I recently listened to a partner at a Venture Capital firm talk about startups that are quick to take action. I couldn’t have said it any better myself, so here’s the quote:
“Commander John Boyd was a flight instructor for the air force. There was this expression that in a simulated dog fight, he could beat any pilot in like 30 seconds or some outrageously quick amount of time. People were like, “How does he do that?” He taught this form of combat, which was about moving very quickly. So, if you place yourself in the time I was reading about John Boyd, it was also when I was working with Eric Ries and Steve Blank. Eric Ries was a consultant at Floodgate before he wrote The Lean Startup. He’s famous just like … I have this magnetism for famous future to be authors, I guess.
We were talking, and we’re like, “Something really important is happening here – offshore labor, search engine marketing, opensource software, broadband penetration, global markets – and it seems like you can get a product to market for less money, you can do it faster.” Steve Blank started talking about this guy named John Boyd. John Boyd was this flight instructor in the air force and he could beat anybody in a dog fight super fast. Boyd’s fundamental insight was that sometimes you can win a battle purely by being faster.
It’s like let’s say you’re in a Russian MiG and I’m in an F16, and I make the wrong move but you haven’t moved yet, then I make the right move before you’ve moved yet. Just the mere fact that I was able to make a move and course correct before you made your countermove means two things. I can get in the right position relative to you, but, more importantly, it’s very disorienting to you ‘cause you don’t know where I am. I was here, now I’m there. The philosophy of John Boyd that was inspiring to me back in 2005, and one of the reasons I started Floodgate, was, I was like, “You can do this as an entrepreneur and an investor.”
The F16 fighter jet was designed to John Boyd’s spec. An F16 doesn’t fly faster than a Russian MiG, but it changes directions faster. The F16 fighter was a system, it wasn’t just the plane, which could change direction faster, it was the mind of the pilot. The mind of an agile pilot with an agile plane will beat a Russian MiG all day long. So, I was like, “That’s what’s going to happen with startups.” That’s why 500,000 is the new 5,000,000, and that’s why we need to go fund these agile entrepreneurs. They’re going to be able to force multiply, and the big competitors who’ve raised a bunch of money are going slower, doing waterfall development, they’re going to be disoriented by how fast these companies move.
What I really learned from Boyd was kind of this idea that if you are a speed based competitor, you can be wrong but still be right quicker, which makes you right.”
To view the transcript of the entire show, you can click here.
Anyway, “Forty Second Boyd” (according to Wikipedia) could supposedly beat any pilot in a dogfight within forty seconds, which was unbelievable. While that transcript related to startups, the advice is great in terms of self improvement and pursuing excellence in any discipline.
As you know, there’s a massive difference between starting when you’re “good enough” and starting when you’re “perfect”. You can always adjust along the way for the former (and you’ll probably reach a high level of mastery faster than if you waited for perfection in the first place).
What’s the key takeaway here? Don’t let paralysis by analysis get you. Get moving towards your goals. Wanna start a lifting program? Do it. Looking to start crosstraining in another sport like boxing, jiu jitsu, or judo? Do it now. Unless you’re injured and medically unable to train, there’s no need to “wait for the right time” before you start training. Getting in shape will happen along the way if you’re conscious about taking action.
Looking to attend a training camp but don’t think that you’re ready? Go to camp and prepare to the furthest extent possible before that.
Wondering whether or not you should be ready to enter a tournament one month from now? Commit to it.
Trying to run/read/relax regularly? Take the first step now, even if it’s not the “perfect” decision in the perfect situation that you’re looking for. There’s always the possibility of adjustments.
By following John Boyd’s principle, you’ll find that you can take massive action, make mistakes, and still “win” over the long term. Compound interest generally favors the investor who started earlier and not the investor who put the most money in later. I believe the same applies when you invest in yourself through learning, wrestling, and jumping levels.
Take action now. Adjust along the way.