A Girl's Epic Guide to Inventing Everything by Kaki Flynn

Epic Successes & Epic Failures of Female Inventors &
A Workbook for You to Build the Things that Will Change the World

by Kaki Flynn

 A Girl’s Epic Guide to Inventing Everything’ by award-winning author Kaki Flynn is a book of stories about famous female inventors with a workbook for the girl-inventor to begin working on her own inventions!

An Inventor’s Toolkit as well as a guide to registering your invention is also included.

Flynn wrote in her diary as a 7-year old, ‘work on inventions’ as her favorite hobby, but did not have access to the right mentors to continue that dream.

Inspired by her own childhood dreams, as well as current work partnering with NASA women on Hackathons and workshops, Flynn saw the need to give these girls information not just on how to solder a circuit board, but how to literally ‘think and act’ like an inventor. 

“We need today’s kids to reinvent this world - whether it’s thinking of new ways to get us from one place to another (flying skateboards? Maybe!) or how to deliver medicine and food to other kids around the world,” says Flynn.
"Girl’s are here to change the world for the better, and I want us to give them the tools they need to do it. Getting girls to think and act like inventors; this is a step beyond building. It’s ‘First Principles’ for girls," says Flynn.

First, hear stories about women and girls who saw the world in a different light; then grab your inventor’s notebook and head out into the world. 

A Problem? That’s Great!
A problem is a girl’s invitation from the universe to build a new thing that benefit us all. 

This inventor’s mindset will empower girls to start seeing ways to make the world better for lots of us. It’s learning to think and act like an inventor that will truly get you to see the world with new eyes, then get going creating new things that will change it! 

Looking for:
• Girls & Women that want to contribute 

• Favorite inventors you want to see highlighted 
• Inventor’s notebook pages designs

If you have an inventor you want to see included in the book, content suggestions or sponsorship inquiries, please contact Kaki Flynn:

• Twitter: @kakiflynn
• Web: KakiFlynn.us

The book and companion workbook will be published on October 21, 2019.

KakiFlynn.us & Dr. Sylvia Earle's DOER Marine Host Hackathon for Women & Girls

Winning team from Fishackathon held at DOER Marine and hosted by Liz Taylor & Kaki Flynn. The Girl Scouts and members of the Rooftop Alternative School, as well as tech mentor Heidi Proske from Capital One.

hosted by Kaki Flynn & Liz Taylor at DOER Marine

As much fun as you would imagine it to be co-hosting a hackathon for women and girls at the home of Dr. Sylvia Earle and Liz Taylor, the CEO of DOER Marine.

We were excited to host all of the Girl Scout Troops and ocean friends that came to the Fishackathon this Earth Day weekend, and look forward to all of the upcoming ocean events that will be hosted here as well.

Snapshot of All the Fun We Had (You Join Us Next Time If You Missed It)
The U.S. Department of State Division of Global Partnerships supported this Fishackathon, held in over 40 sites around the globe.

In addition to the hackathon at DOER Marine (Deep Ocean Exploration Research) we had a speaker from NASA, Liz Cunningham from the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding, as well as mentors that included professional sailor, aerospace engineer and successful technical start-up founder Nehal Gajjar as well as technical diver and Mission Blue board member Carolina La Rotta Dratva.

A marine biologist and ocean photographer popped by as well to help out the girls.

Heidi Proske, an app developer for Capital One, was a key technology mentor on hand.

One of the Girl Scout leaders, Yvonne Nunn from Troop 33184, brought Girl Scouts Michelle and Yahkirah.

Nunn, who is in the U.S. Coast Guard, appreciated hearing from the NASA speaker, who highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion.

In an innovation lab filled with prototype submersibles, remote operated vehicles and great people, these kids thrived and came up with brilliant ideas.

The Remote Operation Vehicle Command Center. The same way the people in the command center at NASA are key to the success of a mission, the same goes for the people that are 'topside' in an ocean expedition. 

Hackers hard at work at Dr. Sylvia Earle's Innovation Lab called DOER Marine, run by her daughtet Liz Taylor.

Problem: Ghost Nets

Youth Participants: 
Rooftop Alternative PreK-8 School
California Girl Scout Troops 30159, 31084, 33184

DOER TrackNet App
Ghost Nets are a very real problem. Using the DOER TrackNet app, fishermen could alert the Coast Guard that they have found a ghost net. Citizens could enter information that would help to geotrack entangled marine life and build a databank of information about problem spots.

