Every Monday evening I have a coaching call with my client, James.

We’ve been doing mindset work together as he prepares to bear crawl an ultra marathon (yes, you read that right). I love every second of our time together because he reminds me of younger Joe who has come a long way and still gets to grow through this process from the coaching side. On our most recent call, James brought up the concept of burning the boats and it was something that I had been thinking about for while (and even posted about three years back). This is a concept that more people need to embrace (myself included) and without further adieu…


In 1519 Hernan Cortes took a small army to the shores of Verecruz to take special treasure from the Aztec Empire. This treasure had been defended for over 600 years despite various attempts from much larger and well-equipped armies. Prior to landing at shore, Cortes explained to his men how their lives would change after a successful mission; he framed the treasure in a lens that was much larger than any one person or group of people. When the boats arrived at shore and as the men stood ready to fight for the treasure, Cortes made an unexpected move. He had his men turn back to look at the boats anchored just off shore and then he uttered three simple words that would change the course of history.

Burn The Boats

Following these words, Cortes explained that the men were either going to take the treasure and return home in the Aztec’s boats or they were going to die. He backed his men into a proverbial corner and turned inspiration to desperation. In time, Cortes and his men not only took the treasure but they also conquered the entire Aztec Empire.

“If you want to take the island, you need to burn the boats.”

Tonny Robbins

While this historical tale might seem too extreme to be applicable today, it’s not.

We might not have boats to burn in the same way that Cortes did, but the concept isn’t about boats. It’s about committing to a process, striving for success and removing the alternatives. While it might not be our first choice, often times desperation is a more powerful driving force than inspiration and sometimes we need to remove the escape clauses from our own lives. In other words, pressure can create diamonds and sometimes we need to bring our own pressure.

This season of life has been a challenging one for me (in a good way) because it’s forced me to remain focused on the path ahead despite alternative opportunities, enticing temptations and endless distractions. I’ve been nudged off course many times but will continue to go all in on the path ahead I began burning boats when I left my job and I’m burning them as we speak. As you finish reading and resume taking action, let this be a call to go all in one what you want.

Be less interested and be more committed.

Burn boats, not bridges.


When I look back at the past four years of this blog I can’t help but be amazed at how much life has changed. From struggling through a dark season of life during my first year of PT school to getting married in a pandemic to quitting my first job and so much more, a lot has happened but the core of who I am remains the same. This quote is the same quote that I ended my first ever blog with; it’s what I needed then and it’s what I need now.

“There is no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A.”

Will Smith

Burn the boats.

Joe Rinaldi

IG: @joearinaldi

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