Vail Daily column: This might be your moment
The year was 334 B.C., and 120 ships carrying around 75,000 men sped across the Hellespont (now known as the Dardanelles) into Persia. At the head of the army was a 22-year-old king who would forever change the cultural landscape of the Middle East, the Mediterranean and western Asia.
As the ships drifted into the sands of Persia, and the army readied itself on land, Alexander made a legendary strategic decision that has been mimicked and debated by millennia of warriors, leaders and modern executives.
Knowing that the Persians possessed the greatest navy on the known earth at the time, and knowing that his army would be severely outnumbered on land, Alexander turned to his men and commanded them to burn the boats.
When asked how they would return to their homeland, the soon-to-be ruler of the known world allegedly said, “We go home in Persian ships, or we die.”
What Alexander’s true motivations were for deciding to burn his fleet may never be known, but the act of burning the boats, the only means of escape or retreat, undoubtedly fueled a desire for victory in his men. Alexander’s severely outnumbered army went on to conquer territory, by force and sheer willpower, which extended from ancient Greece to India.
Burn the boats.
In our times, few of us are called on to carry a sword into battle. Most of us, however, face experiences in our lives that force us to decide just how committed we are to a goal or dream. Sometimes, the success which we say we want hovers just out of our reach as a result of distraction, lack of motivation or lack of focus.
For me personally, I perhaps suffer from the same fear or weakness that many of us do: We appreciate the illusion of safety and comfort. Yes — an illusion — for surely not one of us is truly safe or truly comfortable in the long term. If you really do consider yourself comfortable, well, that might suggest you have already been defeated. Like a good workout, discomfort often is a hallmark of growth. We would rather not fail publicly — clearly an understatement. We are terrified of public defeat. This fear of loss, struggle and each other creates an environment in which inaction, posing and remaining quietly dissatisfied are acceptable character traits.
Perhaps we can take a lesson from Alexander the Great to achieve that secret success which rests, unfulfilled, in the back of our minds. What if we gave ourselves no choice but to be successful? What if we dared to burn the boats?
Here’s where your mind will start to argue with me. You may like the theory, but you say, “Options are good! Sometimes you must retreat in order to advance. You aren’t really suggesting that we eliminate all of our other options, are you?”
Yes, yes I am. Stop that thing you’re doing! Stop that luke-warm crap that has become so widely acceptable. Options are only good in that they provide us with something to choose. When you choose one thing, you are not choosing something else. It’s called opportunity cost. It’ll be fine.
The curse of our modern times might just be that we have too many options. We love the fact that we could be with this person or that person. We could be in India or New York or Vail. We could be an MBA or a JD or this or that. We could do anything, the beauty of unfulfilled choices falsely adding color to the canvasses of life. So we sit and wait, drowning in the never-ending supply of things we could choose, choosing nothing, doing nothing, or doing something but only half-assedly. I suppose it becomes a personal choice. Only you can truly determine what going “all in” looks like for you. All I can say is that you will know in your heart if you are truly “all in.”
This year, this month, this week, today — this might just be your moment. It is time you made the decision. You stand on the beaches of Persia, sword in hand. Just over the hills in front of you is everything you have ever wanted. It is not enough to simply stay here on the beach. The beach seems safe right now, but that great host will be upon you soon enough. You will never get what you seek by standing on the beach. There will be wounds and hard times ahead, but those wounds will be the stories you tell. Your children and great-grandchildren will, in reverence, recount what you are about to do. Would you rather die here? Of course not — no one truly wants to die standing here on this God-forsaken beach.
C’mon. We’re with you. Here’s a torch. Give the order.
Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.