Why burning boats make the biggest impact in my business

I remember listening to a podcast in the car last year – one of my favourite things to do and I used to do this all the time before I changed to working from home. I would get up early, and travel to work with the sun coming up over the mountains and think about how grateful I was to enjoy the view on the way to work AND learn at the same time. I am a big fan of podcasts.

So this particular morning, I popped on one of my favourites and found myself nodding away and thinking, ‘yes, yes!’ in agreeance with all that was said. This podcast was an interview with Rachel Hollis, author of ‘Girl Stop Apologising’ and she rocked my world that day. She talked so truthfully about being a business owner and how to stop the bullshit – meaning the excuses we tell ourselves... I am too busy, I can’t do that, I don’t know how, yeah but yeah but yeah but!!... You know how it goes because I reckon if you are like me, you have also told yourself lots of excuses for not doing certain things. It is really common, and I hear LOTS of allied health practice owners say those things. Not because they are avoiding things (well sometimes maybe) but out of pure desire to just get through the day to day and come out the other end – how could they possibly fit more in right?

The words of Rachel Hollis ring through my head EVERY day. I still will often re-listen to that podcast episode just to make sure I haven’t morphed her wisdom into something else! One of the most impactful wisdom she shared which I LOVE and wanted to share with you is the power of ‘burning the boats’.

Imagine an island where you were at your best. You were doing the things in your business you needed to do, and you were doing them on time, and feeling really great about it. You had time to do the things that had a great impact, and you really felt like you had a purpose. You were doing the things on the island that made a profit and took your practice into the direction you wanted. Sounds like a great island right?! So, my island is CEO island. I knew a couple of years ago that I needed to move into the CEO role in my business. I needed to be on CEO island! I knew that if I was on CEO island, I could do all the wonderful things the business needed from me.  But... CEO island was also a little scary. I hadn’t been there before and just stayed there (visited a couple of times yes!), and I didn’t know the landscape, how to make it work, and there were hard decisions I needed to make on CEO island that scared me a bit. There were also tasks that weren’t necessarily harder, but needed commitment and forward-thinking, and frankly, when I was tired, it was much easier to metaphorically get in a boat and get off the island back to the safety of the mainland… Back to doing all the day to day things that I know I can do well. But really what getting in a boat and traveling back to safety is doing is keeping me oscillating back and forwards and back and forwards between CEO land and the mainland. I don’t want to really be on the mainland – it is busy there, crowded, LOTS of things to do and those things are tasks that I don’t really need to be doing – I just go back and keep doing them because they are habits, they are safe, and I like to be in control!!!  What Rachel taught me that day was I needed to work out what boats I got in that took me back to the mainland away from what I needed to be doing, which for me personally was to stay on CEO island. For you, it might be ‘Leading therapist island’ or ‘work from home island’ or whatever. You can name your own island.

So the boats for me were things like stepping in to do clinical work when the staff were away, doing bookkeeping tasks, running meetings, ordering therapy supplies, and on and on it went. I would get in these boats and take myself away from the tasks I really needed to be doing on my island.

After listening to that podcast I came home at the end of the day and announced to my husband that “I need to burn boats or it is never going to work if I don’t burn the boats, I just keep doing what I am doing” And from that day on, I really burnt boats. I stopped clinical work, I hired a bookkeeper and I delegated LOTS of tasks that I didn’t need to be doing. Burning the boats is not just turning away for a few weeks, it is literally burning it so you cannot go back! For clinical work, I handed over my clients, I asked my admin team to help me say no (we wrote a script of what to say to clients so our message was clear and consistent) and I took myself out of the clinical diary so you couldn’t even book an appointment with me and I practiced saying out loud that “I don’t treat anymore, but one of my therapists can see you if you would like me to organise that.”

This has been such a powerful thing to do in my life… I want you to consider it too. What boats are you getting on that are taking you away from where you really should be?

Founder and CEO
Maida Learning


Planning, Allied Health, Private Practice, Resilience

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