The Power and Importance of Perseverance

A map of Diana Nyad's swim

On Labor Day 2013, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad achieved one of her life’s goals. In case you missed all the press coverage, the 64-year old long distance swimmer swam from the shores of Havana, Cuba to Key West, in Florida. That’s a 103-mile swim through the shark and jellyfish infested waters of the open sea. It took Nyad just under 53 hours to complete the swim.

While I followed the story on Twitter and on the news outlets, I was very, very excited for Diana. I was so impressed by her willingness to work so hard — she trained for years to make the swim — to achieve one of her life’s goals.

What really got me was when I learned that Nyad’s successful swim this month was her fifth attempt. She had first tried to complete the swim in 1978. She was unsuccessful and was forced to give up.

She did not try again until 2009.

Then it took her four more attempts before she completed that journey. An astounding 35 years passed between Nyad’s first attempt and her successful completion on September 2, 2013.

When Nyad dragged herself out of the water, after 53 hours of swimming in the sea, she mumbled the following:

“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.”

Whoah! Those three messages are intense.

Let’s look at each one separately.

(1) We should never, ever give up: Nyad worked towards a major life goal for 35 years. 35 years! That sort of determination, if we could work it into our life, would undoubtedly push us farther than most, if not all, of our competition.

(2) You’re never too old to chase your dream: Chasing our dreams as we get older can be increasingly difficult, but it’s still possible. The focus and drive that Nyad showed in completing her swim is the same that can bring us success regardless of our age. Chase down those dreams with vigor, energy and focus and they will happen.

(3) It looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team: If that is not also true of life, I don’t know what is. In life and in business, we are never completely on our own. We’re constantly relying on our family, friends, colleagues and others for help and support. When chasing our dreams, we need to be mindful and grateful for the support we get from the team around us.

I am so pleased for Diana Nyad. More so, I am so grateful to her for sharing those three simple, powerful thoughts as she exited the water in Key West. I am inspired.

Diana Nyad is online at