If Peter Thiel had asked Air Force Fighter Pilot and military theorist John Boyd his famous question of “what one thing do you believe that nobody else believes,” Boyd’s answer would have been simple: he who is able to make and execute decisions fastest, wins.
It seems simple, but like many important concepts is incredibly complex once you dig into it.
Boyd’s master theory of the “Observe-Orient-Decode-Act Loop” states that the faster one is able to observe the enemy, orient one’s self to that enemy, decide on a course of action, and then act on that decision, the more likely one is to defeat the enemy in a combat engagement.
No single theory better explains the tactical success of Donald Trump.
Beyond Trump’s political positions — America First, free speech, defending borders — is a brilliant tactical mind that can be understood simply by looking through the lens of John Boyd.
For the mainstream media, the observe-orient cycle can take hours, if not days. First, something happens (like an attack on innocent civilians). As initial reports begin to trickle out from the incident, members of the mainstream media begin to ask themselves what happened. They flock to their private internet chat rooms (like the recently leaked Correct The Record Slack channel) and begin to formulate an official “narrative”. Virtues must be signaled. Feelings must not be hurt. Once they have observed and oriented, then they collectively arrive at a decision: it is time to go in TV. Hours later, they take to the airwaves and the blogs owned by Carlos Slim, Jeff Bezos, and others. Hand-wringing commences.
This process takes approximately six to ten hours depending on when it happens.
Their single OODA-cycle takes a whole day.
This used to work back when newspapers were printed once every 24 hours (or sometimes had an “afternoon edition”), and news as a result had a daily, cyclical feel to it. Something happened. And a response came a day later.
Then came the Internet.
For Trump, this means social media and a tight-knit crew of trusted confidantes. With a reach into the hundreds of millions worldwide across Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, and Twitter, Trump is able to completely bypass the media and address his audience directly.
They can respond in minutes.
For Boyd, this means that Trump can get “inside the [media] OODA-loop.” It means that in the time it takes the other side to make a decision, the Trump movement has already not only made its first decision, it has made MULTIPLE decisions as it anticipates the reaction.
You thought “bullet-time” in the Matrix was something that only existed in video games? Look no further than Trump to see it in real life.
Live-tweeting the Vice Presidential Debate, Trump injects himself into every news cycle when, and where he pleases. He forces the media to react to him even before they’ve reacted to what is happening. This also ensures that whenever something happens, the media mention Trump’s reaction first.
To apply the OODA-loop in your own life you need to have the right mindset.
1. Observation. Sharpen your senses. Practice your skills of observation. Go for walks where you simply listen and watch. You will be amazed at what you see. Birds chirping. Couples feuding. Strange chalk marks in alleyways. Listen to your mind when you see something. Pay attention to the world around you.
2. Orientation. This is the big one. It means always striving to improve yourself be it through reading new books, listening to podcasts, or learning new skills. To orient effectively you must train your mind to recognize patterns, understand history and psychology, and even know your enemy.
3. Decision making: this one just comes with time, and with mentorship. This is why training schools exist in the military, or practice for sports teams.
4. Action. You need to strengthen your body. Lift weights. Get in shape. Eat right. Practice breathing. Everything described in Gorilla Mindset. This way your body and your mind will be prepared once you decide to take action.
Pay attention to the Trump campaign this week. Look at how it executes. If Boyd were alive today, he would see his principles in the movement we are building. You can use these same principles in your own life. You just need to have the right mindset.
Military Strategist Explains Why Donald Trump Leads—And How He Will Fail by Dan McLaughlin.
John Boyd Patterns of Conflict Part 1