The pitch-black darkness of night, the crush of sea waves, and the pull of the Gulf Stream current—Diana Nyad set the scene, taking us with her on her historic 110 mile swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida in 2013 after four failed attempts and at 64 years of age. From evading sharks and suffering through box jellyfish stings, hypothermia and hallucinations (not to mention the 53 hours of constant swimming)—Diana overcame all odds to make her big fish dream a reality.
She was the latest speaker to take the stage as part of Outer Spaces—an inspirational speaker series at our Minneapolis headquarters—and shared her story, the topic of her latest book “Find a Way,” with the team. Diana reminds us that with the strength of the human spirit, anything is possible. Here are a few of her words of advice:
When Diana was a young girl, her father shared the origins of her last name, Nyad (it’s Greek, meaning water nymph), telling her that being a champion swimmer was her destiny. That day a spark of belief was ignited that would remain with her for the rest of her life. She believed she could be the best swimmer in the world, so she became it.
“No matter what you do—winning, losing, all the territory in between—do it every single day so you couldn’t do it a fingernail better. No regrets.”
Later, at the 1968 Olympic trials, Diana didn’t end up making the team. (She hadn’t yet realized that her true strength was swimming for miles over the curves of the earth instead of meters in a pool.) But before the race began, a friend gave her some of her own advice: Stay in the moment, stay focused, and leave everything you have (every last ounce of effort) in the pool. She adopted the lesson as her life’s mantra.
“We should never, ever give up. We all know heartache and worse, and if we just don’t quit, we’ll get to that other shore whatever it is.”
At 60, after not having swam a stroke in 30 years, Diana became re-inspired to pick up where she left off and keep chasing her impossible star—the Cuba-to-Florida swim. As Diana swam her final attempt, she imagined pushing Cuba farther away, and pulling Key West closer with each and every stroke. “You have a beautiful star, an inspiring dream, maybe it’s impossible, but it’ll make you tap into every fiber of your potential.”
Want to hear more about Diana and her record-breaking swim? Check out her TED Talk, Never, Ever Give Up.
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