Ghost icon signaling a net (with animal icon if entangled) when the net is retrieved, the users personal animal icon signals all clear.

Creating a community of DOERS
Using the DOER TrackNet app would encourage the creation of a community of doers working together to help the ocean.

Instruction for youth activity - Educating youth groups (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc. through the hands-on experiences, empathy activity using ghost nets and the design of a badge/patch using ghost nets. The app will allow youth to submit their suggestions of ways to repurpose nets.

The app will educate and engage the public on the issue of ghost nets by giving the average citizen an opportunity to help the ocean and the biodiversity, that in turn supports us all. The DOER TrackNet app will also serve as a valuable STEM/STEAM education resource helping citizen scientists to gather and share valuable data on the issue. 

  • Improved global relations 
  • Collaborative effort with the common goal of helping the oceans 
  • Empowering next generation of stewards, the children of the world
  • Citizen engagement and shared sense of success
  • Sustainability
  • New revenue streams provide alternatives for stressed communities
Fishing Industry
What if fishermen could make a living fishing for ghost nets, instead of fish?
Fishermen need to be able to make a living to care for themselves and feed their families. The app would provide a general estimate of the value of a haul of ghost nets based on estimated dimensions/tonnage.

Building Industry
We had architect and Girl Scout Troop leader Young Wong on hand to give guidance and mentoring for some real-world advice to the Girl Scouts about building materials that could use:

Introducing Fiber-Reinforced Netting Panel (FRNP) Re-use of ghost netting as a reinforcing material combined with cementitious or fiber glass building material would allow for a free form panel. 

The Benefits:
Reuse of sustainable material
Cost – using free form panels would save on labor 
Jobs - creation of new industry
Environment - Helps the Ocean!

Ocean Science Research & Industry 
Open source data will with Deep Ocean Exploration & Research (DOER) – Raises awareness of ocean research, use of ROVs and the multigenerational contributions of DOER (founded by oceanographer Sylvia Earle and current CEO daughter Liz Taylor). 

How do women & girls tackle the problem of ghost nets in our oceans?
They visit DOER Marine to learn with Kaki Flynn & Liz Taylor for the Alameda #Fishackathon.

Learning about the issue of ghost nets, ROVs & girl power through play:

Only make believe. What would it feel like to be a harbor seal caught in a ghost net?

Every year 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost or abandoned in our oceans:

Power to the Doers

A photo posted by Andi Wong (@artsed4all) on

If you want to host a hackathon or other event at DOER Marine, please let us know and we will customize a fun event for you, whether it's kids or big kids trapped in adult bodies. 



George Taylor, 8, along with his parents, Ian and Adina Taylor, won the NASA SpaceApps Challenge for the Jacksonville and Amelia Island, Florida area, earning the team a spot in the Global competition as well as the People's Choice Awards.

This hackathon was put on for free as a partnership between KakiFlynn.us and the NASA SpaceApps Team.

Space Apps Challenge Announcement:

Space Geeks are invited to join KakiFlynn.us at the NASA Space Apps Challenge, being held April 29 - 30, 2017.

We are hosting the North Florida site that draws competitors from Jacksonville and the surrounding area, all the way up to Amelia Island, Florida.

Over 15,000 citizens from 61 countries and in 161 cities around the world participated in the 2016 International Space Apps Challenge.

The top team will have their idea pitched to NASA.

All ages are welcome, and all skill sets and backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

Whether you are a part of one of the hottest local tech start-ups in Jacksonville, retired with an advanced degree in engineering, a space camp kid, a guide at Kayak Amelia or a teacher in the local school, everyone comes to the table on equal footing at the SpaceApps Challenge.

The wider the scope of experience, the better chance you have of developing an innovative idea. Tackle a challenge using robotics, data visualization, hardware, design and many other specialties.

Registration is free; it's okay to show up as a team, or show up on your own and join a team!

The host site is a short walk to both the Amelia Island harbor; or take the Amelia Island trolley to the beach and work on your project there.


