I was a world medalist in my mid 20’s when I fought my Coach’s coach, who was in his mid 60’s at the time. Beginning by taken it easy on my grandmaster, I quickly discovered myself out positioned; as I ramped up the speed and power, the noose tightened, rather than loosened, around me. He seemed to move lightening quick wherever I was even slightly off balance, but appeared so totally relaxed that I’d have called him… slow. The more easily he defeated my attacks, the harder I fought and the more frustrated I became, until in futility I tapped out of the maze in which I was overwhelmingly rat-trapped.
Asking how he could defeat a world class athlete with such ease, he replied I was missing more of the game than he; and told me to imagine looking at movement at a microscopic level, “If your opponent looks under the microscope at 10x lens, and you at 200x, then you will see 20x the opportunities and 20x earlier.”
Though I had the advantage of my youthful vigor and condition, he had such superior granularity of awareness that he could calmly act upon opportunities that remained unseen by me until far too late, so I remained trapped in reaction to his near-instant exploitation of my vulnerabilities.
The reactionary gap lives huddled between our observation and our action. We flail because we inadvertently miss two hidden steps between this chasm: orientation and decision. Though we may observe an event, before we can act upon it efficiently, effectively and expediently, we must orient sufficient resources to assess it, and select the appropriate response before we decide to act upon it. The more thorough our assessment we perform, the more appropriate our decision we elect. However, to perform a quick but sufficient assessment, to prevent paralysis by analysis, remove all of the distractions and filters to the specific choice… And focus.
Not cunning or conditioning, but superior focus allowed my grandmaster to respond to 20x the opportunities and 20x faster, with total calm ease.
The late USAF Colonel John Boyd named this the OODA (Observe - Orient - Decide - Act) Loop. In air combat, not the more heavily armored jets which performed the best, not the more heavily armed, not even the faster jets, but the ones which gave the pilots the opportunity to respond more rapidly which performed best.
Agility - the rapid response through the OODA loop - expedites our ability to listen and then act, think then respond, earn then spend, assess then critique, commit not quit, and perhaps even forgive then pray.
Focus. Eliminate the distraction of drama and devote a sufficient amount of awareness to your task and your remove the flailing gap between your observation of an opportunity and your swift, appropriate action upon it.