We need more top guns!

By Chief Sam DiGiovanna

The world needs them, especially in public safety… 

Like syndicated author Harvey Mackay, I too 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.

Reading his take, I saw the familiarity in his description and need(s) for our youth, but also applicable in public safety from the recruits in the academy, to those on probation all the way to the top brass. I think you will also identify with Mr. Mackay’s points within your agency or organization. His words follow:

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 though 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.”

Chief Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department, and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale. Passionate about public safety and risk management, he also is a consultant for Lexipol www.Lexipol.com & Fortress North America Fortress