Sinking Ships and Breaking Woks


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Give me liberty or give me death! These are the words of a famous American who lived over 200 years ago. Patrick Henry made a passionate speech that motivated people to fight the British. Some Americans have forgotten his story, but they remember his famous call to action.

The words are remembered because they are about the strength of belief and his refusal to accept anything less than success. He didn’t say, Give me liberty or give me a delicious steak dinner.

He didn’t say, Give me liberty or give me a good paying job. He said, Give me liberty or give me death! There was no alternative to liberty for Patrick Henry. He would only accept complete freedom. The power of belief is a very American ideal. If your belief is strong enough, anything is possible. If you don’t accept failure, anything is possible. If you refuse to give up, anything is possible.

۲۵۰ years earlier, a Spanish man named Cortez understood this very well. He understood the power of belief and the power of not accepting failure. Cortez was a soldier and explorer.

He is most famous for conquering much of the land that is now Mexico. At that time, most of Mexico was controlled by the Aztecs, a very large and powerful empire of Native Americans.

Cortez arrived in 1519 with only 11 ships and 500 soldiers. His goal was to conquer the Aztecs, who had a population of 20,000,000.

The Aztecs had controlled most of Mexico for 300 years. After only three years, Cortez and his small army would completely defeat the Aztecs.

How was it possible for such a small army to conquer such a big empire? One reason was the Spanish were much more advanced in the art of war. They had better strategies and better weapons. This gave them big advantages, but not enough to conquer an empire of 20,000,000. The Aztec empire was large and powerful, but they were not completely united. Politics and infighting within the Aztec empire made them weak. Fighting between Aztec tribes and the neighbors of the Aztecs was also common. Cortez used this to divide and conquer. He made many deals with different Aztec tribes and neighbors of the Aztecs to support him against the Aztec rulers.

In addition to modern weapons and the political skills of Cortez, he also was a very lucky man. One of his African slaves was sick with small pox. This slave gave the disease to the Aztecs and it quickly spread. The Europeans had immunity from the disease, but it was very deadly for the Aztecs. The sickness spread across the Aztec empire and killed 40 percent of the population in some cities.

Modern weapons, political fighting within the Aztec empire, and disease all helped Cortez defeat the Aztecs, but Cortez’s main weapon was his passion and belief in success. Of course, not everyone shared his passion and belief. When he arrived in Mexico, some of his soldiers were already thinking about running away. They were a very small army facing an empire of millions, so of course some of the soldiers were afraid. Cortez knew that fear was the enemy. He also knew that belief and passion were necessary for success, so he did something crazy. He ordered his men to put holes in the ships. As the soldiers watched the ships sink beneath the water, they knew that they could not run away.

Without ships there was nowhere to go. The empire of the Aztecs was soon divided, but the minds of the Spanish were always committed 100 percent to success. Cortez made sure that his soldiers had no other options. They would fight or die.

With no other choices, Cortez’s men fought hard and won. Cortez went on to become a very rich and powerful man. Of course, to the Aztecs, he was not a hero. He was a villain, who came to their country to kill and steal. Many people today also question the heart of a man who killed so many people, all for gold and riches. What is not in question is Cortez’s conviction and belief. To this day, Cortez is often remembered for sinking his ships.

That decision is a lesson in the power of believing in success and not accepting failure.

Cortez is famous for destroying his ships, but he was not the first man to do this. Break the woks and sink the ships is an ancient Chinese expression about a man who also refused to accept failure. Xiang Yu was a general in the Chu army in the second century B.C. Like Cortez, he was not a peaceful man. In fact, he rose to power by killing his boss. The army of Chu was at war with the army of Qin. Xiang Yu wanted to attack, but his boss, Song Yi, wanted to wait. Xiang Yu was impatient. He pulled out his sword and chopped Song Yi’s head off. With Song Yi dead, Xiang Yu became the top general of the Chu army.

He had only 30,000 soldiers against the Qin army of 400,000 soldiers.

This didn’t scare Xiang Yu.

His belief in success was strong. He ordered his soldiers to cross the Yellow river and head towards the much larger Qin army. After they crossed the river, he ordered his men to destroy the boats. Just like Cortez, Xiang Yu wanted his men to focus on success and not accept failure. Without boats, his soldiers could not run. His men would fight and win, or die. There were no other options. It was not an easy war and there were many battles. At one point, Xiang Yu again began to worry about his men running away. He ordered his soldiers to destroy their cooking tools and only carry enough food for 3 days.

Again, he gave his soldiers no other choice but success.

With only 3 days of food, the only way to survive was to fight the enemy and take his food. It was success or death. Xiang Yu and his soldiers defeated the much larger Qin army. In the end, 200,000 Qin soldiers surrendered to Xiang Yu, but he was not a forgiving man. He soon killed them all by burying them alive.

Xiang Yu and Cortez were not heroes, and they certainly were not men of peace, but they were men of conviction.

They both faced incredible challenges without fear or doubt.

Most men would give up and think that it was impossible to succeed, but Cortez and Xiang Yu did the opposite. They believed in success and made it impossible to give up. These men were responsible for the tragic deaths of thousands, but they have a lot to teach about the power of belief and about not accepting failure. How can this attitude be applied to challenges in your life? The English word decision’ comes from the Latin word decisio, which means to cut off’. Xiang Yu cut off all other options when he decided to fight.

When he sunk his ships and broke his woks, he was cutting off all options except success. Think about the challenges and goals in your life. What ships can you sink? What woks can you break? How can you make success your only option?

6 دیدگاه دربارهٔ «Sinking Ships and Breaking Woks»

  1. سلام هیوا
    پاراگراف اخر جمله:
    “When he sunk his ships and broke his woks…”
    برای فعل sunk داریم
    sink/ sank/ sunk
    چرا به جای sank، ازsunkاستفاده کرده؟

    1. سلام فائزه
      بر اساس قاعده گرامری sank درست تر به نظر میرسه
      اما وقتی “When he sunk” رو در گوگل سرچ میکنیم ۲۵۳ هزار نتیجه میاره. بنابراین به نظر میاد این هم خیلی رایج هست. البته نتایج “When he sank” نه برابر بیشتر هست.
      به هرحال به نظر میاد قاعده خاصی داره که اعتراف میکنم بلد نیستم چی هست.
      اینگونه موارد رو میشه در hinative مطرح کرد و جواب گرفت.
      اگه امکانشو داشتی ممنون میشم اونجا بپرسی و جوابش رو اینجا توضیح برامون بگذاری

  2. سلام هیوا جان
    در این جمله معنی committed چی میشه؟
    minds of the Spanish were always committed 100 percent to success.

    و سوال دیگه ای که داشتم divide در دو جمله زیر چه معنی میده؟
    Cortez used this to divide and conquer.

    The empire of the Aztecs was soon divided

    1. سلام سجاد عزیز، طبق لانگمن معنی زیر اینجا مناسبتره واسه این کلمه:
      commit: to say that someone will definitely do something or must do something
      کلمه divide هم میشه این:
      something divides, or if you divide it, it separates into two or more parts
      اما ترکیب رایج divide and conquer که یه استراتژی جنگی هست (در برنامه نویسی هم کاربرد داره) یعنی تفرقه بنداز و حکومت کن یا یه کاری کن که دشمنت تقسیم بشه به چند بخش بعد پیروز شو

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