What I’ve Learned from Diana Nyad: Never Give Up!

I believe in dreaming big. It doesn’t satisfy me to have small dreams.”

~Diana Nyad

If you haven’t heard the news, Diana Nyad just did something amazing. On Monday September 2nd, 2013 she completed a world record 110 mile open water swim from Cuba to Key West Florida, non stop in just under 53 hours.  She did it without a shark cage and she did it at age 64! It was her fifth attempt at the swim.  Her first attempt was in 1978 at age 28.  Not only did she accomplish her big dream, but she inspired the world- including me.   I want to share the top 5 things that inspired me from Diana during her recent interviews and press conferences.

"You're never too old to go after your dreams." Diana Nyad

1. Don’t give up: “People give up too quickly”, she noted in an interview with Robin Roberts the day after her historic swim.   I agree.  I see it all the time.  The best of the best keep going, when it’s tough, when it’s easy, when they’re scared and when they’re comfortable.  They just keep going. So can you. Have a mantra to turn to when it gets tough. Diana shared that she had a mantra to help inspire her “Find the Resolve to Solve your Challenges”.  I’m a big fan of mantras.  I have a morning mantra that I read every morning in order to inspire me, guide me and help me be my best and get after my big dreams. What is your morning mantra? Think about it. Write it down. Put it in your phone or an index card and look at it every day.

2. Failure is part of the journey: Diana noted that if she had not failed in her first attempt over 30 years ago, then she may not have had this dream to fulfill when she was 64.  When we have a failure, we can use it as inspiration. It doesn’t have to be an end point. A detour does not mean get out of the car and lie down.  Look at failures as detours, as part of the journey.

3. Don’t waste time: I have said that time is the most valuable asset that we have.  It is the one thing that you cannot get more of or recreate no matter who you are or how much money you make. You can’t buy it. It is not a renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s one.  Don’t waste it.  Be super conscious about how you’re spending your time.  Any time wasted was time that you could have invested– in your health, wisdom, friendships and DREAMS!

4. Surround yourself with great people:  Diana was quick to point out that although she’s getting a ton of attention, that this was a team effort. She offered heaps of praise and credit to her team of people that kept her going.  From navigators, to doctors, to guides on kayak, to long time friends who supported her, it truly took a team to get her from Cuba to Florida. You need a great team in life. Surround yourself with great team members. Don’t hang out with negative people who tell you that you can’t do something. Spend time with people who you learn from and inspire you. And when they  help you get to your goals, take time to recognize them, thank them, honor them.

5.  It’s never too late to go after your dreams: Time is going to go by no matter what you do.  Why not use the time you have to go after a few dreams? Whether you’re 40, 50, 60 or 80 even 90,  there’s still time on the clock.  Use it!  You can always look back and be proud of trying and you’ll never know if you don’t try.  Pain, discomfort, embarrassment, fear are all temporary.  But the satisfaction of going after your dreams and maybe even achieving a few, that’s forever.

Thank you for the inspiration Diana! I can’t wait to hear about what you do next because I know that you have more big dreams that will inspire the planet to go after theirs. I hope this article and Diana help to  inspire YOU to go after your dreams! So what dreams do you want to go after starting today? What steps can you take to get started? It could be eating better, taking stairs instead of an elevator, writing down your goals, or calling a friend for inspiration.  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading! I’m sending you all positive energy as you continue on your leadership journey.

your fan, coach and friend,

Larysa Slobodian, MA

L4 Leadership LLC

You can go to Diana Nyad’s web site and learn more about her historic swim as well as watch videos and order cool stuff at www.diananyad.com


  1. Boomer's buddy September 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Thank you Larysa for writing this inspiring piece!

    I wanted to highlight two of the points from your article – both of which if not needed lead to regret. A friend of mine recently said of one of our very successful local business leaders & CEOs that his m/o in life to ‘reduce regrets’.

    1) Don’t waste time: Even though we hear it from our parents, teachers and coaches – when we are young – it doesn’t resonate. We feel that we have so much time ahead of us. My late grandmother, when I asked her for some life lessons, said the same thing – it is the one entity that doesn’t come back and you can’t reclaim. And before you know it, you are dealing with limited time – though it all feels like yesterday that you were a four year old playing in the sand, making paper boats and climbing trees. There is a big difference between deliberating/being in the moment and a sense of urgency (not haste) that is needed in making forward progress. There is a time and season for many things in life and it becomes quite hard to pursue those things if time is not on one’s side.

    2) It’s never too late to go after your dreams: Hope is what keeps us going. It is the hope of a better tomorrow – no matter how we define it. It is the hope of continuation of the good things and blessings in our lives. One needs to know and live one’s authentic life – w/o living fully and completely – there won’t be contentment. We fall victims to inertia and accept the status quo. We fear change and more importantly failure. This is where another point that you made comes in –failure is part of the journey. Another friend of mine said that if one isn’t happy with the status quo – one needs to take action to change the state – w/o that the results are known – an unhappy existence. This doesn’t imply that the next state will be guaranteed to be a better one, it could be worse. However, there is also the possibility that it would be better and more importantly you can do another state change. In some decisions in life, I have fast forwarded to when I was in my 70s and pose the question to the 70 year old Boomer’s buddy for advice – and every single time the voice and counsel has been clear – follow your dreams – better to have pursued what you love and failed than the other way around.

  2. Boomer's buddy September 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    typo: should have been ‘heeded to’ – not needed…

    Thank you Larysa for writing this inspiring piece!
    I wanted to highlight two of the points from your article – both of which if not HEEDED to lead to regret. A friend of mine recently said of one of our very successful local business leaders & CEOs that his m/o in life to ‘reduce regrets’.

