Diana Nyad’s epic 110-mile uncaged swim (video here) from Cuba to Key West was a tremendous achievement. But even more remarkable than setting this record was 64-year-old Nyad’s perseverance in reaching her goal (this was her fifth attempt in 35 years).
There’s so much nonprofit communicators like us can learn from her. Here are 6 vital lessons we can take from her experience:
1) Set ambitious but doable goals—You’ll never get where you want to go if you don’t have a clear vision. Nyad knew what she was striving for and that she could do the swim, even though it took five attempts to succeed.
Define what victory looks like for your marketing, then design a realistic plan to get there. Set yourself up to succeed!
2) Learn from your failures—With each try, Nyad made changes and adjustments from what she learned from her previous efforts. She left ego behind to fully open her mind to crucial insights that led to her success.
Capture the data and anecdotes that help you fine-tune your marketing approach to do better next time round. Most of use can’t benchmark to the nth degree due to limited time and budget, but do whatever you can do. But you have to remain open and flexible to benefit from what you learn!
3) Identify the right tools and use as many of them as possible—Bites from box jellyfish had been one of the main deterrents in Nyad’s previous attempts so she put a range of anti-jellyfish tools to use this round, including sting-stopper gel, a shoulder-to-toe cover-up, and a silicone mask to protect her face.
Revision based on experimentation remains the name of the game here. Nyad pulled off the mask mid-swim when it started to cut her mouth and make breathing difficult.
There are many ways to get to your marketing goals. The best path and tools will surface when you figure out specific benchmarks, who will be most productive to engage to meet them, and what their habits and preferences are.
4) “It looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team,” said Nyad as she staggered on shore.—Nyad put together the right combo of experts for her 35-member support team, all of whom complemented her own skills and strengths. She couldn’t have done it alone, and you can’t either.
Integrated communications, anyone?
5) Recognize what’s out of your control
For Nyad, that was the weather and the current. Nyad had her swim-through-the-storm strategy in place but nature cooperated this time round. She realized being prepared was all she could do, and that it could go either way.
Do your research, set your plans accordingly and go, with realistic expectations. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you’ll never take the first step or you’ll take the safe (and frequently wrong) one.
6) “Never, ever, give up.” Failing four times in a venture as big and public as this one and coming back for more showcases Nyad’s unequaled resilience. I’m awed by this as much as I am by the swim.
It’s far too easy to chastise yourself when your marketing budget gets cut to nothing or a new campaign fails big time. But that gets you (and your organization) absolutely nowhere.
Your ability to bounce back and (circling back to #2) apply what you learn from what doesn’t work is the most certain way to get to the next level. “Onward,” as Diana Nyad says!
What other lessons or inspiration have you gotten from Nyad’s spectacular win? Please share them here.
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