The Roll Call

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

So I’ve been reading this book called “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday which talks about recognizing and fighting our biggest opponent that is the EGO and how it insidiously taints our initial goal and the resulting success.  It talks about a very interesting philosophy engineered by the most influential strategist of the US air force, John Boyd who revolutionized the face of modern manoeuvre warfare.  Boyd, in his very famous speech talked about life taking roll calls every now and then and we must choose whether we want to be or we want to do?


Better to do than to say

French Proverb


Where the former means to have the status, so called friends, power, recognition, basically all the required ingredients of the ephemeral fame, the latter implies to work in unrewarding solitude only to bring about the Change! It is the same difference between just having ideas and acting on them, being ambitious and working diligently towards it. One must chose when their life takes the roll call, to be or to do? The man who changed the face of modern military aviation died in oblivion, for the simple reason that he chose to do rather to be. And to come to think of it, this incurable penchant towards “to be” has been neon highlighted by the ghosts of social networking. We want to exist a certain way so that we are celebrated by others and this gratifies our egos. This constant self-inflation seems to justify our efforts, whereas in the reality it gradually works towards our self-implosion.


The most effective way to do is to do it


Here is a short story that succinctly captures the essence of this great yet highly underrated philosophy:

A Sufi teaching story tells of a man who prayed continually for the awareness to succeed in life. Then one night he dreamed of going into the forest to attain understanding. The next morning he went into the woods and wandered for several hours looking for some sign that would provide answers. When he finally stopped to rest, he saw a fox with no legs lying between two rocks in a cool place. Curious as to how a legless fox could survive, he waited until sunset when he observed a lion come and lay meat before the fox. “Ah, I understand,” the man thought. “The secret to success in life is to trust that God will take care of all my needs. I don’t need to provide for myself. All I have to do is totally surrender to my all-sustaining God.” Two weeks later, weakened and starving, the man had another dream. In it he heard a voice say,

“Fool. Be like the lion, not like the fox.”


Success is never about getting to the bottom of your to-do list


There is a mammoth difference between thinking and doing; knowing and implementing; curating and creating and that difference is of ‘being’ and ‘doing’. By ‘being’ we occupy a space where creativity dies a silent death leading to an entropic paralysis whereas by ‘doing’ we create a running assembly line manufacturing results with no requirement for maintaining a warehouse of ideas. We must choose whether it is about accomplishing the necessary or gratifying the ego, so that when life gives us lemons, we can choose whether we make the lemonade or the lemon tree!


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