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The World Needs More Top Guns

Tom Cruise blockbuster has important lessons for business and life

Harvey Mackay headshot
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Harvey Mackay
The World Needs More Top Guns

I was among the millions of people who flocked to movie theaters recently to see “Top Gun: Maverick.” It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a few years.

My friend Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman is an American author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant and founder of The Wingman Foundation. He is a decorated fighter pilot and retired Air Force officer and combat veteran, having flown 65 combat missions. He loved the movie because “it demonstrates how important it is for us to coach, mentor and lead our youth through challenge and fear.”

“Top Gun: Maverick” is loaded with business and life lessons. This movie speaks volumes about values: values that lift, inspire and encourage, and say I have your back no matter what.

Among the other core values that I picked up in the movie:

Trust — The most important word in business is trust. It takes years to build up trust, but only seconds to destroy it. Trust is central to doing business with anyone. I can only imagine the level of trust that these pilots, flying at dizzying speeds and performing mind-bending maneuvers, must have in each other. Lack of trust could mean a life-or-death situation.

Commitment — No one gets in the cockpit of one of these jets without total commitment. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. Commitment is a prerequisite to success. Commitment is the state of being bound — emotionally, intellectually or both — to a course of action. Commitment starts with a choice and is sustained by dedication and perseverance.

Courage — It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets you apart from the crowd. Courage is regarded as one of the major human virtues. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerve all rolled into one. I’m not a soldier, a police officer, a doctor nor a relief worker. I’m a businessman. So what does courage have to do with running a business?

Plenty. I admit that most folks’ daily lives are not filled with such dramatic challenges. We all face situations that require us to reach down deep within ourselves to do what is right and brave and occasionally difficult. Courage can involve making decisions that are unpopular or time-consuming or even expensive.

Camaraderie/Friendship — I’ve heard this quote many times, including from my good friend Muhammad Ali: “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

Pride — Not the self-serving, obnoxious kind of pride. No, this level of pride means always doing your best so that you can be satisfied that you gave it your all. Pride to me is being self-confident, but not egotistical. Could you land on the deck of a moving ship? I’d take a great deal of pride in accomplishing what they do.

Adversity — I have never met a successful person who hasn’t had to overcome a little — or a lot — of adversity. The impact and ultimate result depend on what you do with the difficulties that come your way. The adversities I’ve experienced have made me stronger, more fearless, and ultimately, more successful.

Perfection — Practice makes perfect — not true. You have to add one word. Perfect practice makes perfect. It doesn’t matter whether you are practicing a presentation or a golf swing or flying a jet, you want to improve your performance, not repeating practice mistakes.

Passion — Passion is at the top of the list of the skills you need to excel in any profession. If you don’t have a deep-down, intense, burning desire for what you are doing, there’s no way you’ll be able to work the long, hard hours it takes to become successful. However, if you are not very good at what you are passionate about, it won’t matter.

Encouragement — Growing up I studied people like Dale Carnegie, who said: “Tell a child, a husband or an employee that he is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, that he has no gift for it, and that he is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique; be liberal with encouragement … let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it … and he will practice until the dawn comes in at the window in order to excel.” Encouragement unleashes potential.

Mackay’s Moral: As Waldo Waldman says, “There is a time and a place for us to be a “Top Gun.”

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine August 2022 issue.
Harvey Mackay headshot
Harvey Mackay
Published on
Aug 01, 2022
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