Lessons from Diana Nyad On Achieving Your Extreme Dream

Swimming PoolDo you have an “extreme dream?” Diana Nyad did, and on Labor Day this year, she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. One lone 64-year-old woman in a huge ocean filled with uncertainty attempting to achieve what many believed impossible. Nyad’s journey is reminiscent of the one we take as solo PR professionals. We step off the shore of traditional employment and swim toward a goal that often seems as far from Havana to Key West. It took Nyad four attempts and 35 years but the difficulties taught her to “find a way.”

As she emerged from the Florida Straits and staggered toward the beach, cheering friends, family, and fans formed a supportive semi-circle in the waves behind her, urging her forward. Her face bruised, swollen, and sunburned, she shared three nuggets of wisdom when her toes hit the Florida sands. Though inflammation from jellyfish stings caused her to slur her words a bit, her inspirational messages were crystal clear:

  • “Never, ever give up”
  • “You’re never too old to chase your dream”
  • “It looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team”

True to form, Nyad did not choose to spotlight her own achievements when the cameras were rolling at that historic moment. Instead, she offered inspirational words to viewers and fans urging them to do whatever it takes to see their own dreams come to fruition. Whether you are a PR professional or neophyte swimmer, Nyad’s sage advice is worth its weight in gold.

“Never, ever give up.”

The public relations business sometimes is not a walk in the park. Most solo PR professionals who are well-established in their careers will tell you that there were points in their careers when they may have felt like throwing in the towel. Maybe it was an overly demanding client, a serious illness, or a stretch of time when income was scarce. The challenges facing the solo PR pro vary widely, but those who come out on top share this in common: they never gave up.

During the swim as she defended against box jellyfish, Nyad remarked “My Team has begged me to leave this Cuba Dream (obsession) behind and search for another 100-plus-mile stretch of ocean to conquer.”

She knew the ocean she wanted to conquer and she would not allow anyone to talk her into a modified version of her dream.

“You’re never too old to chase your dream”

Diana’s successful swim did not happen in 1978, nor did it happen in four other attempts she made in previous years. In four prior attempts, the obstacles facing her were simply insurmountable. One has to wonder how many well-meaning people in her life might have quietly suggested that she’d done enough already. “After all, you’re in your 60s. You have nothing to prove. Maybe, considering safety and other issues, it is best to just let this one go. You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

Perhaps some well-meaning people in your life have suggested that the PR business has changed so much in the past 20 years, that those steeped in the “old ways” really do not have a reasonable chance of successfully navigating new digital waters. Perhaps you have wondered if old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. You’re never too old to learn and you’re never too old to embark on a solo career. “Whatever your other shore….get there.”

Diana did. Her team used state-of-the-art GPS, anti-jellyfish and shark detection technology. None of these were available in 1978 when she first attempted the historic swim.

Diana adapted. And so can you.

“It looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team”

Though it is Diana Nyad’s name which will be emblazoned in sports history books, her victory was a true team effort. From coaches to boat crew to physicians and technology development personnel, Nyad’s swim was not the result of a sole person’s effort.

And so it is with the solo PR pro. Though you may be a 1-person “team” day-to-day in the office, there is no need to be perpetually alone in the business, nor is it advisable. Those who truly find success employ the help and advice of those who are the best in their fields. Whether it is the help of an online community, continuing education, or knowledgeable consultants, building a great team is one important key to greatness itself.

When you, the solo PR professional, are out swimming the shark-infested waters of the business world, remember Diana’s three nuggets of wisdom, and you can’t help but achieve results you may have never dreamed possible. Don’t focus on the sharks or the haters that may try to deter you from your dream because “life is about determining your own finish line.”

Diana’s next goal is to swim for 48 straight hours in New York City.

What’s yours?

  • David Novich

    Good point about the new technology helping her succeed. You could also credit her experience — learning the challenges that she faced and how to overcome them.