How Not to Crash an F-18 Jet

coaching impact influence marketing success veterans May 30, 2024
What Would You Do if You Crashed an F-18 Jet?

What Would You Do if You Crashed an F-18 Jet?

I live close to an Air Force base, and it’s not uncommon to hear the screaming roar of a fighter jet tear across the sky. “The Sound of Freedom” we jokingly say to each other as we push our carts and pick apples in the fruit section of the grocery store. But every time I hear those jets overhead, I can’t help but think about a mentor of mine who nearly crashed his fighter jet during a routine exercise when he was an instructor at Top Gun.

Yes, THAT Top Gun.

Images of Tom Cruise and aviator glasses aside, Ed Rush is the REAL deal. Always moving and thinking ahead of the competition, his need for speed earned him trouble as a kid when he flunked kindergarten because of his hyperactivity. However, gratefully for the rest of us, his active mind (and freakish good looks) found their place on the business end of an F-18 fighter jet for the Marines where he served over 50 combat missions and 2 distinguished tours abroad. And if that pedigree didn’t raise eyebrows, he was eventually tapped to be an instructor for the Top Gun school.

Let’s just say, I’ve never seen Ed Rush and Tom Cruise in the room together. Could they secretly be the same person?

One day while training a younger pilot in aerial dogfighting over the Pacific ocean, Ed (callsign “Head Rush”) wanted to show a few tricks up his sleeve. Engaging in a sharp climb, his goal was to outmaneuver his student and gain the advantage. However, an overestimated pitch and other factors soon created every pilot’s worst nightmare: a stalled aircraft mid-flight.

The plane tilted, lost control, and despite Ed’s furious working of the handles and pedals, spiraled downward in a tailspin.

His rookie move was about to lose an F-18 over shark infested waters, and cost the US Government 70 million dollars. But even worse… his buddies would never let him hear the end of it. As he plummeted downward, the instinct to panic was nearly overwhelming, but

his hundreds of hours of training kicked in and his mind raced through the procedures of regaining control. The jet readjusted, the wings created lift, and before he hit the surface of the water, he successfully pulled out of the dive.

And when he returned to the aircraft carrier? His buddies still gave him a hard time.

Today, Ed is a sought after speaker, #1 bestselling author, and a coach to hundreds as he helps them build successful businesses while walking a faith filled life. His new mission is to make an even greater impact in the world, and I’m grateful to call him a mentor of mine.

What does this have to do with influence?

Sometimes, like the F-18 in Ed’s story, we may be reaching for some goal or destination, but for unforeseen events, we too experience “dead air” and fall short. We might have trained for years, we might have the best equipment in the world, and still our goals evade our grasp. In those moments when everything seems to be crashing around us, how do we react?

Like Ed, the urge to panic can be overwhelming. We may feel powerless, and not sure what to do. And also, like Ed, we can think back to our training and double down on the fundamentals of what really creates success. He knew that as long as he helped create the right conditions, the wings would create lift, and just like Orville and Wilbur Wright discovered over a hundred years ago… the plane would fly.

So what are the conditions of success?

I recently went to lunch with another mentor of mine, Lane Monson. After a long career managing large companies with billions in sales at the C-Suite level, Lane is now known as “The 1% Coach” and works with the top 1% of successful leaders. He shared how he was once asked to speak on, “What are the secrets of success for the top 1% of leaders?”

Oh, and he had a 7 minute time limit. What would you say in 7 minutes?

When the day came for Lane to speak, he walked on stage and confidently taught that the single most important skill of the top 1% of leaders was the ability to connect with people, and understand their needs at a fundamental level. And I think Ed Rush would agree.

Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the most successful people I know rise ever higher because they connect well, and help other people get what they want. I’ve heard it once said that, “the smartest person in the room is always the kindest” and when you help other people reach their goals, they will help you reach yours.

And so, next time you are stretching towards a goal or reaching for that milestone, and begin to falter, how can you double down on the fundamentals of understanding the needs of others and creating opportunities for other people to get what they want? That’s when you’ll begin to experience “lift” once again.

I saw someone flying a kite the other day, and as high and free as it looked, the truth is… kites don’t fly because of the same rules as airplanes. They fly because they are fixed to the ground. Sure, they have altitude… but no direction. Then in that moment, almost like poetry, I heard the screaming roar of a fighter jet in the distance, harnessing the fundamentals of physics to shape the world and reach ever higher with purpose.

Helping others rise? That, to me, sounds like freedom.


CHRISTIAN HANSEN has gone behind the scenes in some of the biggest organizations in the world to find out the reasons why some people get chosen and why others don’t. As the #1 bestselling and LinkedIn Top Ten ranked author of “The Influence Mindset: The Art & Science of Getting People to Choose You” Christian helps teams and organizations who want increase their earning potential by standing out from the crowd and influencing people to choose them. With degrees from Brigham Young University and The London School of Economics, he’s helped thousands of individuals position and sell themselves. A fan of international communication, history, and choral music, he currently lives in Utah with his wife. Reach him at:

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