“We may not have the talent, we may not have the luck. Sometimes you gotta have connections. But if you just have that die-hard perseverance, you’re going to get there, you’re going to get to your other shore.”–Diana Nyad
Diana Nyad is probably best known for her marathon swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Her pursuit at a lifelong dream came true after her 5th attempt. Diana was able to become the first person to make the swim without a shark cage at the age of 64. Since then, she’s started the walking community at “Everwalk” to both challenge and encourage the average American to walk. She is the author of several books, including her latest “Find a Way. “ She and Commander Divine talk about swimming, life on the ocean and the importance for people to have a compelling “why” or purpose. Hear how Diana’s determination and perseverance has served her well. Her determination to never give up will inspire you.
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Transcript & Shownotes
Hey folks, this is Mark Divine. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. And our incredible guest, Diana Nyad. We do not take it lightly that you spend your time with us, and like I said we’re super-grateful and hope that you find value in what we’re doing here at Unbeatable Mind, and with this podcast. And if you do find it valuable, please rate it on iTunes. Go give us a 5 star rating, so other people can find it. That would be really cool.
Introduction[01:14] Diana, thanks so much. Now before we get into it, I just wanna say a little bit about you. We were just talking a little while ago about our affinity for the ocean. So you are an unusual woman who loves to spend a lot of time–or at least have in your past–spent a lot of time out on the open water, and have broken world records in swimming. First, when you were 28 when you swam around Manhattan. That doesn’t even sound like remotely fun to me, in those waters, but we’re going to hear a lot about that.
And then you swam from the Bahamas to Florida, and then you became the first person ever to swim from Cuba to, I think, Miami without a shark cage.
Diana Nyad: Key West, Mark. Key West. Miami’s way too far.
Mark: Yeah, okay. That would make sense. And you did that at the ripe young age of 64. What an amazing thing. You’re a speaker and an author, and you’re most recent book is called “Find a Way.” Awesome.
So cool to meet you. I mean, wow, how cool. Where do we start?
Diana: Vice versa. Wow.
Mark: A Navy SEAL meets the woman who swam around the world. Practically anyways. That is so cool.
Manhattan swim[02:24] What the heck? Like, that’s all I have to say. What the heck were you thinking about when you were 26 and you decided you just wanted to swim around Manhattan? I mean, just for the heck of it?
Diana: It wasn’t just some spontaneous moment. I was in a sport–there is a sport called marathon swimming. The earth is four-fifths water and people all over the world, from the Hellespont, to the English Channel to the Sea of Japan, to the Gulf of Thailand. A gun goes off and they jump in lakes, rivers and oceans and they race each other to the other side. So by the time I was actually 25, not 28, and swam around Manhattan, I had been swimming across Lake Ontario, and the Bay of Naples in Italy, and all kinds of places. I was a competitive ocean swimmer.
But there are some solo swims. It’s just like mountain climbing, sometimes you go up with an expedition, and sometimes you go alone, or with one Sherpa or guide. So Manhattan was a solo swim. I came back to go graduate school that fall, after swimming lots of different races during the summer, and a friend of mine said, “Why are you swimming in these remote, crazy places like Morocco and Argentina, when the most famous island in the world is right here at your fingertips. You were born here. I wonder if anybody ever swam around Manhattan.”
And I thought, “Yeah, I wonder.” So I started researching. Men had swum around, like in the teens, at the early part of the 20th century. But women had never done it. So I looked into it and I broke the record for even men doing, because nobody had done it for 50 years, so that was an easy record to break. But I tell you, it was a kick in the pants.
I was breathing to the left, looking at Manhattan the whole day. People took the day off work. They were screaming down on the side of the boats at me. We didn’t go out and start that swim for fame. We went cause it was a cool adventure, but by the end, the whole world…The New York Times, and the Today show, and they were all down at the dock. And we were like, “Wow! People paying attention to this thing.” It seemed like my first swim, cause people got to know me then. But I had been already an ocean swimmer for 5 years before Manhattan.
Mark: That is really cool. So with that swim, it wasn’t a race. This was just something you decided you wanted to do? As a feather in your cap kind of thing?
Mark: And so what kind of preparation do you have to do to swim around… and how many miles was that, by the way? 28?
