Last year I read Ryan Holiday's book The Obstacle is the Way. There was one story in it that resonated so strongly, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. And it's that of Amelia Earhart.

Most of us know Amelia Earhart as the first woman to take a solo flight across the Atlantic. This was what I knew of her, and she's considered a pioneer for women. But I never knew the circumstances around how she got started.

To make a long story short, Amelia had dreamed of being a pilot her whole life, but in those days women couldn't become pilots (yep, crazy unfair). Amelia still wrote to everyone she could to try and get a shot. When Amelia was offered her first opportunity to fly, it was under pretty non-ideal conditions:

  • She wouldn't be paid, but her male chaperones would (well)
  • She was only being offered the gig as a publicity stunt
  • She was their second choice (1st dropped out)
  • She wouldn't actually get to fly the plane
  • Oh, and she might die

Amelia's response was, of course, “yes” and she went on to make history.

But how many of us would have said yes to this same proposition? Would you? Or would you have let your ego get in the way when you discovered what was really going on?

Would you have said, “No, thank you. I'll fly when I get paid.

I share this story, because I've noticed how often I hear the following sentiments:

  • Never take a promotion without a pay raise, know your worth!
  • Women shouldn't have to advocate for themselves, the system needs to change.
  • Women don't need to learn to negotiate, we instead need to start paying women fairly.

And here's the thing, I agree with all of this stuff (well, other than the promotion statement). I believe we need to know our worth. I believe the system needs to change and I believe we need to start paying women fairly.

But I also believe the parts of these sentences are not mutually exclusive. Both can be true.

I liken women trying to break through to leadership (and thrive there) – in male dominated teams and industries – with Amelia Earhart trying to become a pilot.

Sometimes the conditions aren't ideal and it doesn't seem fair.

But if she'd waited for ideal conditions, she likely would not have become a pilot in her lifetime.

And if you wait for ideal conditions, you may never make it to the top. You have to choose to seize opportunity when it presents itself.

Does that mean it's okay that the terms of Amelia's first flight were beyond sexiest? Hell no! That wasn't okay. BUT Amelia had a greater goal in mind and was willing to make her dreams happen, even in non-ideal conditions. She focused on the goal instead of focusing on her ego.

Ladies, this is what I took from this story and why it's never left my mind. This is the attitude I had when climbing the corporate ladder and the attitude we all need to have when going after our dreams.

Sometimes it's worth taking a step forward towards your dream, even in non-ideal conditions.

Let's actually unpack one of the statements from above: Never take a promotion without a pay raise, know your worth!

If this scenario were to present itself to you and you asked for my advice, I would tell you to 100% take the promotion and title change, even if there's no pay raise. Why? Well, let's think strategically for a moment. Once you're in that higher position and you've shared it on LinkedIn and added it to your resume, no one can take that away from you. And no one knows what you're getting paid except your current employer.

So you could look at that offer and think No way, I'm not doing more work or taking on more responsibility for the same pay.

Or you could look at it as a stepping stone towards your next career move. Once you're in the role, you have more leverage to negotiate a raise with your current employer. AND you now have a new title to leverage should you decide to leave your organization.

Is not getting a raise ideal? Of course not. Is it still a good idea to take the promotion? You bet it is.

What about the comment about paying women fairly? There's nothing I want more than a system with full transparency and no bias, where women are paid the same as our male counterparts in similar positions.

But do I want to wait for that change until I get paid fairly? Absolutely not! So I'm going to negotiate and encourage every woman I know to learn to negotiate too.

*Here's where you can grab my Step by Step Guide on Negotiating Your Salary or Raise.pdf

You can wait for the world to change, or you can choose to seize opportunity and create change for yourself.

When it comes to seizing opportunity and knowing whether a non-ideal decision is still a good one, the key element is to get clear on your goals. Spend the time to really visualize what you want out of your career and life. Once you've done that, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this decision move me closer to or further from my goals?
  • If I look back in 5 years, will I be happy to have made this move?

Often once we have full clarity into the end state we desire, decisions become much easier. Okay, but what if opportunity isn't knocking? Well, you may need to do the work and create it for yourself.

A great example: Stop waiting for your boss to develop you and take charge of your career.

I often hear complaints from people who's Manager either isn't interested in developing them or perhaps doesn't know how. Again, this isn't ideal as we'd all love a Manager who's also a great Mentor and who's invested in our future. But what if that's not the case?

My advice is always the same – take things into your own hands and make them happen for yourself. This may look like:

  • Investing in a program
  • Hiring a coach or finding a mentor
  • Joining a community
  • Creating a regular reflection practice
  • Becoming a lifelong learner

Once you decide to put your ego aside and take radical accountability for your life and dreams, the magic can happen. You can become one of the people who does incredible things. There's really no limit.

We should all embrace the concept of Ryan Holiday's book The Obstacle Is the Way, and instead of avoiding obstacles face them head on.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