If you’ve read anything at all about self defense, you’ve probably already heard of the OODA Loop. Just about everyone has written about it. Even so, I still feel obligated to help spread the idea to as many people as possible.
There’s always the possibility that this is the first time you’ve heard of the OODA Loop. There’s also the possibility that you are far more experienced than me, and maybe I could learn from you.
If that’s the case, I urge you to leave a comment.
We’ll get to the OODA Loop soon, but first I want to share with you part of my vision for Business and Bullets.
I also want to give you advanced warning – I’m not just going to be talking about self defense in this article. We’re also going to apply this strategy to everything from a street fight to investing to sex with people you’ve never met. If you’re going to be a shy little sheep, you may as well click away now.
As for my vision, I would like for Business and Bullets to be a place where real people can share their real insight about things that really matter in life. That goes for business, hunting, self defense, and everything else.
I know that you probably expected me to talk about the OODA Loop from a self-defense perspective, and I assure you that we’ll get to that. I just want you to know that I want Business and Bullets to grow and for practical information to spread.
Sharing practical information can prevent panic-buying and silliness like the caliber wars found on every gun forum. Maybe we can even put to bed the myth of the ultimate bad ass.
There are too many wanna-be elites in the gun community that pretend to be some kind of ultimate bad ass.
That kind of attitude will never be found at Business and Bullets.
I’m too busy being me to be some mall ninja. Hell, I’m not even a sheepdog.
I’m not the greatest shot that ever lived, but I’m better than average, because the average modern man doesn’t even shoot guns. I understand things like Cooper’s Color Code and Boyd’s OODA Loop. I know that proper time in the gym plus proper time on the range equals me not having much to fear from the average wanna-be thug.
If you’re practicing situational awareness and don’t look or act like a victim, you’ll probably never have to worry about being victimized.
Cooper’s Color Code will keep you out of most fights.
Understanding (and leveraging your understanding) of the OODA Loop will help you win the fights you can’t avoid.
What Is The OODA Loop?
OODA is an acronym.
It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.
When you’re in a constantly changing situation (like a fight) you’re always taking in new information.
First, you observe the new information.
Next, you orient yourself to the situation by breaking away from your old perceptions and change focus to your new observation.
Then you decide your course of action based on how you’ve orientated yourself to the new information.
Finally, you take action based on your decision of how to handle this new information.
Let’s break this process down a bit and analyze how it relates to our awareness.
You first have to observe the change in the situation, which is where unaware folks will stall out. The situation has already escalated before they’ve completed their observation.
You have to break away from whatever you were doing and orient yourself to your new reality, which is easier when you’re already living in a world where you know bad things happen. Being aware of your situation makes the orientation phase easier.
If you were paying attention, you should already be on high alert by the time you’ve received new information. You’re already partly through the orientation phase of the OODA loop.
Wouldn’t it then make sense to live in a constant state of alertness?
No, it wouldn’t. You can’t. You’d get burned out.
Maintaining alertness (as opposed to awareness) is mentally and physically draining.
I make the distinction because it’s not just syntax.
Awareness simply means you know things can go wrong and you’re paying attention.
Alertness means you’re specifically looking for something and you’re prepared to spring into action and dedicate all your focus to that one specific threat.
You can’t use explosive power and focus indefinitely. Nobody is that strong, in mind or in body. You don’t want to live a life where you try to be.
The Ongoing Cycle of The OODA Loop
It should be obvious that you’re going to be going through the OODA loop continuously during a fight. You don’t go through it once and you’re done. It doesn’t work like that.
Think about a sport fight.
Every punch the other guy throws is new information. Every movement of their shoulders is a snippet of data. Every shuffle of their feet is relevant.
Everything is in flux.
You’re going to constantly observe, orient, decide, and act or you’re going to be knocked out. A gunfight is no different. The use of weapons changes nothing.
“As we have often pointed out, man fights with his mind; his weapons are incidental.” Jeff Cooper, From Cooper’s Commentaries Vol. 9, No. 8, August 2001
It almost feels wrong to quote Jeff Cooper in an article about John Boyd’s strategy. I’m perfectly happy to give Cooper credit for almost every defensive mindset technique and many physical techniques (even if he only popularized a technique created by someone else) but he did not create the OODA Loop.
John Boyd created the OODA Loop.
On John Boyd
John Boyd is probably the greatest military strategist to have never killed anybody.
Boyd was a fighter pilot, and a damned good one at that. He originally created the OODA Loop for air-to-air combat. In more recent times, Boyd was brought out of retirement by Dick Cheney to help plan Operation Desert Storm.
Boyd created the Aerial Attack Study which later became the fighter pilot’s bible. Surprisingly, the Air Force wasn’t originally interested in the Aerial Attack Study at all.
It only gained traction when he proved that a fighter jet could out-maneuver missiles, which went against the belief of the military at that time.
The only thing I can say negatively about John Boyd is that he didn’t write an autobiography, which is one hell of a shame. I enjoy reading about the lives of interesting people and great thinkers, mostly so I can feed off of their wisdom.