Diana: It’s 28. And you know, in all swims… it doesn’t matter how far you swim. Like, the English Channel is always counted as a 21 mile swim, which is kind of a cheat for the people who do the English Channel, because you never swim as few as 21 miles. But in every swim you take point A, where you step off a shore, and point B, where you arrive to the other shore, and it doesn’t matter what has happened to you in between. You’ve been dragged by a current out that way. You could have fought and gone off that way, and really you swam, you know, 50 miles. But you go from the shore to shore, and those two points are the distance you swam.
So Manhattan, you do have to do a lot of feathering. You go out into the middle of the Hudson. You try to avoid that strong tide down by the Statue of Liberty. So it doesn’t matter how many miles you swim–the circle, from the point you dive in to the point you finish is 28 miles.
Mark: Oh, interesting. Yeah. No, as an ocean swimmer myself, I totally understand that. If the tide’s pushing against you, or pushing you off course 1 degree, send you off in this direction then you counter-… correct. You could easily swim one and half to two times that probably.
Cuba swim[05:59] Diana: Well that’s why, when you look at Cuba… The Cuba swim, which people have been trying… the good swimmers of the world, the strong, the fast, the men, the women, the young. They’ve been going since 1950 across that stretch. And of course, let’s forget about the polar regions, but if you and I were to stretch out on your desk there… on the floor of your office… all the nautical charts of the earth’s surface, we couldn’t find a swim where Mother Nature rages on steroids against a swimmer as she does between Havana and Key West Florida. It has to do with the east winds that are coming off the west coast of Africa travelling 7000 miles every day, those easterlies bump up against that big Gulf Stream, and you’ve got stiff peaks out there almost every day.
You’ve got these counter-clockwise currents, eddies. Some of them are a quarter mile across, so fair enough, if you run into one, you try and skirt around the edge. You’re navigator gets you around. Some of them are 25 miles in diameter, and there’s no way. If you get stuck in one of the arms of that current, you’re never getting out. Unless you’re on a boat that can rev it’s engines and get out. No swimmer…Michael Phelps could not swim his way out of that current.
Mark: You just end up going around in circles.
Diana: And you’ve seen swimmers, we’ve watched swimmers try to go across from Cuba, and they’re navigator are standing on the boat like this, scratching their heads, going, “Wait a second. We were going north a minute ago. Now we’re going south-east. How is that possible?”
Well, it’s because these counter clockwise currents kept you in their arms, and you can’t see them well from space telemetry. You basically, you can go up front and try to use water temperature measurements. There’s a slight, gradient degree that’s a little hotter within those eddies. But as a general rule, you kinda get lucky. You either skirt around them, or you’re in them. That particular attempt is over. You come back on a better day.
Mark: So you can’t map out a journey knowing where these are? Cause they just show up in different places?
Diana: I had a… I would go so far as to call John Bartlett a mathematical genius when it comes to the ocean. He could plot a vessel going across a current with the best of them, and he lived in the Florida Keys, he knew this water. But he was literally plotting my course on every attempt we did, every 15 minutes. You know, I had a certain speed that is pretty darn steady, but then you suffer crises, you’re into hypothermia. You’re in hallucinations. You’re into vomiting from the sea water, effects etc. And when you slow down and you’re getting dragged by that Gulf Stream east, east, east. Now he’s gotta make up for that, and sub-tack you across this eastern current and you’re trying to push north.
It’s already a hundred miles. It’s an undeniable swimming distance. Nobody had done half that distance before. And now, you’re going to go east and out here if you get dragged too far, you’re going to be 130 miles. And then out here, you’re going to be 160 miles. So the whole thing becomes untenable. You’ve gotta push north. You know, in a training swim, like if you and I were going to go out and do a 12 hour training swim. We don’t care, we’re just out there really for the body, for the team, for the mind. But if you’re not going against that current, I don’t care, I might stop for 20 minutes and look up at the stars, and start tripping out on what I read Stephen Hawking say the night before, and, you know, on the boat, we’re going to have some fun and get into it.
But when you’re on that Cuba swim, you are northing. You are constantly pressing to the north, because every 30 seconds you are not pressing north, you’re dragging east, and you’re never going to get there.
Mark: Wow. So that provides this relentless pressure to just keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. And what an interesting thing… I had never, of course… nobody would know this unless they were talking to you, but this is such a technical sport, isn’t it? I mean, you really, really have to have that navigator. Did you, yourself swim with a compass, or were they just kind of pointing you in a certain direction?
