My Java Journal

On Goals: Burn The Boats, Not The Bridges

After ‘burning the boats’, ‘taking the island’ meant immersion in the barista craft, and coffee industry. Here, to my family’s chagrin, that would seem to mean becoming some hipster version of Barista Smurf.

This week I was diligent and had written a post well in advance of my Saturday night deadline. It felt good doing this without the usual stress of trying to get it out on time. Now, again, I find myself on Saturday working to get this out before it’s pushed to my subscribers.

So why am I up against this deadline when I had already prepared a post for this week?

Simple. I met a wise friend for drinks on Friday.

I left that congenial and satisfying social call with no intention other than to come home and post what I had already written. However, I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to share the impact and influence this particular friend had on how my journey has unfolded; nor how grateful I am for how he stimulated me towards action.


As I was preparing to retire in 2018 I had lunch with this same friend. A pleasant lunch to be certain, but on parting he invoked a reference that set me on my path with a conviction and determination I had otherwise not yet committed.

This is the quote he cited, in context of our ongoing conversation, as we shook hands to part:

“If you want to take the island, burn the boats.” – (a quote I understand is attributed to Tony Robbins, but one which apparently owes its origin to Julius Caesar).

When one prepares to leave the military, there are options. You can remain in the Reserve Force, return to the department as a civilian, become a contractor, or any of a number of other related roles. These options each offer financial security and create a nice net, but each is, in part, a continuation of the work you are leaving when you hang up the uniform. That net can be a blessing, but also a crutch. I felt it a crutch and one that might limit access to true potential.

As retirement fast approached, I was already leaning far away from these ‘return/continuation’ options. I felt they would not be aligned with my goals moving forward. However, and despite being quite clear about my goals, I hadn’t yet fully committed to a path that didn’t include them. That is, until my friend offered the wisdom imparted by this quote. It was that evocation of action that immediately settled any reservation I had. I went back to work and committed to severing completely. I figured I better make it as hard as possible to get back into that line of work. In this way I felt I was giving myself a better chance at succeeding in my objectives.


Now, even though I did ‘burn the boats’ and stepped fully forward onto the ‘island’ (of my goals), I was very careful not to burn the bridges that spanned the relationships and network of friends, experiences, and memories I made whilst in the military. These have proven a valuable support and, well, I really just liked my time in the military, and the friends I made there.

And so, I feel that burning the boats committed me to action, but by not burning the bridges my relationships and lines of communication remained open and secure. These friends from my past have been some of my greatest supporters and they continue to be sources of inspiration. I hold for them nothing but respect and love.

I have taken to saying in my retirement that “I burned the boats but not the bridges.” I do recognize that the two parts of this statement are likely considered the same; to me though they are very different. And so, I move forward, but remain connected to my past – my past life, past experiences, past network and friends, past lessons and support. The bridges keep me linked where I am encouraged and confident in my path forward; this is important, especially as I have denied myself easy access to fall back into previous roles. A deliberate choice. The right choice.

It’s nice to have decisions reinforced from time to time.


One other valuable outcome of my pint on Friday was another wise suggestion from my friend to look into the Mr. Money Mustache blog. I did. I am going to pay this advice forward now. Read this blog, and if you haven’t already, you should visit the Girl Gone Good blog as well. This is a blog by another Canadian veteran and is a great source for Ottawa-area hikers and those looking for a holistic approach to health. Two great blogs for 2020.

I would, of course, be remiss if I did not mention my ‘go-to’ blog – The Art of Manliness

I would offer as a start that when you go to The Art of Manliness (AoM), search the word ‘action.’ Perhaps I can suggest this AoM post to start: 10 Overlooked Truths About Taking Action

Live well, and get outside. If you have a goal you want to achieve, consider decisive action – burn those boats!

Thank you to my friend. You know who you are.

Of course, I absolutely need to also acknowledge my wife and family for their support. This journey would not be possible without it.

Happy Sunday. Gratitude.

As always, you can find all the upcoming events I host on my Home page. January will see two Open Mic nights and February the same, plus an ABBA Music Bingo and a Trivia  night. Class of 91 is reconvening in January to set their schedule for 2020 – you’ll want to keep an eye out for those shows.