Boat Burners

Hey everyone,

I was listening to this episode of the Colin and Samir Podcast this week (highly recommend) in which they talk to airrack (a.k.a. Eric), a YouTube creator who has gone from 50 to 500K subscribers in 2020.

Eric told one story in particular that I found fascinating—he got a $17,000 SBA loan (which involved creating an LLC specifically for that purpose) to spend on a video, which at that point was basically nothing more than an idea for a title and thumbnail. The video had to pay off, or Eric would be stuck paying $300/month on the loan for the next few years.

Eric’s story reminded me of a small tale from Latin American history. You may have heard it:

When Hernan Cortes and his men arrived on the shores of what’s now Mexico, he burned their ships. The message was clear: turning back is not possible, the only way out is forward. As we know, Cortes and the Spaniards went on to topple the Aztec Empire (with the help of smallpox). For our purposes, the point is that retreat is easy when you have the option.

Cortes scuttling his fleet off the coast of Veracruz*

I call these moments in which you decide there’s no turning back boat burners, and I’ve had several of them in the past few years. The first one that comes to mind is taking out a hefty loan to go to code school—I knew that if I didn’t finish, I’d still have the loan but no clear way to pay it off. I had to make it work.

It was a very stressful time, and I don’t think I’d want to go through it again. If I’d had an escape hatch I might have taken it. I’m thankful that option wasn’t even on the table.

I’ve found that a lot of my most gratifying experiences and achievements have been on the other side of a boat burner. Can you think of a way to force yourself to do the hard things that you want to do?

Pete’s Picks

  1. (Audio)book: I have been loving Hatching Twitter on Audible. As you might guess, it tells the story of how Twitter was founded. My favorite kind of book is nonfiction that reads like fiction (usually due to the level of detail in the reporting), and Hatching Twitter fits the mold perfectly. It’s been interesting to see how something that was essentially an accident has shaped the world.

  2. Streaming subscription: I know, I know. Not another streaming service. Nebula is a little different, though. It’s from Standard, which is a collective of YouTubers who make content that is centered around learning in one form or another—it calls itself “a thoughtful expansion pack for YouTube.” I got a Nebula subscription as part of a bundle with Curiosity Stream, and have really been enjoying it, in particular the exclusive content that you can’t find on YouTube. Check it out if that sounds interesting!

This Week’s Video

The Best Developer Portfolio Project



*Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,