We can only learn from John Boyd what we learn from using his strategies, which is still a great gift.
How and When to Use The OODA Loop
The reason the OODA Loop is such an incredible idea is that it doesn’t apply to a single situation. The OODA Loop isn’t just a military strategy. The OODA Loop is a strategy for humans to use on other humans in any context.
Hell, the OODA Loop isn’t just limited to humans versus humans. Corporate entities and governments use the OODA Loop as well, but we’re going to focus on how YOU can use it.
You can leverage your understanding of the OODA Loop in self defense, business, and practically anything else. Understanding how to properly use this strategy can help you win a fight, make investments, retain power in your relationships, fuck a stranger, you name it.
First, I’ll explain the idea of leveraging your understanding of the OODA Loop. Then we’ll go through some of the examples above.
It’s All About Time
Understanding the concept of the OODA Loop is one thing, but using it to your advantage is a another. This concept has been around long enough for some people’s grandfathers to have known it, but you don’t read a lot on how to use it.
Basically, it’s all about time. The faster you can cycle through your OODA Loop, the bigger your advantage. It’s not quite that simple, unfortunately.
You and the other person in your situation are both going through your own OODA Loops separately. Your perceptions are different, your backgrounds are likely different, and the conclusions you reach are going to be different.
An example of this is asymmetrical war. A soldier in a standing army from a first world country like the United States sees the world differently than an insurgent who was born in Kabul.
Those two men simply think differently. They’re going to progress through their own OODA Loops at different speeds, depending on the circumstances.
The way you use your knowledge of the OODA Loop to your advantage is to speed up your loop and slow down or interrupt theirs. You’ll then have to make several correct decisions based on the initial observation, and you’ll have to make them fast. It isn’t going to be easy.
How to Use The OODA Loop In Self Defense
Chances are that you’re reading this because you’re a person who is interested in self defense, so I can guess a couple things about you.
- You’re probably not terribly poor, because you probably own a gun.
- You’ve probably never been in any serious fights, either. Most people haven’t.
- You probably don’t have much street smarts. Most people don’t.
Just like an American and an Afghani have different backgrounds that lead them to different conclusions, you have a different background from the majority of the criminal element. Your different background actually translates to a significant disadvantage in a one-on-one fight.
Especially when you didn’t expect the fight in the first place.
When presented with a violent encounter, you’re at a disadvantage. Your attacker has already made the decision to attack you, so they’ve already cycled through their OODA Loop one full time.
They observed you, probably momentarily unaware of your surroundings. They oriented themselves to their next potential victim. They sized you up and decided they can take you. Then, they strike.
You’re playing catch-up.
You have to observe this new threat, tear yourself away from the reality you were in previously, and orient yourself toward the fact that you’re now fighting for your life. This is where most people fail.
“It all happened so fast…” – Every Victim Ever
You’re going to have to decide what to do very, very quickly. Fight or flight? Whichever you decide, you better do it quickly.
So, how do you use the OODA Loop to your advantage?
By doing something unexpected.
If your attacker thought you were unarmed and you present your pistol, they now have to observe this new information. Their OODA Loop has restarted.
If you then start walking TOWARDS them and engaging them, that’s even more information. They’re getting hung up at the Observe – Orient phase of their OODA loop. Your goal is to keep them there and defuse the situation.
If you’ve already been struck by them, good. If they’re close enough to hit you, they’re close enough for you to grab them.
If you’ve presented a pistol, they’re expecting you to fire it. When you strike them with the barrel, you’re further interrupting their OODA Loop. They won’t have time to react.
Will you be able to make all of those decisions in that split second? You’d have to be pretty damned good. If you’re ever in that situation, I truly hope you are that good.
“We continue to be exasperated by the view, apparently gaining momentum in certain circles, that armed robbery is okay as long as nobody gets hurt! The proper solution to armed robbery is a dead robber, on the scene.” – Jeff Cooper
How to Use The OODA Loop in Investing
I’m going to use Wall Street as an example, but you can use the OODA Loop in any form of investing. The principles are the same.
The big time investors and the small time investors are both working through their OODA Loops when it comes to making investments, but I’d be lying to you if I said there was a way to beat the big dogs.
They’re observing new information just like you, but the quality of information and the relevance of that information is far better than what you or I have access to. The timing of that information is also different.
You and I don’t know the exact date that a new executive will take over a company, and we don’t know this executive personally. We don’t really know what effect it will have on that company’s value, but the men who play golf with him do. They know whether to buy or sell on a level we never will.
Yes, Wall Street is fucked up. No, you can’t do anything about it. Boo-hoo.
You can sit around and bitch about Wall Street like everyone else, or you can do your best to make money on it.
Observe the world around you. Observe the things you spend money on. Observe the industries that are dying and observe the industries that are thriving.
