Hero #5: Diana Nyad

To be completely honest, I’m a lousy swimmer.

I’ve never swam a mile. Not half a mile. Not even a quarter.

Diana Nyad swam a hundred miles in September, give or take a few miles. She did it across open ocean from Cuba to Florida, through waters infested with sharks and jellyfish.

It wasn’t her first attempt. It was her fifth. She had tried four times before, and each time been forced to turn back by exhaustion, rough weather, asthma, box jellyfish.

She wasn’t a rookie. She’s been doing marathon swims for forty years.

Nothing on this route was new to her. She had experienced it all. She knew firsthand what the exhaustion of such a swim feels like, what choking on saltwater feels like, what the sting of a box jellyfish feels like.

She was 64 years old at the time of her swim, an age when most people are contemplating retirement and looking back on what they’ve already accomplished.

And she tried again anyway. That is the definition of courage.

Never, never give up, she says. Find a way, she says.

She found a way. Accomplished what would be impossible for most people a third her age.

She says she’s not a hero. But isn’t that what a hero does? Accomplish the impossible, push boundaries so the rest of us can imagine new possibilities?

Each of us has a list of excuses we use to protect ourselves from failure: I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money. I’m the wrong race, the wrong gender, the wrong type.

Diana Nyad took every excuse and made them all irrelevant. For her, finding a way was more important.

You can read about her achievement here and watch her TED talk here.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.