented in my head, the skies on the horizon start to clear.

Consider your boats burnt,