You might recognize the name, Diana Nyad from the newspapers as the crazy woman who keeps trying to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, but who keeps failing due to outrageous obstacles such as strong currents and severe paralyzing jellyfish stings. Well, as it turns out, this past September she actually did accomplish her lifelong extreme swimming goal. Her fifth try proved to be the charm, and at the age of 64 nonetheless! From Havana, Cuba to Key West–that’s a whopping 110 miles–she successfully swam amidst innumerable, punishing, and relentless conditions for 53 hours. And while the feat required a support team of 35 experts, a tremendous athletic gift, and decades of preparation, it required a whole lotta motivation every step of the way.
Her motto this year? “Find a way!” Find a way…even though neurologists, endurance experts, as well as her own team said completing the swim would be “impossible.” Find a way…past the swarms of deadly jellyfish that can quickly take down a bucking Navy SEAL with excruciating pain and potent venom. Find a way…to swim in pitch blackness, through the whirling eddies and the most unpredictable jet stream on earth while choking on salt water, dealing with hypothermia and hallucinations through fogged goggles, as well as vomiting spells and facial abrasions. Now that takes incredible commitment! Essentially, what pulled her through these difficult times were her own positive thoughts, the music on her headset that she brought along for the journey, compelling quotes from literature, and the encouragement from her best friend, Bonnie Stoll, who she credits as being able to summon the “last drop of will” from her when she was convinced she had none left.
Nyad acknowledges sports are a microcosm of life itself. When she turned 60, she couldn’t forgive herself for having spent countless hours listening to her negative self-talk; nor could she move beyond the stranglehold of regrets accumulated over years. But when her mother died at the age of 84, Nyad says she realized the time she had left here on this plain was finite, and she needed to find a goal that would require “utter conviction and unwavering passion.” An author and motivational speaker, Nyad insists we all have dreams with obstacles before us, and none of us get through this life without heartache and turmoil. So when life knocks you down, have faith and get back up again, and have perseverance. Also, she warns that although things may seem to be going well now, obstacles could be just around the corner. But life is about the journey, not the destination. One of her favorite quotes comes from Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Nyad dares to ask all of us observing her journey, “What is it YOU plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Well, fine Thespian, your dreams may not be threatened by looming sharks and hypothermia, but certainly you will need an arsenal of perseverance-building tools to stay the course when obstacles come your way. While Diana Nyad reached for the horizon until she reached the Florida shore, you reach for the stars in your journey to succeed. “Every day of our lives is epic,” she asserts. “‘When you achieve your dreams, it’s about who you become.’ I’m walking around tall because I am that bold fearless person, and I will be everyday until it’s time for these days to be done.”
Find a way!