But even with a real-life career that sounded like something that a fiction author would have to tone down or condense, there was one big thing that the great Bob Hoover never did:
He never talked trash about other pilots.
No matter what you do, what field you're in, or who you are, there will always be someone better than you at it. Unless you're Michael Jordan, there is someone who is better at basketball than you are. Unless you're Neil Peart, there is someone who is better at drumming than you are. Unless you're Bill Gates, there is someone who's richer than you are.
And yet Bob Hoover, who could legitimately walk into any room and know that he was the best pilot there, and who has been called "the best stick and rudder man who ever lived" by those who would know, never talked down to others, never second-guessed other pilots, and never had the know-it-all attitude so common in other pilots, especially in pilot forums.
Hoover did like to talk about himself, though. (As my wife will tell you, that's not an uncommon trait in pilots.) And he did engage in some trash talk.
What set him apart, however, was how he talked about himself. Instead of trying to impress everyone with his knowledge, as many pilots do, or trying to make himself look good by trashing others (which many others do, although there is some overlap between the two groups), Bob Hoover did yet another thing that almost no other pilot has done:
He talked about himself and talked trash at the same time by always talking about how much work he had to do to get better. Here was the one man who actually had ultimate bragging rights no matter who he was talking to, and yet he did not pretend he was born Superpilot or decide he had ever reached a level where he was as good as he would ever want to be. He could always go out the next day and improve.
In this, he shares traits with Michael Jordan, who was always the first on the practice court and the last off of it; with Neil Peart, who after 30 years of drumming decided to find a drum coach in a completely different style than what he had mastered, tore down his method and rebuilt it from scratch, and even changed from a matched grip to a traditional grip just to find another way to improve; and with Derek Jeter, who when someone would come on the field to practice, Jeter would insist on leaving the field five minutes after they did, no matter how long that took.
In the foreword to productivity guru Tim Ferriss's new book Tools of Titans, Arnold Schwarzenegger says, "The worst thing you can ever do is to think you know enough." Bob Hoover always thought he could know more, rather than—as too many pilots do—think that he knew more than everyone else.
Next week, I'll talk more about what those who do think they know enough can learn from the example set by the great Mr. Hoover. See you next Wednesday!
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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.
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