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No Barriers Podcast Episode 150: Chasing Dreams with Diana Nyad



Our No Barriers podcast hit a milestone this week. 150 episodes. That’s 150 innovators, athletes, activists, disability advocates, veterans, frontline workers, business leaders, educators, caregivers, mindset experts, authors, and award-winning photographers and filmmakers, to name a few.

They’ve candidly shared their journeys and stories of overcoming adversity,. We’ve heard about their pioneering spirit and how they engineer a way forward. Through these interviews you, our listener, have heard compassionate advice and guidance.

Our team here at the No Barriers podcast, is pretty darn stoked for the guest we scored for this 150th episode. Diana Nyad. She’s most well known because her pursuit of a singular athletic achievement called the Mt. Everest of swimming. She was the first to do it without the aid of shark cage. What I’m referring to is the 111 mile journey, from Cuba to Florida, breath after breath, arm stroke after arm stroke, kick after kick over the course of 53 hours. And that might be the simple part. The confluence of problems to solve along the way from sharks and jellyfish swarms (killer ones, no exaggeration), to currents pushing her every way but forward, required the next level of team work.

Our host Erik Weihenmayer, is also most known for an impressive achievement; an ascent of Mt. Everest, blind of course. However, for both Diana and Erik, there is so much more to them than a singular defining moment. You might be surprised to hear what they consider equal or greater accomplishments than what they are know for in the public eye. Their life experiences overlap in so many ways, that this conversation is truly unique and I know you will enjoy it. What you’ll hear over the next hour covers problem solving in the middle of an ocean, team work, near death by jelly fish, the feeling of swimming over the curvature of the earth, letting go (or not), the transition from chasing other peoples dreams to your own, and much more… I’m producer Didrik Johnck and this is the No Barriers podcast.

Diana Nyad is most well known because her pursuit of a singular athletic achievement called the Mt. Everest of swimming. She was the first to do it without the aid of shark cage. It’s the 111 mile swim from from Cuba to Florida, over the course of 53 hours. And that might be the simple part. The confluence of problems to solve along the way from sharks and jellyfish swarms, to currents pushing her every way but forward, required the next level of team work.

Our host Erik Weihenmayer, is also most known for an impressive achievement; an ascent of Mt. Everest. However, for both Diana and Erik, there is so much more to them than a singular defining moment. You might be surprised to hear what they consider equal or greater accomplishments than what they are know for in the public eye. Their life experiences overlap in so many ways, that this conversation is truly unique and I know you will enjoy it. What you’ll hear over the next hour covers problem solving in the middle of an ocean, team work, near death by jelly fish, the feeling of swimming over the curvature of the earth, letting go (or not), the transition from chasing other peoples dreams to your own, and much more…

Connect with Diana

http://diananyad.com

https://everwalk.com

Diana’s blog: https://medium.com/@diananyad

Diana on Insta: https://www.instagram.com/diananyad

Diana’s memoir: Finding a Way

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Episode Transcript

Diana Nyad:
But my friend on the pool deck came to me and said, "You look like you're in a fog. This is the most important race of your career." I started in with all the sacrifices; I had gone through sexual abuse as a teenager; I just was confused and lost, and wanted to win so badly, et cetera.

Diana Nyad:
She said, "I'll tell you what, this is what you're going to do. You're going to march up to those blocks, you're going to blast off with the shoulders that you have built for eight years, with the drive that's made you do 1,000 sit-ups every night. None of the rest of us did that. You did that. You're going to get up to those blocks and blast off with everything that's in you. And when you touch the wall, close your eyes, close your fist, and say it, and mean it, 'I couldn't have done it a fingernail faster.'" She said, "I guarantee, you do it that way, you do anything in your life that way, you can just move on with no regrets, because what more can you give?"

Erik Weihenmayer:
It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle.

Erik Weihenmayer:
My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a No Barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. Part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. That unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call No Barriers.

