Breaking Rules In Good Faith

A scene from Top Gun: Maverick about being insubordinate to do what’s right

Top Gun: Maverick is a movie about a legendary fighter pilot (Maverick) training other pilots for an “impossible” mission while getting a second chance to love and protect those dearest to him.

My favorite scene in the movie happens after Admiral Simpson “permanently grounds” Maverick from the mission and Penny tells him that he will “find a way” to return to protect his students. During a mission briefing, Admiral Simpson changes the acceptable mission time from 2:30 to 4:00 to make the mission possible but risk the lives of the pilots. Maverick hijacks the briefing from the air in an F-18, telling mission control to change the time for the simulation to 2:15. He successfully completes the simulation, making everyone believe the mission is possible, including the admiral.

The scene with Penny starts at 1:17:35 in the movie and the following scene with Maverick hijacking the mission briefing starts at 1:18:49 (available on YouTube).

Ice is gone. What choice do I have?

You'll have to find a way back on your own.

Penny, I'm out. This is over.

Pete, if you lost your wingman up there, you'd keep fighting. You wouldn't just give up. They're your pilots. If anything happens to them, you'll never forgive yourself.

I don't know what to do.

She reaches out to touch his cheek.

But you'll find a way. I know you will.

In her eyes, the answer starts to appear to him.

To make something “impossible” happen, you must break the rules and move forward in your most defeated, fragile, and hopeless state. Maverick’s good friend dies (Ice); he loses control over a promise to keep Rooster alive; and he realizes his student pilots will die under the leadership of Admiral Simpson. And even though he’s commanded to leave them all behind, he stays. He returns to a deep truth with the help of Penny, takes a big risk, and completes the mission. Returning is the real mission. Grace guides us there, but we must make the hard choice that turns “impossible” into possible.

To hit company goals at a tech startup, I pitched the “impossible” mission of creating 100 articles in 30 days to help us rank at the top of Google for certain keywords. Not garbage articles, but good articles. I accomplished the mission, but broke rules along the way. To move quickly, I did not require freelance writers to sign contracts. I also stopped coming in to the office. I disappeared. To manage challenges outside of work at the time and focus on the mission, the office was not the right place for me. It was mistaken for entitlement and insubordination but the job got done. Four years later, the CEO still tells his peers about the “impossible” mission and the articles are still ranking at the top of Google.

Are there any rules you should break?

By Robert Gibb

Practicing screenwriting and writer @ Scene Lift

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