Diana: There’d be no reason for me to do it. I’m kind of a… I’ve got the body, the training, the heart and soul. My job is to make sure by June, after training for a year, and always in warm, tropical waters–either right off Key west or down in the Caribbean, they’re very similar–my job is to stand on that shore, Mark, and say to my team, “Look, we have no idea what this capricious Florida straits is going to bring us this time.” You get the best forecast in the world, and you get out there, and 60 mile an hour winds, no hyperbole, whip up within a couple of minutes. You’re out in the middle of the night with your boats. God forbid somebody is swept off, or if I’m in the water, I’m separated from my team. With a couple divers… we have flares, but we may never see them again. I mean, no Coast Guard is coming to save…
So my job is to stand on that shore in Havana and say to my team, “Look, this is an expedition. You’ve got experts in every area. The navigator, the jellyfish, the sharks, my personal team, the medical team. And I say to them, “If something beyond our control, if Mother Nature rages up and wins… sweep us off course, and we cannot make land after a couple of days, that’s one thing. But I will tell you right now, it will never be me. I’m not the one who’s going to cave in, who’s going to say ‘I bit off more than I can chew. I can’t make it.’ I will give you everything to the point of unconsciousness. Now let’s go out. You all do your jobs, that same nth degree way, and if we don’t make it across, it’ll be Mother Nature, not any of us.”
Swimming is an expedition[11:54] And just like when you’re on Everest, and K2, 100 mile and hour winds come. You get down in a pup tent, you hope to survive long enough to get down lower to a base camp. And you say, “Not our day. We’ll come back another day.”
Mark: Wow. I love that. Is there anyone in the water with you when you swim?
Diana: There are divers. You know, we go pitch black of night, when dusk comes lights, especially white lights, attract jellyfish, the box jellyfish. Have you ever been stung by the box?
Mark: Yeah. I think it was the box jellyfish. I swam through a whole troop of them, down in the Philippines once. That wasn’t a lot of fun.
Diana: No, that’s a… It’s the most potent venom on earth. Most people who have been touched by the tentacle of the box die instantaneously.
Mark: Okay. Maybe I didn’t. Of course, now, cause I got stung, but I didn’t die. At least I don’t think I did.
Diana: Well, I got stung and I lived through it too. And you are a Navy SEAL after all. So I believe you coulda been stung by the box. There are a few who have been stung and lived to tell the tale. But as a general rule, you don’t live through it. It’s immediate anaphylactic shock, you’re spinal cord’s paralyzed. So where was I going with that? You’ve got this expedition…
Mark: Diving at night, the lights…
Diana: Who swims with me? At night, starting around dusk, I’ve got electronic shark shields on the bottoms of two kayaks. One’s off to the right of me, and one’s behind me. Those shark shields, they’ve got like a 4 foot long neoprene antenna. And that antenna is floating behind as the kayakers are moving forward, that antenna is streaming out behind. And those two antennas speak to each other, the one to the right and the one behind me. They create an elliptical field of electricity, which you can see all the different… I’m sure you’ve swum with a million sharks, you can see all the different films. That most of these sharks with their sensitive ampullae and sonar, they don’t want to come through that electricity. You know, a shark out there, 50 miles offshore, no reefs, no baitfish, maybe hasn’t eaten in a week or two. A little swimmer is coming across, making a low frequency vibration on the surface. Signaling wounded fish, dying fish–a shark will come right through that electricity. So the electricity is one barrier between and the predators below, and then my divers.
I’ve got 6 divers. They’re all divers very familiar with the sharks of the tropics, the oceanic white-tips, the tigers, the lemons. And they are in the water 2 by 2 cause they’re tired. They’re swimming up against resistance while I’m clocking a pretty good pace on the surface, and they’re looking around. And they’ve got no full gear. They’ve got no spear guns, nothing. They’ve just a triangular piece of PVC piping. So if a shark comes thrashing up…
Mark: They poke him, hunh?
Diana: They just punch him. They punch him in the nose, they ease him down, they get him away from me, get him curious about them. I’ve often asked, “How am I gonna thank those guys?”
Mark: (laughing) Right. Who volunteers for that job? That’s awesome.
Diana: They put my life in front of theirs, and they believe…
Mark: So they’re not being drug or anything? They’ve got fins on, they’re kicking and gliding, hunh?
Diana: We tried that. We tried, what are they called? Those Polaris kind of scooters. We tried those, but they couldn’t manipulate… cause they need to be free and looking around, and they don’t even use tanks. They free dive. So there’s two of them. One free dives down and he’s probably in there for about 45 seconds, a minute, lookin’ for the fluorescent eyes below. Then he pops up, the other guy goes down, and they do these teams of 2 all night long.
