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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

F50 Issue #1: Five Career Lessons from Top Gun Maverick!

Published 9 months ago • 5 min read

F50 Issue #1: July 18, 2023


Helping Your Next Career Take Off: Five Lessons from Top Gun Maverick

Imagine you’re sitting in a movie theater. The lights go down, the curtains part, and the opening scene begins with a pensive, meditative musical theme.

Soon, the melody swells with optimism and a dramatic crescendo. You see jets lining up for takeoff on an aircraft carrier, silhouetted against a golden sky.

As they take flight, the music suddenly switches to Kenny Loggins’ hit song, “Danger Zone.” At this moment, you feel a wave of nostalgia. Have you traveled back in time to 1986?

Nope, it’s 2022, and you’re watching Top Gun Maverick, the sequel to the original Top Gun movie.

And where is Tom Cruise, the actor who played navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell? He’s right there, reprising his character and enjoying a flourishing career in his sixties.

It’s inspiring to see how both the actor and his character embody the longevity we also see in many of our students. Like Tom Cruise, many continue to do work they love, long past the time when people might ask, “Are you retired yet?

Instead of stopping work altogether, our students have chosen to begin freelancing as a second career or “unretirement stage.” In essence, they’re the stars of their own movie sequel!

So, even if you aren’t flying jets, here are five career lessons you can learn from Top Gun Maverick:

1. What seems like the end of a career becomes a new beginning.

If you haven’t seen the movie, we won’t spoil the plot for you. But essentially, Maverick has to shift his role from pilot to teacher at the same Top Gun school he attended years ago.

It might seem like the end of a career, but instead, it signals a new beginning with even more opportunities to contribute to society and enrich the lives of the next generation.

When you enter the freelance world, you have even more freedom than Maverick. The end of one career is the beginning of another you can create on your own terms.

And the sky’s the limit when it comes to envisioning what your second-act career or unretirement path will look like!

2. Past experience is invaluable.

In the movie, Maverick draws from his incredible experience to teach the younger pilots. They have a thick textbook they can read, but he throws it in the trash.

They need him to enhance their knowledge beyond what they’ve already learned. His experience basically saves the day!

And your past experience is as indispensable as Maverick’s. Everything you’ve learned in your job so far or in a career you’ve retired from is invaluable to freelancers of all ages.

You enhance the quality of the industry when you begin a freelance career and apply your past experience to your future endeavors. Clients and fellow freelancers need you (and your experience).

3. There's no need to sit on the sidelines.

Maverick isn’t content to just stand at a podium. He suits up and joins his students in a training exercise where he demonstrates his skills. It keeps him sharp and benefits their learning.

You may have seen interviews and videos showing how Tom Cruise does his own stunts. He’s eager to push his limits and at the same time embraces the opportunity to learn and accomplish new things

As a freelancer, this mindset benefits your work and sets you up for success. You don’t need to be a spectator; you can be the star at the center of the action!

4. "Teamwork makes the dream work." – John Maxwell

At Freelance University, our motto is “Never freelance alone.” Even before officially diving into freelancing, you can benefit greatly from connecting with others who have already ventured into this exciting second-act career.

The quote above is from John C. Maxwell’s book, Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. Maxwell explains how you can fulfill your dreams and achieve your goals when you work as a team, in whatever form that team takes.

In the movie, Maverick saves the day, but he couldn’t have done it without his colleagues and students. Ultimately, they need to work as a team to achieve their goals.

When you become a freelancer, you may work alone in your home office, but you never have to feel alone. You can go farther faster when you build relationships with others taking the same freelance journey.

5. You can shape your new beginning.

When you watch Top Gun Maverick, you see glimmers of a younger Maverick in the character’s determination and willingness to push the boundaries.

In his new role, Maverick takes ownership of his career and becomes more himself. He exemplifies the freedom that comes when we get older and start to take ownership of our career. We become more ourselves in the second act or "unretirement stage."

Tom Cruise echoes this sentiment when he talks about his own career:

"As a young actor, people were trying to define who I was before I really knew that for myself. But I still remember thinking, 'This is what I love doing, and I hope I'm going to be able to do it forever.'"

Is there work you hope to do forever? If so, the future is bright, especially when you embrace the freedom and flexibility of freelancing.

As Joseph Coughlin says in his article, “Not Quietly Quitting But Quietly Returning, Older Workers Are Changing Work And Retirement”:

“For many, today’s retirement looks a lot like work. The difference? Work in their retirement years is now on their terms, not their employer’s or even on society’s expectations.”


Did You Know?

Learning new skills in older adulthood can increase your cognitive abilities, just as it did when you were a child.

A Scientific American article titled “Think You’re Too Old to Learn New Tricks?” shares encouraging results from a study their research team conducted. It was published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences.

To test their hypothesis, researchers asked older adults aged 58 to 86 years to take three to five new classes simultaneously for three months. This added up to an average of approximately 15 hours per week, similar to the course load an undergraduate would have.

Remarkably, after 1.5 months, the participants “increased their cognitive abilities to levels similar to those of middle-aged adults, 30 years younger.”

As the article says, you’re never too old to learn new tricks:

"The take-home message: not only can older adults learn multiple new skills at the same time in the right environment and with the right beliefs, but doing so may improve their cognitive functioning considerably."

These results are inspiring and reinforce the belief we’ve always had about the value of lifelong learning!


Words to Live By

"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." – Fred Rogers

Until next time,

Co-founders of Freelance University®

431B 41st Avenue NE - Unit 94, Calgary, AB T2E 2N4
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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

Craig & Kelly Cannings, Co-founders of Freelance University

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