Scene 1: The basketball court at Ball State University’s Welcome Week event this
August – An 18-year-old incoming college freshman, who never played basketball in
high school, is about to take his fourth and final try at sinking a half-course shot. The
stakes are high: making this basket would award him a semester of out-of-state
tuition valued at over $11,000. Shooting from 47 feet away, with the intensity and
distraction of thousands of students cheering, Markus Burden succeeds.

Scene 2: Havana, Cuba – A 64-year-old female swimmer comes out of a thirty-year
retirement to attempt her fifth and final try at swimming non-stop from Cuba to
Florida. If she accomplishes this feat, she would be the first to swim the 110 miles
without a shark cage along the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, known for tropical
storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish and one of the strongest ocean currents in the
world. 53 hours later, Diana Nyad completes her swim, walking out of the ocean at
Key West, Florida.

At first glance, these two people are very different. Different gender, race, age,
athletic background. But they have a common thread that ties all success stories. No
matter how high the pressure, they didn’t give up. They didn’t crumble in moments of

They each could have talked themselves out of trying with negative stories such as,
“I’m not good at this”, “No one has done this before, so it’s impossible”. Add to this
the evidence of “failure”. Both of these people were on their final try after already
repeatedly failing at reaching their goal.

With swollen lips and a painfully lacerated mouth, Diana Nyad said in a media
interview that even with the suffering of non-stop nausea and exhaustion, the swim
was thrilling.

Here is her advice on how to push through the most difficult moments:

  1. View aging in positive terms. Nyad claims she’s a better endurance swimmer in
    her sixties than when she was in her twenties. Many professional athletes agree,
    she said, that aging increases powers of concentration and mental focus.
  2. Most people give up on their dreams too easily. Ask yourself: “Do I have the
    resolve to get through this?”. Most of the time, she says, we do. Give yourself the
    chance to reach your goals and never, ever give up.
  3. Find a mantra that works for you. Nyad’s mantra was “find a way”. She said these
    words powered her through the the trials and stresses of the swim.

Albert Einstein used to tell people: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with
problems longer”.What are your dreams? Find your mantra, focus on your strengths and know you
have the resolve and ability to succeed. And never, ever give up!