Mark: Good God. How long do they do that before they need a break?
Diana: I think they went on 90 minute shifts. 2 covered 90 minutes, and there’s 6 of them. So when you get out, you’ve got 2 90 minute shifts, 3 hours, eat something, rest a little bit, before you’re getting back in.
But I tell you, at the end of those 3 days, those guys had lost so much weight… they were fried by the end.
Mark: I bet. They were as fried as you were.
Diana: They were.
Mark: Fascinating. Have you ever had a close shark encounter?
Diana: Yeah, unfortunately in a training swim where I didn’t have those guys with me, had a really good brush up by a large animal. And, you know, what they’re trying to do of course, is rip your skin a little bit and get a little blood going. So they come up and brush you first, and as they’re brushing alongside of you… like, you’d see my bathing suit afterwards and all along the arm, he was ripping open… not bad, not like huge cuts, but little tiny, you know…
Mark: Is it the skin that’s doing that?
Diana: He’s trying to open up the skin a little bit, and then he smells… and usually, you know, I love most shark experts that we’ve ever interviewed over the 40 years of this thing will say, “Now look, sharks are intelligent animals. They do not count Homo sapiens as their food. They do not want to eat you, they will not eat you whole. Now, yes, one might come up and take a leg. Or take a big chunk of your thorax.” And I said, “Really? You don’t think that’s a pretty serious event? Lose your leg and blood streaming out?”
Mark: (laughing)”Don’t worry, they’re only gonna take your leg.” I love that.
Diana: Yeah, I don’t care if they eat me whole at that point. Take the whole thing. So…
Mark: (laughing) I used to tell… when we… I train a lot of SEAL candidates. And we take them out on the ocean. We tell them there was a shark attack just 24 hours earlier, but don’t worry about it. You know, no Navy SEAL’s ever been eaten by a shark. And so we tell them that–if a shark comes, the way to survive is to stab your buddy and swim like hell. Pretty much works. (laughing) No Navy SEAL that I know has ever been attacked by a shark. And I don’t know why that is. I’ve got my theories about it, but…
Diana: I guess, you know, I would think that one theory that surfers and swimmers are attacked because they are thrashing around on the surface. They’re giving all that audial sensory… it’s a wounded seal, it’s a wounded…
Whereas underwater, you’re quiet. Like, you know, scuba divers don’t have a problem with sharks, and I would think that SEALs are working underwater, more than splashing on the surface, right?
Mark: That’s right. And even when we are on the surface, our swim technique is very, very… 90% underwater.
Diana: Is it? So when you’re travelling on the surface, trying to get somewhere, you’re kicking with your fins, and what are your arms dangling behind?
Mark: They’re in front, but the stroke is all underwater. So you really only break the surface to breath. It’s called the “combat sidestroke.” It’s very, very cool stroke, and very clandestine. So I imagine that answers the question right there, cause you’re not making any splash, you’re not making any splash, and most of your time is underwater, actually.
Diana: Yeah, that’s interesting. You know, I used to have a repetitive dream, a recurring dream. I haven’t had it for many years, but I was… it looked to me like someplace like Cambodia, and I was swimming along in the river, kind of like what you were saying, doing like an elongated doggy paddle, underwater. And I had a periscope. And the periscope was looking up and I was looking at all the different villages like I was a Navy SEAL out on a reconnaissance mission. And my adrenalin was flowing like crazy… I think honestly… are there… I got a really ignorant question for you. Are women Navy SEALs?
Mark: They just started allowing women to apply. No one has actually made it to the training yet. I think some have washed out, so far. Boot camp or BUDs prep. It’s gonna take some years before that actually happens, but they’re open to try now. But they’ve gotta meet the same standards. So that’s the whole thing, of course.
Diana: Of all the things, if I were 15 years old… my 15 year old self… a girl. A powerful swimmer today. Of all the things I could dream of doing, before dreaming of the Olympics, I think I’d wanna be a Navy SEAL.
Diana: Not saying I could be…
Mark: Maybe get an age waiver. (laughing)
Diana: (laughing) Ha! I’ll be the first 90 year old. I’ll not only be the first woman, I’ll be the first 90 year old Navy SEAL. You’re gonna be my trainer.
Mark: I’ll be your trainer. Yeah, I’ll get you in.
