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Burning Boats

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

Human biology and biomechanics can inform our decision making beyond purely physical means. Take your feet, for example, as a single unit. They move in unison to provide bipedal movement to the repertoire of human ability. But the old saying, 'one foot in, one foot out,' very aptly explains why you cannot run with one foot and walk with the other at the same time. You must be committed to your gait and pace to walk or run. To steal a poker reference, you must be "all in or all out."

Take Julius Caesar's march into Briton:

After an invasion the previous year turned sour from Celtic forces and storms, Caesar returns to Briton in 54 B.C. with 628 ships of legionnaires. As the boats sail through the channel, the banks are lined full of angry Celt warriors. The men on the ships can feel themselves surrounded, corralled like animals ready to be slaughtered. Caesar does not flinch; he orders his fleet of ships to the nearest beach and makes landfall. The legionnaires disembark, and a perimeter is set. The Celts regroup further inland, awaiting an attack.

The Romans fear the Celts, powerful warriors who’d beaten Rome out of Briton the year before. Despite having the superior fighting force, the Romans do not like the idea of staying in Briton for long and position their ships so that if a hasty retreat is needed, they can be loaded and shoved out quickly.

Meanwhile, Caesar takes a contingent of men with him for an inland march. They beat the Celts back twice before being forced back to the beach. Caesar’s men are bloodied and battered. Some complain of the ferocity of the Celts. Still others have hope that the ships can be shoved out quickly before the Celts regroup and attack.

Caesar appreciates none of this.

He was beaten once before by these same tribes, and once was one time too many. They had ignited a fire in him. With a mad glint in his eye, he shouts over his men and everyone on the beach: “Burn the boats!”

Amazingly enough, they did.

Take this lesson from Caesar and his men: You can’t give something your all if something else holds you back.

Caesar would go on to defeat the leader of the ruling tribe, Cassivellaunus, and six other Celtic tribes in the area.

What's holding you back? It could be in your writing, in your job, or in your life in general- whatever it is, challenge it! Don't be afraid to light a fire under yourself to get things done (not literally, please; I don't condone incendiary behavior, it's quite bad for books and trees).

Like the feet working together to move, push yourself forward and be firm in your understanding of your direction, purpose, and intent. And then go for it!

Be Like Caesar,


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