Since 1946, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels has been the premier military flight demonstration squadron. They resist being called an aerobatic team because they are not out there doing tricks. They showcase maneuvers and capability that every fighter pilot is capable of demonstrating. I have attended at least 100 of their shows, which is the benefit of having a father who is a stud Navy, F-14 fighter pilot.

Back in the early 1980’s when I was rocking the tube socks, sitting in my Dad’s F-14 cockpit.

One of the tools you must use when you fly in formations with only 18 inches (that is not a typo) between wingtips at several hundred miles per hour is mental imagery and visualization. Here is a quick video of the Blue Angels demonstrating how it is done:

A couple of things to think about:

  • This is not something where the leader says, “Hey, we got a big performance today, so I expect everyone to do their job. Everybody know what’s going on? Questions? No? Good. See you at the office.”
  • It is not rushed. It is as real as it can be. This is a SIMULATION in real time.
  • This is done EVERY TIME.

Let me remind you, these are the best pilots in the world (sorry, Thunderbirds, but I am a Navy brat). They have done these maneuvers hundreds of times. During winter training before the show season starts, they fly twice per day, six days a week. They have been handpicked from the best of the best.

They still engage in deliberate practice, simulation, and visualization. Are any of us THIS good at our jobs that we can skip all of this? We have something to learn from this level of discipline and intensity. Try this in your business before your next engagement/meeting:

  1. Document exactly what is expected to happen in the meeting, as well as contingencies for what could go wrong. Look to your training and make sure each individual has been trained how to do their part.
  2. Gather in a meeting room and do a walk through. This is the ideal outcome. Go through it in real time.
  3. Do a simulation where someone plays the client giving the team a hard time and throwing out objections.
  4. Reflect on performance, go back to step 1, repeat next time.

This is how professionals plan, prepare, practice, and perform. ESPECIALLY the best. So should we all.

In their classic diamond formation, The Blue Angels have only 18 inches between wingtips to the next. They insist on visualization and walk-throughs of each and every performance. Blue Angels cannot have a “pretty good performance” and expect to try it again tomorrow–or ever.