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"Burn the boats."

If there is no way to successfully retreat until you've won, then you win or die. Great way to focus the mind on winning (success) once casual retreat is no longer an option.




And it leaves only those who survive to extol the virtues - the countless legions of failures are dead.


Mother tells me, the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet, that two fates bear me on to the day of death. If I hold out here and lay siege to Troy, my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies. If I voyage back to the fatherland I love, my pride, my glory dies…true, but the life that’s left me will be long, the stroke of death will not come on me quickly.

- Achilles, the Iliad IX, 500-506


Ah, so people have delusions of grandeur and think they stand with demigods of ages past? That's neat.


I'm not a big believer in time travel, but I like watching/reading time travel stories. To my mind, it's a way to try to envision the two different futures that grow out of a single decision point.

You don't really get to A/B test your own life. You don't really get to know for absolute certainty where the road not taken would have taken you had you turned left instead of right at that moment on that day in that place with those people.

What you can do is develop mental models and compare against first-hand experience. Most actual choices in life don't literally involve life and death, at least not in an immediate sense.

Some can be life-or-death decisions -- casually sleep with the wrong person without protection, die of AIDS some years down the road -- but if you run around telling other people that every little thing you do in your life is life or death, they will soon decide you are a lunatic. So taking a reference to "burn the boats" too literally and acting like I'm the drama queen is really you being dramatic.

In practical terms, "burn the boats" is shorthand for "Make an actual decision and then commit to it. The longer you spend trying to leave your options open, the more time you waste."

If you stand at the cross roads forever trying to make it possible to choose to go either left or right, you stand there going nowhere at all. Just pick one, start walking and don't spend a lot of time looking back, walking back to the crossroads over and over, wondering if you should go the other way instead.


But that's not what that quote is saying, nor is the article - they are aiming for some amazing life, where you reject the easy path and take the hard one - where you end up in a land of glory. Otherwise Achilles saying "I'll go home" is equally valid based upon what you're laying out here. But that's not what the quote is saying at all.

But I'll remember to shout "burn the boats" before my next choice of soup or salad.




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