What You Can Learn From Diana Nyad

One way to enjoy the holiday

One way to enjoy the holiday

Yesterday was Labor Day here in the United States.  It’s a day most of us spend with family and friends, unplugging and celebrating the unofficial end of summer.  The kids are back in school, or will be shortly, and pretty soon the lazy days of shorts, flip-flops, and vacations will be just a distant memory.

Labor Day was not the only special thing that happened yesterday.  In fact, something happened yesterday, September 2nd, that was so amazing–so inspirational–that CNN featured it in a prime time special report.  Yesterday Diana Nyad achieved her dream of swimming 110 miles in shark infested waters from Cuba to Florida.

That in itself is an amazing achievement worthy of international acclaim.  But there is more to the story.  Diana Nyad is not in her thirties.  In fact, she tried this swim when she was thirty–and she failed.  At that point she boxed up her dream and stored it somewhere in a back corner of her mind.  It wasn’t until she turned sixty that she took that box out, opened it, brushed off her dream, and tried again.

Even at that point she was not meant to succeed.  It took her four more attempts and four more years until she finally walked onto the Florida shore after fifty-three hours in the water.

At the age of sixty-four, Diana Nyad  realized one of the most extreme personal goals I have ever heard of.

After the most grueling swim in history  Ms. Nyad had a few things to share with the crowd on the beach:

“I have 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 takes a team.”

I don’t know about you, but  these words penetrated somewhere deep in my soul.  I talk to people everyday who are ready to give up their dreams because they seem so far away.  Perhaps they have been working on them for what seems like forever without seeing enough progress to justify any more effort.  For whatever reason, it just seems too hard to keep going.

We all have dreams.  I believe that is a part of being human.  We instinctively want to create a better future, or a more perfect self, or possibly a more harmonious world.  However we define it, we need a reason to consistently move forward.

When I heard her words, I felt Ms. Nyad was speaking directly to me.

When I was forty-nine I lost my job.  An entire lifetime devoted to one career and one company was over–just like that.  I was suddenly looking at the next half of my life in an entirely new light, one that was completely unexpected but came with a choice.   I could choose to stay in my given field, or I could branch out into untested waters and create a new life doing something that would actually mean something.

I chose Option Number Two.

Stay in the swim

Stay in the swim

I decided to help people find their health and happiness, not just fixate on their careers.  The truth is, balancing the priorities between work and home in a high pressure world is no easy feat,  but I knew that I could help others learn how to get the most out of the wonderful lives they had been busy creating and neglecting.

It has been a few years since I took off on my own swim  creating a new business and lifestyle for myself and my family and I can attest that all of Diana’s messages are true.

It is never too late to chase your dreams.  Today’s world blurs the conventional definitions of age and expectations.  There is no set retirement age, and every idea of retirement is unique.  Here is the caveat, however.  A dream is not an easy thing to achieve.  It takes time and it takes effort.  Like Diana Nyad, it usually requires failure in the first attempts as well.  These failures reinforce the importance of the dream and teach us better ways to move forward.  A dream is not simply something to cross off a to-do list–it is so much bigger than that.

Giving up is not an option.  Failure may be an option, but giving up is not.  As long as your dream is feeding your energy and desire, it is worth pursuing.  Failure simply means that your first (or second, or third) plan was not the right one.  It does not mean your ultimate goal is wrong.

Finally,  reaching any goal is much harder if you try to go it alone.  Whether building a business or losing weight, having support makes success that much more possible.  When you feel that you are losing sight of your dream–reach out.  Chances are there are people all around you who would love nothing more than to help you succeed.

Did Diana Nyad’s message hit home with you?  I would love to hear how it affected you. Are you re-energized and ready to keep striving forward?  Remember, it is only with continual effort that you can push the past away with one hand and pull the future toward you with the other, as she said on the CNN special.

Please post a comment on my Facebook page, Chris Griffin Coaching, and let me know how Diana Nyad’s swim has inspired you.


About Chris Griffin

Chris Griffin is a executive coach with a passion for wellness. He helps executives and senior management enhance their performance and their lives by pinpointing and changing self-defeating behaviors.

One Response to What You Can Learn From Diana Nyad

  1. Michelle September 7, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Great article Chris!