By now we have all heard about the incredible achievements of Diana Nyad, an American author, journalist, and motivational speaker who also happens to be a world record long-distance swimmer.  On her fifth attempt and at age 64, she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, swimming 110 miles from Havana to Key West.

“I have three messages.  One is, we should never, ever give up.  Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream.  Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,” she said on the beach immediately following her historic swim.

Although Diana’s name is the only one most of us associate with the epic ocean swim, it took an incredible amount of research and teamwork to make her dream a reality.

The support team accompanying her had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her, designed to keep sharks at bay.  A boat dragged a line in the water to help keep her on course.  Crew members measured her food and liquids, following strict nutritional guidelines.  At night the team handed Diana a customized ‘jellyfish suit’, to avoid the painful stings that force many swimmers to abandon a swim.

Most importantly, her navigator, John Bartlett, studied the currents for months, working with master oceanographers to ensure that she entered the ocean at precisely the right time to optimize the ever-changing flows.  There is an infinite variety of patterns swirling about in those shark-infested waters, and Diana needed to be able to hit an unusual north-easterly flow in order to succeed; this was the most challenging aspect of the endeavour.

Bartlett’s interview following the swim resonated with me equally as much as Diana’s gracious words about her support team.  He was positively thrilled with the accomplishment, saying that “the entire expeditionary challenge has been a tremendous learning experience, and time of personal growth for me…the many relationships and interaction have broadened my understanding of how people summon their abilities, to communicate and work together toward a common goal”.

Diana’s team members, nicknamed ‘The Shark Seekers’, were critical to her success in every way.  The nutritionist, the navigator, the night crew – different roles with a shared and well-defined vision.  Diana’s swim is a wonderful example of a leader with a seemingly impossible goal, setting a high bar for herself as well as her strong team, with all participants sharing the sense of achievement and pride in the collective performance.  She was alone in the water but she simply could not have succeeded on her own.

Do you have supportive Shark Seekers in your life?  Are you a leader who truly recognizes the value of encouraging and committed team members?  My Shark Seekers include family, old and new friends/neighbours, choir members, hockey parents, valued business associates, and a favourite yoga instructor.  They all play a part in how I conduct my life, and I am thankful for their support, encouragement, and advice.

Lead, be a Shark Seeker -  be both!  Commit to unconditionally help others reach their goals, while challenging yourself to set your own bar high and motivate the Shark Seekers that support you.