Seven Boats Successful People Burn

“So I guess you’re just wanting me to start a bonfire right here in your office?“

He came in because he felt he was “losing his edge.“ About a year ago, we had ceased his bridge burning, and taken a torch to his boats. Amazing things were happening in his business, and in his marriage. So he was basically in for a tune-up.

I have always loved doing tune-ups, because after a client has done the major work, just small tune-ups catapult them forward! And although a bonfire may not sound much like a “tune-up,” it does when we face the potential of burning the same boats that most successful people and world changers burn.

He inspired my blog this week with the following text: “You know, although I predicted it would be a bonfire, it really wasn’t that bad. And just 30 days later, not only do I have my edge back, but I am moving and grooving in both my business and my marriage! (Not to mention that I’ve dropped 16 pounds!“)

I thought you might want to know the seven boats that successful people burn so that you can “get your edge back” and “move and groove” in every area of your life.

Throughout the past 25 years as I have worked with people to burn their boats, I have followed up asking them what big boats they burned, and what smaller boats they burned (ones that made a huge difference). These are the seven most often mentioned “smaller boats“ they burned to get that “huge difference!“

1. Distractions

We live in a world of distractions. I bet you know what yours are! Certainly, we cannot live in a bubble, totally free of all distractions. But we can determine which ones we will focus on, and which ones we will minimize.

Perhaps our greatest distraction, at this point in history, is our cell phones. Yes, I am aware that most of us run our lives from our cell phones. Mine contains my calendar, my connection to friends and family, and access to any information that I need at any given moment via Safari or Google.

However, when I was coaching the man who referred to a bonfire, I asked him where his cell phone was usually. I asked how many times he glanced at it daily, and what his screen time report looked like.Prior to that question, he had told me that his cell phone was not a distraction. For 90% of us, that is not the case.

Fortunately, I do not have my cell phone by my side when I am working with clients. It has made a major difference. To avoid the temptation to be glancing at it all day long, I print my calendar from my phone the first thing every morning, and leave my phone at my desk on the charger.

I normally have a couple of 15 minute break times, which entails refreshing my tumbler of water, going to the restroom, taking a short walk. Therefore, it only allows me a quick glance at my cell phone.

That has led me to challenging people to put their cell phone away and choose a few 15 minute slots during the day to glance at it. Then schedule a longer time in the morning or evening.

Rarely are we expecting an emergency call. But we always think that someone might need to reach us, and could not possibly wait an hour or two. NOT!I do a lot of my coaching and counseling via zoom. But to avoid the distraction of access, I turn off messenger, all notifications, and anything else that might distract me.

You can make adaptations, no matter what business you are in or what your personal life is like. Create a strategy to avoid the distraction of your cell phone.

This was reinforced to me recently when I finished some coaching with a very bright and successful business woman. She sent me a long email thanking me for all the work that we did.

One of her sentences contained a sentiment that I hear constantly from successful people: “I didn’t think that making the adaptations with my cell phone and online business would make such a difference. But I complied with all you suggested, in order to measure the outcome. I was totally shocked how much time it multiplied into my day. I also discovered I did not need my afternoon dose of Adderall to stay focused.“

Then she added: “My husband actually commented at dinner that he felt it was the first time in over 10 years that he had been more important than my cell phone.”

Certainly cell phones are not the only distractions. Social media, broadcast media, noisy working environments, the inability to say “no thank you,“ and many other things can be distractions.Successful people are courageous enough to name their distractions, and to burn the boats to those distractions that are controlling their lives.

What are your distractions, and what boats do you need to burn in that arena? That’s not a rhetorical question.

Successful people press pause, and make notes. Others read on, and the information and opportunity is lost in the midst of political news, sports scores and daily tasks.

II know you won’t be one of those, so press pause and make some notes to yourself. You can burn the boats that are distractions.

2. Time Wasters 

Oh my! The list of time wasters is endless. Social media, YouTube addiction, sports, documentaries, TV, hanging out in bars. Also, staying in bed and nursing hurts and disappointments, any addiction, keeping up with the Joneses, and the list could have hundreds of items on it.

