THE BLOG
09/03/2013 12:24 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

10 Lessons Midlifers Can Learn From Diana Nyad

We have a new athletic superstar this Labor Day -- the amazing swimmer Diana Nyad.

If you saw her wading haltingly onto the shore of Key West after this historic swim, you had to feel her sheer exhaustion along with the thrill of her incredible feat.

She finally realized her "Xtreme Dream," her long-sought goal of swimming the distance from Cuba to Florida, a herculean effort that took 58 hours.

I'm not the only midlifer virtually high-fiving Diana for showing the world what a 64 year old can do. Her words of wisdom once she arrived on sandy Key West shore?

"I have three messages," Nyad said. "One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you're never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team."

Her three inspirational messages bear repeating.

1. Never, Ever Give Up. This woman tried five times. Five times! The first time was when she was in her twenties. She. Never. Gave. Up.
2. You are Never Too Old to Stop Chasing Your Dream. She did not use her advancing years as an excuse for not trying hard, harder and hardest. She did not think, as some of us might, "I am in my 60s and too old to reach my goal. I'm going to rock in my rocking chair and dream of what could have been."
3. There is No "I" in TEAM. She swam the 110 miles by herself. She should get all the credit. But her 35-person crew was right there with her, making sure she was safe, providing her with nourishment, and undoubtedly keeping her spirits high. She is wise enough to know that she couldn't have done it without their support.

Forgive me if I am being presumptuous for adding a few more.

4. Physical Fitness is Forever. I don't know how Diana Nyad stayed in the shape required for this feat. But clearly she has never stopped working out at an extreme level.
5. Know Your Limits. Why did the last four attempts fail? I remember storms, sharks and jellyfish thwarting her effort. I remember footage of her crying when she had to call an end to one of her attempts. Bitterly disappointed she surely was, but sensible enough to know when it was time to get out of the water.
6. Follow Your Heart. Why was this so meaningful to her? When a reporter once asked British climber George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, he famously replied, "Because it's there." Diana Nyad wanted to be the first person to complete this route without the safety net of a shark cage. Just because. And that was enough.
7. Jump Back in the Water. Or get back on the horse. Pull yourself together and get back in that ring or on that playing field. Don't give up because it is the easy thing to do. Force yourself to keep on keeping on.
8. Focus on Your Strengths. The woman is 64. Obviously she does not have the abilities of a much younger athlete. So how did she compensate? What was her strategy? Did she work more on her upper body or her leg strength? Only her trainer knows the answer to that.
9. Ignore the Naysayers. Were there naysayers? Maybe, maybe not. Have the self-confidence so if there are, you can tell them to bugger off.
10. Don't Stop Believing. She never did. She knew she could do it. And she was right.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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