Robert Anderson “Bob” Hoover (Photograph by D. Ramey Logan, Creative Commons.)
“The greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived.” These are the words used by the legendary pilot, General James “Jimmy” Doolittle, leader of the Doolittle Raid into China in World War II and of 1930s air racing fame to describe Robert A.“Bob” Hoover.
Hoover is considered to be among the most renowned test and air show pilots in history. I heard about Bob Hoover’s celebrated aviation career this past week when his death at the age of 94 was reported on a television news program I was watching.
Looking into his life a little more I learned that Bob Hoover is legendary for his military career as a World War II pilot and for the hundreds of military and aviation awards he has received over his lifetime, including the prestigious Wright Bothers Memorial Trophy in 2014 (an award presented annually to a living American for significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States). He is also acknowledged for his enthusiastic penchant for telling his personal aviation stories.
Hoover once told an audience of young admirers that as a teenager he dedicated himself to “Working 16 hours in a grocery store to earn 15 minutes of flight time.” He also said that he taught himself to fly the loops and hand rolls of aerobatics in an effort to help overcome persistent airsickness
His determination paid off. At age 18 Hoover enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard. He was trained as an Army pilot, but only after bluffing his way through the military medical certification process. His eyes were not good enough to pass the eye exam. He tells how the doctor, recognizing his skill as a pilot and wanting him to succeed, indicated the eye chart on the wall and then said he had to leave the room for another appointment. He returned in 15 minutes to complete the eye exam. While alone in the room Hoover memorized the bottom line of the chart and easily passed the exam.
When we think about what is needed to be successful in life and in work we think about characteristics like value, talent, ambition, intellect, discipline and persistence. But often overlooked is passion, another very important ingredient in people that stand out for their success. The passion we have, or don’t have, for our work cannot be underestimated. Sometimes the zeal with which we pursue our dreams is what makes the biggest difference of all in attaining what we want (as it was with Bob Hoover).
As the news articles about his life indicate Hoover loved interacting with pilots and prospective pilots, often going out of his way to speak to children, encouraging them to follow their dreams. “Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it,” Hoover said during the presentation of the Wright Brothers Trophy. “You learn how to do it. You figure out how to do it. And you are the only one who can make it happen. Don’t give up if that’s what you really wish to do.”
These are words of wisdom to keep in mind as we pursue what it is that we wish to do.
William “Bud” Hart is a certified “Mindset” Coach, Accountability Partner and Business Consultant. Visit Hart Group, www.hartgroupma.com for more on coaching.