I’m certainly not saying that any of the above are necessarily wrong, but they certainly are time wasters.

When I approach this concept with my clients, they are usually very defensive in the beginning. They say thing like, “What’s wrong with sitting on the couch and watching TV all day on Sunday?“

My response? “Absolutely nothing if your spouse or partner feels like they have had adequate attention, nurturing and fun with you during the rest of the week.“

When I explored that with the man I was coaching, his response was, “Well I can tell you her answer to that … she’d say it just wasn’t all day Sunday, but all day Saturday watching college football, Monday nights watching NFL, sports commentaries every night if I wasn’t working… And heavens no I don’t feel like I’ve had any attention, nurturing or fun with you for years!“

I asked him if endless sports was a time waster in his case, to which he nodded reluctantly. I asked what difference it might make if he spent some of that time nurturing his relationship, and some of it nurturing his business?

He looked up and gave me a two-word response: “Gut punch!” To which I responded: “it’s clear to me why you’ve lost your edge… I’m not trying to get you to commit to never watching sports. But you need to burn that boat as a distraction, and allow yourself a few hours of sports a week, but only after your relationship and your business are carefully tended to!“

Social media Is often a great time waster. You may find that ironic since you’re reading this on  Facebook.

I realized it was a great time waster for me, and I turned to the management of my Facebook account over to my awesome business manager, better known as my Gangsta, a number of years ago. She lets me know when there are comments I should respond to, or news that I should be aware of. It prevents me from going down that hole! 

Time is so very precious. I work hard, and I am always on a mission with great purpose to help people become all they were created to be. When I’m not with clients, or working on another business project, I am very careful to use my time for inspiration, personal growth, and in relationship with the important people in my life.

I am amazed at how much I can accomplish in each day, when I choose to use my “free time“ wisely. I will also add that I allow myself two to three hours of time wasters weekly. But I choose them carefully.

What about you? What are your time wasters? I know you can burn those boats, But my question is, will you? I believe you will!

3. Unsolicited Advice/Guidance

You will find that many people think they know, better than you do, what you need to be doing in your marriage, your business and your life!

There was a time in my life when I listened to everything that anyone had to say in any of those arenas, and I immediately took some sort of action relating to their advice.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore everything anyone says, but I am suggesting that you tuck it away in your pocket, and give it some quick consideration before taking it in or tossing it.

That unsolicited advice and guidance from people who are not professionals caused me a lot of heartache. I burned that boat long ago.

I have mentors, therapist, business coaches, and a personal Board that I listen to very carefully.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a friend. She was telling me that she was in the process of filing for divorce. Her family had told her to get a restraining order, her friends had told her to empty the bank account, and coworkers had told her to keep the kids away from him.

I only had two questions for her:

  • Is he or has he been abusive to you or the kids?
  • Are any of the people you spoke with professionals? (Lawyers, coaches, trusted mentors?)

When she said no to both questions, I asked how I could help. She asked me to tell her what she should do. I told her she wouldn’t like my answer, but I said: “Get a consult with a lawyer, get a therapist or coach, and stop listening to well-meaning people who only see one side of the story and could be leading you awry.“

She didn’t like what I said, but she got it.

I recommend that everyone have a relationship with a mentor, a coach and/or therapist at all times. Although you may only need to check in with them occasionally, having a history with them allows them to speak wisely into your life.

You will even find there are plenty of “Doubting Thomas’s“ who will tell you that your business will never work, your relationship will never work out, and your life is going in the wrong direction.

Consider who those people are in your life and burn the boat. Not the people, not your relationship with them, but burn the boat to following their unsolicited advice. Who are those people? How will you burn those boats?

4. Setback or Failure

Will setbacks and/or failures occur? Of course! At least if you adhere to to well-known definitions of those words.

I asked my “bonfire” coaching client what his definition of each of those words was. He responded: “A ‘setback’ is anything that occurs that will cause great time and energy to overcome. And failure is not reaching your goals, making huge mistakes, or something you cannot avoid.”

