“If we must wrest the best from life, we must be prepared to cast away all thoughts of ease or inertia. Grow or go. Struggle or stagnate. Resist or die.” – Robert Heap
It is human to fear when one is in dilemma. If not faced and conquered, fear (a dangerous archenemy of progress) has the capacity to rob its victim of conquests yet-to-be. When at a crossroad, should one ignore the risk(s) and forge ahead or retreat/stagnate? This write up will attempt to answer the question.
There is an age-long but potent strategy (which comes in different variations) that comes to mind – ‘burning the bridge’. The strategy was used by Hernan Cortes (1485-1547), who burned and sank his boats, so no other option was left than to advance into Aztec territory. Xiang Yu ‘broke the woks and sank the boats’ (ordered his troops to destroy all cooking utensils and boats after crossing a river into the enemy's territory) during the Battle of Julu in 207 BC to commit his small number of soldiers to a struggle to the end with the Qin forces led by Zhang Han. The Muslim commander Tariq ibn Ziyad, upon setting foot on the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD, ordered his ships to be burnt, so that his men had no choice but to thrust forward and conquer the peninsula. The same strategy was used by Julius Caesar when he invaded (led his army across the Rubicon River in violation of law, thus making conflict inevitable) Ancient Rome on January 10, 49 BC. (Facts culled from www.wikipedia.org). Also, there are numerous instances in the Holy Bible where individuals had to ‘burn the bridge’ to carry out instructions. For instance, Elisha killed his yoke of oxen, boiled their flesh and shared to people before following Elijah. I believe he did this so as not to be tempted to return to plowing with his twelve yoke of oxen. Thus, he was able to minister to the needs of Elijah from that time till he was taken away by a whirlwind into heaven without looking back. (Read 1 Kings 19: 19 – 21, 2 Kings 2: 1 - 11). History is full of success stories borne out of this "no-retreat" strategy.
I personally use the strategy whenever I want to leap forward in an imperfect situation. I used it recently when I left Nigeria for UK with little or no preparation (I couldn’t wait to effectively prepare for the trip as I would have loved when I got the visa because I had been starved visa for too long). To succeed with the migration even with the little preparation, I decided to ‘burn all the bridges’ (I left my employer without notice and I gave away all the possessions I had in Nigeria) that could give me a soft-landing in Nigeria should I be tempted to retreat if settling down in UK got tough. Once I “crossed the Rubicon” (left Nigeria with a paltry sum of £700 and one(1) small bag - containing 70% books, 20% certificates, 10% clothes), I was left with no other option but to survive and thereafter thrive in my destination.
I got into the UK in the middle of the recession and in retrospect I must confess that I underestimated the recession. All the money I had on me was only enough to rent a studio flat for one(1) month. All I thought I knew was challenged; I was forced to unlearn and relearn. I learnt new things (like personally shaving my hair to save costs to the admiration of barbers - laughs), I also learnt better ways of doing the things I already knew; migrating to UK was indeed the beginning of my education. Eating, clothing (in the middle of winter), transportation, the next rent and other essentials were luxuries at that time (laughs). Although I didn’t get my first job immediately, I was not thrown out of the flat for inability to pay rent, I never starved neither did I die of cold. Supplies preceded my needs - new friends, old friends, family members and acquaintances offered help without begging. I never got stranded. This humbling experience reminds me of the words of William Murray, I quote:
“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings, and material assistances which no man could have dreamed would come his way.”
In spite of all the initial gargantuan challenges I faced while settling down, quitting was never an option as there was no where else to go. It was tough, but I held on till I broke through the initial challenges. It’s all history now. Although I am not where I want to be yet, but I am certainly not where I used to be. I judge God faithful.
Have you been retreating when you should be moving ahead in life? What is your deepest fear? What is holding you back from pursuing your dreams? How many more compromises will you have to make? Still waiting for the right time?
Everyone has dreams in life, but few are prepared to take the risk(s) that can take them closer to their dreams because of the fear of failure. By tarrying, opportunities are missed, standards are lowered, capacities dwindle, destinies are destroyed/short-changed. There will never be a perfect time to take risks and there is no amount of preparation that can suffice; you may have to force yourself into the next level. Arise, go conquer some more.
Focus on that goal. Plan all you can. Burn the bridges - destroy other options. Face your fears. Leap forward. Fight while constantly keeping in mind the picture of victory. Breakthrough!