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“Burn The Boats?” The Problem With Inspirational & Motivational Quotes

Quotes are an interesting thing to me. Honestly, I love a good inspirational quote or motivational quote or even just one that gets me thinking. I used to wake up every day and watch a random 5-10 minute inspirational video to get me in the right headspace for the day. 

Something that would motivate me and get me amped up so that I could hit the floor with some pep in my step. While I was watching one this morning I realized that it has been months since I’d done that. Spoiler alert: my productivity reflects that fact. Interestingly enough, I’m also sitting here writing this for you 10 minutes later. Funny how that works…

If you want to take the island, burn the boats!

– Julius Caesar

That quote was weaved into this morning’s video. An interesting thing happened in my brain when I heard it. My thoughts started an immediate battle with each other. The classic heaven and hell, angel on one shoulder and devil on the other scenario. My thoughts went from “that’s spot on and I love that” to “well, that’s pretty silly, and that’s really an idealistic way to think…and probably more for privileged people.”

WTF brain!? You’re killing me Smalls!

As the eternal overthinker and devil’s advocate, I’m really not surprised at all by this. Welcome to my brain. This is like a 24/7 looping soundtrack for me. You’ve been warned.

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Before you burn the boats you have to light the fire

I grew up in Akron, Ohio; a fairly blue-collar factory upbringing. But for the past 17 years I’ve called Charlotte, NC my home. I literally moved there 4 days after graduation and started my job three days after that.

One job change later at 30 I bought my first house—er… got my first mortgage. I became self-employed and renovated most of that house by my own hand over that time. I also said goodbye to my best friend in life, my dog Brody, who was at my side for all of my bullshit for almost 17 years.

A couple of years ago, I finally acted on an internal dialogue that had been on repeat for about 7-10 years. It was a constant nagging that I was unhappy in my current “default life” and that I didn’t want to continue down that road. Comfort and fear of the unknown had kept me from acting on what that voice was telling me.

But I Finally Found The Courage (Or Stupidity?) To Act.

One day I politely declined to continue working with the clients I had been working with for almost 15 years. I literally optioned on “job security” for what made up about 90% of my yearly income; an almost 100% certain contract that would have been 5 years of consistent, good monthly pay.

But in that, I also declined a contract that would have been 5 years of obligation to staying within the lanes I had been in during the past decade of that repeating internal dialogue.

I had to make a call to two different architects… two different friends… and explain to them that I wouldn’t be able to be on their team/projects because I was choosing to change the direction of my life. Umm. No. Those calls were not easy.

Afterward, as I was leaving my friend’s coworking space, I explained to him what I had done…tears welling up in my eyes. I explained that I didn’t know what I was going to do now, but I needed to figure out how to replace that income and make a living. His response?

Well, if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

Touché my friend. Touché.

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Technically, I Burned My Boats Last Year

There I was, boats smoking, taking on water, and I had to make shit happen. Now, I knew I was a grown-ass adult with grown-ass adult talents and the ability to make a living, one way or the other. I knew what I wanted and I knew that when the rubber hit the road I could make something happen. That didn’t make it any more comfortable.

It took me a year, but I did end up rebuilding my ability to pay the bills. I was pretty much flat broke by the time that happened, mind you. And all along making sure that the one thing that I really wanted—my ability to move around and not be held down by a location—was at the basis of any new business/life decision.

See, that was the real root of this.

I wanted to be able to experience the world and grow from expanding my mind, heart, and soul while paying the bills. Being held down by projects that were literally tied to a single place, Charlotte, NC, didn’t allow that. But once I remedied that work piece of the puzzle, there was the reality that I was a single guy living and working in a money-pit of a small house…tied to one location.

But through a lot of experiments over the next 2 years, I finally came to the realization that I was ready to get rid of the house. Now, that last sentence really underplays how much methodical experimentation and soul shifting and comfort zone smashing I’ve done, mind you. But the bottom line is, it was time to sink that last boat and sell the house.

