We’ve all heard – and, if we’re lucky, learned – something about the value of persistence in life – of the need to keep coming back, to get up when we’ve fallen, never to accept failure as final.
Many successful people have learned and shared the lesson, but few have done it as publicly and as spectacularly as Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old woman who on Monday achieved her dream by swimming from Cuba to Key West, Fla. – a 110-mile endurance test. She became the first person to achieve that feat without the use of a shark cage, which provides protection from both predator and current.
This is how tough it was. Not only did the swim take nearly 53 hours to complete – more than two gruelling days – but along the way, she suffered blisters, sunburn, jellyfish stings and even hallucinations.
And she kept going.
She first attempted the swim, with a shark cage, in 1978, when she was 28 years old. She didn’t make it. But she kept going.
Three more times, she started the journey and was pulled from the water before reaching Florida. And after each failure, she went back at it.
On Saturday morning, she left Havana on what was to be her triumphant attempt. This time, despite the obstacles, despite punishments from which most people would shrink, she succeeded, staggering on shore at Key West to the cheers of onlookers.
We are exposed to this concept many ways in our daily lives. “Aim for the stars,” goes one cliche. “If you miss, you’ll at least hit the moon.” That’s the thing about cliches, though. They become cliches because they contain a nugget of truth.
In one story, a critic once told Thomas Edison he should give up on his quest to create a new source of artificial light. The inventor’s riposte: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And then there was light. Electrically speaking.
Examples such as these are all around for those who are paying attention. Just last year, here in Western New York, Nik Wallenda achieved his long-standing dream of walking a wire over Niagara Falls. He never abandoned hope or effort.
Nyad is the latest in a line of examples of how to live a satisfying life. Don’t quit. Keep coming back. Follow the examples of those who understood the advice, succinctly offered in the midst of World War II, by Winston Churchill:
“Never, never, never give up.”