Diana’s Unbeatable Mind[21:54] Mark: So let’s go back there, cause you mentioned, you know, as a young woman, formative years. How did you get into swimming? Were your parents, or one of your parents really into it? What inspired you to get into swimming? What was driving you, what was your reason for doing things back then, at that young age? Do you remember?
Diana: Yeah, I do. I think it’s more your last question, cause I frankly… of course, it’s easy to look at our lives in retrospect, isn’t it? But if you tell the story of my life, it has a lot of swimming vocabulary in it. Even though I didn’t swim for 30 years–from 30 to 60. But the truth is, it never really was about swimming. Oh yes, I can… Mark, I can tell you days when I was filled with Stephen Hawking and felt like I was swimming over the curvature of the earth. Training in Saint Martin, we swim over to Anguilla. Then we swim over to Saint Bart’s. Then we swim back to Saint Martin, where boats are travelling. I’m actually cruising and travelling and there was a high to all of that. There was an awe of this blue jewel of a planet, so that was in there.
But the truth is, I think as a young person… I don’t know why. Everybody’s special… this is something that I’d like to ask you when you talk about an Unbeatable Mind and training people to dig down, to drill down to the stamina and the strength they have mentally. When I travel around the world–and I’ve been lucky, I’ve been all around the world. I find many people–not well known people, not people going to war–have will. And they have the desire to do something right, and do something awesome. Physically, emotionally, ethically. Humankind is a brave sort, I find. It’s just that we’re not always pushed to that. We don’t necessarily choose to become something as brave as a Navy SEAL, and we’re not demanded of it in our everyday lives. But I do think the human being has it, within himself to be that person. And for some reason, me, a little bit different from bravery, I was always afraid–even as a young kid–of wasting time. I just felt this clock ticking, this pressure of, “You know, well, if I’m 8…” Let’s just say my grandparents all lived to be in their young, middle 80s. “I’ve only got 70 years to go! Come on!”
Mark: Let’s get busy.
Diana: Let’s get busy. So I’m not always the champion, but one thing I’m never is lazy. I just don’t sit around letting life pass me by. And so I think that was the drive more than becoming a champion swimmer, the drive was to live it big. Tap down into whatever this potential is–mental, physical–and express that potential. And I’m not a formal coach like you, but I would say if I have any lot in life, especially now that I’ve finished this swim, when I get up on stage, I don’t proselytize to anybody. I don’t say to anybody, “You can be the inner champion you want to be.” I just tell my story, and people weep and they laugh a little bit, hopefully. But they weep, and they stand up afterwards like they wanna get back. They wanna get out of this room and get back to their lives and tap down into their individual potential.
Mark: Yeah. I love that. So you’re speaking about passion, you know what I mean? Passion for life. And there’s a lot of people who never felt that or maybe have lost that. And so I think that’s kind of an interesting, like, malaise. And I think you alluded to it earlier, is that, people have stopped needing to be challenged. And that’s why a lot of people come to my training, SEALfit. And my people are inspired by you, and why I think your walk initiative is really important. People need to be challenged. The human spirit grows through challenge, and it atrophies if you don’t challenge it. And because we grew up in such an incredibly prosperous time, and pretty much all our needs were met, we stopped being challenged. You know, and I think that’s probably a meta-message that we can go take to the younger generation and say, “Get off your duff, and go challenge yourself. Go do something. And then you’ll find the inspiration. If you can’t find the inspiration then go out and take a walk and find it. Or go into the woods. I found it hiking through the Adirondacks. That was my, when I was a youngster, I found my inspiration just walking up and down, and running the mountains of the Adirondacks, and swimming in the lakes up there. It was nature, and the challenge of being in nature that inspired me to be a Navy SEAL.
Diana: There you go. And I think, you know, maybe there is a fine line between you were just using those words “challenge one’s self” and then you threw in sort of a sub-phrase there when you said, “just get up and do something.” So I guess there’s a fine line between those. There are people who are gonna put on a sturdy pair of hiking boots, and hike the entire Appalachian trail, and take a year off work, and never let anybody take that away from them. That experience. And then there are others, who I admire, who just… you know, something’s happening in the neighborhood.
The guy down the street, his wife died of cancer. He doesn’t know what the heck to do, he’s got 3 kids, his wife was the total homemaker. Well, another woman in our neighborhood, and by the way, a woman who has very few resources. She’s working 2 jobs already, herself. But she’s the one who comes around to everybody’s door. She’s got a big clipboard. She says, “Look, I just put a huge cooler on the back step of Steve’s house. Every night for the next year, we, the neighborhood, are going to get 4 balanced meals into that cooler, to sort of soften the blow of these kids missing their mother. Not having dinner together anymore.”
