Unconventional Mentor no. 13 - Amelia Earhart

“The most effective way to do it is to do it.”

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I am the sort of person that likes to do things “right” and the idea of failing makes me feel a bit sick. I want to know all the information I can about anything I am doing. If I have a project or a presentation, I want to do all the research I can and feel fully prepared before I take something on. Whilst being prepared is a good thing, there comes a time when, as Amelia Earhart said, “the most effective way to do it is to do it.”

Amelia Earhart was not someone who was afraid of failure or of taking on a challenge. Reading about her to write this piece I get the sense that she didn’t see failure as being unsuccessful, but just part of the process of trying to reach for something really huge. She is known for being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic and went missing in 1937 during an attempt to fly around the world. Given that only 4% of commercial pilots today are women, this must have seen like a huge risk for a woman to take in the 1920s and 1930s.

Amelia was born in Kansas, USA in 1897. According to the official Amelia Earhart website she “kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields, including film direction and production, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering.” It seems like she was always going to strive for things that weren’t expected of her as a woman, and I love that she surrounded herself with role models, Unconventional Mentors you might say, who she looked up to and drew inspiration from. Amelia was drawn to aviation from a young age and at 23 she had her first flight, after which she was hooked and determined to learn to fly.

“I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

I love the idea that “failure must be but a challenge to others” and not the end of something. I think that we often hold up women to higher standards in society and when they fail, it is seen as a failure of all women and not just that individual. When there are so few women in positions of real power, their failures are magnified and scrutinised even more. How great would it be if we saw an individuals failure as a rallying cry for others to give things a go?

Amelia Earhart has become a feminist icon and many of her quotes feature her thoughts on how women should be independent of men…

“Women should do for themselves what men have already done—occasionally what men have not done—thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action.”

She has been featured in the Little People, Big Dreams children’s book series and was even immortalised as a Barbie as part of their Inspiring Women series, and she is such a fantastic role model for young girls (and boys) to have. Her determination to take on the world of aviation, which was so dominated by men, is so inspiring. It wasn’t just in the world of flying that Amelia was a pioneer, when she married George Putnam in 1931, she didn’t take his name, but kept her own. She referred to their marriage as “a partnership with dual control” and she only accepted George’s proposal of marriage after he had asked her six times.

“Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.”

On the official website of Amelia Earhart there is a whole collection of her quotes which you can see here and there were so many I wanted to include, but this one in particular really spoke to me. It is something that comes up a lot from people who are doing things which are not the norm, particularly people who are becoming entrepreneurs and setting up their own businesses. Many of their friends and family will criticise their choices and tell them that their idea won’t work, but more often than not people do make things work despite what these negative people say. They would be advised to take Amelia’s advice and keep their thoughts to themselves.

Mentor Advice: Just give things a go, it is the best way to learn.

The advice that I take from Amelia Earhart is to just give things a go and you will learn so much from the doing. I know that I can be reluctant to do something until I feel that I am fully prepared, done all the reading and made more lists than you can count, but it is the doing where I often get the most learning. I know this! I know that I won’t be able to get better at doing stories on Instagram unless I record stories on Instagram. I know that I won’t get better at supporting coaching clients with different needs unless I coach lots of people with different needs. I know that I won’t know what it is like to run an online course unless I run an online course (I have an idea planned for next year so watch this space)! I’m so preoccupied with being prepared to take on these challenges that I lose sight of the learning that can be gained from the doing. I need to stop thinking about failure as a bad thing or something that can be stopped if I just prepare enough, and I need to start seeing failure as a challenge to myself to try again, use what I have learnt from the doing and make it better. Amelia Earhart literally set the bar high for herself, soaring up to 18,415 feet (setting the women’s autogiro altitude record) and continuing to go for new records even when her attempts at doing so failed. My goals are nowhere near as dangerous as Amelia’s, so I think I can do a bit more of the doing and enjoy the views from soaring high towards my goals.

To find out more about this wonderfully adventurous woman then visit the Official Amelia Earhart website here.

Laura Cloke