Friday, March 29, 2013


“For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?”--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I just finished reading this book. This guy was a genius. A fighter pilot genius that did things his own way. Boyd was a radical thinker and developed new ways of looking at dogfighting, jet development, military, war and life. He was so far ahead of his time that his contemporaries might as well have been in the dark ages. You can imagine that he wasn't very popular with most of his contemporaries, except the few anointed, called Acolytes. His "To be or to do" speech summarizes his individualism:

“Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” he said. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.”

Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something - something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference.”

He paused and stared into the officer’s eyes and heart. “To be somebody or to do something.” In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?”--John Boyd

Boyd was driven to be productive. "The most important thing in life is to be free to do things. There are only two ways to insure that freedom — you can be rich or you can you reduce your needs to zero. I will never be rich, so I have chosen to crank down my desires. The bureaucracy cannot take anything from me, because there is nothing to take."--John Boyd

Boyd developed the concept of Fast-Transitions. This came about while he was studying the success of the F-86 against the MIG-15, a superior aircraft, in Korea. The MIG had a better energy-maneuverability profile yet the F-86 had a 10:1 kill ratio against the MIG. He felt this was due to the F-86's ability to transition quickly from one maneuver to another. He realized that fast-transition was a critical factor in success. "It's all about rapid assessment and adaptation to a complex and rapidly changing environment that you can't control" (Keith Hammonds).

As a surgeon, these ideas resonated. Complex surgery requires the same abilities!

No comments:

Post a Comment