One day I received a call inviting me to speak at the mother-daughter dinner at the Lyceum Club in Melbourne Australia, a university women’s club founded in 1912. The format of the evening was particularly appealing, as I would speak first, then we would eat dinner, leaving lots of time for engaging conversation.

“Answering the Call: One Naval Officer’s Perspective,” the title of my speech, served as an invitation to audience members to consider responding to their life’s calling. As I finished speaking, the room was buzzing. I knew I had hit a nerve. After openly sharing my personal story, others began telling theirs. Mothers turned to their daughters and to one another, sharing what they had been called to do in their lives.

One young woman walked straight over to me. Louise, a doe-eyed nineteen-year-old, introduced herself and thanked me for my talk. I will always remember her next words: “Now I know what I want to do with my life!”

I was stunned. In that moment, the reason that I spent so much of my time speaking to others became crystal clear: I share my story so that I might influence the lives of others, inspiring young women (and men) to see opportunity and help launch their lives.

Louise went on to explain, “I want to fly, but I don’t know how to go about it.” As we continued our conversation, her enthusiasm washed over me. I offered her my business card and asked her to call. We could discuss her future and figure out how she might take the next step.

Louise called my office the next day. She remembered something I had shared with the audience the night before—when you are offered an opportunity, take it! “There will be willing mentors along your path,” I’d said to the group. “They will open doors for you, but through those doors only you can walk.”

Louise and I soon met for coffee and thus began a beautiful mentoring relationship. Several months into flight training, Louise called me with concern in her voice. “I don’t think I’ll ever get this.” She was having trouble understanding the science, technology, engineering, and math (#STEM) behind the dynamics of flight. I offered to tutor her after work, and together we developed her understanding of the fundamentals of flight. With my encouragement, she pushed forward.

Nearly a year into her program, Louise called again. Sheepishly she told me, “I’m moving to be near my boyfriend.”

“Will you keep flying?” I asked, already sensing the answer. “No, but I’ll get back to it someday,” Louise said.

“Someday?” I responded angrily.

Yes, I was annoyed that I would lose the investment of time I had made in Louise, but I was more upset that she would give up her dream. I get infuriated when women or men “clip their own wings.” Sometimes we clip our own wings because we do not believe in ourselves. We do not trust that we have the skills or experience to achieve what we want to achieve. We sell ourselves short, often before we even get started.

Sometimes we clip our own wings by not making our dreams and goals a priority. I have seen young women put their lives on the back burner for a relationship or even just the potential of a relationship. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is the social conditioning that women should put others before themselves. Of course, many women and men will have to make compromises as they work to balance family and career. But no one should compromise to the point that they abandon their dreams and goals. There is always a way to keep moving forward toward your dreams.

In my mind, the boyfriend could wait.

Louise needed to get her education. I jumped right in with, I admit, somewhat of a guilt trip. “Louise, I have invested heavily in you. You owe me one more year in flight training!”

There was silence on the other end of the phone.

One. More. Year!” I demanded. I knew Louise was in a three-year program, and my demand would not get her to the end. My hope was that if she agreed to an interim milestone and then reached it, she would finish the entire three-year course. It worked.

Plans and dreams can quickly get derailed if we let them. It is all too easy to let “life” get in the way. We tell ourselves we will do “it” later, never to pick “it” up again. This is why an accountability partner or mentor is crucial. They help us see when we are limiting ourselves and clipping our own wings. They keep our dream in front of us, push us, and remind us to keep flying when we want to ground ourselves.

Are you limiting yourself in some way? Or is your team not reaching their full potential? Drop me a line or invite me to speak, and I’ll tell you the rest of Louise’s story. It’s a good one, I promise.

Fly high,


#leadership, #womeninleadership, #STEM, #womeninSTEM, #mentor, #mentorship,

Don't Clip Your Own Wings
Jacob Peter Gowy's The Flight of Icarus (1635–1637) US PD -1996