Launching Out

The Point of No Return

Today I wanted to talk briefly about the point of no return.  

Now, I’m not going to be talking about it in a mystical, movie-thriller sort of way, but when it comes to launching out towards that dream or that goal, maybe starting that business or whatever it is, I think there can be two types of points of no return - one is mental, the other is physical, and I’ll build that out in just a second, but first, what do I mean by point of no return?

In one sense, at its simplest, its a commitment.  A decision.  Let me share a story you are likely familiar with from primary school history but it illustrates perfectly the point. 

In 1519, the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando Cortez decided that he wanted to seize the treasure that the Aztecs had been hoarding.  He took 500 soldiers and 100 sailors and landed his 11 ships on the shores of the Yucatan.  Despite the large army under his command, he was still vastly outnumbered by a huge and powerful empire that had been around for 600 years.

Some of his men were unconvinced of success, and being loyal to Cuba, they tried to seize some ships to escape to there.  Cortez got wind of the plot, and captured the ringleaders.   He wanted to make sure that the remainder of his men were completely committed to his mission and quest for riches, so he did something that seemed completely insane to his people:  Cortez gave the order to scuttle his own ships.

His men resisted, wondering how they would even get home, and his answer was:  “If we are going home, we are going home in their ships!”

The path forward was clear for Cortez – All or nothing, 100% commitment.  The option of failure was gone – Conquer as heroes, or die.

The ships were sunk – He kept a single ship to send back the “royal fifth” (the king of Spain claimed 20% of all treasures).  By doing this, the level of commitment of the men was raised to an extreme level, much higher than anyone could have imagined.

Incredibly, they succeeded in this unlikely feat.  In six hundred years, no one else had been able to conquer the Aztecs and plunder their riches.  They were able to do it simply because there was no choice, no fallback – the ships were gone, the only alternative was death.

Now, our alternative in almost every case is not as extreme as death, and thats a good thing, but the idea that we will not turn back is so important.  

So real quick lets talk about those two different kinds of points of no return - first mental.

Here, we are talking about the ideas in our head and we are often our own worst enemy.  I know for me, if I just keep an idea spinning around in my head, its just another idea or dream.  One key to moving forward is adding a level of accountability to the situation by telling someone about your decision or commitment to forge ahead.  Yes, this means putting yourself out there, risking failure, but in the way too often used cliche “no pain, no gain” - you just need a consequence of not moving forward, and sometimes, just someone else knowing can be enough.  Maybe it needs to be a group of people, family or friends - or a more public group of people, your readers, blog followers, etc.  Whatever the case, making the decision and commitment to burn the ships mentally, will raise, like it did for Cortez’s men, the commitment level to a more extreme high.

The other kind of point of no return is physical, and this one is right in my face right now with a current reality that I am facing that is a pretty big home renovation.

For me, demo day was a big physical point of no return.  Once you rip out drywall, and insulation and everything is down to the studs, you have no choice but to live in a skeleton of a house, or start to rebuild.  And like most home renovations, mine has come with its fair share of “curveballs” and things I did not expect.  Like, finding little to no insulation behind the walls!  What!?  It gets down to 20 below here in the winter - so thats a problem!  Wasn’t in the budget but now we adjust, and regardless, I’ve got to fix this!  I can’t just stick to the plan and slap the drywall up and say, “Oh I’ll get to it later”. But anyway, I’m getting off track - for me through out this project, there are other issues that have come up, and each step along the way, I’ve got to push through my fears or doubts and get this project moving!  We are moving into this new place in 3 weeks and I literally still have a shell of a room for a kitchen and dining room. BUT, the more I keep plugging way, and putting another step in the process behind me, the more confidence it breeds to continue on.

And that is really the point.  

The fear of “what if” will control us - like Cortez’s men - what if we are defeated, what if we fail?  And when the option of retreat was removed, it dramatically raised the level of commitment.

So what is your point of no return on YOUR dream right now?  Is it simply adding a layer of accountability by telling someone your plan?   Writing down that goal and pasting on the wall in your office or cubicle where others can see it and ask you about it?  Or is it a physical demolition like my current reality?  Well, now the room is gutted, time to put it back together in dream plan fashion!

Either way, I hope you burn the ships.  Take that step, that leap, even if it feels way bigger than you can handle, I promise, the rush of knowing it’s “do or die” time (so to speak) will most often be when we surprise ourselves and rise to the challenge and accomplish way more that we ever thought possible.

I can’t wait to hear what YOUR point of no return moment is, in fact, email me at or hop on the website and drop a line - I’d love to hear from you!



Brian McIntire

Brian is the Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer at Think Company, an award-winning experience design firm in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. A hands-on UX designer since 1997 and an early champion of the field of User Experience Design, Brian started Think Company in 2007 with the idea that great software products result from research-driven methodology and design decisions that are always based on evidence. Brian leads a growing team of 75 researchers, designers, and developers as they create smart, beautiful design solutions for Fortune 500 clients in a wide range of industries.