Dietrich Jonk:
Our No Barriers Podcast hit a milestone this week, 150 episodes. That's 150 innovators, athletes, activists, disability advocates, veterans, frontline workers, business leaders, educators, caregivers, mindset experts, authors, and award-winning photographers and filmmakers, just to name a few. They've candidly shared their journeys and stories of overcoming adversity. We've heard about their pioneering spirit and how they engineer a way forward. Through these interviews, you, our listener, have heard compassionate advice and guidance.

Dietrich Jonk:
Our team here at the No Barriers Podcast is pretty darn stoked for the guest we scored for this 150th episode, Diana Nyad. She's most well-known because of her pursuit of a singular athletic achievement called the Mount Everest of swimming. She was the first to do it without the aid of a shark cage. What I'm referring to is the 111-mile journey from Cuba to Florida, breath after breath, arm stroke after arm stroke, and kick after kick, over the course of 53 hours. And that might be the simple part. The confluence of problems to solve along the way, from sharks and jellyfish swarms, killer ones, no exaggeration, to currents pushing her every way but forward, required the next level of teamwork.

Dietrich Jonk:
Our host, Erik Weihenmayer, is also known for an impressive achievement, an ascent of Mount Everest, blind, of course. However, for both Diana and Erik, there are so much more to them than a singular defining moment. You might be surprised to hear what they consider equal or greater accomplishments than what they are known for in the public eye.

Dietrich Jonk:
Their life experiences overlap in so many ways that this conversation is truly unique, and I know you will enjoy it. What you'll hear over the next hour covers problem solving in the middle of an ocean, teamwork, near death by jellyfish, the feeling of swimming over the curvature of the Earth, letting go or not, the transition from chasing other people's dreams to your own, and much, much more. I'm producer Dietrich Jonk, and this is the No Barriers Podcast.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Hey, everyone. Welcome to our No Barriers Podcast. Erik Weihenmayer here. I am going solo today, no co-host. Everyone is tired of me, I guess.

Erik Weihenmayer:
This is our 150th podcast, so we have a really special guest, an old friend of mine who I'm lucky enough to know, Diana Nyad. Man, it is awesome to have you. You're really busy, Diana, because you have a film coming out that I think we can talk about. I know you've been totally in demand in terms of podcasts and media, so it's exciting that you're going to take an hour with us this afternoon.

Diana Nyad:
Never in too much demand for you, my friend, one of my heroes, Erik. Never too busy for you.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Awesome. Well, for people's sake, they may not know that we were part of this organization called World T.E.A.M. Sports back in the day, in the '90s. We rode across Vietnam, and that's how I got to know you. I think it was 1,200 miles. I can't remember quite the details, but it was like 20 days. It was a team of vets from both sides of the war, the North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Americans, some folks with disabilities, some celebrities, like you, and athletes. It was a really tremendous experience. Do you still have fond memories of that?

Diana Nyad:
I do. Like you, I've been lucky, fortunate, just met all kinds of inspiring, brave people my whole life, been all over the world. Sometimes I could pick up a globe, Erik, and spin it around, and it's not like I know every place like the back of my hand, but I've been almost everyplace, been to the interior, Borneo, and the south reaches of Patagonia, et cetera.