I told him we definitely needed to burn the boats of those definitions.

If we adopted those definitions, we could all say our entire life has been a series of setbacks and failures.

As I did with him, I would suggest that you re-define both of those words. And burn those boats. For the sake of your life, your marriage (and other important relationships), and your career and/or business.

He redefined “setback” as:

A situation that was not favorable at the moment, but could be used as a setup for something better.

He re-defined failure as:

An opportunity to learn, grow, and move forward with even greater determination.

Weekly I have people come into my office who use the words setback and failure in ways that make them inevitable. For example, one of my favorite clients recently said that she was a failure because she was not meeting the expectations of others. 

I said to her, “Girlfriend, we simply must redefine that word because there will always be people whose expectations you fail to meet. And they don’t get to define you as a failure for that!”

What is your old definition of those words? I can imagine that you need to burn those boats! Re-define both of those words in a way that gives you empowerment, momentum, and control over your success!

Stop right now and write your old definitions and your new definitions. They must be so empowering that those two words are nothing more than charred boats!

5.  Addictions

What is an addiction? After years of working in this industry, I define it as:

  • Any process or substance used to medicate painful reality or to deny a current or past situation
  • That wastes your time and your gifting
  • That harms or hinders your ability to become all you were created to be
  • That keeps you from knowing and/or fulfilling your purpose
  • That has a negative impact on your business, your relationships, and/or your life

All which you choose to ignore, deny or justify.

I walked through this with my “bonfire“ client, because I heard a lot of talk about fatigue and weight gain. I began to ask about his eating, health and lifestyle schedule and habits. When I suggested that eating and food might be becoming an addiction, I took him down the road of my definition (because he immediately denied it, which is one part of the definition).

I asked him what purpose food served in his life. He said that it was the way he connected with people, especially his wife, and that it gave him an opportunity to stop worrying about his business. 

I asked him about his eating around sports. He said he normally started with a hamburger off the grill, french fries, and ice cream. If it was an all day watching fest, he would add nachos, popcorn, and a beer or two.

I asked him what he loved about his time watching sports. He said, “I get into the games and stop thinking about my failures (according to my old definition), and all of the stress and pressures.” I asked if that could be contributing to his weight gain? To which he shamefully nodded.

I asked how he felt when he got up on Mondays to face a new week. He responded, “Tired, drained, and hungry!“

I asked him what he did about that hunger, and he said that he stopped by a bakery for a warm cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee and always felt better. I commented, “Until the crash about an hour later?“ To which he responded: “How did you know?” DUH!

I asked him if he believed he was at his best with the weight gain and always being tired? He said, “Not at all! That’s why I came so you could help me get my edge back!”

When I suggested that he deal with his addiction to food, he said it wasn’t hurting anybody. I asked him if his wife was enjoying his weight gain, or his obsession with food. His response was: “Did you talk to her?“ I chuckled and suggested that it was predictable.

He said he felt like he had just been through an intervention because I wrote the definition (from the bullet points above) on the board and asked him to place check marks by the applicable points I had just written. He checked them all off except for the last one. I reminded him that the whole conversation began because he denied that it was a problem. He rolled his eyes and checked it off.

I bring this up because the days of alcoholics stumbling around drunk and losing everything are no longer the hallmark of addiction. Yes they too are addicted, but we have managed to make most addictions socially acceptable. And therefore deny that they are boats that need to be burned.

When I realized that I was in a full-blown sugar addiction over 25 years ago, I found myself sitting in a corner in my bedroom in a fetal position, sobbing and shaking. Totally socially acceptable as an addiction. But the withdrawal has been shown by research to be worse than cocaine withdrawal.

I burned that boat, and although people take great joy in offering me sweets, I have no trouble at all saying no. Because I know that for me it was truly an addiction. I was obsessed with the next Butterfinger, the next Slurpee, the next piece of chocolate cake, the next dipped ice cream cone from the Dairy Queen.

What about you? What boats to addiction do you need to burn? You cannot be the great person you were created to be while engaging in addiction. Your gifts become hidden. Your true joy and fulfillment cannot come to fruition.

