Develop Yourself Like A Naval Aviator

“I quickly realized that I had so much more to learn in order to become a great leader.”

– Russell Stalters, certified John Maxwell Team Coach, Speaker & Teacher

When I started my career as a Naval Aviator after graduating from college, my training and development continued for many years. First, there was flight training for 18 months culminating in earning my “wings.” Then, onto another six months learning to operate the P-3C Orion aircraft I would fly operationally in the fleet. By the way, I am flying the aircraft taking this picture of a P3-C with the Sicilian Mount Etna, Italy in the background.

Once I arrived at my operational squadron there were another 18 months to qualify as a plane commander, which included book study about the aircraft, operational tactics, and numerous training flights. There were exams, formal flight checks, and the last check-ride with the Squadron Commanding Officer to become designated a Patrol Plane Commander.

All of this training and intense development was designed to help us excel in our roles and to be the safest pilots since we held the lives of the crew in our hands.

Later in my career, I went back to graduate school to earn a Master’s in Computer Science. All this ongoing training and learning was aimed at my desire to embody the skills for my chosen professional discipline.

What about applying this much rigor to my personal and leadership development? Sure, I read books including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, and The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter Senge.

But reading books does not produce the same results as rigorous training and development over months and years. Rarely do we really embody the lessons and best practices found in a book by merely reading it. It never occurred to me to seek out the same level of training and development for myself as an individual and leader. Why didn’t I develop myself like I did to become a Naval Aviator?

Then, in late 2012 I discovered the John Maxwell Team and decided to sign up to become a certified coach, speaker, and teacher. The thought of using this type of personal and leadership development never occurred to me. Originally, I was looking for resources to use with my team members to help them to become better leaders.

Wow! What a shock I had while attending the certification training with John Maxwell and the JMT faculty. Here I was, a retired Naval Officer and aviator, a former software company president, and an executive leader at the major oil company BP, expecting to get some pointers and learn some tips about how to be a better leader. I quickly realized that I had so much more to learn in order to become a great leader and to lead a life of significance.

With that realization, I began a journey of personal and leadership development with the same intensity and rigor I had devoted to the development of myself as a Naval Aviator. Over the last four-plus years, I’ve learned so much, been exposed to amazing opportunities to stretch and grow myself in ways I never expected, and have changed my life.

So, how do you do this?

First, find a program of learning that is delivered as a journey and not just a single event like a one or two day seminar. Second, surround yourself with other life learners with whom you can share the journey and create mutual accountability partners. Third, make sure you find a mentor or mentors to help you on your journey of growth.

For me, the John Maxwell Team provides all three of these elements and more. This month I will be attending my ninth International Maxwell Certification Live Event, where I will continue my development and learning. Why do I keep going back every six months to attend the IMC Live Event? Because each one is a stop along the journey where I learn more. I am mentored by John Maxwell and the Faculty, and I am surrounded by thousands of other Team members who are committed to their growth and supporting each other on their journeys. It’s like getting your growth battery recharged.

What are you doing to develop yourself like a Naval Aviator? My recommendation is to become part of the John Maxwell Team and to start your journey of personal and leadership development. Even if you choose not to become part of the Team, make sure you find a mentor and begin learning and developing yourself as a journey, not just a singular event or reading a book.

You will be surprised how fast you will grow if you intentionally develop yourself like a Naval Aviator.

About Russell
Russell Stalters is an entrepreneur, international trainer, and accomplished business leader. A retired Naval Aviator, former software company President, and executive leader while at BP, he was hand-selected to lead the strategy and build the team to manage all the data from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill crisis. Russ is a partner with his mentor, leadership expert John C. Maxwell. He is a certified coach, speaker, and trainer on Maxwell’s global team and serves on his President’s Advisory Council. His 35 years of leadership experience has prepared him to guide entrepreneurs and business professionals to become world class leaders and to equip them with practical advice and solutions for their personal and professional development.

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