“And Nyad, yeah, you’re the little rock star of the neighborhood. Well, you’re like everybody else. You see these dates here? These are the dates you’re going to make that meal in that cooler. And if you’re not around, get somebody else to get them.”
Well, you know what, I admire that woman. Maybe she’s never going to hike the Appalachian Trail. But she’s out going door-to-door. She’s getting that cooler on Steve’s deck
And I think that’s why people get depressed. I don’t think it’s so much… you know, who am I to say, but that’s it’s really just everybody’s chemistry. That they’re low. I think they sit around doing nothing, and they don’t feel productive.
Kids get depressed looking at their screens all day. You know, it’s one of the reasons “Everwalk” has come around. It’s not only that, yeah, we would love to change the numbers of people with diabetes and heart disease. And we’ve become a sedentary nation.
But more than anything, it’s just to stand up, walk out the front door, walk down to get the newspaper a mile, instead of driving down. You start feeling empowered, like you’re covering miles on the earth, you know? It feels good.
“Why,” Purpose and Everwalk[28:51] Mark: It does feel good. I love that. I totally agree. I was just actually, I just had a great conversation with a friend of mine named Kyle Maynard, who was born congenitally with his arms not cut off, but stopped before the elbows. And his legs before the knees. And this guy’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. And Aconcagua. Bear-crawling up. Extraordinary.
And what we were talking about is like, a lot of people mistake thinking that they have to have this big, overarching “why,” and I even talk about that because I think, ultimately, people can find that. But it’s much more likely that you just need to find some reason that’s something’s more important to you than doing nothing, right? And there’s a ton of reasons.
But one of the most powerful ones, and you were talking about this, is to do something for somebody else. And so, that’s why I like what you’re doing with Everwalk, cause if we can do something that’s healthy, but do it for somebody else, now you’ve got a “why.” So if my “why” today is go walk a mile to raise money for someone, or find a meal for Steve to help his family, then I’m out of my little self, I’m into my bigger self. And now I’ve got a real motivation and I’m going to be doing something healthy. So you begin this upward spiral of health and that’s going to lead to more self-esteem and optimism. And all of a sudden, you’re going to be walking 5 miles or swimming around Manhattan someday. You start with these little tiny steps, these micro-goals. You don’t have to like… Rome wasn’t built in day, you know what I mean?
Diana: No, that’s true. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong, though… yes, the higher self, the bigger self, does involve other people. You’re forming community, and we have a vision with all this cool new technology, like the Oculus goggles, we have a vision of people forming a community. A worldwide, global community of people walking. If you were, let’s say, you were over in Australia, and you called me and said, “Hey Diana, I’m walking across the Sydney Opera House Bridge. There are whales playing under the bridge.” Well, we could take our iPhones and show each other a picture of the bridge. But with these Oculus goggles, you’re in VR, Virtual Reality. I’m actually, literally feeling like I’m walking on that bridge with you, and you’re not showing me some screen. Together we’re looking over, looking at the whales playing. Well that is our vision. Hook up Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and to create this virtual world of millions of walkers out walking together all the time. Go to Ireland for the afternoon, you know? Yeah, that’ the sort of vision.
Mark: That’s the vision. So tell me… let’s talk more about it. So how do Everwalk come about and what’s the mission, so to speak? I get that vision, that’s cool, but what’s the mission?
Diana: Yeah, I think it’s right on the heels of what you and I are talking about right this minute. Cuba was so personal. It wound up being something that spoke to a lot of people. I don’t mean this in a braggartly way, I’m just saying that it was the biggest Google search in the world for the 2 days that we were swimming across the last time. 2013.
Mark: I remember that, yeah.
Diana: And I mean, you know why? People weren’t following some athletic record. They could care less. What they were following was a person and a team who would not give up. That this was 35 years of chasing this goal. And every time they get knocked down, even almost died, they came back and they came back, and that’s what we admire in people. That’s what all of us want in ourselves. We may not have the talent, we may not have the luck. Sometimes you gotta have connections. But if you just have that die-hard perseverance, you’re going to get there, you going to get to your other shore.
