The OODA loop is the observe–orient–decide–act cycle developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. It is a framework designed for pilots involved in air combat operations which has moved into mainstream business and entrepreneurship.
There are two subtleties in an OODA loop.
The first is that the O’s in the OODA loop deliberately force you to stop and understand a situation in more detail than you otherwise would before making a decision. Even in chaotic environments.
The second subtlety is that while OODA loops can be applied to resolve acute issues (like those in a fighter jet cockpit), they can also be applied to reflect on challenges and opportunities that do not require split-second responses like the strategic decisions founders need to make.
Given the conversations I’ve had this past month about finding time to reflect, I’m reposting my thoughts on why writing each week matters. I hope it helps you too.
Why writing each week makes all the difference
There was never a time early in life when I enjoyed writing. As I learned to write at school, it always seemed more a skill to acquire and less a craft to enjoy and master.
Of course, I wrote assignments at school, at college and graduate school and then internal reports at banks and pitch documents for ventures. I struggled with writing and the irony is that I don’t recall a time when I was inspired to become a great writer or even just a better writer.
In hindsight, the reason I wasn’t enjoying writing, and by extension not practising to improve, was because I wasn’t doing it for me.
I was writing for someone who would award me a grade, pay me a bonus or invest in a venture.
That changed in 2008 when at 30 I discovered blogging and wrote my first post.
Writing became a weekly habit in 2014 when I started my second venture with a vision and very little domain expertise (former soldier, medical science undergrad, MBA launching an audio recognition business).
I took inspiration from Fred Wilson, who often refers to how blogging helps him reflect and sharpen his thinking, and I haven’t looked back.
I write each week with two people in mind.
Me and one other person.
I don’t know that other person.
They change each week according to the replies I get from the newsletter I send each Sunday.
Whoever they are, they receive help and that makes my day.
Those who say ‘I don’t know where you find the time’ are missing the point.
Because it’s not about finding extra time.
Writing is part of my routine and I’ve found that writing each week frees up time.
Instead of constantly processing half-formed thoughts, I produce an artefact that I know is valuable and one I’m proud of.
And although I write for two people, I write for four reasons.
I write to clarify my thoughts, it separates me from my psychology and the precision of thought that writing provides me is immense.
I write to help others learn from my experience in building companies because I believe in paying it forward and delivering 51% to anyone who wants it.
I write to leave a calling card.
But the most selfish of the reasons is about control.
Amid the turbulence of growing a business, I can predictably control the crafting and delivery of what I write. It might sound strange, but it’s energising to be able to control one thing amongst the chaos.
It’s not rocket science but there are three reasons why you won’t.
It may be that you doubt yourself. You might fear how people will respond to your thoughts. Or you might be convinced that there isn’t a story to tell.
The world is drowning in information and starving for wisdom. From the mistakes you’ve made and how they are propelling you forward.
And all you need to do is help one person.
Here’s how I got started.
I took Andrew Chen’s advice.
That’s why what I write usually ends up on my blog first.
I also took Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice.
Document. Don’t create.
And I took Jon Westenberg’s advice.
Plan what you’re going to write on paper first. Target 400 words to start. Deliver useful lessons. Spend equal time writing and editing. Publish at the same time each day, week or month and be religious about it. It’s how communities are born.
Find a method that works for you.
If that method is writing, just start writing.
Here’s what I would say to my 30-year-old self about writing: Start on Medium. It’s the one corner of the internet where ideas are cherished and where many writers in the world first felt the exhilaration of pressing Publish.