The Blue Angels Guide to Being the Best in Your Field

blue angels
blue angelsThat’s the goal, right?
Being the best in your field?
Recently I was engrossed in a Blue Angels documentary and picked up an aviation-inspired lesson. The Blue Angels are the naval aviators who make up the U.S Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. They pilot F/A-18 Hornets through graceful, gravity-defying aerobatics and stunning wingtip-to-wingtip formations. They are, without argument, the very best in their field.
 These awe-inspiring guys fly fighter planes at 400 mph with their wingtips barely 18 inches apart. Yes. I said inches. In order to hold the famous diamond (four planes) and delta (six planes) formations in the Demo flight, each pilot must hold the throttle completely still against 40 lbs of pressure. (Want to imagine what that feels like?  Put your hand out in front of you, palm up.  Now imagine having eight sacks of sugar stacked on your hand — and you’re not allowed to let your hand drop even a millimeter.)
 While the aviator is maintaining this intense stillness, he must be aware of everything that is going on, or that could go on, inside his own cockpit; be fully aware of outside conditions; and finally, know the positions of the other aircraft at the most minute level of detail. The Blue Angels call this S.A., or “situational awareness.”
 So what’s the lesson for those of us on the ground?
In business you must be keenly aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Do you know what your clients want and need from you?
  • Do you know how what you do affects the people you work with?
  • Do you know what colleagues need from you in order to do their job?
  • Do you know how the decisions you make affect the company as a whole?
  • Do you know what is going on in your industry? With your competitors?
The key is to be aware, to ask questions, to communicate. Is it hard to expand your scope of awareness with everything you have to get done? Probably. But think about how much strength it takes for those pilots to hold the throttle still, and the consequences if they don’t. The consequence for you is mediocrity — and who wants that?

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