  3. Gordon Guthrie September 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Showing the commitment is “doing it” and so often we say we are committed and never end up doing anything about it. I have known Larysa and have seen her commitment to excellence every day I knew her. Not nearly as notable as her achievements, I had a similar experience and did what I was committed to and followed this model. Good job Larysa!

  4. Larysa Slobodian September 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Gordon, you always make me smile. AND I am inspired by your dedication and commitment when you could have given up plenty of times. But no- you kept on going which inspired ME! Awesome! Thanks for commenting. Sending you lots of positive energy!

    Larysa Slobodian
  5. Larysa Slobodian September 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    “follow your dreams – better to have pursued what you love and failed than the other way around.” very wise Boomer’s buddy. Very wise. Keep going after your dreams. The only failure is not trying.

    Larysa Slobodian
  6. Cbreeze September 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Diana is so inspiring!! Thank you for being able to articulate why! I’m going to hold on to this thought from you “The satisfaction of going after your dreams and maybe even achieving a few, that’s forever.”

  7. Larysa Slobodian September 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Thanks! Yes Diana is super inspiring. Thanks for reading and commenting cbreeze!

    Larysa Slobodian
  8. Pam in Portland September 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I think that Diana is inspiring – and so are you! Thanks for writing this encouraging article for us all. I went to the video of her getting out of the water and hardly being able to walk. Seeing that inspires me to exercise with a bit more courage!

  9. Larysa Slobodian September 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Thanks for reading and commenting Pam (you’re too kind). I agree that watching Diana makes everything else seem pretty simple as well as possible. She is a real leader- and so are you :)

    Larysa Slobodian
  10. Theresa September 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this triumph and inspiring journey of Diana’s! What an amazing accomplishment and person! What really resonated with me was that time is a resource we do not get back, we cannot buy more or make it up. Very important not to waste it, because of all the other great things you could do with it! “Any time wasted was time that you could have invested- in your health, wisdom, friendships and DREAMS!”
    Also a good reminder to “Surround yourself with good people”, many times we think we have to go at something alone, but many dreams and achievements could have never been accomplished with out great people in your life, whether it is a mentor, supervisor, colleague, family member etc. We are not alone and should rely on good people when needed! Great reminders and tips! Thank you!

  11. Lisa September 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Thanks, Larysa. I could not help but say “just keep swimming” while watching Diana Nyad. What an inspirational rock star swim goddess. The part of the article that struck me most was the section on failure being part of the journey. It is the rare case when you totally succeed at anything on your first try. If you do not learn from that failure, you cannot get better and eventually succeed. Even learning how to ‘fail better’ is important. After a few falls off a bike, you learn which landing position hurts least (and to wear a helmet), and you watch out for the hazards that send you flying. If you ‘just lie down’, your biking days are over and you will not get the thrill of coasting that long downhill. Each failure brings a lesson, and most failures mask at least a small victory that we are too stubborn to see.

  12. Beth September 6, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Great post Larysa. I love these five inspirations and live by them myself. Most of all, I love the idea of being in the game (I know it wasn’t said in this article, but something you’ve written about before Larysa). When you follow these five inspirations, you can’t help by be an active participant in your life, be in the game, rather than be a bystander. By being fully present, you are always a winner!

  13. Mother-in-law September 7, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    Great article, and very inspirational, as usual! I agree that it is never too late, that is why I started taking piano lessons at 67. I need to keep learning and the failures aren’t painful, just disappointing. However, like Lisa says, there is most always a small victory attached to keep up the momentum. I also like what is said by a karate teacher that I know, he never says “problem” it is always “what’s your challenge?”

  14. Larysa Slobodian September 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Thank you Mother in law!! I love that you are taking the piano at age 67! You are inspiring. Way to lean into the challenge. Thank you for reading.

    Larysa Slobodian
  15. Larysa Slobodian September 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Thank you Beth! There were a ton of lessons from Diana Nyad and interestingly, she did point out the importance of being engaged in each moment while she was talking about not wasting time. You are an active participant Beth! Thanks again for reading and for commenting.

    Larysa Slobodian
  16. Sabina September 8, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    Great harvest of the lessons to take from Nyad’s incredible accomplishment Larysa. I couldn’t agree more. I am especially impressed by her “never give up” that has spanned several decades.

  17. Mitch September 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Larysa,
    Love this article! I am so inspired by her. I wish I could have been on that beach to greet her with all those fans. And, in response to your 5 points in your article:
    1) I have mantras! Some of mine are “there is enough to go around” (I say this when I am feeling competitive. I also have quotes in my bedroom and office. One of the quotes in my room says “the days are long but the years are short” (to remind me to enjoy my kids even when I’m exhausted). There are many others that inspire me too! What are yours Larysa?
    2)yep! I love thinking about failure this way.
    3) yep! This is so motivating.
    4) could not agree more and THANK YOU for being one of those GREAT PEOPLE in my life who inspires me. You are awesome.
    5) I am in the middle of pursuing a HUGE dream that is the reason I have seen very little of you lately. And I cannot wait to tell you about it when I see you next. I know it is huge because I am so incredibly excited, motivated and scared $&@#less!

    Great article Larysa, as always!

  18. Larysa Slobodian September 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    Can’t wait to hear about your dreams Mitch! You inspired me to dream about shifting my life and career. You are the awesome one. Well perhaps there “is enough awesome to go around”. Big hug to you Mitch!

    Larysa Slobodian
  19. Al October 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    But don’t do dumb things – like swimming w/o a shark cage.

  20. Larysa Slobodian October 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    No argument from me on the shark cage :)

    Larysa Slobodian

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