Diana Nyad made history and achieved her extreme dream on Sept 2nd 2013, after swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, in 52 hours, 54 minutes. Her successful fifth attempt makes her the first person to complete the swim without a shark cage.
How do organisations maintain high performance and are there lessons to be learned from a 64 year old marathon swimmer?
Here are 5 lessons for organisations to achieve high performance.
1. High performance organisations require leaders with strong vision who set ambitious goals.
In setting her goal, what she calls her ‘extreme dream’ at age 60, Nyad’s aim was to be reinvigorated by taking on a task that would require her to be, “her best self, every minute of every day.”
2. Leaders in high performance organisations need to maximise individual performance outputs by building strong teams.
While swimming may seem a solitary sport Nyad credits her success to her team of 35, including experts in the fields of navigation, oceanography and pulmonology.
3. High performance comes from a combination of well -planned and well -executed organisational and mental strategy.
To combat extreme sensory deprivation while tracking time and progress, she counts in French and German and sings songs from her memorised playlist of 85 songs.
4. High performance organisations need to challenge the rules.
Critics have questioned Nyad’s use of a prosthetic mask which protected her from stings from box jelly fish. In defending her use of the mask, Nyad challenges the rules as a matter of “her own life’s safety”.
5. High performance organisations need leaders, at every level, who are tough and resilient.
Having had to abandon her previous attempts in 1978, 2011 and 2012 due to extreme weather conditions, being thrown off course by the Gulf Stream and multiple stings by box jelly fish, Nyad’s motto remained “Never, ever give up.” While it was a physically punishing feat, Nyad attributes her success to one essential body part- her mind.