Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Don't stop believing...

Self-belief is a powerful but fragile gift. One of my personal heroes has always been Amelia Earhart, a pioneering pilot and a woman of incredible courage and vision. This week I was reading about about how she may have ended her days as an injured castaway on a remote Pacific island. New research indicates that she made a series of distress calls from the island after her Lockheed Electra crashed in the summer of 1937 during the final stages of her attempt to fly around the globe. 

A woman pilot dressed in the style of Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart: an inspiration to modern women
© Yuri Yukhimchuk | Dreamstime.com 
A celebrity in depression-era America, Earhart earned her stripes after she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932. Five years later, on the cusp of turning 40, she sought one more challenge: to become the first woman to fly around the world. "I have this feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system," she declared rather ominously.

Midlife crises aside, I can't help admiring her hunger to prove herself, combined with the conviction that she could succeed. The 1932 flight across the Atlantic proved (in her words) that women were equal to men in "jobs requiring intelligence, speed, coolness and willpower". Take heed working women and be sure to mention that next time you ask for a pay rise!

All of us need a sprinkling of self-belief if we want to achieve our goals, whether that means setting up a new business, bagging a promotion or generally living out fanciful dreams of becoming an established author... Having the confidence to strive, as well as possessing enough imagination to visualise a positive outcome, are tools of the trade for any go-getting self-improver. 

As the presidential race reaches its final stages in the US, it is evident that both contenders are well-equipped in this particular skill set. However, you might feel about the politics/personality of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, there is no denying that they share those magical qualities of grit, determination and extreme self-confidence. 


Napoleon's theory


There is always a flip-side however. With overblown self-belief comes the sneaking suspicion that cold reality might not always live up to the hype. Perhaps you don't have what it takes, whispers the voice of Gollum in the dead of night, perhaps you are not as good as you thought! Dealing with the doubts when self-belief ebbs away is gut-wrenching but par for the course.

Self-belief also has to be propped up by other attributes, such as hard graft, strategy and a little talent, not to mention a good dose of luck. Napoleon Bonaparte is famously quoted as saying, "I know he's a good general, but is he lucky?"

Poor Amelia Earhart's good fortune ran out on that Pacific island of Nikumaroro in July 1937. Come November, either Trump or Clinton will face a similar fate, in terms of political survival. For all their chutzpah, only one (I'm hoping Hillary) will win the top job.

Self-belief can be a messy, high-risk business, but on occasion when things go according to plan, it's the best feeling in the world. For us lesser mortals, all we can do is hold the faith and remember that Earhart would have wanted us to follow suit. Ahead of her mission to fly around the world, she told her husband George Putnam in a letter: 
"Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. 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."