Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals. – Dorothy Height
Recently, I watched a TED Talk by Diana Nyad entitled, “Never, Ever Give up.” Ms. Nyad is a long-distance swimmer who gained national attention in 1975 when she swam around Manhattan and in 1979 when she swam from North Bimini, The Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida. In 2013, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person to swim over 100 miles from Cuba to Florida.
Ms. Nyad’s first attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida was in 1978 when she was 28. Swimming in a shark cage, strong winds and eight-foot swells pushed her off course and ended her attempt. Ms. Nyad’s second and third attempts were in August and September 2011 when she was 61. These attempts ended as a result of shoulder pain and a recurrence of asthma (August) and stings from box jellyfish and Japanese man-of-war. Her fourth attempt in August 2012 ended due to two storms and nine jellyfish stings. On her fifth attempt, Ms. Nyad reached the beach in Key West on September 2, 2013, 53 hours after beginning her journey.
In her TED talk, Ms. Nyad described the challenges of the swim. She described swimming at night in the pitch black with no lights. Lights attract jellyfish and bait fish (which attract sharks). Then there were the physical challenges. Saltwater is hard on the body and caused her to vomit. After a while, hypothermia set in even though the water was 85 degrees. Maintaining enough energy and staying sufficiently hydrated were problematic. However, despite all the challenges, Ms. Nyad kept swimming, stroke after stroke, singing from her playlist of 85 songs. Today, many consider her one of the greatest long-distances swimmers of all time.
Ms. Nyad’s momentous accomplishment got me thinking about what it means to be great. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “great” as “remarkable in magnitude, degree or effectiveness,” “markedly superior in character or quality” and “remarkably skilled.” As Ms. Nyad demonstrates, greatness comes when we set a goal, push ourselves beyond our limits so we can grow and become better in our journey to reaching those goals. While we may not achieve our goals on the first try, maybe not even the second or third, if we are dedicated and passionate, there is nothing we cannot do.
What are some steps we as women can take for achieving greatness in our lives? Here are some suggestions:
Dream big. Know what it is you want to achieve, identify your goals and develop a plan for achieving them.
Have a strong work ethic. Work harder and smarter towards achieving your goals. To achieve greatness, you must be dedicated and ambitious.
Constantly raise your bar higher. Strive for excellence in everything you do. Don’t be content with saying “I did my best.” Instead, at the end of each day, ask yourself what you can do to get better.
Never quit! The road to success is long and arduous. Remember that failure is just an outcome; a necessary stepping stone to success. Be determined and have relentless drive at all times.
Have integrity. Never compromise your values. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to fight for it.
Provide inspiration. Be a trailblazer and make a path for others to follow. Inspire those you live and work with to reach higher, dream bigger and achieve greater.
Never stop learning and teach others. Learning is a constant process throughout life. Never stop looking for opportunities for personally and professional development and pass on the wisdom you’ve learned to those you live and work with.
Greatness is purposeful servitude with integrity that pursues after excellence without compromise. – Valerie-Daniels Carter