Diana Nyad:
But that ride with you, your dad, a number of injured vets from the war, as you say, from both sides, it was such an illuminating experience. To have Marines who were very proud of what they did in Vietnam and some Army vets who were ashamed of what they did in Vietnam, have them all come together open-mindedly, riding, like you, on the back of a tandem bike, or the guys who had been injured in the spinal cord riding their handcycles; and to experience as if we had turned back the clock to 1966, and have these 100 vets crying, emoting, really expressing what that war had been to their lives and why they wished, in many ways, they had never been there and they hadn't participated in that war, it was a significant experience for me. That's for sure.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah, and the transition from Vietnam becoming a war to a country. I think that was a really special part of the trip for me. I got to ride it with my dad, who's a Marine. I remember calling up World T.E.A.M. and saying, "Hey, I'd love to go on this ride, because you're looking for disabled veterans. I'm disabled. My dad is a veteran. We're going to be on one bike, so together we're a disabled veteran." Steve Wessinet laughed, he cracked up, and he was like, "Yeah. Okay." That's how I got aboard.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. Your dad is a great guy. One night, we stayed up until 3:00 in the morning in Vietnam talking about life and war and marriage and just everything that's important I'll never forget that night with your dad, Ed.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Well, awesome. It's good to know you and be considered a friend, although we don't stay in touch enough, but I think we need to change that.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Anyway, well, I'm going to break in just the elephant in the room, which is 111 miles, Cuba to Key West. I know you get asked this a million times because... In a way, I guess you and I are similar in the way that, even though I've climbed 1,000 mountains since 2001, I'm the blind guy who climbed Everest. You're the person who swam from Cuba to Key West. Four tries? What took you so long?

Diana Nyad:
It's a bear out there. The Earth is four-fifths water. That's why we call it the blue planet, right?

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah.

Diana Nyad:
In any realistic places, so we've got to take out the Arctic Circle, et cetera, in any realistic place, to try to swim 100 miles, it's the toughest swim on the planet and-

Erik Weihenmayer:
111 miles. Don't sell yourself 11 miles short.

Diana Nyad:
Thank you. I appreciate that. The actual record that I set was 110.86, but most people introduce me, say, "Oh, she swam 110 miles." I say, "Hey, what happened to the 0.86? That was the most difficult part of it." So I appreciate your rounding me up to 111.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah, of course.

Diana Nyad:
No, but what I was going to say is, when you sit down to take a look at the obstacles that are going to be there, the distance is undeniable in the open ocean. But when you start looking at the confluence of problems, starting with the mighty Gulf Stream, the most powerful current on planet Earth, and right between Cuba and Florida is the emanation of that stream. It comes screeching through the Yucatan Channel and starts flowing hard to the east, right between Havana and Key West. Later, it turns up north and goes up the Atlantic Seaboard.

Diana Nyad:
The crossing you're trying to make up to Key West is just fraught with, how is the math of a 6.6 mile-an-hour speed current against a 2.2 mile-an-hour speed swimmer, how is that swimmer going to make it due north? It takes a genius of a mathematical navigator, and we had one named John Bartlett. He literally plotted, every 15 minutes, a new possible "let's try this" tangent. Bonnie, that was my head trainer. He'd say, "Bonnie, ask Diana if she can give me a hard hour. We're coming up against a really tough part of the stream. I've got to ask her to push. She's got to get up to 2.5 miles an hour." That's not easy in the open ocean when you're going for 40, 50, 60 straight hours. That's number one.

Diana Nyad:
Then you just add in the most dangerous jellyfish on planet Earth, the sharks of the tropics, which is no joke. They are there. They would love to take a leg, if not eat you whole. Then you've got currents within the Gulf Stream. You've got wind patterns that never cooperate. That particular area, the Florida Straits, is affected by weather way out in the Atlantic Ocean, by weather down by the Galapagos, by the actual jet stream going across the United States, by currents that are coming up from under the Dominican Republic. No matter what forecast you get, it never holds. So you've got a million things to deal with.

Diana Nyad:
People say, "How could you possibly have made it when you were 64, when you didn't make it when you were 28?" It's very simple. It's that I refuse to give up. My team kept saying, "We're going to go back," after the expedition. "We're going to learn what is the new science, the new technology, that we're going to get a heads-up next time." By the fifth time, we pretty much had that thing together.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Well, so you bring up your team. Well, all the logistics, all the suffering, which we'll get into, of course, but your team as well. As you mentioned in one of your podcasts, everyone thinks swimming is a solitary sport, but it's a huge team effort. You didn't do this alone. Describe the teams that you had around you and what their roles were like. I remember reading your book. For instance, you had kayakers that were spotting sharks, and it's a lot more than you would think.