  • Camping at Peter's Point is free for Saturday night for those that want to stay over.
  • The Experimental Aircraft Association is offering free flights for participants out of the Amelia Island Airport from 9am - 1pm that are under the age of 17 and have a guardian present.
  • A .co URL is free for all participants
  • Amazon is giving away a $100 in web services to all participants
  • Two tickets to the NASA Kennedy Space Center awarded to the winners

How to Join the SpaceApps Challenge


2. Look at the 5 Challenges

3. Show up at the Amelia Island Coffee Shop on Saturday; you are free to work on your project at multiple sites around the Island.

Amelia Island Coffee Shop 
207 Centre St.
Fernandina Beach, Fl.


Saturday, April 29th
9:00 am

9:30 am

Build teams & choose challenges
10:00 am

12:00 pm

Lunch break
Pack a lunch; or places to eat within one or two blocks of Amelia Island Coffee Shop.

1:00 pm
Back to hacking!

3:00 pm
Wrap up for the day. Teams can continue working on site, or at local venues around town.

Can stay overnight; free camping at Peter's Point. Car camping or Tent camping on the beach. Must bring own gear.

Astronomy Lesson:
8 pm
Will be astronomy lesson on the beach for those that camp.

Sunday, April 30th
6:30 am
Optional Sunrise walk on beach from Peter's Point to Pier
( 3 miles round trip)

9:00 am
Back to hacking at Amelia Island Coffee Shop

11:00 pm
Lunch break; eat around island

1:00 pm
Project deadlines/begin uploading to official site/tech check for presentations
Judging of projects.

Think Like An Astronaut: Women at NASA

KakiFlynn.us was excited and geeked out to organize three events highlighted by a Q&A with NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott for the Wonder Women in Technology Conference founded by Lisa Mae Brunson.

Each event brought together the many different pieces of the aerospace industry for women:
  • Think Like An Astronaut
  • Be An Astronaut
  • We Are All Astronauts
NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott at Think Like An Astronaut Q&A hosted by Kaki Flynn. SpaceX engineer and total badass Joy Donn in front row in astronaut suit. PicturedAylin Atay, Miranda Lee (Founder, LX Labs), Tammy Gottschalk (Two Roads Professional Resources), Sunnya Hoffmann, Valerie Little (The Global Maven Group), Shih-Hua Yu, Anisha Jain, Myra Maravilla (Myra Maravilla (City of Hawaiian Gardens Councilwoman), Silvia Varas, Lisa Jacob, Diode de Dios, Holly Berkley (BlissSmart), Tania Katan. Photo by RachelManning.com

Think Like an Astronaut

Collaborated with NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott for this Q&A focused on performing at a high level under all conditions. Stott, who has lived over 100 days in space on International Space Station and as a crew member of the Space Shuttle, is also a world-record holder for her saturation dives with NEEMO, the NASA ocean program.

For extreme environments like space and the ocean, that means taking a hard, fearless look at dangerous situations to be able to handle the pressures that are a part of being an astronaut, as well as an experimental pilot like Stott.

On the other end of the spectrum, we talked about the joys of being a part of a high-operating team, and the lifelong friends that you build from being together in those unique environments.

A key lesson that Stott brought home from space is the shared experience that many astronauts express; known as the "Overview Effect" - it's the altered perception of our tiny planet that comes from being able to see it spin below you from the ISS every 90 minutes.

Learning how to think like an astronaut from @Astro_Nicole & @NASA's @KakiFlynn#WWT2016 @wonderwomentech 🚀😀 pic.twitter.com/iLVnPMCqkM — Joy Dunn (@RocketJoy
That's Dunn  of SpaceX in the front-row and center in the NASA astronaut suit we brought, because she's the only one in the room that was one of the current 18,000 NASA astronaut applicants waiting to see if she has a spot for the upcoming class.

While I'm no astronaut, as a professional wilderness instructor, I deeply value people like Dunn that do that hard, hard work figuring out the logistics behind equipment to both keep us all safe and allow us to enjoy the view along the way.

A woman in the audience had a question about being able to be a deaf astronaut, and another woman brought up size as an issue.

It was a great question, but there is no reason - just like with Lasik surgery now removing prior problems with vision limitations - for space suits as well as the vehicles to become more customizable, as well as other medical advances even giving the deaf an advantage similar to what is happening in the world of prosthetics and bionics to replace lost limbs.

To be very clear, just as I would have rather been born with a full capacity for hearing, I'm sure those people missing limbs would rather have the ones they were born with and have not had that experience - it's a much larger conversation than a few paragraphs in a blog - but it's meant to be inspiration for those who think they might not be able to ever be an astronaut because they might have some minor or even major disability.

