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“Bob Burg is the greatest teacher of networking in the world ”

~ John Milton Fogg, author, The Greatest Networker in the World

Burning Bridges? It’s All in The Context

October 7th, 2009 by Bob Burg

When I was a very young kid, I remember my Dad – the man who is the master of people skills – telling me that when it came to business or personal relationships, “never burn your bridges.” In other words, if you disagree with someone, be genuinely respectful. And, even if you have to end a relationship, part on the best terms possible. First, it’s the right thing to do. Secondly, burned bridges can come back to you in a very negative way.

Agreed. And, I follow that advice to this day.

Years later, when I was 19, my best buddy was reading this book with a strange-sounding title. It was by Napoleon Hill and entitled, Think And Grow Rich. Since I was brought up seeing my Dad and Mom work many hours to build a successful business – and also had not yet been exposed to these types of writings – the very title was outside of my personal paradigm and I was extremely skeptical.

Then, early in the book, I read a section advising “burning your bridges” when going after your definitive goal.

Based on my young but solidly entrenched paradigm to “never burn your bridges” that totally turned me off.

“Nonsense!” I would have said…had I ever used words like nonsense, which I didn’t, though it’s kind of a cool word. 🙂

10 years after that, I finally read Think And Grow Rich and it changed my life.

Of course, both my Dad and Napoleon Hill were absolutely correct. It’s just that they were speaking out of two very different contexts.

I had let my paradigm totally close my mind to a – for me – new and unexplored idea. And it slowed my learning curve ten years.

Have you ever done something similar? If so, what do you do now to make sure that doesn’t happen?

8 Responses to “Burning Bridges? It’s All in The Context”
  1. Randy said at 8:15 am on

    I agree, it’s definitely in the context. Another analogy is the one about burning ships instead of bridges. If you know there is no turning back, you’re much more likely to persevere through challenges. Sometimes I paint myself into a corner to make sure I accomplish something big. I’ve definitely done some things that I probably would not have if I left myself an “out.”


  2. Sean Woodruff said at 8:42 am on

    The skill is in deciding which bridges to burn and which to build. 😉

  3. Similar, as in, use the word, “Nonsense?” All the time, I love that word, especially when I get to use it with clients who tell me they can’t do something..:-)

    If by similar you mean, close my mind and self off to alternate ways of thinking, doing and being, absolutely! And I usually do this when I am in fear mode and want to control my circumstances.

    It’s funny I was just discussing this very issue with my Mastermind study group, where we are studying, “Think and Grow Rich.” What we all seemed to recognize is that when we take this closed off posture of over-control and try to guard against pain, fear and anything else unpleasant, the outcome is usually just that, more pain, more fear and more unpleasantries. In other words, when we are not open to receive the messages about who we are and what is ours to be and do, we are also closed off to what is the best path for us to take. We get confused, bogged down and lost, building frustration, losing momentum and thus more pain. It seems when we can remain open, grounded and quiet, we get the clear messages about what is ours to do and the idea of burning a bridge becomes less of a threat and more of a thrill. In other words, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Not to say, that there isn’t the occasional butterfly but as Bob Proctor always says, “If your not feeling a little nervous, your goal just isn’t big enough!”

    There have been many times in my life when I have stayed in this closed off space for far too long and then by the grace of God, figured out a way to break on through. Each time, I broke through I took amazing leaps of faith and as a result had to burn bridges. I had to make a choice and in saying, “Yes,” to one I had to say, “No,” to another. When I was able to remove the blocks to hear my own guidance, my inner voice was yelling so loudly I couldn’t mistake it and each time my life unfolded in ways, which were tremendous beyond my wildest expectations.

    I do believe it helps as Randy says, “to paint yourself into a corner,” when dealing with some big issues. In doing so, we create accountability for ourselves and help to set ourselves up for success. It may seem a bit extreme to some, but when we are playing big and full out, (and why not? As Marianne Williamson said, “Our playing small does not serve the world,” ) risk is inevitable, nothing great ever happened by sitting safely in our living rooms.
    And so tomorrow, as a symbolic gesture, to just this point, I am, as my friend Suzanne said, “Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane!” Talk about burning bridges. I can’t wait!!!!

    Hope you’re having a great day!
    ~ Lauren

  4. Natalie said at 9:52 am on

    I REALLY struggle with burning bridge or ships!!!

    AND am so wrestling with this at the moment…

    Both burning bridges were I need to let go of friendships to focus on my goal… And in burning my other ships so that there’s no turning back and cornered into doing what I have to do.

    I’ve lent out my Think and Grow Rich – need to get another one to update myself on what he says.

    Thanks Bob and Randy… I so love and appreciate you both lots.


  5. Michael said at 10:11 am on

    I had an incident at my office last month with one of my co-worker. I really didn’t want to make him upset, but sometimes we do things and don’t notice the effect on other people’s lives. I went to my director and asked him for advice about the situation. He responded; “I would rather have a friend, than an enemy”. The next day i went and had a good talk with my co-worker and apologize. I felt a lot better, and everything worked out to be fine. Ever since then I have been focusing and solving problems, rather than arguing, and trying to find out who is guilty, because I rather have a friend, than an enemy.

  6. LIZA SCHWARTZ said at 10:33 am on

    From to time, it’s easy to fall prey to our own patterns of thinking or paradigm. What helps me is to try something new or the same thing from a different perspective. This can jump start a new mind set. I am regularly exposing myself to new ideas & thoughtful people you inspire me by challenging how I think about what I think. I don’t always believe what I think so I already have a healthy skepticism that there might be a different point of view that can help me grow & learn.

  7. Chris Tegtmeyer said at 10:57 am on

    Great truths!

    I’ve burnt many bridges, and allowed countless others to deteriorate with disuse! The struggle is always in overcoming ourselves, we are our own worst enemy. I endeavor to always improve my relationships, and to continue to learn and grow by exposure to people and books that will enlarge my mind.

    Thanks Bob!

  8. Andrea said at 3:06 pm on

    Great post! I think the world works in mysterious ways and you never know when people will return in your life as oddly as they may have come in. And I want that opportunity to engage them in the future. Because you never know! I guess I have drifted out of a lot of relationships but never parted badly.

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