Imagine a distance of 110 miles or 177km. At a leisurely speed driving a car, it would probably take 2 hours. Now imagine having to swim that entire distance without getting out of the water or being able to take rests in a boat.
On September 2, 2013, 64-year old Diana Nyad became the first person to ever swim the 110-mile distance between Havana, Cuba and Key West, Florida without the protection of a shark cage. A remarkable achievement, especially when taking into consideration she had four failed attempts before actually succeeding.
Diana’s first attempt had been 35 years earlier in 1978, followed by other attempts in August 2011, September 2011, and August 2012. Weather conditions, a shoulder injury, and painful jellyfish bites had all thwarted her previous attempts, but in 2013, she did everything humanly possible to prepare for her next attempt.
At approximately 1:55 pm EDT on September 2, 2013, Nyad reached the beach in Key West, about 53 hours after she began her journey. An extraordinary feat.
The mantra that kept her going through the entire last attempt was ‘Find a way’. Four questions Diana unpacks in her book Find a Way are:
Why, at sixty-four, was she able to achieve what she could not at thirty?
How did her crushing failures push her to success?
What inner resources did Diana draw on during her long days and nights of training?
How did the power of the human spirit trump both the limitations of the body and the forces of nature across this vast, dangerous wilderness?
When I reflect on Diana’s journey and the mantra that got her through it all, I’m drawn to the obstacles and challenges that we all face on a daily basis. When faced with challenges or hardship, does our mindset allow us to ‘find our own way’ through it all or does our mindset shut us down to possible solutions, constricting our thinking which can result in limited options.
Sometimes we need important reminders that we all have the inner capacity to figure things out, especially during tough times. In closing, I want to share a quote from Diana. As you read it, think about your own life. How can you always ‘find a way’ through challenges and adversity in your life? What might you need to do to sharpen your own mindset in order to think differently about how you work your way through tough times?
“Take every minute, one at a time. Don’t be fooled by a perfect sea at any given moment. Accept and rise to whatever circumstance presents itself. Be in it full tilt, your best self. Summon your courage, your true grit. When the body fades, don’t let negative edges of despair creep in. Allowing flecks of negativity leads to a Pandora’s box syndrome. You can’t stop the doubts once you consent to let them seep into your tired, weakened brain. You must set your will. Set it now. Let nothing penetrate or cripple it.”
I have included Diana’s TED X talk below should you want to know more about her and her journey. Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.