Sharks? Jellyfish? Storms? That’s no big deal for 64-year-old Diana Nyad, who just swam 110 miles from Florida to Cuba. Imagine what the world would look like if individuals attacked their problems like she attacked her fifth attempt at the historic swim.

The Associated Press reports:

KEY WEST, Fla. — Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad waded ashore Monday and became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.

The 64-year-old Nyad swam up to the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after starting her journey from Havana on Saturday. As she approached, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.

“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,” she said on the beach.

Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, is escorted by kayakers as she swims towards the completion of her approximately 110-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

The New York Times provides an important addition to the commentary:

Ms. Nyad’s success was built on her failures — the first in 1978, when she was 28, and the most recent last year at age 62. After each attempt, she improvised, learning what to adjust, whom to consult and which new protective protocol to consider.

“Diana did her homework,” said Bonnie Stoll, Ms. Nyad’s friend and chief handler, shortly after Ms. Nyad completed her swim.

1. Never give up. 2. You’re never too old to accomplish amazing things. 3. You are never alone. 4. Success is often like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of failure.

When I was a kid, there was a time where I prided myself on not falling on my skis during winter vacation. My uncle told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of falling because a.) I would push myself harder and b.) I would learn from my mistakes. Whether you are long-distance swimming, skiing or just trying to map out your life, it’s sage advice to follow.

What if, instead of blaming others for our failures, we just looked at them as just a temporary delay to a future reality already determined? What if we didn’t spend so much time assigning blame for the obstacles in our path and instead spent more time figuring out how to turn them into stepping stones to our next big accomplishment?

Diana Nyad failed multiple times — at the peak of her physical ability. It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but she didn’t. Her victory over the seemingly insurmountable swimming distance between Florida to Cuba speaks volumes about what the human spirit is capable of.

Jellyfish sting because that’s what they do. Jerks are jerks because that’s who they’ve decided to be. Whether you’re trying to accomplish a task in the middle of the ocean or trying to navigate your way through professional life, the “Why me?” approach is simply a waste of time. “Why did I have to run into those stupid jellyfish and why did they have to sting me? … Why does my coworker not like me now matter how nice I am to him? … Why did that guy appear to give me a dirty look?” Answer: Who cares?

You have complete control over your will to succeed, and it can not be broken if you make it so. An indestructible will is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and once you realize that you are well on your way to securing the vast majority of your hopes and dreams. Diana Nyad deserves a round of applause for reminding us of this truth in her own special way.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

6 comments

  1. Great article, this shows how personal accountability is key to success. We must stop blaming others and take control of our lives. If you look back most successful people had many failures. For example Colonel Sanders was rejected 1009 times before getting accepted. Charles Shultz had every cartoon rejected by his high school yearbook staff.
    Our society needs to take a lesson from this, stop blaming others and push on.

    1. Thanks for comment, Truthwillwin1. I didn’t know that about Charles Shultz…

      The thing is, there are an infinite number of paths to get from where we are to where we want to be. If 1,009 doors close in your face, then maybe 1,010 will be the door that finally opens. Too many people start out with a plan, and then when doesn’t work out they throw their hands in the air and start looking for people who are interested in pity parties. I love stories like Diana Nyad’s because they show just how import tenacity is.

  2. Douglas, I agree Diana’s tenacity shows that if you keep at it (and notice that she adapted and learned from failure) you will continue to grow. Real success is not given it is earned.

    1. I agree with the point about people blaming others when things go wrong. For some, it’s just easier for them to blame others than it is to admit to their own imperfections and rethink a few things.

  3. That’s exactly that, Stumbling blocks need to become stepping stones, Learning should never stop, trying never end! Blame never made anyone a better person. I spent the last 27 years trying to learn how to be a better person, You’d think I’d have it down to a science.. But while I’m no where NEAR the person I want to be.. I’m a whole lot closer than I was 49 years ago, and 27 years ago;)

    So I appreciate the reminder of focusing, and refocusing and the inspirational story of what this swimmer did. She needed more than her body, she needed time and great effort and support. Just like everyone in life who wants to achieve anything valuable.

    I don’t know why this song came to mind, dn’t know what you listen too, i guarantee it sounds great in your ear buds.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce-pUKsJM6w

    Your’s Truly, Joyce Stanley

    Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2013 11:51:12 +0000 To: joysy1015@hotmail.com

    1. I think at the end of the day that’s always one of the most important question: “Did I do my best to become a better person?” No one is perfect, and of course we all have bad days, but little improvements every day add up to big gains in the end.

      Thanks for sharing that song. I don’t listen to much country, but then again that’s because I rarely buy music and just listen to whatever is on my local radio station. When my wife was living in a rural area of Virginia for school and I’d visit her I often listened to country.

      Honestly, I’ll listen to just about anything. I have a base of songs I listen to because that’s what I grew up with, but in general I’m open to a wide range of musical styles.

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