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Is Your Dream Big Enough?

Diana Nyad has tried four times to swim from Florida to Cuba. She has never succeeded. Does that make her a failure?

It makes her a champion!

Only champions dream such big dreams. Only winners try things that scare away others.

“Marathon swimming is the most difficult physical, intellectual and emotional battleground I have encountered,” Nyad has said, “and each time I win, each time I touch the other shore, I feel worthy of any other challenge life has to offer.”

Nyad gave a TED talk about her life and her swimming. You can view it here.

“If you want to touch the other shore badly enough, barring an impossible situation, you will,” she said. “If your desire is diluted for any reason, you’ll never make it.”

In June 1974, when in her mid-20s, Nyad set a women’s record in the 22-mile Bay of Naples race. A year later, she swam around the island of Manhattan.

Either of those would have marked Nyad as one of the greatest marathon swimmers ever. But she was just getting warmed up.

On her 30th birthday, Nyad swam from the Bahamas to Florida, more than 100 miles.

By then she had also begun her attempts to cross the 90 miles from Florida to Cuba, a journey filled with currents, sharks and jellyfish, not to mention her asthma.

Her most recent try came last year, when she was pulled from the after after jellyfish stings and a severe lightning storm.

“The most extreme conditions require the most extreme response, and for some individuals, the call to that response is vitality itself,” Nyad said. “The integrity and self-esteem gained from winning the battle against extremity are the richest treasures in my life.”

You, too, can have those treasures, and you don’t need to even get wet. What you must do, however, is choose a great quest for your life. Try something that makes you forget about comfort.

“The hard is what makes it great,” the Tom Hanks character famously declares in the movie “A League of Their Own.”

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke puts it this way in his poem “The Man Watching.”

“What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too …”
It is a joy and a privilege to be involved in some great quest. Find yours and go for it!


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