Sometimes, there comes a point in our journeys when we just need to "burn the ships". We need to stop right in our tracks, turn around, and start running the other direction. REALLY. It’s not working. What you’re moving towards isn’t the right market, isn't the right solution, isn't the best product, etc.
“We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction.”
— DOUGLAS MACARTHUR
Remember in the movie Forrest Gump, when Forrest just decided to stop and go home? When I first watched that scene, I was SO confused. I thought, “Why? WHY would you do this? You’ve come SO FAR.” *I was pretty much yelling at him in my head.*
Now, having exited my adolescent years, I’ve come to re-think a few things. I’ve worked with Atlanta Ventures for a few years now, and my product development journey has been a diverse one. As a marketer and community builder, I’ve held many different roles. Since being in each of those roles, we have stopped what we were building/doing/moving towards and run in another direction. When I say stopped, it’s often been a stop-right-in-your-tracks move. Whether it was a product pivot or full company rebrand, we committed to our new direction, and in the process, we often cut almost everything we’d been working on.
Some have asked, “How? How can you just cut everything?!”
But to me, it’s not about that. You see, we “burned the ships”. It’s about perspective. Every single thing we did to get to where we were was helpful. Every line of copy, every ad placed, every graphic designed, every line coded, every conversation, everything—it helped us grow and helped us get that much closer to knowing the path we were on was right one… or wrong one.
When you “burn the ships,” you remove any option other than to continue on (even if it’s not the direction you thought) and win. It’s not trashed, it’s not failure. It’s moving on.
What does burning the ships look like for you?
I recognize some entrepreneurs might not see it as a simple stop. THIS is your livelihood—you’ve put your heart and soul into a product/company. You have spent every last dime getting this company off the ground. THIS. IS. YOUR. LIFE. And now I’m telling you to “burn the ships”?
Yep, when you know it’s time to stop, just stop. Burn those ships and keep pressing onward.
Here’s a few examples of how you can implement this with your team or company now:
- Are your sales lagging? Implement a new sales structure. When doing this, make sure your whole team is on the same page and bought in—no more of the old sales ways.
- Is your culture not thriving? Get the right people on the ship. Have bad culture fits walk the plank and get the ship back on track.
- Get a false positive for Product/Market Fit? Pivot. Change directions. Get rid of anything that isn’t aligned with the new direction and press on.
It’s hard. No one said it was easy. *Please tell me if anyone ever said this entrepreneurship thing was going to be easy, because we need to have words.
But hard is worth fighting for. It’s worth the work.