So that was a personal holy grail for me, Cuba. And on the other hand, it became a public moment that inspired people to go out and chase their own dreams. But when I got done, I said to Bonnie, my best friend, and she was the head of the Cuba expedition, I said “Now it’s time for us to turn to the public.” We want to give an epic experience to people who are not Navy SEALs, and they’re not Ironmen, and they’re not running 25 marathons. They’ve never done anything like that, but if somebody could walk from Los Angeles to San Diego, they would consider that an epic experience. So we just did. 2 weeks ago we walked from LA to San Diego. So we’re starting to walk the big corridors of America, but bigger than that, we’re forming a nation. We’re forming something called “Everwalk nation” and we literally over the next 5 years want to get millions of people up and walking. Walking is already there. You know, Fitbit walkers go with their 10,000 steps a day, people are walking the Camino trail in Spain. Have been for centuries. But we want to sort of take the wave that is walking and bump it up into a tsunami of millions, especially Americans, outdoors, away from their screens and walking.
Mark: That is cool. So when you do this, are you doing like a meet-up and hundreds or thousands of people will meet? What are the logistics around that? Or is this just spontaneous type…?
Diana: We’re going to do it all online. First of all, we’re meeting with Facebook right now to talk about this whole Oculus goggles thing. See how it’s going to work technologically, how can we hook people up from all over the world to walk with each other? Then Bonnie and I are going to start doing walks every Saturday. We’ll publish where we are, and we live here, and I travel a lot. But it’s more for people to join us. Facebook live and Oculus live and we will walk in the farmlands of Missouri and around the Great Lakes of Minnesota, etc. And they’ll walk with us, when we’re here in California. So it’s more of a virtual walking, you know… big posse. And then once, twice, three times a year, we’ll do these long real walks down the big corridors of America. Like Chicago to Saint Louis. Portland to Seattle. Philadelphia to Washington, DC. And all these great places. Imagine if you lived in Boston your whole life and you’ve always gone down to New York City for Thanksgiving, to join up with your grandparents. Well now imagine you’ve got kids, and that same corridor you’ve driven a thousand times, Boston to New York City, you’re going to walk it. You’re going to walk through Rhode Island and Connecticut, and in the fall with the leaves changing.
I’ll tell you, most people will never forget it. So we offer that epic experience at the same time as creating this large, virtual community for a bigger group of people.
Mark: Now one of those longer walks, how far do you plan on walking every day?
Diana: You know, Bonnie and I originally started thinking of 2 and 3 week walks, but the truth is, I think that the human limit–not in terms of potential, but schedule-wise–is a week.
Like that LA to San Diego, 140 miles, 20 miles a day. There were people on this walk we just did–they’d walked the Camino, they’d done everything. They could easily walk a marathon a day, 26 miles. Bonnie and I could walk a marathon a day. But the public can’t. So if you make it 20, they’ve gotta train. They gotta get those feet ready, the hips, the knees. They’ve gotta be ready to do it. Have some hill climbing. But they can do it. They’re not gonna be flat out exhausted. They can walk 20 miles in 6 and a half hours, 7 hours with a couple of breaks. And then get themselves ready for the next day, you know? I think there are lots of people who are capable of that. But they’d have to train for it. They’d have to take it seriously, you know?
Mark: I think we’re gonna get a group of people to join you on one of those. What fun.
Diana: I hope so. I’m counting on it, Mark. I’m proud of you.
Mark: Absolutely. We’ve got a group that’s heading over to Greece to walk the Spartan route from Sparta to Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans fought off the Persians.
Diana: Have you ever done the Inca trail, Machu-Pichu?
Mark: I have not, yet. No. It’s on my list. I really want to do that.
Diana: Now that I’m walking all the time, I was never a walker, I might as well go and do all these great walks around the world.
Mark: Yeah, I totally agree with you. Fantastic. So what I love about this… normally I’m talking to people who’ve launched non-profit initiatives, it’s all like the old story of you gotta raise a lot of money, and then we’re gonna go do something good. You’re just talking about getting people off their ass and walking. There’s really no, like, big fundraising, there’s no real infrastructure you need, is there?
Diana: There isn’t. As a matter of fact, people they, Americans don’t trust unless they give money. They’re very, very suspicious if you… “What do you mean, you don’t want any money? Then it must be a bunch of junk. You gotta give money.”
