In 1519, Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés, landed in Mexico with roughly 600 men, a little more than a dozen horses and 11 boats. Cortés had one thing in mind. He was there to accomplish what seemed impossible. His mission was to conquer the vast Aztec empire where many had previously failed.
There was one thing markedly different about Cortés and all others who had tried before. He possessed steely determination; an unparalleled will to win. Rather than immediately march on the inhabitants and begin his conquest, Cortés spent time with his crew. In that time he bombarded them with fiery speeches about why failure was not an option.
Then he burned the ships.
With that command Cortés sent an unmistakable message to his team. There was no plan B. There was no retreat from the mission when the battle raged hot. That is the definition of determination. It's a decision to stick it out no matter what. It's a decision that's made before the battle and a thousand times in the heat of the struggle. Determination says, "I have burned the ships. There is no alternative path. There is one way and its forward."
In this blog series we've talked about Desire, Direction, Design and Discipline. All of those qualities are crucial to success, but none of it matters if you quit. There isn't a goal worth achieving that is not gift-wrapped in struggle. The difference between winners and losers often comes down to the person, team or organization that cultivated the determination to see things through till the end.
Here are my best thoughts on how to build your determination:
1. Burn the ships. Take a lesson from Cortés. One of the best ways to clear a path to victory is to cut off all other options. In 1992 I made the decision to relocate to Florida. At the time I lived in New York City and loved it. I was in law school and it was time to choose where I would begin my career. That year I chose not to interview in New York. I ignored all opportunities outside of Florida. I would either get a job in Florida or my family wouldn't eat. I ended up with a great opportunity in Florida, but first I had to burn the ship called New York. Your ship will be different. What ship should you burn right now?
2. Get into a Mastermind. I first heard about Masterminds in the classic book, Think and Grow Rich. My spin on the concept is meeting regularly with a group of people confronted by the same challenges you are. If you're an entrepreneur, for example, make time to meet with other entrepreneurs. Challenges send mixed signals. One of those false signals is that your problem is unique. It's not. Someone has faced something similar and overcame it. You will too.
3. Tend to your spirit. For the hardcore business person this sounds a little soft. Personally, I don't think I would have been able to make it through the toughest spots of my life without the disciplines of prayer, meditation and rest. By taking time out to take a step back, I've been able to look at obstacles differently and more creatively. But more than changing the problem, tending to my spirit changes me. It makes me tougher, more resilient, and more determined. Yes, somehow facing the challenges through the eyes of faith actually makes you tougher!
4. Journal the journey. I write because I love to express my thoughts this way. I also write because it helps me record the moments of my life; almost like a photograph, but way more detailed. When you take the time to journal your journey, it will bring to remembrance your failures as well as your triumphs. It will remind you that you've been tested before and rose to the occasion. Looking back on your past successes breeds confidence. It brings fresh energy when you feel like quitting.