Can You Turn Certain Defeat into Victory in Less than 40 Seconds? Follow These Four Easy Steps and You Can!

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Everyone dreams of being the hero. You can imagine yourself being in the right place at the right time. There’s no reason you can’t be that person – the only person – who knows what to do when the going gets tough.

Everyone dreams of snatching victory from certain defeat… and everyone, including you, can do it..

If only you have the time…

Face it, we all know we can make the right decision if we only had all the facts. But rare are the opportunities that offer enough time to gather the facts.

You can’t control the calendar, you can’t control the clock, you can’t control the stopwatch.

And who doesn’t fear what they can’t control?

It’s normal, so sit back and relax. You’re no different than anyone else.

The clock is the clock. The bad news is your rivals have long known this. They’ve used it to their advantage.

How many ads say something to the effect of “must order before midnight tonight?” Time pressure is a classic sales tactic. It forces you to make a decision before you feel comfortably aware of all the facts, especially the ones that might prevent you from buying.

How many head-to-head meetings end with “you need to give me an answer right now!”? The arbitrary deadline is a common negotiating tactic. It corners you into accepting a deal you might otherwise reject, especially when you feel there are more trade-offs to explore.

How many stories have you heard of a company not releasing the specs on a new product until that product is actually unveiled? Keeping new products and ideas hidden until that last possible moment leaves their competitors no time to immediately address the fresh advantage offered by that product or idea. This policy is the meat and potatoes of any competitive environment.

How often do you see a court drama where the winning attorney saves his best argument for the end? Waiting to reveal their strongest point often catches their adversary off guard. Unless the opposing attorney is quick at thinking on his feet, there’s too little time to compose an eloquent and powerful response.

Why do you think it’s so important to keep military strategy and tactics secret? The element of surprise represents one of the greatest advantages in war. Every general wants surprise on his side. With surprise, the opposition has no time to prepare a defense.

The good news is now you, too, know time is the unyielding enemy. The better news is that knowledge gives you an edge. It means you can prepare.

The best news is someone has already come up with an answer to outwit this foe.

Just as time moves in a series of unforgiving never-ending cycles, so too does this system to defeat it. This system has been used successfully by individuals in fast-paced quickly changing environments. It was born from fighter pilot lessons first taught by its founder in the US Air Force Weapons School. It represents the foundational thinking of every successful NFL quarterback. It is considered one of the eight common themes responsible for the success of “excellent” businesses.

What is it? And how can you use it to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

Nearly 21 years ago to this day, on March 9, 1997, Colonel John Boyd passed away. After serving in the Army Air Force in World War II and flying F-86 Sabres during the Korean War, Boyd taught at the USAF Weapons School. It was here that he earned the nickname “40 Second Boyd” for a daring bet. He challenged that, beginning from a losing position, he could win any dogfight in less than 40 seconds. The system he invented to accomplish this became famous. It is used in military, business, and sports arenas. You can use it, too.

It’s called the “OODA Loop.”

Beginning with his work in 1960, Boyd teamed up with Air Force mathematician Thomas P. Christie on what became Energy-Maneuverability Theory. “Their central concept was that the state of a maneuvering aircraft can be expressed as its total energy, which is the sum of its kinetic energy (due to speed) and potential energy (due to altitude).” (Neufeld, Jacob; Watson, George M. (Jr.); Chenoweth, David, eds. (1997), Technology and the Air Force: A Retrospective Assessment (PDF), Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, p. 204)

The OODA Loop comes from Boyd’s Energy-Maneuverability theory and his observations of air-to-air combat between MiG-152 and North American F-86 Sabres in the Korean War. The acronym stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Because the surrounding environment changes constantly, the pilot must continually loop back and go through the process again until the fight is over. That’s what makes it a “Loop.”

If you think like a pro football quarterback, you can see how this works. As the quarterback fades back to pass, he quickly observes his receivers, going through the progression laid out by the play. He then orients what he’s seen through an almost instant analysis. Based on this, great quarterbacks immediately decide which receiver is in the best position to catch the ball for the most yards. Finally, the quarterback acts by throwing the ball to that receiver.

Keep this in mind. While Boyd once bragged he’d only need forty seconds, most quarterbacks have no more than four seconds. Of course, the consequences are quite different between the outcome of a football game and the outcome of a dogfight.

Here are the precise steps you need to take when you find yourself under the threat of undue time pressure. This system doesn’t guarantee victory. Depending on the exact situation, though, it works more often than it doesn’t.

Step #1: Observation – Look around you. What do you see (or hear or smell or feel or taste)? That’s right. Use every available opening to collect data about your surroundings and about your opponent. Leave no stone unturned. You only have one rule: Do it as fast as you can.

Step #2: Orientation – Take the information you amassed and look for the patterns that emerge as they relate to the challenge facing you. If you’re playing dodge ball, where is the other team looking to throw the ball? If you’re negotiating with a vendor, what one thing appears most important to them? If you’re trying to close a sale, what one need does the prospect keep talking about?

Step #3: Decision – Based on your analysis in Step #2 of everything you’ve compiled in Step #1, make your decision. What action do you want to take? But don’t pull the trigger yet. The environment might have changed between your decision and when your started Step #1. If that’s the case, go back to Step #1. Otherwise, go on to Step #4.

Step #4: Action – Take what you decided in Step #3 and, well, just do it. Here’s the trick, though. Your action might leave you short of your objective. If that’s the case, return to Step #1 and begin the loop anew.

The key to success of the OODA Loop is speed. Harry Hillaker, dubbed “the father of the F-16 Fighting Falcon,” explained the OODA Loop this way: “Time is the dominant parameter. The pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is caught responding to situations that have already changed.”

It didn’t take long for the business world to adopt this philosophy. Authors Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. identified this “bias for action” in their 1982 best-selling business book In Search of Excellence. You might be familiar with their phrase “Ready! Fire! Aim!”

So, it’s up to you. Are you willing to practice this system in your life? Do you want to turn certain defeat into victory in less than forty seconds? It’s so easy a sixth grader can do it. And if you don’t believe it, you can read it for yourself in this article, published on the twentieth anniversary of John Boyd’s passing: “Speed versus Accuracy?” (Carosa Commentary, The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, March 9, 2017).

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