Some people probably think Diana Nyad’s quest to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage was nutty, or narcissistic, and that the 64-year-old endurance swimmer ought to instead be doing 64-year-old-type things.
Count us among her admirers, and among those who think that going to the lengths she did to achieve an elusive goal, one that was important to her, is a pretty good thing for a 64-year-old — or anyone of any age — to do.
Before she came ashore on Key West Monday, sunburned and with swollen lips after swimming 110 miles in 53 hours, she had fallen short of her goal four times. The first attempt came before millions of people half her age were even alive: 1978. She was 28 then and swam inside a steel shark cage. Her doctors halted that attempt after she had been in the water about 42 hours. Subsequent attempts were halted by bad weather, dehydration, exhaustion, jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings.
This year, she wore special protection from jellyfish on her face and hands, showing, among other things, the willingness to adapt. Better weather also helped, as did her team, on which she showered credit. But the feat belongs to her.
The secret of her success is no secret. Among her messages: “Never, ever give up. And find a way.” Another is “You’re never too old to chase your dream.”
We hope those resonate with the millions of people young and old who have dreams but lack the commitment — the “utter conviction and unwavering passion,” to use Ms. Nyad’s words — to see them through.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ms. Nyad has been a motivational speaker for years. She’s learned — and wants others to understand — that failing doesn’t make someone a loser. It can be a vital ingredient for success, such as her finding protection from jellyfish stings on her successful swim after being overcome by them on previous attempts.
We’re not all cut out to be endurance swimmers, but each of us is capable of overcoming adversity to achieve goals that seem out of reach. They might involve making an athletic team, acing a test, getting a promotion or quitting smoking. If the goals are as important to us as swimming from Cuba to Florida was for Ms. Nyad, we can, if we never, ever quit, find a way.