A big source of inspiration for the people that attended the workshop was being able to interact with Stott.

"The biggest thing my daughter and I came away with is that you can actually be an astronaut if you want to, and of course we want our kids to think they can do that," said Tammy Gottschalk, owner of Two Roads Professional Resources.

Gottschalk and her daughter were inspired by Stott's background as a pilot, and being able to spend time with Dunn before the workshop started.

The greatest message of the Think Like An Astronaut session? It's one of a search for peace.

As Astronaut Anoushi Ansari told me when we had a conversation at NASA Ames about her visit to the International Space Station  - "The biggest thing you want to do after traveling to space is to come back here to Earth and shake everyone awake."

A desire for peace, but a lack of a way to express that to people who haven't experienced Earth from the ISS viewpoint.

Ansari is the first Muslim woman in space, as well as one of the most successful business women on the planet.

Accomplished New York based film producer Dasha Chase-Snyder, San Francisco, Calif., based Rooftop Elementary School teacher Andi Wong, Jacksonville, Fla. filmmaker and award-winning producer Kim Murray and artist Lauri Keener from Denver, Colo., sent in questions remotely; all three wanted to hear about how Stott communicates that message using her art work.

Stott was the first astronaut to pack a mini watercolor kit with her and paint on the ISS, and recently collaborated on an artist's rendition of astronaut suit that is a patchwork of different artists.

At the end of Think Like An Astronaut, Nicole told us about a photo she has with her astronaut class.

"We are all still so close, because of that tight bond," said Stott, something she's reminded of every time she looks at the photo.

Everyone that came to the panel then rushed to the front of the room to get an Epic Astronaut Selfie with Stott.

We have you, Stott. Just put up your astronaut signal, and we will totally be there.

Be An Astronaut Experience
For the Innovation Camp kids that took part in the free STEAM programming held during the Wonder Women in Technology Conference, we set up a pop-up astronaut experience that gave the camp attendees a chance to try on a NASA Astronaut suit, play with other NASA gear we brought along and ask questions about how to become involved with NASA programs.

Everyone loves astronauts, right? Almas Jiwani of the United Nations Canada was the keynote speaker for the conference.  When she heard what I was doing for the kids at the conference, she jumped in and joined me.

Having her talk about her work at the United Nations was perfect, she was so engaged with all of the kids and answering their questions with enthusiasm, leaving each kid inspired by having a global view for peace from the view of NASA and the UN was perfect.

Thanks Jiwani!

BEEP-BOOP-BWAP-BEEP. Be An Astronaut Experience. Astronaut on deck; suit needs some adjustments. Patrick Walker from Noble High School took part in the Innovation STEAM Camp held in conjunction with the Wonder Women in Tech Conference.

Kaki Flynn with Almas Jiwani from the United Nations Canada along with Sierra Irby and her brother Jordan Irby. The Irby siblings attend Narbonne Stern Magnet High School in Harbor City, Calif., and took part in the STEAM Innovation Camp held in conjunction with the conference. Photo: Stacey Irby

Lan Dang, an operations engineer from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory that also does outreach for Girls Who Code and is a mentor for the NASA Space Apps Challenge, was glad to see students have the chance to take part in the Innovation Camp while also having access to the women from the space industry. 

As Tania Katan of It Was Never a Dress, the movement that went viral on Twitter and other social media and I joked, "It was never a dress for women - it was an astronaut suit."

We Are All Astronauts: Spaceship Earth

A bit of red carpet fun with future astronaut and panelist Fuji Lai, a brilliant
friend and kind soul that is an expert in many things, including telepresence and telesurgery.

This panel was a mix that represented the way you can be a part of NASA, whether it's organizing STEAMD workshops and panels like me, or partnering with NASA for grants like the X-Prize Foundation's Fuji Lai (telepresence, telesurgery, virtual reality expert).

A pack of Smith College interns from different NASA disciplines also joined us.

Jessica Feinberg, Su Wei Heng, Alexandra Ruiz and Lucia Simova all drove 12 hours round-trip with a van full of astronaut gear from the NASA to take part in the conference.

If you are a CEO of a space-industry company, please hire them, so that they can hire me later.

People often ask, "How do I get a job at NASA?" then comment, "I looked at the NASA website, and scrolled through the listings, but didn't see anything that fit me."

