“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
—Henry David Thoreau, author and poet
Diana Nyad, the first swimmer to cross from Cuba to Miami, tells her story in her TED Talk, “Never, Ever Give Up.” Of course, most of us do—give up, that is—at least some of the time. And sometimes it may even be smart to give up, although that is a topic for another blog. But, when one is engaged in the dream of a lifetime—marked by an inner calling that beckons, sometimes softly and sometimes loudly, but rather constantly—“never give up” is the only proper stance to take.
Having said that, after watching Nyad’s TED Talk, with its descriptions of deep, black waters and vast, pitch-black skies, so dark that one cannot see one’s own hand even if held close to the face, one is provoked to ponder for a moment, “Exactly how far might I go to realize a dream, even if the dream seemed to be a life’s calling?”
And, hearing about sharks and jellyfish, hypothermia, mouth sores and hallucinations—challenges spanning 53 hours of swimming through majestic, yet intimidating, ocean—one has to ask a second question, “Really, what might I risk—even suffer—to see a dream through to completion?”
Noting in the story that Nyad started the pursuit of her dream in her 20s—failing to fulfill the dream to cross from Cuba to Miami a full four times—and did not succeed until the age of 64, one is compelled to ask yet another question, “How many times might I be willing to fail, to invest with seemingly no return, in order to complete a long-standing dream?”
Nyad’s story is riveting, inspiring, daunting and sometimes humorous. But perhaps its greatest value is that it is thought-provoking. It conjures up questions not asked often enough by enough of us as we breeze through the comfort of our predictable days.
There are a few answers, too.
- The journey is as important as the destination. In fact, the journey transforms, independent of the ultimate outcome, as the journey is where day upon day of effort is expended, the training happens, the strategies are hatched, and the lessons are many.
- Even those who look to be going solo are supported by a team. Nyad’s team involved 30 people. Courageous. Experts. Without them, she would not have had a chance to realize the dream.
- Create the inner voice to propel you forward in good times and bad. Nyad’s mantra for the fifth—and successful—attempt at fulfilling the dream? “Find a way.” She did.
- Just at the moment you are about to give up—when you are hanging on by a thread—look for inspiration. In Nyad’s case, her first hand, faithful sidekick, and long-time friend, Bonnie, provided it. About 15 hours from Miami, Bonnie sensed Nyad’s resolve ebbing away, so she directed Nyad’s attention to a strip of lights in the horizon. Nyad thought it was the light of day dawning, but Bonnie corrected her, revealing the strip to be the lights of Key West. Buoyed up, Nyad continued on to victory.
- In the end, remember this (Nyad’s words): “You can chase your dreams at any age; you’re never too old.”
What are your dreams? What are some steps to take the journey to making your dreams reality?
View Diana Nyad’s TED Talk, “Never, Ever Give Up,” at https://www.ted.com/talks/diana_nyad_never_ever_give_up?language=en.