Orient yourself to the way the world really is, not the way the world is supposed to be. The majority of people are stuck with the orientation of the world that was sold to them in public school and university. Just like with self defense, this is the part where most people get stuck.
Most people can’t change their orientation with respect to the world. That’s why no one (myself included) can fully understand the economy. We don’t really know where it’s going.
How the hell are you supposed to make money on the stock market, then?
Observe the businesses that are thriving in the real world you’ve orientated yourself to. What kinds of goods and services do they depend on? What are their products made from? Those are the kinds of companies to invest in.
How do you decide which companies to invest in? What price is a good price to pay for a share of these companies? I’m not going to tell you, but I’ll point you to a few books (yes, these are affiliate links) that stand the test of time and will help you decide and act.
Two Books to Help You Understand Where to Invest
Warren Buffett is a big name in the business world, and a lot of people know his name. He’s got the success to back it up.
Benjamin Graham was Buffett’s mentor. Graham’s writing style is a little hard to read, but his book is still the value investor’s bible.
Graham was mostly concerned with knowing when a particular stock was selling below value, making it a deal. If that’s what you need to know, you should buy his book.
Mary Buffet used to be Warren’s daughter-in-law. When the divorce went through, people were salivating for a scathing tell-all about the Buffetts.
Thankfully, Mary decided to write a book about Warren’s investing strategies. Her book is far, far easier to read than Graham’s.
How to Use The OODA Loop In Your Relationships
The sad thing about relationships is that you can actually approach them with the same techniques you approach a fight with and have the same successes.
Have you ever wondered why most marriages end in divorce? Most couples shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place, but ignore that for now. I’m talking about the couples that genuinely looked like they were happy together.
Complacency. Complacency kills relationships.
After a couple of years with someone, you settle into a routine. You start to know exactly what your woman is going to say before she even says it. She knows what you’re going to say too. The two of you start becoming boring.
When you’re dating, you’re probably being fake. You have to come up with things to do that you usually wouldn’t do, because you’re trying to impress her. Bad move.
Because of this, you’ve created a false representation of yourself. When you start to actually be your boring self, she’s going to be let down. There is hope, though.
The solution is really simple.
First, don’t pretend to be a man if you’re not. If you’re a lazy slob, fix that before you even remotely consider getting serious with a woman. There’s actually a lot of things you should do before getting serious.
Second, don’t be boring. You wouldn’t be happy with her if she stopped doing all the things that make you want her around, so why should you be able to get lazy? Don’t be fat or weak, and don’t be uninteresting.
Do you want to know the best way to look like an interesting man? BE an interesting man.
Go see a band you don’t know in a college town you’ve never been to. Visit important historical sites and learn about your culture (yes, you have a cultural background even if you’re white). Kill wild game and butcher it with hand made knives, then prepare a feast for your friends and family.
If she’s not interested in that, well, that’s her damn problem.
Maybe you’ve already made all of the above mistakes, and you’re wondering how this relates to the OODA Loop. If you’re wondering that, then you’re not paying attention.
The modern world teaches women to expect certain behavior. She’s going to expect you to behave a certain way. Average men and women orient themselves to a certain pattern of behavior based on this, which ultimately leads to divorce for the vast majority of couples.
When you don’t behave the way she’s orientated to, she’s going to observe this behavior that seems strange and foreign. She will have to orientate herself to this new information. One of two things is going to happen.
She’s IN, or she’s OUT.
If she’s in, great. If she’s out, go find someone else. It’s really that simple.
The same thing applies to having sex with a girl you’ve never met.
She’s going to observe you walking up to her, without the help of a “wolf pack” or any “liquid courage“, and you’ve already separated yourself from the perception she’s been orientated to.
She’s going to orientate herself to this bold behavior and she’s going to be IN or OUT. Most of the time, just like with self defense and investing, she’s going to get hung up at orientation. She’s not going to know 100% how she feels about it.
You can do what most men do and try to get her to like you, which allows her OODA Loop to catch up, and she’ll probably decide you’re not as interesting as she thought. Good luck playing text-tag for the next 6 days.
You can short circuit her OODA Loop by holding her hand. This usually snaps women out of “not being sure” and they almost immediately decide whether they’re IN or OUT.
If she’s still not sure (you’d have to be a pretty innocent looking guy) then do something else unexpected. Kiss her shoulders, then graze her neck with your teeth.
Politely ask her how much she weighs and then pick her up off the ground and tell her she’s not that heavy.
Do something unexpected. Short circuit her OODA Loop between Observe and Orient. IN or OUT.
The OODA Loop is a powerful tool. It’s a powerful observation on how human beings react to change.
Then why isn’t everyone using it?
That’s the beauty of it. They are. They just don’t actively use it to their advantage.
But now you can, and you will. I know you will.
You’re going to start noticing your own OODA Loop simply because you’re more aware of it.
You’re going to start getting what you want in life.
You’re going to see opportunities to take charge and lead the pack instead of stand there and wait for orders like a good little puppy.
Get used to taking control, because no one else is going to do it for you.
Get After It.