“Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Vision without execution is just hallucination.”Despite our powerful drive and strong resolve, our new training program was still in jeopardy five years later when I returned for my second tour at TOPGUN. We knew we would have to be relentlessly persistent if we were to do what we knew was right and to overcome our critics. Fast forward to today: The ACTC and SFWTI programs are heralded as the cutting-edge in air combat training. Other communities within the Navy and other services have modeled programs in a similar fashion. Amazingly, many of the former naysayers are now the biggest proponents. Without the dedication of our Relentless Innovators, the TOPGUN changes would never have taken place. This incredible group of dedicated men and women showed what a determined, committed group could do. They made the Navy more effective in combat, and our nation is better for it. The reinvention of TOPGUN remains one of my best examples of what it takes to challenge organizational status quo and win. It highlights the importance of having a system that recruits and promotes Relentless Innovators who will relentlessly pursue organizational improvements. Relentless Innovators Continually Strengthen and Reinvent their Organizations. So, who are the Relentless Innovators? They are people who can think on their feet and have a drive to innovate. They see “No” as a challenge to navigate, not a roadblock to avoid. We have all seen people work their way up in an organization simply by biding their time and not making mistakes. They do not improve anything along the way. They are the maintainers of the status quo. These caretakers, who can be found at every level of an organization, rarely leave an organization much better than it was when they started. They do their jobs, but they do not do much more. They do not innovate. In contrast to caretakers, Relentless Innovators constantly build and innovate. They are not bound solely by status quo procedures and checklists to determine what needs to be done. While caretakers may be good people who are efficient at executing their responsibilities as described, they lack the added motivation, or maybe even the guts, to improve their organizations. Therefore, whether you are hiring from outside or promoting from within, a key attribute of a culture of excellence is implementing a hiring system that will attract a solid core of Relentless Innovator candidates. When you are a fighter pilot – especially when you are part of the Blue Angels or TOPGUN – playing as a team isn’t just a slogan. Your life is literally in the hands of your fellow naval aviators. A wrong move could easily create a tragedy. With that constant reality, everyone wants to know they are working with the best and that those people have the drive to always search for improvement, and the conviction to put the team and executing the plan ahead of themselves.