Cortes started a war with the Aztecs that led to the destruction of their empire. However, he had only six hundred men, whereas the Aztecs controlled most of modern-day Mexico. The odds were obviously thought to be heavily against the Spanish, and many of Cortes's soldiers were reasonably wary of his plans. To secure their motivation, Cortes sank his ships to make sure they had no option but to succeed or die. Without the escape hatch of going back to Spain on the boats, the soldiers' best option was to fight with Cortes. Translation errors led some to believe he burned the boats, but now we know he just had them damaged to the point of sinking. Nonetheless, burn the boats lives on as a mental model for crossing the point of no return.