Throw Out Fifty Things



Diana Nyad's extraordinary success - being the first person to swim the 103 miles from Havana to Key West without the protection of a shark cage - was built on her failures. Last week's attempt was her fifth, coming after four years of grueling training, precision planning, single-minded determination and the relentless pursuit of a 35 year old dream. Her swim through the treacherous Florida Straits, a notorious stretch of water brimming with sharks, jellyfish, squalls and the unpredictable Gulf Stream, lasted nearly 55 hours - two days and two nights. Just for the record, that's 200,000 strokes...


So what kept the 64 year old Nyad going? Over those 35 years she'd endured just about everything: jellyfish attacks, nausea, the ever present threat of sharks...but still she swam. She told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that there's always the temptation to "take yourself out of it, to say, 'this hurts too much, maybe another day...' but you don't." No, she didn't. She kept swimming. And on her way to Key West, with every time she reached out and put an arm in the water - right, left, right, left - she thought, "Push Cuba back; pull Florida towards you...push Cuba back, pull Florida towards you." She said it over and over with each stroke... and just kept swimming. 


Immediately following her swim, Nyad said, "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 (swimming) looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team." And then, of course, she said, there was her mantra. "My mantra for this year," she said, "is find a way...just find a way." And she did.


Tremendous success...built on failures. And of course the world is full of them. Thomas Edison had many thousands of failures when he was trying to create the light-bulb. As he famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  And then there's Kathryn Stockett whose phenomenal bestseller, The Help, was turned down 60 times by publishers, eliciting rejection letters that said things like "Story did not sustain my interest" and "There is no market for this kind of tiring writing." "She never gives up," her husband says. "Not ever." And what about Fred Astaire when he first auditioned for RKO and the executive noted, "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little." And I love Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire and founder of Spanx, the must-have "foundation garments" in every woman's wardrobe, whose father would ask his children, "So, what did you fail at today?"  And he'd be pretty disappointed if they had nothing to report. 


Blakely got it - just like Edison, Stockett, Astair and of course, Nyad: Failure is not an outcome, not a result or an end's just another milestone on the journey to...find a way...

          Maybe it's a way through...or a way around...or a way over...or a way under. But it's there. Find it.




Diana Nyad's interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta                                             






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