Skip to content
Who's in the Video

Guy Snodgrass

Guy Snodgrass is the CEO of Defense Analytics, a national security and foreign policy strategic advisory firm specializing in strategy development, government policy, and technology adoption. Recognized as an influential[…]

Commander Guy Snodgrass is a retired fighter pilot.

His intense training and experience in the cockpit helped him craft 10 skills for leadership and personal performance.

These lessons apply to everyone from medical doctors to social media influencers.

GUY SNODGRASS: Anybody who's seen the movie, now two movies about Top Gun, you kind of think of being a fighter pilot as, 'Hey, it's a lot of fun, there's a lot of beach volleyball, and then every once in a while, you'll go out and do this furiously paced mission, and then you head over to the bar to grab a beer.' The reality is it takes a lot of skills to be a very proficient and a very successful fighter pilot. You're going to be working at least six days a week, for 12, 14, sometimes 16 hours in a day to get you to your maximum potential. And whether it's being a fighter pilot or anything else, I strongly believe that success can be generated. It's not a passive endeavor. It's a very active endeavor. 

My name is Guy Snodgrass. I've written a few books. My most recent is called, "TOPGUN's Top 10: Leadership Lessons From the Cockpit." 

The real TOPGUN, the real schoolhouse- it's a leadership laboratory. It's a laboratory for personal performance and human dynamics, and some of the big lessons you learn, those apply to a wide variety of individuals. Whether you're an entertainer on TikTok or YouTube all the way to someone in the medical profession or teaching in school- what does it take to succeed? Well, Hollywood might take liberties with some of the more cocky nature of being a fighter pilot, or taking competitiveness to a level that does not really exist in real life. There really is no TOPGUN trophy. We don't collect points to determine who is the best student or the best TOPGUN instructor. You want to be the best that you can be, but it's not at the expense of the person to your left or to your right. You wanna work together collaboratively, especially as a highly trained or as an elite individual, regardless of your profession, you always wanna stay humble, you wanna remain very competent. You wanna be confident, but you wanna stay away from the arrogance side of that line. 

One of the best lessons I've learned from my time in uniform service was the importance of staying calm under pressure. There's a U.S. Navy SEAL saying: 'Calm is smooth, smooth is steady, and steady is fast. Sometimes your first inclination is to do a lot of things as fast as possible, try to overcome that challenge and move on. Usually it's best just to take a quick pause, assess the situation, and then make a good plan of attack to overcome it. Einstein, if asked to save the world in 60 minutes, he said well, "I'm going to study the problem for 55 minutes and then take the last 5 minutes to actually act." That is how successful leaders, people who are successful in their careers, behave. Emotion is the enemy of good judgment. 

The concept of a wingman's critically important because when you go into combat or you go into any kind of dangerous situation, if you go alone, the chance of success is very low. But if you go in with those wingmen with you, now your chance of success goes immeasurably through the roof. A big part of success in life, a big part of success in your career is being able to build these really diverse networks of people around you who are supportive, who can help propel you to greater heights. And I've always thought throughout my career that a lot of times when I witnessed others doing so-called networking, that it felt a little negative to me. It always felt very transactional in nature, and so you wanna start early, you wanna foster genuine friendships and not just that transactional-type of relationship. One of the things I always focused on was to reach out to people who, frankly, I needed nothing from, but I had a genuine interest in what they were doing. You can learn something from every single person that you cross paths with. 

At TOPGUN, a lot of what we did was based on life and death circumstances. You had to meet that standard of performance and if you didn't, not only would you lose your own life, but more importantly, the men and women around you might lose their life because of your shortcoming. While a lot of us not wearing a uniform are not faced with that daily life and death decision, I think that that same principle can still equally apply regardless of your endeavor. It's that willingness to say, "I'm not going to compromise. I'm going to ensure that when I do something, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. I'm going to stretch, I'm going to grow, I'm going to learn how I can do it even better and more effectively as I move forward and rise to the top.