Right or wrong, good or not-so-good, sane or mad, making a choice and then committing ourselves to it can be considered the most valuable practice in life. To set out on a course of action and eliminate any route of escape reduces the chance of compromise.
The expression “Burn one’s bridge” comes from the very act of burning down a wooden crossing after marching over it during a military campaign, leaving no choice but to continue moving forward while making it more difficult for your enemies to follow.* When there’s no turning back to the cushy existence you enjoyed before rowing away from shore, you have only your goal to go.
Think of Ahab and his pursuit of the great white whale. He could have cut bait, steered the boat back to harbor, propped up his feet and puffed on a fat cigar. Instead, nothing would deter him from that final face-off with the great Moby D.
Of course, things didn’t turn out pleasantly for the captain. But there’s no arguing that it made for a more striking obituary. And herein lies the point. It’s the story you wind up with that’s important. Lashed to a monstrous mammal with your own rope? Now that’s the way to go!
Who wants to die sitting in an easy chair trying to digest another big meal? Achieving a goal requires a climb up a steep, steep mountain, even at the risk of leaving behind a job, a relationship or a soft, comfortable couch that beckons to you when the pursuit becomes difficult in the extreme.
*Of course, you can also use the expression “break the kettles and sink the boats,” an ancient Chinese saying that refers to Xiang Yu’s order at the Battle of Julu in 207 BC.
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