At the age of 29, Diana Nyad dreamed of being the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a cage and in the midst of shark infested waters. Why would someone jump into shark infested waters and face potential death? Diana’s story is no different than that of any entrepreneur or dreamer who wakes up one day with a dream that the world around them would herald as IMPOSSIBLE or ridiculous. And it’s those dreamers that must learn the art of failing forward to make Shift Happen.
Diana’s first attempt was recorded as a dismal failure. Her body couldn’t endure the pain and torture of the winds and water. It wasn’t until 30 years later, at the age of 60, that SHIfT happened for Diana and her eyes, once again, were set on the epic swim. Unfortunately, her next 3 attempts would also be recorded as “failures”, resulting in torturous sunburns, hour-long asthma attacks, and paralyzing jellyfish stings.
Onlookers, scientists, and family believed the swim was a physical impossibility. Diana, however, believed the contrary. At the age of 64, she made her 5th attempt, this time with experience and wisdom on her side. Taking on her jellyfish enemies, this time she wore a special suit and mask to prevent jellyfish stings to her body and tongue, which proved to be a key factor in her previous failed attempts.
The swim wasn’t easy. At one point, she had so much salt water in her system that she would shiver and vomit as she swam. To help her relax, she would sing lullabies. She remembers, “With all the experience I’ve had, especially in this ocean, I never knew I would suffer the way I did. It was really rough that first day, Saturday, after the start and I just said: ‘Forget about the surface up. Get your hands in somehow, and with your left hand, say, push Cuba back, and pull Florida towards you,'”
What was Diana’s secret? What was the internal SHIfT she had to experience to finish what she started?
1.Humility….When she was young, she believed herself to be super-human and ready to conquer anything. Life quickly humbled her to realize that anything great in life comes with a price tag.
2. Perspective…Every failure gave Diana a new perspective on what NOT to do in the future. She was able to use her learning lessons as a roadmap for how she would eventually make the impossible possible.
3. Risk….Many people fear the risk of failure and therefore never take the first step in their journey to greatness. Diana failed over and over again and yet was willing to risk her life for the passion of seeing her dream come to realty.
At the age of 64, the health risks were tremendous, and yet, the reward, in Diana’s mind outweighed the price tag of risk. Diana succeeded in accomplishing her dream, but the lessons learned are valid for all leaders wanting to reach for the impossible. When life comes against you, SHIfT till you make the necessary adjustments to WIN big and finish strong.
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