Daehee & Co.

Burn the Boats

April 14, 2016

Better to try it and crash and burn if it fails, rather than submit to the status quo because comfort lies in safe mode. “Burning the boats” is a powerful, proven strategy for maximizing your chances of success. When you face a game-changing moment, you eliminate the escape plans and make the decision irreversible, so your only choice is to push forward and win.

Early on when starting Tuft & Needle, I met with a guy from the mattress industry who had recently retired with millions after selling his company. This was one of my first interactions with someone from the industry. I was eager to gain insider insight and draw some lessons as to how I should be building Tuft & Needle.

The wisdom I received was anticlimactic. “Don’t rock the boat”, he said. “Stay under the radar and don’t make waves, otherwise the big companies will take notice and squash you, and they definitely will! I’ve seen it happen all the time in our industry!”

I walked away from the meeting with a feeling of disgust. Why would you even build a business if that’s the best path forward? The reward seems petty. Might as well go get a day job somewhere and climb the corporate ladder.

This was an inspiring moment where I realized I don’t want to play it safe. I don’t care. I’d rather fail trying to prove my hypothesis that this is possible. At the very least I could look back on it and say I tried it, and contribute that learning to the community.

But, really, what’s the worst that could happen? I often ask myself this, and when it comes to business the worst case is really not that bad.

At least we can all laugh about it afterward that we tried something crazy.

I want to see how this plays out.

Daehee Park

Written by Daehee Park who lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona building useful things. Get in touch via Twitter.