What Cortés got wrong

written by  Ryan Seamons

What do you really want? is a weekly conversation to help you figure out and articulate what you really want at work and in life.

Sign up now

Don’t burn the boats, run a test instead. From my friend and career expert, Nathan Tanner. I love the example with the back story on Virgin American and how Richard Branson ran a test not just to start Virgin Air, but also to get the planes too. I’d heard the part about the airport and chartering a plane, grabbing a sign, etc. I hadn’t heard the part of getting the planes. Worth reading.

You’ll never fully escape the risk-reward tradeoff, but small tests will help you achieve the greatest reward with the least amount of risk possible. It’s about unlocking the upside while capping the downside. Little experiments give you the data you need to make the big decision. 

Questions to consider:

  • What is your most pressing challenge at the moment?

  • How might you run a test to see on your most pressing challenge?

  • Do I have to burn the boats? Or is there a safer way to transition?


What have you been learning about? I ask this of my kids every dinner and love to hear from other avid learners.


Sign up now

Other interesting ideas I learned about this week:

“When failure is expensive, plan carefully. When failure is cheap, act quickly.”
James Clear

Related to Cortés, burning the boats can make for some expensive failure.

How much work is enough work? by Anne-Laure Le Cunff

In the realm of knowledge work, this research shows that we need to keep on shifting our focus on productive output versus amount of input.

About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

Join Patterns for weekly ideas about making work better.

Also check out Manager School to become a better manager.