[01:58] — Brian’s Journey

[06:00] — Reasons Why Not To Launch

[07:40] — BIGGEST Hurdle

[09:26] — Calculated Risks

[10:08] — Having a Business Partner

[11:00] — Advice for Support

[12:38] — 3 Key People

[13:34] — “I wish we knew…”

[15:39] — What ThinkBrownstone Does

[18:54] — Importance of “Rethinking” Your Launch Process

[21:22] — Whats Got You Fired Up 

[22:14] — Resources

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Brian's Notes for Good to Great

Mastering The Game of Money by Tony Robbins

[24:50] — Your Legacy

[26:17] — Communicate You Care

[27:12] — Find Brian McIntire

Follow Brian on Twitter

Check out ThinkCompany on Instagram

Check out ThinkCompany on Facebook

[27:35] — What Does it Mean to Launch Out!

“Take a risk and believe that you can do something that doesn’t rely on someone else giving you permission or providing the space for you to succeed. We were created to create, and the act of creating something, whether it’s art, music, or a company, is incredibly satisfying and gratifying and it’s something I think we all can do." 

Key Take-aways:

  1. It’s easier to take risks when you have someone taking risks alongside you,
  2. Organizational hierarchy is not a bad thing,
  3. 'Thank you' at work is like 'I love you' at home.

Just Ship!

Today I want to cover a topic that I won’t say is PLAGUING me, but is something I am working on RIGHT NOW, so I thought I'd share the insight with you!

I have covered a few topics in my mini-episodes that I personally need to work on, because for me, taking the time to write and talk about them helps me work on my own habits.  Now, its not that I am perfecting each of them overnight, and some of them I am better at than others, but like I’ve said before, the important thing is making progress and improvement.  

Today I want to quickly cover a topic that I’ve spent time preaching (I mean teaching) to my former team at my last job and it's a topic that is easy for me to talk ABOUT but a little harder to always DO, and that is the principle of shipping.

And the way I like to look at it is with this concept: 80% and SHIPPED is better than 100% on the shelf EVERY.TIME.

If we stop for a moment and think about it, we all know it's true.  A product, an email, a blog, video, you name it, is worthless if it sits in your head, on your desk or on your computer and never reaches a customer or an audience. 

Now this is being said by a struggling perfectionist and I’ll be the first to raise my hand: “Hi, my name is Brian, and I’m a perfectionist.”  There, it’s out there in the open.  PHEW. 

But seriously.  I have a vision in my head of what I want something to be like and work hard for it, and when it’s not quite there, I want it to be JUST RIGHT.  But this can also cause me to hesitate, or wait, and iterate over and over to get everything just perfectly perfect the way I see it in my head, but the problem is if I never ship, it never reaches others! 

Case and point - this show.  It took a few months longer than I hoped to get it dialed in the way I wanted it before I went live and the week I pulled the trigger I was second-guessing it saying “its not QUITE ready” and “I just want to tweak this one thing or have the intro sound a LITTLE bit better.”  Stuff that in all honesty, the things I was nit-picking over most of you wouldn’t ever notice and it's because I am WAY too close to the project and I see all its flaws.

Even now, I can have a tendency to want to hold an episode either in editing or concept and make it just perfect the way it is in my head before I let it go, but the reality is in most cases, the 80% version is perfectly ok to ship and again, only I will really notice its flaws because I’m so close to it.  

As a creator, entrepreneur, dreamer, and doer, YOU know your product or project the best so you are the one who will nit-pick it to death!  And literally!  We will KILL IT.  It’ll never live and see the light of day if we don’t send it off.  You can always iterate and improve on something down the line, but you’ve got to get it out there.  

I think that’s why it’s important to have people in your life, friends, family, whoever, that you let tell you like it is.  And you know will actually call you on it and say, “Yo Brian.  You are WAY overthinking this, just let it go.”  And 99% of the time, they’re right.

So what’s the take-a-way?


Just do it.

Brian, just send it off.

I need this reminder as much as anyone, but thought it would be a good one to share with you today.  Whatever the project, dream, goal, product, or organization is, get it LAUNCHED!  And 80% and shipped will not only get the train moving down the tracks, but will also let you begin to tweak what you don’t like, often FASTER than if you hadn’t shipped at all yet, because perhaps you’ll be self-conscious about people seeing it, OR you may begin to get feedback that tells you that the thing you wanted to keep fixing your customer or audience doesn't care as much about as something ELSE and you need to shift your focus!  But you won’t get that valuable feedback unless you do what??


So there’s what I’m working on right now.  And if you’re hung up on something, and particularly if you’re hung up on taking the next step towards launching out, get out of your own head!  Remember, 80% and SHIPPED is better than 100% on the shelf EVERY. TIME.