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The “Find a Way” Attitude of Endurance Swimmer Diana Nyad

What an incredible two months for 64 year old endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. This past Thursday she ended her 48-hour swim in pool set up at a Manhattan intersection to benefit the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Diana received fluids intravenously when spoke to reporters afterwards. Over the 48 hours she only got out to use the bathroom.

Photo from Charlie Adams
Photo from Charlie Adams

Just this past September Diana swam from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida without a shark cage, a 110-mile odyssey in 52 hours, 54 minutes and 18 seconds. She is the only person that has ever done that without a shark cage. She swallowed mouthfuls of saltwater that made her throw up. She would count to 20,000 in Spanish and back to zero in French. She would sing “Ticket to Ride” by the Beatles for one part of the journey and “Paperback Writer” on another. She swam into a jellyfish minefield.

Diana had tried this three times before over the years, falling short each time. Her first attempt was 35 years ago, but she never gave up on this dream. As I talk about in my seminar/keynote How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing, she and her team stuck with the solution centered attitude. Painful jellyfish stings had been a big factor in previous attempts failing, so they came up with a custom silicone mask that kept even her lips from the jellyfish.

It’s like when surfer Bethany Hamilton made her comeback after losing an arm in a shark attack. At first she couldn’t swim out to the big waves because with only one arm she couldn’t dive under with her board when the smaller waves hit her on the way out. So, her father came up with a rope handle in the middle of the board so she could grab onto that with her one arm, and ‘duck dive’ under the waves.

Diana’s approach to this fifth attempt was “Find a Way!”
That’s the solution centered attitude. Diana made three points when she finally got ashore (photo below of her dazed upong reaching shore)!

Photo from Charlie Adams
Photo from Charlie Adams

“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 is a team.”

Photo from Charlie Adams
Photo from Charlie Adams

35 people had had worked to deep sharks and the deadly box jellyfish from her on the journey. It takes a team! An asthma attack had led to one of her trips failing, so she brought aboard a pulmonologist. The infamous box jellyfish had caused all kinds of problems in the past, so an expert on box jellyfish was added to the team.

Upon finishing, she continued to inspire others.

“I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, ‘I’m going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I’m going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I’m going to adopt a child. It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams.'”

Diana Nyad persisted in her attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, even though it took her over three decades to get it right. I have interviewed former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz over 100 times over the years, and this is what he says about persistance.

“Persistence is, in my mind, the quality that is most critical to success and happiness. Nothing takes the place of persistence. Talent won’t; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t do it; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence alone is omnipotent. Everybody of my generation knows that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs. I am one of the few who also know that he struck out more than thirteen hundred times.”

Other inspirational quotes from Diana Nyad are:

”You can’t start to get into negative spaces…telling yourself it hurts too much, maybe another day… because even people with an iron will [can] talk themselves out of stuff and quit when things get tough.”

”All those factors out there [in life], you can’t control them, but you have to have intelligent answers to them, you have to have solutions.”

”All of us suffer heartaches and difficulties in our lives. If you say to yourself, ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through.”

“Life is not over at this age [64] by any means.”

“I believe endurance grows and we can never discount the mental…the powers of concentration and perspective of what it all means. What you are capable of is infinitely higher at this age [64] than when you are a young twenty-something.”

”So many people discuss the journey and the destination. The destination was always my vision. The journey that took me several years was thrilling. The discovery, the people, the looking inside at what you’re made of made reaching the destination-euphoric.”

“Whenever you’re pushing through the tough moments, find a way. If something is important to you and it looks impossible and you’re up against it, step back for a minute and ask yourself if you have the resolve to think of every -nth degree to get through this. And most times, we do.”

“I wanted to teach myself some life lessons at the age of 60 and one of them was that you don’t give up.” – Diana Nyad

Click here to see Diana’s official website

Charlie Adams is a 1985 graduate of Ole Miss and is a native of Oxford. He is also the author of 4 books on positive attitude and peak performance, including 2013′s “How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!!” and “Stoke the Fire Within.” His books and motivational keynotes and seminars are designed to make sure events reach their objectives and to help create winning cultures. Email him at:Charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.

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