TED@UPS: Flying Above Fear

I’ll never forget the day and the feeling of freedom.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to fly. It started with a photo in a Christmas catalogue that triggered a dream that would one day become reality.

Flying lessons were not cheap. I worked multiple odd jobs and saved every penny. My parents, who respected my dream, helped as much as they could.

On June 28, 1986 – I’ll never forget the day and the feeling of freedom – I took the controls of a small Cessna. At 17, my life took flight that day, and I’ve never looked back.

Today, from the cockpit of a MD-11, I see the world from a perspective most will never see. From the Gobi Desert in China, to the glaciers of Alaska and the volcanoes off of the eastern coast of Russia, I see a diverse planet.

In the course of my travels, I’ve met people from many nations and cultures a young child growing up in Northern Michigan knew only from her maps. My experiences with people from all walks of life caused me to examine my own life and to question what I was taught to be true.

What I’ve learned is that many people live their lives trapped in ill-fitting boxes. Their experience is painful, isolating and at times terrifying. Like them, I could relate. The box I found myself in was buried so deep that it took four decades to find my way out.

What put me in that box and how did I find the courage to be honest with myself and to admit who I really was? I hope you’ll watch my TED@UPS video to find out. goldbrown2

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Kelly Lepley is a pilot at UPS

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