Beware Of The Devil’s Spin On Things

I’ve been reading The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday.

I love it.


There was a story that got my Spidey-sense tingling and I had to go fact-check it.

See the results after the break.

From the book:

They key word in that quote is “offensive.”

It’s the Devil’s Spin. It’s taking something that was considered a good thing by someone and casting it as a bad thing.

Here are Amelia Earhart’s own words, from her autobiography, The Fun of It: Random Records of My Own Flying and of Women in Aviation. Denison House was a settlement house for new immigrants. As stated in the quote above, she was a social worker. Not because she couldn’t get work as a pilot, but because she wanted to be a social worker.

Here’s her own words on that:

Those are not the words of a woman being shut out by men, which the original excerpt would lead you to believe!

And now the key point, in Amelia’s own words:

I need to break the back of this Devil’s Spin with some emphasis of the above:

She had zero resentment over not being paid. No bitterness even over being second choice.

What she had was gratitude for an opportunity she understood would benefit her more than any amount of money they would have offered.

Ryan Holliday put his thumb on the scale to tilt the story one way. While I understand dramatic effect, doing so could create in unsophisticated minds with a twisted and militant bent a resentment that Earhart herself never had and would have never intended a recounting of her story to have.

It reminds me of a line of dialogue from a British mini-series called An Englishman’s Castle. Unfortunately, neither a clip, the episode itself (first one), or the exact quote can be found on the Internet. But the spirit of it struck me and stayed with me and it went something like this:

But people didn’t think like that back then! You’re giving them our attitudes from today!

That’s the Devil’s Spin.

Holliday’s larger point, however, still stands: That Earhart said yes.

Whenever you get an offer you feel is “beneath” you, that’s the Devil’s Spin. Don’t let the opportunity pass. Remember the example of Amelia Earhart.

Previously here:

Human Variables category

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3 Responses to Beware Of The Devil’s Spin On Things

  1. Also, Holliday himself is a bit offensive in thinking that a person can only do one thing. Earhart was massively multi-talented – yes, a social worker (and gifted at that), and a pilot, but also an exceptional writer. People are multi-dimensional. I cook (and my methods are fairly instinctive; I tend to rely on sound an awful lot), but I also code, write, design, analyze, speak publicly, knit, sew, and am becoming a librarian. I’m not one thing. I’ve made my living at all of these things except the last 3.

    That was a pretty heavy thumb on the scale and I’d bet you anything Earhart would have disputed that.

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