Fighter pilots are a special breed. Last fall, a former Navy F/A-18 pilot, who was teaching an Aeronautical Engineering course at the US Naval Academy, shared some personal insights with his class regarding flight school and what it takes to thrive there. My son, who was an exchange cadet there that semester, jotted detailed notes from this rare opportunity and recently shared them with me.
The Commander's comments centered on these 12 actionable elements of Attitude and Aptitude that drive success:
It's football season! Yes, that magical time of year has finally arrived, when teams across the country suit up and compete on the gridiron. At the risk of upsetting those who favor that other "futbol" sport, I will offer my opinion that American Football is King in this country for good reason.
Our American Culture was built on teamwork, intense effort and always making Forward Progress as a nation. The sport of football captures those essential elements. The game exhibits such purity of effort, where Forward Progress is literally measured on every play. You're either moving forward, backward, or staying briefly in place. There's no doubt about the direction; to score and ultimately win the game requires achieving consistent Forward Progress.
Sometimes gains come in big chunks, sometimes in inches. Not all plays are winners. Often the approach must be changed to move the ball, when set plays aren't working as planned. Occasionally the chains are brought out to measure minute distances and determine if enough Forward Progress has been made to earn a fresh set of downs -- to provide more chances to advance.
A solid game plan, strong players, diligent practice and unwavering determination are fundamentals that create the potential for success. But the moment of truth comes when the ball is teed up and play commences. During the back and forth of a typical football game, there are plenty of ups and downs. The football itself creates spins and bounces that can change the game in a flash. Even so, the team that makes the most Forward Progress puts itself in the best position to consistently win.
Football provides an exciting and welcome respite from work for fans of the game; we follow our favorite teams and the games provide for wonderful camaraderie and spirited sportsmanship. Football’s remarkable popularity, however, is firmly rooted in a parallel to achieving success in business and in life – consistently making Forward Progress!
It's amazing what a group of talented people can do when they understand their purpose - The Big Picture - and share common core values. Those human forces are as powerful as ever, perhaps even more so, with the enlightened and "always-connected" generation of young people.
I just returned from Parents Weekend at the United States Air Force Academy. My son is now a senior there, a "Firstie" in USAFA lingo. My wife and I have witnessed a remarkable transformation since he entered basic cadet training in the summer of 2009; he and his classmates have grown physically, academically, socially and, yes, militarily.
Viewed from a distance in a parade formation, the cadet wing appears homogenous; their precision marching might further suggest that. However, the cadet population at USAFA is incredibly diverse; cadets come from all 50 states (with some exchange students from other countries) and every imaginable ethnic background, yet the culture is remarkably compatible
A vibrant culture does not require "sameness"; however, it absolutely requires strong shared values. These USAFA core values are absolutes and are ever-visible: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do. In fact, these values are amplified through the diversity and interactions of the people, personalities and talents of the academy population; diversity enhances the culture there.
As parents, we were invited to "attend" several classes, where it was possible to catch a glimpse of the USAFA Culture at work. The instructor in a senior-level class, who is a US Naval Officer and helicopter pilot, had this to say about his students:
"Don't let anyone tell you that this younger generation isn't as good as those who came before them. They are very bright and easy to motivate, if they understand the Big Picture." ~ Commander Kyle Michael, Military Strategic Studies instructor
If you want to restore your faith in our future as a nation, in the grand cultural experiment known as the United States of America, I encourage you to visit one of our military service academies.
In the world of business, human life or national security may not be at risk in the work we do every day, but high-performance cultural principles are the same. When a group of people understand The Big Picture, and are linked through shared core values, remarkable things happen.