Never Ever Give Up
My advice for living your healthiest, most fulfilling life—even if you’re not swimming across 110 miles of treacherous open ocean
By Diana Nyad
ON LABOR DAY, 2013, I WALKED out of the sea onto Smathers Beach in Key West, becoming the first person ever to swim all the way across the Florida Straits from Cuba without a shark cage. It was a journey of 110.86 miles, and it took me 52 hours, 54 minutes. I was 64 years old at the time.
Walking onto that Florida shore from Cuba didn’t become a reality until my fiſth try. I failed four times, and each of those attempts was public and each was crushing. I had put in hundreds of grueling, lonely training hours. A team of 44 people had sacrificed a great deal in the name of adventure, friendship and history. In the end, it was a 35-year saga of discovery, life lessons and grand experiences on an epic journey.
Envision your dream and don’t give up until you get there, or at least get so close that your own effort inspires you.
But we need to get real. The universe at times dishes out circumstances that even the toughest among us have to accept and come to terms with. My good friend, at the young age of 32, fought cancer of the worst kind with courage and not a drop of self-pity. But when the cancer in the end would not submit, my brave friend had to somehow find the grace to say good-bye to her children. We sometimes are dealt a tough road of physical and other kinds of disabilities. That’s when we still fight labels and yet somehow find elegance in determining what we can and can’t ultimately do.
Dreaming, reaching for stars and personal fulfillment are what drive the human spirit. I don’t wake up in the morning a middle-aged woman, a child of sexual abuse, a human rights activist, even though I am all of those things. I wake up a citizen of the world who refuses to let this cherished life slip quietly by. Don’t tell me I can’t touch the stars, because I just may get there one day. And on my way I’ll be tapping down into the deep well of all I can be.
Don’t Fear Failure ...
The debate about the journey versus the destination has raged for all time. Is the journey a worthy road to travel? What if you never touch that dream star of yours? I may have tried dozens of times more and never successfully completed the Cuba Swim, but I had come to peace with feeling that the journey itself was noble and worth taking, even if I never reached the destination.
During that last year of training in 2013, I kept on my desk that famous Teddy Roosevelt quote about not wanting to be a timid soul. To paraphrase, Roosevelt says he would rather be the guy in the ring who gets bloody and dirty and falls and fails over and over again. Far better, he says, to be bold and fail than to be a timid soul who is afraid and never tries at all.
Dazed when I stumbled onto that beach aſter more than two days of nonstop swimming, the first words I uttered through swollen lips were: “Never ever give up.”
I was living proof that to be fierce in your convictions, to refuse to give up on your dreams, allows you to stand tall, with no regrets that you have not lived out everything in your being.
There were thousands of screaming people on that beach to greet me. They weren’t swimming fans or even sports fans. They were people just like you and me, who fully understand and thirst to live inspired lives, who grasp that perseverance is the key to all success and fulfillment.
By the way, the second thing I said on that beach that day was: “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
Today, at 65, I am undoubtedly at the center of the prime of my life. As an athlete, a world-class athlete at that, I am stronger, fitter, more focused, more capable today than I was when setting records for such endurance marks as the fastest to swim around Manhattan Island at the age of 25, 40 long (or short) years ago.
Perhaps we can all of us agree that we mature and evolve for the better in all kinds of ways as we age. We have more perspective; the clock ticking exponentially faster year by year makes us want to grab on to our precious days, one by one. Our sense of appreciation for life and this beautiful blue jewel Planet Earth heightens. So it’s easy to understand an emotional and psychological prime at 65—for athletes and nonathletes alike.
Make this the prime of your life, whatever age you are, whatever life circumstances you find yourself in. It’s a one-way street we’re all traveling, each and every one of us. What a shame not to take this one walkthrough of ours with great gusto. It’s up to each of us to find a way toward whatever shore looms in our dreams.
Widely known as one of the world’s greatest endurance athletes, Diana Nyad inspired millions at 64 with the record-breaking swim from Cuba to Florida described in this essay. Previous feats include circling Manhattan and swimming 102 miles from the Bahamas to Florida.
Her next challenge? Getting a million people to join her planned journey across America—called The Walk—to draw attention to obesity and related illnesses and to help create social change. Her latest book, a memoir called Find a Way: The Diana Nyad Story: One Wild and Precious Life, will be published this fall.
In February she launched a one-woman show, Onward!, in Key West. Diana will tour her stage show around the country and, as we have come to expect, has ambitions to hit the big time—Broadway. For more on Diana, visit diananyad.com.
Exert from Merril Lynch Article