Changemakers: Female fighter pilot talks breaking glass ceiling, staying focused


Before breaking the sound barrier, former fighter pilot Carey Lohrenz broke the glass ceiling by becoming one of the Navy’s first female F-14 pilots. Now, the author and speaker is teaching others how to take control of their own destinies. 

But Lohrenz recently told PIX11’s Tamsen Fadal that this wasn’t a path she originally wanted or anticipated.

“If you would have asked me ‘Where do you see yourself 20 years from now,’ this would not be it,” Lohrenz said.

In her newest book “Span of Control: What To Do When You’re Under Pressure, Overwhelmed, And Ready To Get What You Really Want,” which was released June 1, she laid out tips that others can use to achieve their goals, even when they’re feeling overwhelmed. She said her approach is uniquely shaped by her experiences and perspectives.

“It’s not what we might hear from a business perspective,” Lohrenz explained. “It’s an idea, or a framework, or a mantra that I know as a former fighter pilot has helped me stay alive, relevant, loving my job and actually able to move through times of uncertainty.”

She added that she keeps the approach “really simple,” staying zoned in on just three main components: Focusing on the most important work, formulating a concrete plan for success and effectively communicating what is possible.

That strategy helped Lohrenz excel and achieve her goal of joining the military, something that runs in her family.

“My dad was pilot, so I was exposed to aviation from a really young age,” she said. “And if I would tell anybody that I wanted to fly, they would look at me like I was crazy.”

But after meeting members of the WASPs — Women Airforce Service Pilots, some of the first female military aviators — at the age of 11, Lohrenz said she started to think that “maybe” her dreams were possible. That possibility eventually turned into a reality, and the experience left Lohrenz with plenty of nuggets of wisdom, including one on fear.

“The number one way to become the best person you can be is to build your ability to work through fear,” she said. “The only way to conquer that fear is to take action. Action conquers fear.”

Overall, Lohrenz told PIX11 that the most important thing that anyone can do is to take first steps without worrying about achieving perfection right away.

“You’ll figure it out,” she said. “Eighty percent is good enough, you just have to start taking action.”

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