Amelia Earhart

A Lesson for College Grads from Amelia Earhart

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” – Amelia Earhart

If you’ve ever complained that some part of the world is unfair, that the economy is difficult, or that it’s just too hard to succeed in the field you have chosen, then the inspirational story about Amelia Earhart from the bestselling book The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday is for you.

Unlike those of us entering the job market today, Amelia Earhart pursued her career during a booming economy. It was the Roaring 20s and it seemed as though everyone was growing wealthy. But not Amelia, for she had the wild dream to be a pilot. There was one problem, though. She was a she. It was the 1920s and women had only recently won the right to vote. She could read about being a pilot; she could listen to the great pilots talk on the radio; she could even marry a pilot, but no one would ever put a woman in a plane.

For people like Amelia, all this was irrelevant. She had decided that she would become a pilot, and nothing would stop her. While she eked out a living as a social worker, she wrote to everyone and anyone who was putting people in the sky.

One day, a man called her with a proposition. It was quite an offensive one, because all he wanted was publicity. He informed Amelia that he would sponsor her to fly. His first choice had dropped out. Now, of course, Amelia would have male chaperones. And she wouldn’t actually be flying the plane. Also, the men would be paid well, but she would receive nothing. Oh, and to top it all off, he informed her that she very well might die on their experimental plane.

It can be shocking to hear about the very real sexism of a bygone era. It may be more shocking to hear Amelia’s response. To this offensive proposition, Amelia said yes!

She said yes because when you want to achieve something, that’s what you do. You say yes to anything that gets you moving in that direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s offensive or if it hurts your ego. For Amelia the joy of working toward becoming a pilot was enough incentive.

Amelia Earhart went on to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She became an international celebrity. What’s more is she became a symbol. A superficial glance informs us that she is a symbol for women. She’s much more than that. She is a symbol for anyone standing against adversity; a symbol to all who wish things were different; a symbol with the message to take action, any action toward our chosen purpose. The lesson to take from Amelia is that had she rejected that initial offensive proposition, Amelia Earhart would never have flown.

“Never do things others can and will do, if there are things others cannot do or will not do” – Amelia Earhart

For more tales from nonfiction books go to

Also, be sure to check out Ryan Holiday’s upcoming book Ego Is the Enemy

(I have no affiliation with Mr. Holiday.)