Lessons From Diana Nyad’s Journey and Triumph

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 13:47
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Lessons From Diana Nyad’s Journey and Triumph

Tags: business planning | business strategy | leadership | managing

Sometimes there are feats of triumph that make us sit back and say “Wow!”  The physical and mental toughness it takes to do what she did is incredible.  There is a reason no one has successfully accomplished this swim successfully, just from a physical and mental toughness standpoint.  The ocean provided its own set of unpredictable challenges which she also had to overcome.

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In each previous try, she was defeated by the challenges the ocean had put forth that stopped her from reaching her goal of being the first person to swim from Cuba. A goal that was 35 years in the making.

The facts from her swim are simply amazing: no one without the aid of a shark cage had done this previously, she completed the swim at age 64, she swam 103 miles from Cuba to Florida consistently for nearly 35 hours, this attempt was her fifth and last try in 35 years.

In the stories reported regarding the journey, her quotes offer a wealth of advice for each of us, both personally and professionally…

Her mantra for this year was “Find a way.”  Another version was “You don’t like it, it’s not going well. Find a way.”

“You have a dream 35 years ago—doesn’t come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it’s somewhere back there. Then you turn 60, and your mom just dies, and you’re looking for something. And the dream comes walking out of your imagination.”

“It was really tough that first day, Saturday, after the start and I just said: ‘Forget about the surface up. Get your hands in somehow, and with your left hand say, push Cuba back, and push Florida towards you.’”

As she walked up on the beach, triumphant in her success she said “I’ve got three messages: One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Prior to this journey she quipped “You can dream at any age.”

“This time, I am 64. So the years of my life are shorter to the end. So this time I am, all the way across…going to think about all those life lessons that came up during the swim.”

At one point during the swim her team cleared jellyfish from the path in front of her. When told of this, she replied in pain but still with humor, “I’ve never been able to follow it in my life.”

When questioned by a reporter, she said she isn’t a hero but hopes to provide inspiration for others. “I think a lot of people in our country have gotten depressed, pinned in, pinned down with living lives they don’t want.”

“I do write all the time about- you tell me what your dreams are.  What are you chasing? It’s not impossible. Name it.”

Her successful swim, which began as a dream 35 years prior, provides a number of lessons for us personally, as business owners, and for the clients we advise.

Dream big- She first thought of attempting this swim when she was 8 years old.  At this time it was probably looked at as being impossible. What are your dreams?

Perseverance is a huge factor in being successful- Five tries over 35 years. Even with the prior failures and continued challenges, she kept after her goal. Keep going, you will make it!

You will face challenges-  During her attempts, she encountered sharks, jellyfish, swallowing salt water that caused vomiting, rough seas, asthma attacks, dehydration, and deliriousness among others. How will you respond to the variety of challenges you face?

If things don’t work one way, find a better way- In her first four attempts, she was defeated by the obstacles the ocean put in her way, primarily the saltwater and jellyfish. To account for these challenges on this swim, she used gloves and had a mask made so that the jellyfish could not sting her. Making the mask took a year to create and try various molds. The mask was bothersome to swim in, but that did not matter to her.  It allowed her to swim through the jellyfish and helped her reach her goal.  What isn’t working for you and what can you do to find a better way?


Focus and planning play a role in success- After four previous attempts, she and her team had learned what obstacles could and likely would occur.  They planned for a positive outcome and were very focused in each attempt. Combining the thorough planning with laser focus helped her attain the goal in her fifth attempt.  Are you planning and using 90-day goals and staying laser focused on accomplishing your goals?

Teamwork makes a difference- She had a team of 35 people to support her.  Some were divers that watched for sharks or cleared a path through the jellyfish, others monitored the weather and her health, and others updated social media with her progress.  Each member of the team had a role. Her team also provided support by cheering her along when things did not look good. Do you have the right staff in place to for a cohesive team? If you are the owner of the form, are your employees supporting you as you “swim” toward your goal?

Age doesn’t matter
- She accomplished this goal at age 64.  She first tried when she was 29. Do you, or one of your clients, have a goal that you didn’t believe was attainable because of age?

Luck does play a factor in your success- Even with all the planning and focus, you still need some things to “go your way” in order to have success.  The big thing going in her favor in this attempt was the ocean currents, which helped push her toward the Florida coast. Are you prepared so that luck can help push you across the finish line?

Stay inspired- Her goal, from age 29 to her final success at age 64, inspired her to continue.  We all need something to keep us inspired to move ahead.  What inspires you?


Diana’s main slogans could not be more true or concise- Find a way.  Don’t give up. Dream at any age.

Lessons we should all live by.

Build your business wisely.

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