I read stories of successful women and I am in awe. Two years ago this month, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, willing her way to a Key West beach just before 2 p.m. ET, nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years. She was 64 years old.
She had three pieces of advice that stuck with me and I felt really resonated with a women trying to balance career and a family.
1) “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.
Traveling is part of my job. When kids are little it is so hard–it truly takes a village. I would be preparing my work materials but also be writing out schedules, arranging pickups and drop offs. Packing clothes for my children every day as well as myself, it was so stressful but I had a team. I had my husband, my mother, and my sisters who were doing the pickup, and friends who were helping out and doing fun things with the kids in my absence. When I arrived for the business trip, I was so focused and it showed. I was at the top of my game and I always came home from the trips feeling so accomplished. To be able to focus on the task at hand and know that I have my village in action at home were key to my success. I am forever grateful to my team. I can fly higher than an eagle when my team has my back.
2) 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. She realized being prepared was all she could do, and that it could go either way.
I clearly remember being in Chicago for a week-long conference. Every day my son would say, “Is today the day you are coming home?” I told him come hell or high water, I will be there Thursday night. Traffic and accidents on the road had me delayed and panicked about catching my flight. I spoke to the TSA agent and explained my situation. He said there was nothing he could do, I had to wait in the long line. I had visions of myself punching this agent in the face. I wanted to yell out to him, “Do you know I made a promise to my kid and I never break a promise?” The line was long. It was hot and the line was not moving. I looked at my watch every 2 minutes. Work was calling, home was calling and people in line not following directions. In that line, I literary thought I was going to explode. In some moment of borderline delirium, I talked myself off the ledge. I actually took off my watch, turned off my phone, and put it in my bag. I told myself, “there is nothing you can do here, this is all out of your control. If you miss the plane, you get on the next one.” I could feel my temperature drop and a sense of calm coming over me. I got thru security, ran to the gate like a track star and made it on the flight by the skin of my teeth. It could be travel, it could be work, it could be home or the kid’s school: there are going to be things out of your control. Accept them and move forward.
3) You’re never too old to go after your dreams. “It’s all authentic. It’s a great story. You have a dream 35 years ago — doesn’t come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it’s somewhere back there. Then you turn 60, and your mom just dies, and you’re looking for something. And the dream comes waking out of your imagination,” Nyad said.
As a woman with a career, I often see that after having children some people choose the slow lane while they try to balance work and a family. That’s OK: you have to do what’s best for you. However, that does not mean you let go of your dreams or your career. Take the time that is needed but also take the time to evaluate what are your dreams and how have they changed. Set new goals for yourself and remember you are never too old to go after your dreams.
Buzz-Worthy Lessons: 1) Thank your team today. If you don’t have a team, get one. If you are so inclined, be part of another women’s team. 2) Elsa sang it so well: “Let it go” 3) Dream big no matter how old or young you are. And for goodness sake, get TSA Global Entry–it’s worth every penny.