Guess what?

None of those those jobs fit me either, so I found that if I want to work with NASA my only choice is to build boxes that NASA astronauts and other senior executives want to come play in.

If It Sounds Impossible, We Are In
 Dava Newman
Deputy Administrator 

When I heard Dava Newman say that at a Women at NASA panel, it was a great reminder that NASA would be pretty happy for you to develop your own programs in addition to just looking at the standard jobs that are already in existence.

For example, NASA recently put a listing of the NASA patents online that are open for people to collaborate with NASA. 

There is the NASA Space Apps Challenge, a global hackathon that anyone can either join or go ahead and launch your own satellite location. The Space Apps Challenge was not started by NASA, but a NASA fan, and is now supported by top NASA executives.

Maybe you have a 3-D printer you want placed on the International Space Station, or have an idea for how to use the reflective surface of the NASA astronaut helmet for sunglasses. 

There is a fit at NASA for people who truly want one. 

At the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. earlier this year, the over 12,000 people present and almost a 1,000 vendors - with NASA just one of many people on the Expo floor - made it clear that this is an exciting time to be in the space industry, with more opportunities than ever for women.

Virgin Galactic sent propulsion test engineer Hannah McCallum to this conference, along with advanced manufacturing and integration engineer Nicole Lewis and associate mechanical engineer Whitney Hopple.

The trio are a great example of opportunities in the commercial space industry right out of college.

For space couple Diana Trujillio and William Pomerantz  - she is the Mission Lead for the Curiosity Mars Rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and he works with Virgin Galactic - the new space frontier that is opening up exploration to everyone is exciting.

Pomerantz said during an interview he and Trujillio did live at the conference with VoiceAmerica.com that he loves that while there are currently only a little over 500 people that have been into space, over 700 have bought tickets to go there with Virgin Galactic. 

Of all the astronauts that have been to space, only about 60 have been women, but private space flight will open those doors. 

Ansari, a business woman, was the first citizen to buy a ticket to the International Space Station.

Trujillio pointed out that even launching satellites has become democratized, with cube satellites (can be about the size of a shoe box) already available to almost everyone. 
The Astronaut Agreement: We Have Each Other At All Times 

With VoiceAmerica.com team. Q&A that highlights the many lessons learned from hosting these three NASA experiences, and the lessons from extreme environments that would be great to see all of us right here on Earth follow: Looking out for the physical and emotional safety of each other.

It would be a different world.

VoiceAmerica.com Interview
On Belay, Belays On: Expedition Behavior in the Wilderness & In the Office

WOMEN @ NASA : Inclusion Builds Best Innovators

While I put on a Women at NASA Panel with some incredibly accomplished women at a tech conference, this photo involves a presentation at NASA Ames during the Exploration & Science Forum, where I served as the Head of Necessary Ruckus as a part of the Harmless Shenanigans Committee. 

KakiFlynn.us sponsored a Women at NASA panel and Q&A session during a technology conference that focused on women in order to recruit the best tech talent for NASA.

It was an honor and a lot of just plain fun to represent NASA Ames at this sold-out tech conference filled with over 1,500 women that make up the top talent pool in engineering and business.

Multinational corporations at the conference include SpaceX, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Planet Labs, Accenture, Fitbit, the Central Intelligence Agency, Bank of America, Genentech, Twitter, IBM, Wells Fargo and Microsoft.

The conference was kicked off with a letter from President Barack Obama supporting the conference.

With globally respected inventor and engineer Megan Smith as his Chief Technology Officer, President Obama knows first hand the significant contributions of women to the tech community.

Thank you to NASA Ames senior executive Krisstina Wilmoth for being on the panel with me. 

Many of the women at the conference had worked with NASA in some of the internships and fellowships at the different NASA bases around the United States.

Two of the women at the panel had applied to be astronauts in this most recent round.

Everyone I talked to there had a special NASA memory.

"We have a Sally Ride room in our building; we all voted for that. She's always been a hero of mine."
Carol Schofield, Developer, Thoughtworks

"Guarding Poop. That was my job for an entire summer at NASA; the group I was with was testing storage options for human excrement in space; my job was to check up on the storage containers."
Lauren Allemen, Vice President, Global Technology & Operations, Bank of America

"We loved the stories about the 40 tampons a day or something really high like that that NASA thought Sally Ride would need in space."
Microsoft Engineers Melina Sparks & Meghan King

Joy Dunn, the Senior Manager of Dragon Manufacturing Engineering at SpaceX, gave a talk at the conference that inspired the crowd to make dreams a reality.

