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Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Diana Nyad

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Almost nobody believed it could be done. Nobody, that is, except Diana Nyad. She swam the Florida Straits, all 110 miles of it, 52 hours and 54 minutes of painful stroking though shark-invested waters filled with stinging jellyfish, undaunted by their challenge, unwavering through threatening squalls, ocean currents and the lingering doubts of past failure. Diana can teach us all so many lessons.

She summed it all up in three succinct sound bites as her training in media taught her to do. Upon dragging herself on uncertain steps onto the Florida coast, she managed to deliver her message on cue. She said, "I've got three messages. One is we should never ever give up. Two is you're never too old to chase your dreams. Three, is it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team." Could anyone have said it better?

This was Diana Nyad's fifth attempt to swim the Florida Straits. She first attempted it at age 29 in 1978. She didn't attempt the swim again until 2011, when her dream rose to a passion that would never let her go. She had to try again and again and again. Three more attempts and three more failures. Would she finally give up?

No, she wouldn't. The passion to live her dream -- to swim these Straits without a shark cage -- still burned within her. She had a chase crew alongside with lights to guide a path through the endless rising waves. The fact is that her path veered off course, pushed about by ocean currents and pending stormy weather, according to posts on the blog being maintained by her crew. The real course could have been 112 miles in all. Having left the shores of Cuba on the morning of Saturday, August 31st, she said this would be her last attempt. At 64, she figured she would give herself one more chance to achieve her dream. And damn it, she did it!

Her drive reminded me of remarks made by Vinod Khosla, Co-Founder of Sun Microsystems, during his acceptance of being presented a Visionary Award in Silicon Valley. He said, and I paraphrase, Failure, failure. I love failure. Silicon Valley is so great because investors here are willing to back my failures until I succeed!

The same could be true for Diana Nyad. Her team and investors backed her on five attempts until she finally succeeded. And this is a lesson we can all learn from her and them. We back the jockey, not the horse.

The best of entrepreneurs are driven by their vision and maniacal focus on achieving the dream that ignites them. They may suffer failures along the way, but they adjust from their lessons and come back to succeed another day. We forgive their sins, and praise their virtues.

We have learned so much about what makes the successful entrepreneurs tick. At Springboard, the majority of the entrepreneurs aren't "young," they are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and years beyond. Diana Nyad ought to be an inspiration to them all, that you are never too old to pursue your dreams. The Kauffman Foundation points out, that entrepreneurship growth is highest among the 45 to 54 year old age category. These people bring experience and passion to the challenge and also sustainability through the most difficult setbacks all entrepreneurs are bound to face. Yes, the lessons we can learn from Diana Nyad are some of the most important lessons entrepreneurs need to learn to succeed. Never give up. You're never too old to pursue your dream. It takes a team. Well said, Diana... well said.