And we say, “Nope, we don’t want any money.” We’re not raising… you said before, and I feel that if you go out and do a walk for cancer, a bicycle ride for AIDS research, those are all worthy enterprises, and we applaud them. We kinda wanted to be the first one that the reason you’re out is because you want to get out in the outdoors. You’re doing this for your spiritual health, for your physical health. And then you get to be a community that’s wants to do it together, but we’re not raising money for anything. I don’t know about you, but I get a minimum of 12 a month, maybe more, of people I know and people I don’t know who are… they’re going to do that next marathon and they have to raise 2500 dollars. It’s like the 12th year, and I wanna give, but I mean, how much resources do you have to give to 12 different people a month, it’s a lot, so I kind of… we wanted to do something to say “You know what? We’re raising money for nothing.” Go home and have that experience, that’s it.
Mark: Be the change you wanna see in the world.
Diana:Yeah, be the change.
Mark: Fantastic. Wow. So you’re book, “Find a Way” is that recent? Like, when is that published?
Diana: Last year. It came out last year about this time. And then the paperback came out in the summer. Summer beach reading, you know.
Mark: I love it. One of our favorite quotes in the SEAL team was “Find a way or make a way.” Right? So basically that speaks to me, because basically what we’re saying is don’t take no for an answer. Go out and just do it. Just like Nike. Just do it. Find a way or make a way. There’s always a way. You may not know the way, but by starting and getting on your journey, it’ll be revealed to you.
Diana: Yeah, for so many years when I was younger I had that Goethe quote on my desk, and I won’t quote it exactly now, but it had something to do with “Just begin. There’s boldness in beginning. Take that first step and you will find your way.” Whereas if you sit back and let inertia take over, you’ll probably never take that step. You’ll never find your way. So just take that first bold step.
Mark: “Doubt is eliminated by action alone.”
Diana: Yeah, yeah. There you go.
Mark: All right. Awesome. So people can find you, and they can find the book “Find a Way.” That sounds redundant, but look for the book “Find a Way” at Amazon or anywhere else. And that’ll probably be really incredible read. I look forward to reading it myself.
Where else can they learn more about Everwalk and….?
Diana: It’s really simple. Everwalk.com. Just come on there and click “pledge.” that means you’re going to walk 3 days a week. We don’t care if you walk the dog, if you go get the newspaper. Just walk and we’re going to try to get a million people. And, you know, by… what do they call that? At the New Year? New Year’s Resolution time, we’ll have a whole bunch of… on that site we’ll have some incentives and some competitions and stuff. But right now, it’s a simple pledge and put your name on the list.
Mark: Okay, so if I go… Unbeatable Mind community, you’re listening to this. Go to everwalk.com and pledge. You’re already doing it, so let’s support this. And do you send us like notices about certain walks that are coming up?
Diana: We’re building that whole infrastructure now. You know what frankly our goal is? We want to become sort of the central, the hub of walking worldwide. So if you were about to take a vacation in Viet Nam, you could come to our site and find, “Oh, there’s a really cool walk on the outskirts of Hanoi.” Or you live in Pittsburgh, and you want to know this year when are the different 5k walks. If you wanna do a few of them. And then training guides and places that you post your training, so that all walkers would come to us and we would link you out to the walking world. So we’re just now developing that partner with Facebook. To get all that content on our site. It’s not there yet, but its coming.
Mark: Right. Well terrific. Let us know how we can help you, in the meantime. We can support the Everwalk and I look forward to meeting you in person. And taking a hike. Let’s do it.
Diana: I wanna swim along next to you with that stealth little…
Mark: (laughing) Come down to San Diego. I’ll teach you how to do it. It’s really cool stroke.
Diana: I wanna do that.
Mark: Awesome. All right folks. Diana, thank you so much for your time. Everybody out there, go support Everwalk. Check out Diana’s book. And once again I really, really appreciate your support for listening to the podcast, and continuing to learn and grow. So help us share the word, spread the wealth, you know the deal. And rate it.
Diana: Unbeatable Mind, I’m gonna tell everybody I know. If they’re feeling beatable, all they need to do is hook into Mark Divine…
Mark: Yeah. Tell them to go read unbeatablemind.com, it’s my self-published book. It’s my favorite one. And I get to change it, and I’m actually writing the 4th edition right now. Unbeatablemind.com. I’ll send you a copy if you send Allison… I’ll get your address from Allison, I’ll send you a copy.
Diana: Will do. Thank you so much, Mark.
Mark: Awesome Diana. Super-cool to meet you. All right folks. Coach Divine out. See you next time.
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[…] listening to how extreme athletes find motivation, train, and overcome odds. For example, if Diana Nyad can swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage at age 64, and if quadruple amputee […]