"I've been a space nerd my entire life. I grew up building rockets at the age of five," said Dunn, who plans on being an astronaut herself.

Plants, mousetronauts, a 3D printer, and - as Dunn pointed out was probably the favorite payload - real ice-cream - are just a part of what SpaceX has delivered to NASA astronauts onboard the International Space Station.



Exploration is, of course, a key part of NASA. 

Did you also know there are thousands of open tech projects at NASA? 

Building all of the equipment needed to make those missions happen, as well as developing ways to manage all of the massive amounts of data we are now collecting from all of those missions in a way that is useful is also key.

That means a team of engineers from a variety of disciplines is needed to make those projects happen.

Find your fit in the NASA Family:

NASA Careers

Space Foundation Competition Uses NOAA & NASA Data to Solve Hard Problems

At the start of the StellarXplorers competition,
hosted by the U.S. Air Force Academy at the Space Foundation. 

Thanks to the United States Air Force Academy for the invitation to the National High School Space Competition called the StellarXplorers.

Both a great honor and of course just plain geek fun being a mentor for the Space Symposium competition sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Association and held at the Space Foundation that brought together top students in STEM from around the United States.

The intense competition included using both NASA and NOAA data as well as advanced satellite tracking tools.

The real-world situations were a welcome challenge for the students, and the Space Symposium and Space Foundation provided a fun, inspirational setting with NASA astronauts, U.S. Air Force officials from many different divisions as well as SpaceX, Boeing and other top executives on hand to speak to the students.

:Thanks to Gwynne Shotwell from SpaceX for going out of her way to meet these AP Physics students.

The StellarXplorers program is designed to inspire and attract high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers through hands-on learning about technology, emphasizing teamwork and leadership, and exercising critical-thinking skills.

StellarXplorers is sponsored by the US Air Force STEM Program, DoD STEM Program, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, Kratos Defense, and SpaceX, as well as additional educational support of AGI, CEI, and the Space Foundation.

A big benefit of the StellarXplorers was getting to explore the Space Symposium and meet experts from Boeing to - of course! - NASA. Here with my cousin and AP Physics student and national finalist Sareta Gladson. Her grandfather founded the Los Angeles Maritime Institute, so building vessels to explore the unknown is in our blood.
The biggest lesson here? When you turn things over to the students, you get really great uniforms like this; a print of Buzz Aldrin with your name printed across the chest as your formal uniform. Just beyond awesome:

Leap of Faith: Face Your Fears

This is me as an outdoor instructor; pretty awesome because I didn't know how to read a
topographical map and had never spent a day camping in the backcountry before being hired as an Outward Bound instructor - one of the top wilderness leadership training companies in the world -  at 34 years old. 

by Kaki Flynn // OutwardBound.org

Always choose to be the type of person that knows
what it feels like to leap,
as opposed to those
who never know what it feels like to leave the ground

As an instructor for Outward Bound and other like-minded organizations, I take people out on trips, but I also take people out on ropes courses. These are great, especially for groups that don't have time to go into the backcountry for days or weeks at a time.

One of the activities that we do on these courses is called The Leap of Faith.

It's simple: you climb up to the top of a telephone pole, and then leap off the pole towards a trapeze hanging out in the air about five feet away.

As with any problem to solve, I love watching how different personalities approach fear and the unknown and have never, ever had someone approach it in the exact same way as someone else.

We are all so unique, and all unfold in ways that are both subtly and grandly different.

It's a lot of fun to flow with those differences.

Some people love to gather information, and pepper me with questions. "How high is the pole? Is that thing safe? What's the distance? How many people succeed? How much will the rope hold? How far, exactly, is the trapeze?"

Some people want to get strapped in as soon as possible, and haul butt up the pole in .01 seconds, and then launch off of the top. Some stand at the top for about five minutes, shaking.

Some say yes to coaching and cheering from below, some want silence. Counting up. Counting down.

One of the biggest obsessions is the distance between the pole and the trapeze. "What if I don't make it?"

This is where the biggest lesson of the activity comes from - letting students know that ultimately, it is about the leap, not the landing.

Be bold.
If you're going to make an error, make a doozy,
and don't be afraid to hit the ball.