Identify your addiction and burn the boat. We need the greatness in you in this world! Your gifts will be world changing!

6. Negativity

Zero negativity! Negativity is a default position for the majority of people who have not joined the “zero negativity” revolution.

What on earth is that resolution? It’s a commitment to cease:

  • Negative talk 
  • Negative thinking
  • Negative media
  • Negative input of any kind
  • Negative output of any kind

You may say, “But that is too hard!“ or “That’s impossible!“ It is hard to burn the boat of negativity. I have worked hard over the past 15 years to create a life that is void of negativity, and it was a challenge.

In order to eliminate negativity, I have to intervene with my clients all day, every day, to turn their negativity into generosity. 

When I was speaking to my “bonfire“ client about whether his wife felt  neglected due to his weekends engulfed in sports, he responded: “if I spent all the time with her that she wanted me to, I would never even have time to work in the business.“

I asked him if she were present, what she would say about his investment quotient into their relationship. He said, “She would probably say she would just settle for me going on a walk with her between games.“

I chided him with, “How disappointing that she has to ‘settle; for just a walk. What would it be like, if instead of thinking negatively about her wanting every second of every day with you, you were to think about how generous she is for not badgering you about your sports time. And be grateful that she desires time with you!”

After ducking his head for a moment, he said, “Why on earth do I think negative things like that about her?“ I responded: “Because you have not trained your brain to go to generosity and gratitude instead of negativity.”

What about you? What percentage of your day is spent in negative thinking, negative input, negative comments? They are toxic! 100% of the time.

Strongly consider burning the boats to your negativity. About yourself, about others, about your business, about your life. Research has shown that negativity causes our brains to dump stress hormones into our system. Those neurochemicals can actually shorten our lifespan, and destroy our immune system.

However, acts of kindness, moments of generosity and gratitude all caused the brain discrete neurochemicals that are life-giving.

When you burn the boat of negativity, you may literally be improving your health, improving your longevity, and according to research, making connection and intimacy in your relationship greater and deeper than it has ever been.

Take a moment and identify your negative input (news media, harsh communications, gossip, etc) and negative output (criticism, anger, demeaning words/attitudes, etc). Burn those boats! In doing so, you will be burning toxic the pathway of neurochemicals in your body, and lighting up the life-giving ones!

7. Old Beliefs / “Chatter”

We all have old beliefs about ourselves, our potential, our relationships, our lives. And if that isn’t bad enough, we also have “chatter” (voice is from the past and present underlining our lack of potential, our faults, and or inabilities).

When I asked my bonfire client what old beliefs might be that were getting in his way, He immediately had an aha moment: “I saw my dad make and lose big money three times in my life. And he went out on the down side. A pauper. So I think I believe that your always going to lose all your money at some point.”

“Well, you said you have lost your edge, and that’s one of the biggest edge stealers I’ve ever heard. You need to back up and sharpen that blade to get your edge back.” I asked him what he could replace that old belief with.

After we worked on it a bit, he said that he could learn from his dad’s mistakes and failures, in order to not have to repeat them. We scrambled his old belief and installed the new one. I could immediately see his confidence returning.

Then I asked him about the “chatter.“ Those voices that fire off in his head. With another “aha“ look on his face, he said: “I can actually hear my dad saying right now, ‘Boy, you will never become anything’!“

We immediately did an exercise to silence that voice and burn the boats of the disempowering old belief and the chatter.

What about you? What old beliefs are interfering with your progress and success? And who is chattering in your ear that you need to silence? 

You may look at this list of seven things and agree with my client that we need to start a bonfire. But these are truly “small things that make huge differences!”

Burn these boats. You will find that when these things become ashes, that you truly can overcome any and every obstacle. I was recently speaking about obstacles to someone who needed to burn boats. I said there is no mountain or obstacle that you cannot go around, climb over, or move!

Turn your mountains into boats and burn them! You can do this! Remember the fulfillment and success that you are longing for is locked up inside boats that need to be burned! Light the torch! Burn the boats! And step into your fulfillment and join the ranks of successful people!