Cognition

Colonel John Boyd and Affirmation

How Col. John Boyd Beat the Generals,” by Martin Edwin Andersen, Insight Magazine, http://www.d-n-i.net/fcs/comments/c455.htm, 11 August 2002.

I read about Boyd on ZenPundit, and Marks’ description made him sound fascinating. His career is even better than I thought. A great summary is available on the ever-handy DNI site. My knowledge is still too sketchy to summarize the article, but the last paragraph is definitely worth quoting

Col. John Boyd, his biographer Robert Coram reports in his well-written book, had a speech he often gave to those who, like the fighter pilot himself, found that doing right did not always mean doing well. Known as the “To Be or To Do” speech, Boyd used it to rally flagging spirits of apprentices who, until they became involved as one of his Acolytes, had appeared fated to climb the highest rungs of conventional success. The tenets of this speech reflected both his spirit and values:

“One day you will come to a fork in the road. And you’re going to have to make a decision about what direction you want to go.” [Boyd] 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 the 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 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. “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?”

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