There was no more conjecture to be done. There would never be a moment where I would be 100% comfortable or ready, just a moment to take a chance on that gut feeling. So I did.

I literally remember the day I made the decision; it was one week before my birthday, February 16. Oddly it was also the anniversary of the day the Bro-Dog left me 4 years prior. I made a list, got to work on repairs, and barely 3 months later I handed over the keys.

The beginner traveler's guide to going nomad book by Jason A. Robinson

Tough Love, Tips & Strategies To Help You Finally Kick-Start Your Travel Life…Or Go Full Nomad!

Been wondering how the hell all those digital nomads, location independent travelers, and remote workers, travel “full-time?” Maybe you’ve thought about living that life one day, but you’re really not sure where to start.

Beyond giving you the stepping stones to dive into short-term domestic and international travel, this book will show you how long-term travelers extend those tools, maximize their budgets, and turn weeks into months…or even years…of traveling the world indefinitely.

Back To That Problem With “Burn The Boats”

Inspiration, or even faith if you will, are interesting things. They can be like verbal adrenaline or an energy drink for our minds and souls. They can give the illusion of immediacy and black and white decision-making that is just not reality when we get down to it. They can distort long-term thinking and cause a lack of sound judgment. Now, sometimes that’s exactly what we need. Sometimes not.

Motivational quotes are a chance at a burst of energy that can create big movement, but not typically something that can sustain that movement.

That’s why I love them. They are the kick in the ass we sometimes need. But I think it’s important to realize that they don’t work in a vacuum. The journey I just outlined for you, at least the meaty bits, took the better part of 5 years to come to the point where I started lighting matches.

That was after 5-10 years of learning and (unknowingly…) writing the prologue in the background. And there was anarchy along the way, but there was calculation along the way as well.

I’m guessing your prologue, no matter how long, has a much stronger foundation than you likely give it credit for.

The Boats Were Built. The Boats Were Burnt. More Boats Can Be built.

I think we all have a tendency to look at others, the outside world, the examples from social media or pop culture, or that new “up-and-coming star” and forget that there’s a lot of back story we’re likely missing. There’s a lot of work and learning and growing in all of our lives that we don’t realize is culminating along the way and creating what’s happening in front of us right now.

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

– Julius Caesar

“If you want to take the island, burn the boats!
Then, if you choose to, work your ass off and build some more boats and leave the f*cking island…”

– Me

Here’s the thing. That hypothetical army didn’t just randomly find boats or have the boat fairy drop them off. They were built. Armies were amassed and courses were chartered. Days, weeks, months and years were likely invested before the choice could be made to “burn the boats.”

Anything you choose to do today to change the course of tomorrow isn’t likely as spur of the moment as that devil on your left shoulder would have you believe.

Nothing worth having comes easy, and very few victories happen overnight. Find your motivation today, then find it again tomorrow, and just keep moving towards whatever “that thing” is for you. Then burn the boats when you’re ready enough because in reality, you’ll likely never be 100% ready. But keep in mind that, while it may not be easy, you can always build a new boat and chart a new course.

This post got a little too deep. Here’s some sorbet to cleanse your palate…

Cheers!

— Jason

The beginner traveler's guide to going nomad book by Jason A. Robinson

Tough Love, Tips & Strategies To Help You Finally Kick-Start Your Travel Life…Or Go Full Nomad!

Been wondering how the hell all those digital nomads, location independent travelers, and remote workers, travel “full-time?” Maybe you’ve thought about living that life one day, but you’re really not sure where to start.

Beyond giving you the stepping stones to dive into short-term domestic and international travel, this book will show you how long-term travelers extend those tools, maximize their budgets, and turn weeks into months…or even years…of traveling the world indefinitely.

The Beginner Traveler’s Guide To Going NOmad

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Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, Travel Guard, or TravelEx. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. 

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