August 8, 2020 ยท 2 min read

burning boats, burning alternatives

In our quite usual evening talk, my friend quoted the well-known phrase: “burn bridges,” also known as “burn boats.” I did hear or read this phrase before, but this time something triggered in me. I felt like neurons linked in my brain.

A philosophical question torments me for a long time. Suppose you are a good and promising UI-designer. But at some point in your life, you notice that you can do more or in a different way, and you want to try to make a switch in your career and become an entrepreneur or an indie maker.

This idea is not a blind random thought. You worked for a long time in close connection with a product manager, and you have a deep understanding of what it takes to build the product. You even read some books and took some courses. You have a friend who is an excellent full-stack developer and can help you implement the things you design. Marketing and sales you see as affordable skills to acquire.

The most detrimental consequence I see in this move is that you can invest a lot of time and become a mediocre entrepreneur with low profits. But without this switch, you could be above the average UI-designer with a high salary.

In this exact case, I think it is possible to avoid losses in the early stages. You need to test your idea fast or if you can, in addition to your primary job. And if you see that it does not go well, you can stop and return to your current area and invest in it full-time. But if it goes well, there is a question and decision you need to make. Or even if it does not go well, but you feel and realize that this is the way to go.

For me, it seems like a puzzling decision. Should I pick a full-time job with a little uncertainty and a high chance of success or an entrepreneurial journey with significant risk and a high probability of failure?

I believe that there will be a different answer for each person, depending on his or her risk tolerance, environment, background, circumstances, skills, and or dreams. But whatever decision will be taken, I consider that boats must be burned.

Having an alternative, even with a little promise, will spread around your head and will distract you from your current project. It will burn your energy.

By legend, Hernan Cortes ordered his soldiers to burn the boats when they started conquest the Aztec empire. The idea was to show that there is no possibility to lose, and there is no way to return. So, the only way is to move forward and win.

I knew this legend, but today I understand why I need to burn boats. By burning alternatives, I release a lot of energy that I can spend on my new path.