Insights- Dare To Fly: Simple Lessons in Never Giving Up- Notes from the Book

6th January 2023

Posted in: Insights

As the first US women to fly a fighter jet in combat, Martha McSally has faced significant challenges, discrimination and opposition.

In addition to this she also overcome sexual abuse, rape and bullying and challenged herself by completing Ironman Hawaii, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and later become a member of congress as well as a senator.

Dare to Fly tells her story which is inspiring, not just as a women but for everyone on how to overcome struggle and acheive great things.


Some of the key takeaways and quotes for me from her book are:


“Stop waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect set of conditions and the perfect answer.”    if you continue to wait for everything to align, it might never happen.



“Most things worth doing are not achieved without struggle, or periods of intense uncertainty, frustration, fatigue, fear, and even fierce opposition. This makes these accomplishments more rewarding, not less.” 



The lesson on overcoming adversity and persistence:

Only after joining the military did Martha really learn about sexism and discrimination – At that time it was against the law to have female fighter pilots and so Sally set her dreams to prove them wrong.

She was half an inch too short to fly any plane- let alone fighter jet – so she bought gravity boots and hung upside down in the dorms stairwell- this gained an extra quarter inch and was able to apply for a medical waiver. At first she was denied with no explanation despite meeting all the required criteria. After objecting and providing evidence and support she was denied a further two times before a General intervened and allowed an exception to be made.

In 1990 the law changed to allow women to be fighter pilots but the policy and Air Force rules did not. After being disallowed the preferred opportunity in her path to becoming a fighter pilot, she made the tough choice to take a lesser position, but once that meant she may still have some hope of achieving her goal down the track.



“Real courage is shown when a bystander decides to step up and refuses to tolerate behaviour that he or she knows is wrong.”

Martha was the only women in her group as pilot instructor and there was only one other in pilot training class. She even had to design her own specialist flight suit to meet the needs of women.

First squadron commander was completely against women pilots and she learnt to survive by being “one of the guys”.

It was important not to stick out so this meant dealing with rough games, swearing and crude songs – with no complaining

Early promotion and success in bombing competitions let to more difficulty in accepting women and her fellow pilots – the competition, did not treat her kindly.

After walking out after much malicious comments, sexist slurs and hate message from the wife of a copilot, the superiors finally addressed the team and cleared the air which allowed her to return.

Learnt that people can become bystanders or followers and make wrong choices when under social pressure- and it takes a strong person to speak up against it.



“The best training sometimes involves learning to override our most basic instincts and strongest fears.”

Philosophy for success- plan and train harder than the competition.

After breaking her hand she retrained herself to write and throw javelin left handed- and even after this setback she was able to make it to a representative level in javelin.

As a pilot she learnt to prepare for ejection and every possible eventuality.

Spatial disorientation can occur when you are unaware that you have lost your orientation and therefore you don’t try to fix it- this leads to crashes.  Try to avoid this in flying and in life.

Visualisation is important tool in learning and building confidence.



“None of us are born courageous or fearful.”

We learn courage or fear from our patterns – it can be unlearned as well

Doing things afraid means learning to push through the fear and anxiety and finding a way to  the other side.

Like an athlete has muscle memory, you can build courage memory- become conditioned not to let fear or anxiety form an artificial obstacle that stops you from reaching your goals.

The opposite is true if you let fear have power you will have more difficulty next time.

On the flip side it also means don’t do things that are reckless.



Importance of the team:

Although the pilot gets the accolades, no one is in the sky without the support team on the ground.



“Often the only way to learn is through mistakes.”

If we are fortunate we are able to look back, reevaluate and see where we went wrong.

Important to learn when to call a knock off – reset and reevaluate.   This means take a break if we need it as we may not be operating at full focus.

We all have ups and downs. The weather will eventually change and we can help change it with our choices, attitude and perspective



To make a difference we need people willing to follow their conviction and stand up for what is right:

Martha stood up against military policies that treat women like property instead of military members. This meant she was responsible for suing the military in relation to policy on dress requirements for woman officers deployed to Saudi Arabia



Thrive through darkness:

Forgiveness is letting go and not letting something or someone have power over you anymore- it may be conveyed to the person who hurt you, but it doesn’t have to be.



Trust your wingman:

They can come into your life on many different ways but it is important have your people – and they need to be worthy of your trust, and you of theirs.



The difference between victory or defeat often lies in your head:

The best way to achieve anything is to focus on small achievable milestones and complete them one at a time eg training for a marathon can be broken into small achievable tasks.

We all have a misery database of life experiences made of memories of times we have pushed through and survived something tough to embolden us for our current challenge.



“The status quo is unacceptable- if you are not growing you are dying.”

Put one foot in front of the other- push through, succeed

Barriers are for breaking- don’t be afraid to give them a push.



Integrity first= Remain true to your word. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Being moral and honest in our conduct is so vital in a world where so many believe to acheive victory, lies, distortion and slander are required.


“You are cleared for takeoff – I dare you to fly.”

Author: Donna Bruce