Billie Jean King

We run students through a lot of exercises that build them up to trying new things; too many to explain them all here - but a major one I do before the Leap is to have them write down a list of three things he or she wants to accomplish in this lifetime.

Then, when they are at the top of the pole and ready to leap, they are supposed to stare at the handle of the trapeze, and imagine one of those things on the list written in script, in shiny, gold letters, across the bar, shining back at them.

Whether or not they make it to the trapeze is not nearly is important is getting their feet to leave the pole. It's not the trapeze that scares people, it's the hang time in the air.

Life, if lived large, is full of so many x-factors.

We can't control all of our landings, and that's fine.
Think about jobs you have had, relationships you have been in, friends that you have, and adventures you have gone on.

All of those things ultimately started, somewhere, with a Leap of Faith.

In 1996, I came across a small, 1/4 inch ad in a journalism school newspaper when I was taking classes at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is amazing in itself considering that I had failed out of school from Florida State University a few years before.

Myself and a group of friends rebuilt the FSU Crew Team, and built the first women's team.

My interest in classroom's with 100+ people and no interaction with the professor and other students was zero.

At the time, I was an almost off-the charts introvert, and so talking to my professors was just not in my tool box.

While anyone who has spent time with me knows that I'm now very extroverted and actually thrive at a substantially higher level in a base camp setting with like minding people - at that time in my life I spoke little.

After failing out of FSU, I moved to North Carolina and literally just showed up at the School of Journalism.

Through the Continuing Education department and basically a loop hole in the registration system, I was able to register for advanced journalism classes.

That allowed me to build a relationship with professors there;  and eventually got myself accepted full time into UNC-Chapel Hill.

I did not accept that full-time status.

Why? After all that work?

Back to that tiny piece of paper.

It's all because of that little ad in the newspaper I carried around for almost a month that my life changed.

The ad was for that internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

I learned a lot about fears and leaps of faith from that little piece of paper.

I also learned about being careful not to pick up the reflections of the fears of others.

I had a lot of people telling me to apply, and a lot of people telling me not to.

The voices in the not-to camp seemed to think that the USOC was an unattainable place to work.

The USOC internship is one of the top 100 internships in the country, and I was going up against 400 other people.

The can-do voices were people that I was smart enough to surround myself with: the go-for it people.

Of course, I didn't know that monumental leap - just turning in the application after carrying that piece of paper around in my pocket for a month - would dramatically shape the next eight years of my life. That is amazing.

My application was faxed in - somewhere around 40 pages - to the internship coordinators office - about an hour before the deadline. At the time, I was not thinking about who was receiving those 40 pages.

How did I end up at the U.S. Olympic Committee after failing out of FSU?

There were a list of about 10 different requirements for the internship; I didn't fit over half of them, including the requirement that I be a junior enrolled full-time in college, or had ever written a single published article.

Included in the 40 faxed pages were six articles that needed to be sent in; I had never been published before.

I took a week of vacation off from my job at Eurosport Soccer & Lacrosse, and wrote six sports articles to fax in; interviewing UNC-Chapel Hill professors and anyone I could think of (now I could write that many in a day).

Thanks to Michael Wilson, the person in charge of the USOC program, I did get that internship.

He saw the similarities in our backgrounds. My journalism class at Florida State University was taken through Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) where he went to school, and he also had a background filled with multiple colleges before he started with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

U.S. Speedskating had offered me a full-time position as the Public Relations Director right after my internship with the USOC; my professors at UNC-Chapel Hill told me that I needed to take that job instead of starting UNC-Chapel Hill full-time.

I may not be an official Chapel Hill graduate, but definitely bleed Tar Heel Blue.

The succession of leaps since then are too many to fully grasp or list here.

The truth is, some of the landings from those leaps hurt like hell.

Relationships or jobs that didn't work out, taking great risks that had some major bumps along the way. The landing was painful, but I could not have known that unless I jumped in the first place. It's still worth it.

It's the same for anything in the outdoors, whether I'm convincing someone to snowboard off of a super-steep hill, or backpack for a week across Joshua Tree.

Of course, the biggest benefits of leaping don't come from just our act of jumping; the greatest rewards come from the transference of courage to others.

One of my life goals is to be that person that tells people, "Heck ya, you should go for it . Freekin' leap. Do it."

May you live a life filled with leaps, big and small.