Fifth Time’s the Charm: Lessons from Diana Nyad

Find a way. – Diana Nyad

After four failed attempts to complete the 110-mile swim (some reports say it’s a 103 mile swim, but let’s face it – that’s impressive no matter which number you use), Diana Nyad is the first person to complete the journey from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage. After completing her trek, she shared the following insight:

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.

Those are powerful messages, and they resonate (or at least they should) with every leader. When combined, they create a powerful blueprint for achievement. Let’s examine them individually.

We Should Never, Ever Give Up

If you’ve read one of my previous posts, you’ll know that I don’t advocate blindly following a course of action that provides no clear results. So when it comes to ‘never, ever giving up,’ I mean that we should never abandon a worthwhile goal, even while acknowledging that a specific effort may not yield favorable results. What makes a goal worthwhile? That’s something each person must determine for themselves. However, it  is something that speaks to your core, something that syncs with your very being. I know, that sounds very metaphysical. Some might call it ‘new age mumbo-jumbo.’ But take Diana Nyad. She’s an endurance swimmer, and a motivational speaker. She thrives on doing things that have never been done. So the swim without a shark cage from Cuba to Florida was a worthwhile goal to her. That’s why she kept at it, even though she failed four times before this last successful attempt. Yes, she gave up on those previous efforts, but she never, ever gave up on her goal of being the first person to make the journey without a shark cage. Some people might not agree with her choice, but she knew it was something she had to do. So, she did it. In keeping with her new mantra, she ‘found a way’ to make it happen, combining modern technology and old-fashioned determination to create a winning plan. It’s an example all leaders can imitate.

You’re Never too Old to Chase Your Dream

People offer many reasons why they can’t do what they want. You’ve probably heard (maybe you even used) some of these:

  • If only I were younger
  • If only I’d finished my education
  • If only I had more time
  • If only I had saved more money
  • If only…

Here’s the reality: No matter your circumstances, you can achieve your goals if you’re willing to pay the price. Diana Nyad proved age isn’t a factor in accomplishing a physically challenging goal. She’s not alone in raising the bar. Whatever your reason (or excuse, because both words have the same definition), someone in similar and often in more challenging circumstances already paved the way. So the lesson learned is to stop offering reasons (making excuses) and tackle the challenge head on. I remember Brian Carruthers saying “you can make money or you can make excuses, but you can’t make both at the same time.” We can alter that slightly to say ‘you can make progress towards your goals or you can make excuses (or offer reasons), but you can’t make both at the same time.’ The bottom line is this: Stop coming up with reasons why you can’t achieve your goals and start thinking about what you can do. Then start doing what you can and move closer to your goals and dreams.

It Looks like a Solitary Sport, but it is a Team

Diana Nyad pictured with a member of her support team before her historic Cuba-Florida swim (courtesy of

Ms. Nyad will tell you right away that her accomplishment was a team effort. From planning to execution, she had people who analyzed the challenges she previously faced and devised ways of combating them. She also had people with her throughout her journey, encouraging her and providing nutrients when needed. Her team included doctors who monitored her condition every stroke along her way. Success is a team sport.

People like to say “I made it on my own.” That’s rarely true. While I wholeheartedly agree that successful people often go against the crowd and venture into uncharted territory, all needed help. Whether it came from encouraging friends and family, governmental assistance, or aid from unlikely sources, every success story I know is a tale of someone visionary doing extraordinary things with the help of others. We see those persons who accept the challenges, assemble the teams, and then go on to make things happen, like Diana Nyad, and often fail to appreciate those working behind the scenes. Yet without those support teams, none of the incredible accomplishments of which we read could happen.

Diana Nyad tried five times to swim from Cuba to Florida before completing the task, and she’ll tell you it was worth the effort. How many tries will you make before reaching your goals? One thing is certain: If you stop trying, you’ll never succeed. So learn the lessons found in the historic effort Ms. Nyad made, and keep reaching for your goals. Instead of coming up short against obstacles in your path, adopt the mantra that propelled Diana Nyad forward: Find a way.

How do you feel about Ms. Nyad’s incredible swim? What lessons has it taught you? More importantly, how will you apply what you’ve learned? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

This entry was posted in Goal Setting, Mindset, Overcoming Adversity, Personal Dvelopment and tagged by Kerwyn Hodge. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kerwyn Hodge

Kerwyn Hodge has been an entrepreneur from early on. He’s been both a worker and manager, predominantly in the design and construction industry. Kerwyn transitioned to the Direct Selling industry, and joined LegalShield in July 2009. He works with businesses of all sizes, helping to protect the legal rights and identities of employees and their families, as well as helping to protect and grow small businesses with 100 employees or less. Check out his blog at You can reach him at 646-340-8087, or via email at

2 thoughts on “Fifth Time’s the Charm: Lessons from Diana Nyad

  1. Great post; all too often people give up, and never realize, as you wrote, that they need other people to help them succeed. What Diana Nyad’s story has taught me is that you may have to change the plan if you find it is not working like you thought it would at first.

    • So true, Coline! Recently I was talking with some friends about plans and purposes. A purpose is something that remains fixed, while plans are what help you achieve that purpose. So it’s okay to change your plans as needed, even while never losing sight of your purpose. Thanks for sharing that with us!

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