Burn the boats … (31st October 2019)

  • It’s said that when Captain Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico on the shores of the Yucatan in Mexico in 1519 he ordered his men to burn the boats. This meant defeat against the Aztecs was no longer an option. That his men would have to be victorious otherwise most likely face death.

    I also remember watching a motivational clip once. It was the actor Will Smith, he was saying something along the lines of, “There is no plan b, there is only plan a, and something else about the universe acting like water, when you’re focused on getting something it just wants to get out of your way.”

    There’s another famous line from the motivational speaker Eric Thomas saying, “When you want to be successful as bad as you wanna breath whilst drowning, THEN you’ll be successful.”

    They both missed the part out about not being attached to the outcome to make this even more powerful. It’s a paradox, but it’s true. When you want something badly enough but can be accepting of not getting it then the universe really does seem to bend to your will. I’ve had multiple experiences of this magic at work. Most recently on my current vacation to Canada.

    I was departing from Newcastle in the Uk and arrived at the airport, late as usual. I’m used to taking flights all the time and know exactly how late I can push it to still make the flight on time. What I didn’t know was that if you fly to Canada and have to switch airplanes in USA then you still need an American visa. ‘I wonder if they built that wall yet?’ I thought to myself.

    “Ok, what I gotta do?” I asked the lady at the check-in desk.
    She gave me the website address but warned me, “You’ll have to be really quick to fill it out otherwise you can’t fly. The airline gets charged a penalty if they let you board and land without the correct documents. Let’s just hope it gets accepted straight away.”
    “Don’t worry,” I told her.

    I blasted through the registration process and payed the fee necessary just to sit in an American airport for three hours. Hit send. Then waited.


    ‘This can’t be good,’ I thought. The lady I’d originally spoken too at the check-in had disappeared, and the only person left at the check-in was packing up her things to leave her desk.
    I looked at the time. The plane had already started boarding.
    I managed to reach the desk again just as she stood up to leave. I explained the situation. She didn’t have a friendly face but agreed to print my boarding pass just so that I could go to the gate.
    “If it hasn’t been accepted by the time you get to the gate then you won’t be flying,” she told me.

    I managed to jump the line of people at security and arrived at the gate while there was still plenty of people waiting. The girl who I’d spoken to first at the check-in desk looked over at me quizically as I jumped the que, “Did you get the US visa accepted?” She shouted over.
    “Not yet.” I told her.

    “How come you’re at the gate? Did my collegue give you the boarding pass?”
    “Yeah, she said it’ll be fine and I’ll probably have it by the time I get to Amsterdam for my connecting flight.” I lied.
    She raised her eyebrows, “Well if she said it’s ok then I guess it’s your choice whether to risk it. I definitely wouldn’t, it can take up to three days to be accepted. Have you got your Canadian visa too?” She asked.
    “Canadian visa? The last time I want to Canada they gave me the tourist visa pass at immigration when I got there.
    She looked at me incredulously, “You can’t get on this flight. The Canadian visa can take up to three days to get accepted too.” She was almost shouting. Another of her colleagues adjacent to her didn’t say anything. She just looked on whilst shaking her head.
    “Its my choice if I get on this flight right?” I asked. She was annoying but I smiled anyway.
    “Well she’s give you the boarding pass so I suppose it’s up to you yeah, but you’re a fool if you go.”

    I grinned sympathetically back at her, “It’ll be fine.”

    I left them both stood there shaking their heads and found my seat on the plane. Before take off I quickly filled in the Canadian visa application and had a silent leap of joy as it got approved immediately. The USA still pending.

    As soon as we hit the tarmac in the Netherlands I took my phone off flight mode. Switched on my roaming data, and checked my email.


    I almost wanted to call the airport and gloat. Instead I said a little prayer of gratitude and went on my merry way across the Atlantic.

    It wasn’t my first experience of this kind of thing. A few years ago I had a similar episode. My renewed passport hadn’t arrived in time before my flight to New York. I rang them over and over again asking for permission to come pick it up from the sorting office. Each time I’d get the same reply, “Sorry Mr Jackson, we don’t allow the public to come to the sorting office except under extremely special circumstances.”
    “This is extremely special. It’ll be my first time visiting America and my flight leaves in six hours!”

    They point blank refused. No matter who I spoke to each time I called they gave the same answer. ‘Screw it,’ I decided, and started driving.
    “I’m coming there to get it, whether you give me it or not I’m coming anyway.” I rang and told them.
    “Mr Jackson you are wasting your time. We DO NOT hand out passports from the sorting office.”
    “You’ll just have to make this a special circumstance then.” I put the phone down.

    It was a long drive but fortunately it was in the same direction as the airport. I rang them one last time twenty minutes before I’d be due to arrive.
    “I’ve been speaking to your colleagues and I’m letting you know I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes to pick up my passport.”
    “Good evening Mr Jackson. I’ve been informed of your situation. Unfortunately we still cannot provide you with your new passport.”
    “Ok, see you soon.” I put the phone down again.

    Ten minutes later they rang my back, “Mr Jackson? This is Patricia Sullivan. I’m team leader at the sorting office. I’m calling to let you know as an act of goodwill we are going to make an exception this one time and allow you to pick up the passport. Please use the south entrance. There will be a uniformed employee there to meet you.”

    I got the passport. I got to New York. All it took was a bit of faith.

    People like to tell you you can’t do something. They like you to stick to the rules and conform. I say fuck em. Live by your own rules. Go against the rules. You want to get things done on your own terms then often times you have to bend the rules a little. Go against the grain and push forward against the obstacles. You gotta have an iron will that what’s gonna get done will get done. I can’t explain it but somehow there seems to be an esoteric force that eventually starts to help and work in your favour, but you have to be willing to take that leap of faith and BELIEVE it’ll turn out ok. It’s almost like the universe wants to help you but needs to see how serious you are about it first.

    Another way I heard it described once is like flying a plane. You get in the plane, you don’t know how to fly the plane but you think ok I’ll read the manual. But the universe says no you can’t have the manual. You think ok, fine, I’ll fly the goddam plane without the manual then. You’re up to speed, you’re about to take off, and THEN that’s when the universe is like, ok, geez, just have the freakin manual.

    The winning formula seems to be… Action + Faith + Belief/Entitlement + Outcome independence = Success.

    Don’t listen to all the bullshit about, ‘The Secret,’ that you just gotta think about it and it’ll happen. Those guys are on the right track but they’ve missed out the most important components of actually taking action to get what you want and truly believing you can have and deserve it.

    Follow those guidelines instead. Be proactive about it and gather some momentum, forget about plan b, burn the boats and don’t take no for answer. You’ll have much higher chance of getting where you want to be.