Keep Your Goals in Front of You
I have the best job as a commercial airline pilot. I’ve been flying for more than 30 years. My job has taken me around the world flying various aircrafts including the Boeing 767, 757, 737, Airbus 320, Lockheed L-188 (civilian P-3) and Convair 580.
My book, Remove Before Flight is a reference guide that empowers passengers while increasing their overall aviation and operational knowledge. At major events, educational institutions and conferences, I speak to many regarding aviation, health and child development. I’m also a CNN Aviation Consultant.
Getting here hasn’t been easy. Thirty years ago there weren’t many female pilots. My parents didn’t support my journey and I had to make it on my own.
I wanted to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the “Harvard of the Skies.” I was so excited when I got the acceptance letter in the mail, but my mother flipped out. ‘What is the matter with you? How in the world do you think you’re going to go to that school? I can’t help you with that. There is no way in hell you are going to that school,’ she screamed. I was crushed and destroyed.
But I didn’t let her disapproval stop me. I left home and worked three jobs trying to pay for my flying lessons while trying to figure out how I was going to go to this university that’s very expensive but the best.
In the meantime, I kept begging for full financial aid. Year after year, they kept saying no. Finally, after the end of the second year, I went to them and asked why I kept getting turned down. I was on my own and barely making ends meet. ‘Who qualifies for student loans?’ I found out that my mother was claiming me on her taxes which disqualified me to receive the financial aid I needed and deserved.
It was a squash me like a bug moment.
What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?
Things were extremely difficult at home growing up during certain periods in my life. I needed something to hold on to, something I could “escape” to, something I could work toward. I knew I wanted to travel, help people, work in the outdoors so I made a list of jobs that fit this description – none which said “pilot.” A friend asked, “Why don’t you be a pilot?’ I thought, Wow! That would be so cool! It wasn’t until I worked hard, saved up some money, and took my first flying lesson that I was then hooked!
What were the specific obstacles that you faced?
I faced a million obstacles. My parents were divorced and thought I was crazy – after all, over 30 years ago there were hardly any women pilots. There were so many financial challenges to pay for my flying lessons. At times I literally stole food since I had just paid all I had for college and there was nothing left to live on. One time, I thought I would have to drop out since the financial aid and funds were just not there. I had to get creative in order to come up with the amount I needed. I sometimes hitchhiked to get to and from the places I needed for college and flying.
If I had money for every time I was suppressed, whether physically, verbally, or aggressively, I would be rich. When you walk into a male dominated industry (I have been a leader in two), you had better be wearing your tough skin and your big girl panties because you must expect to deal with a lot. The key is earning the respect of the people you work with by being really good at what you do.
What helped you get through them?
The more everyone told me, “You can’t do that,” the harder I pushed to succeed. I love flying. It is part of who I am so for me, there was just no other option. I prayed often for strength, wisdom, guidance, and open doors. When things got really tough, my best friends have always rallied for me! We all need a crew to operate in this life. Surround yourself with the best, have strength, and keep your goals right out in front of you!
Were there people that tried to discourage you?
We could write a whole book on this topic alone – I have never said these things in print and not many people know this stuff but I will share if it helps to keep you motivated and driven. NEVER let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do when you are trying to help make the world a better place. I was raped, sexually assaulted on the job, aggressively threatened at least eight times, and given about 100 negative or derogatory comments. You just keep moving forward and pushing those throttles up!
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
It is truly amazing. Sometimes I have to stop and just look around to take it all in! I feel so blessed and so relieved. Several years ago, I had to ask one of my friends to ponder, “Where is there?” When you work so hard for so long, you need to know where “there” truly is so that you can stop and really live in the moment. You must know how to enjoy and take in what you have accomplished. It is a celebration of life!
What advice would you give to others that are contemplating finally living their dream?
My advice is that life is short. I know what it feels like to feel “stuck” or “caged.” You do not know what tomorrow will bring but if you have that joy in your heart, the passion for what you want to achieve, do not let anyone or anything stop you. Of course, do not leave a path of destruction in your wake. You need to take care of your responsibilities but you will keep finding ways to get to where you want to go. Your routing may a bit indirect, but if you always have your destination in mind, YOU WILL get there!
Click here to read more about Captain Laura Einsetler.