Some of you may remember the TED Talk I posted this summer about Diane Nyad. She is the former long-distance swimmer who at the age of sixty decided she was going to achieve the one goal that had eluded her: she was going to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of flippers or a shark cage. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t swum a single stroke in thirty years or that she would have to swim continuously for almost sixty hours to fulfill her dream. She was determined. She was determined to live her life with passion. So she began to train, and in 2011, she went for it. And, as she told the TED audience, she failed. At the halfway point, she was forced to quit because she was stung repeatedly in the face by a box jellyfish.
But Nyad was undaunted. After that first failure she made two more attempts and still did not reach the Florida shore. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to keep trying. During a second TED Talk entitled “Dare to Dream,” Nyad said she didn’t care anymore about breaking records or making history, she was more interested in “living every day alive and alert.” And to her, that meant she needed to keep swimming.
This past weekend, beginning Saturday morning, Nyad tried again. While the rest of America enjoyed the last weekend of summer, Nyad spent Labor Day 2013 in the ocean. She swam through the day and through the dark of night–twice–and then, Monday morning she found herself six miles off the shore of Florida. Her extreme dream, as she called it, within reach. A few hours later, Diane Nyad, who is now 64 years old, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida.
No one else has done what Nyad did, but I know a lot of people like her. Not people who are swimmers or outstanding athletes, but people who share her steadfast determination and unwavering courage. People who don’t let age or circumstances keep them from picking up their dream and attempting over and over again to stretch towards their best selves. People, like you and me, who are living every day alive and alert no matter what the doubters say and no matter how many times we fail.
Nyad is an inspiration, and her remarkable feat is a reminder to recommit to our own lives each and every day. Just without getting quite so wet.
(For more information about Diane Nyad, visit her website at www.dianenyad.com.)