“Burn your bridge of escape when you want to be truly successful,” -Mike Delazzer (Founder of Redbox, LLC)

This quote wouldn’t leave my mind after a weeklong trip to the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization conference in Orlando, FL. Mike Delazzer, a successful entrepreneur, proclaimed this during a presentation. As over 200 students including myself sat quiet and attentive, I focused to understand what this quote meant to me.

Fear can be both a blessing and a curse. Most people know fear as skydiving from 10,000ft or being introduced to a significant others’ family, but we don’t give much attention to motivational fear. Think about when you had to give an important presentation or speech. You more than likely spent hours preparing and practicing. The final product was more valuable than a work email or light conversation. Motivational fear can push someone to do things they would not or could not have the ability to do otherwise. There is a story of two men who demonstrate this concept in the manner that they lived.

Two boys grew up together building and various contraptions in their neighborhood through high school. The two would fantasize about being physicists, working abroad and revolutionizing an industry. Their personalities were far from similar. One was an extrovert who would take risks and was spontaneous. The other boy was more cautious with his decisions and always had a backup plan no matter the situation. The two boys went to prestigious universities. The extrovert majored in physics knowing the only thing he wanted was to become a physicist, but the job placement for a physicist was very selective. For a physicist to make a good living and get involved in influential research, he would have to be very devoted, passionate and technically capable. The more cautious boy went to a prestigious university as well. He majored in mechanical engineering with a minor in physics, knowing the market for engineers was fruitful after graduation, while still wanting to become a physicist.

Years later the two boys, now men, met at a quaint bar in downtown Chicago. After a few drinks and some small talk the two began talking about how college was and their most recent ventures. The extrovert explains how as a college student he saw the slim and competitive market as a physics major. Fearful that he would not have a job or that he would have a career that didn’t interest him he explains how he was heavily involved in research and his studies. He graduated top of his class with multiple honors and research under his belt. He goes on to explain how he now works abroad while leading nuclear propulsion research with various multinational companies and highly respected scientists. The more cautious man congratulates his friend and describes how his career has unfolded thus far. He was able to get a job easily working for a local firm that focuses on commercial heating and ventilation systems. He was happy with his job, but knew he wasn’t the physicist he projected himself to be years before.

The two men, both with good intentions and intelligence, followed two different paths. The extrovert risked it all and burnt his bridge of escape to become the success story he wanted. The other man never burnt his bridge and in turn was left feeling comfortable with his life. Graduating an engineer, he was able to secure a job with a GPA between 3.0 – 4.0. A career in the physics field required the highest GPA possible to head development in cutting edge research. The late nights of balancing studies, extracurriculars, friends, and family were apparent in both men, but one was forced to stay up the extra hour for his goal out of the fear that he would end up with no options, unsuccessful in his aspirations. One pushed to get the A instead of the A-, to give up another weekend at a conference, to spend a few more hours in the lab developing and perfecting his strategies. By burning his bridge he devoted himself to the lifestyle he wanted and inevitably achieved.

Will you burn your bridge?

Written by Brendon Geils

Hi. My name is Brendon Geils. I'm from the Chicago Suburbs and go to Iowa State University. I enjoy studying my butt off as an Electrical Engineer and doing triathlons. Start-ups and Entrepreneurship are two things I enjoy participating in. I write, read, and program when I can. Send me...
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