Why You Must Burn Bridges To Become Great.

The great thing about great people.

Image by Keith Lance from Getty Images

In 1954 when Ray Kroc joined the McDonald brothers, he immediately believed that McDonald’s was the future of fast-food in America — and the world.

Kroc’s story is famous at some point: the traveling salesman that deduced the most effective real estate formula the world has ever seen. But what many people didn’t realize was that he was infamous for burning bridges.

As a natural salesman, Kroc built interpersonal relationships with relative ease. Also, as a crazily ambitious businessman, he burnt them viciously.

From him divorcing Ethel Kroc and Jane Kroc to his renounced club membership and eventually, a fight with Harry Sonneborn, the first president and CEO of McDonald’s Corporations. Like all others, Harry resigned and never made contact with Ray again.

But, why burn your bridges?

I’ve wondered why successful people burn several bridges on their journey to the top. It made no sense to me at first because I grew to make peace with the cliche:

“You don’t burn the bridges you cross because you never know when you need to use them again.”

But as I looked into the lives of high achievers, I realized that most bridges are crossed once and no more.

But since you wouldn’t cross them again, why burn them down instead?

It’s draining too much energy.

We’ve had a wonderful friend lift us in hard times. We build a bond with them and it seems like they are a vital part of our lives. This is one of the most beautiful feelings.

Unfortunately, down the line, we find ourselves investing so much energy trying to keep these people upright. You begin to notice a gap in the relationship and you could feel that you two aren’t heading in the same direction.

That’s normal. When this occurrence becomes too frequent that it’s sapping so much valuable energy from you, you should consider burning that bridge.

The relationship between Paul Allen and Bill Gates is a typical example. Although these two geeks started Microsoft together, Bill Gates mentioned in his documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain, that Paul had other priorities and Microsoft didn’t seem to be appropriately placed in his priorities.

Like Kroc and Sonneborn, their fight resulted in Paul’s resignation and they were not in contact for years until Paul’s last days.

Paul drained too much energy from Bill. Valuable energy that was invested into building one of the world’s most valuable corporations.

And the best way to get past that bridge was to burn it.

It’s magnifying fear.

In 1519, Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés arrived at an American coast with his army of 600 soldiers. Unknowing that the island was dominated by a “powerful, warlike empire,” they set out to conquer it. It turned out that Cortés’s were outnumbered by stronger and better-built soldiers.

The Spaniards feared defeat, slavery, and worse — death. By default, the human mind will imagine an exit in any uncertain situation. That exit is the bridge and in the case of Cortés’s army, the bridge was their ships.

They could run back into their ships and sail back to Spain. After all, they were welcome there with lots of wine and women. History recorded that Cortés burnt the ships and, without an imaginable exit, their only option was to win the battle.

They won!

In an actual sense, a bridge is a link between our past and our future’s harbor.

In real life, this bridge could be a person, place, or anything that reminds us of our previous lives. They rub, on our faces, the potential losses that we could incur if our adventure into a new life fails.

The human mind is designed to find exits. Traders are more concerned about when to exit a trade than they are about the entry. Fighters train constantly to quiet the voice in the head that beckons them to surrender.

As fear is a part of our being, it’s normal to fear the unknown. Dealing with that fear is difficult enough and having a bridge that magnifies it is one you should consider burning down.

Friends become strangers, families fight, people leave, and these are natural occurrences. You need not be afraid to burn your relationship with anyone if they make you scared of stepping off your future’s harbor into the city.

In conclusion.

Bridges tie us to comfort zones. They give us the assurance that we are safe and happy, that we are always welcome to the life we’ve made for ourselves.

The complacency and fear that they inspire is their greatest weapon against you.

Great people know that the bridges that they need are not stationed. Rather, the bridges move with them as they progress through life, sometimes at a quicker pace.

Those bridges beckoning on you to use them, are worth burning and if you are like I once was, you’d be troubled by the earlier mentioned advice — don’t burn your bridges, blah blah blah.

Again, we rarely reuse a bridge. And if you see a need to reuse a burnt one, there are a thousand other bridges heading that way. Find and use anyone.

The human mind is limited by the bridges we know. Whereas, exploring those we never knew existed draws us closer to greatness.

You don’t need it. Burn it!

I write to help startups and personal brands improve productivity and actualize goals. Join my newsletter and follow my daily notes at notes.ojehs.com

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