Diana Nyad:
It is.

Erik Weihenmayer:
It's not just jumping in the water.

Diana Nyad:
No. It is. Honestly, to be humorous about it, in the early days, when press people, who, give them credit, they don't know anything about this kind of endeavor, but they would say to me, "Is a boat going to go along next to you?" I would sarcastically say, "Oh, no, I'm going to carry a Jim Bowie knife in my teeth, and I'm going to hunt down and skin fish alive. I'm going to use celestial navigation, and I'm going to drag a water desalinization machine behind me to make fresh water." Yeah, you need a team. Honestly, before I even tell you-

Erik Weihenmayer:
And a spear gun.

Diana Nyad:
No, we kill no animals on our watch. We have shark divers. They use a big piece of PVC piping, so if an animal comes thrashing toward me, usually just out of curiosity, that's what they use to try to punch them in their sensitive snouts, their ampullae.

Diana Nyad:
You've got the jellyfish team. You've got the medical team. You've got the personal. Bonnie Stoll is the head of the expedition. She is in charge of my life. She's going to make the final decisions if my life is in danger. She's in charge of nutrition, keeping me going. We've got a driver team. We've got that navigation team.

Diana Nyad:
You've got a set of professionals, and every one of them is researched. They're the best in the world at what they do. The guys that I had that dove, they are the experts of sharks in the tropics. They know their behaviors. They know if they're arching their back as they're coming toward me, they're coming toward an aggressive move. If they're just swimming easily with the back not arched, they're probably just curious and they're going to go away. So we had a team.

Diana Nyad:
Honestly, Erik, I think one of the reasons I also made it in my 60s and didn't in my 20s, is in my 20s, I was much more ego. I thought it was all about me. That team, I never gave them much credit. I just thought, "Okay, they're in it for the fun of it and to get some press, get their name in the paper maybe." But that was wrong. I disrespected them and didn't treat them with a high enough respect. But this time, we were equal. When we reached that beach, that whole team, we all came together. We did it. I didn't do it. We did it.

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's beautiful, because that's so counterintuitive in thinking about this journey. When you're strong and independent, you didn't do as well as when you're weaker, older, and more vulnerable. That's a great lesson for people.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Honestly, I'll make a lot of connections, because I feel so connected to you in many ways, but climbing Everest... When blind people or people with disabilities say, "I want to climb Everest," I go, "It's all about your team. You can get as strong as you can be, but if you don't have a good, solid team around you, you're not going to make it." So I love that message, and I'm glad you're honoring your team in so many ways.

Diana Nyad:
Oh yeah. The only caveat, I would put to one sentence. You said, "You didn't make it when you were younger, stronger." The truth is that-

Erik Weihenmayer:
I was a little tongue in cheek there.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, but the truth is, just analytically, and I was measured by all kinds of exercise physiologists, I was a better athlete, for my sport. Now, I'm not saying that an NBA player is going to be as good at the age of 64. They're not. They're losing explosive speed. But in terms of endurance, which you know very well you can actually be superior by your 60s than you were in your 20s, so I think I was not only mentally stronger.

Diana Nyad:
I used to joke that in my 20s, I was a little bit more of a thoroughbred athlete. I was thinner, faster. In my 60s, I became a little thicker. I probably had 20 more pounds on me, which made me better at resisting long, long workouts and recovering. It made me stronger, just muscularly. I actually think, for this sport, I was superior in my 60s to my 20s.

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's awesome. One of your, I don't want to say failures, but one of the times when you fell short, you were dragged out. They're injecting you with all kinds of stuff. You're losing the ability to breathe because of the jellyfish. I would imagine that after these colossal efforts and then falling short, you would get depressed. Is that true? If so, what was the degree of your depression after those failures?

Diana Nyad:
I have to say, I never had an iota of that. Matter of fact, there were several humorous times when I'd be dragged out. I'm never dragged out beyond my will. Bonnie and I, and usually John Bartlett, the navigator, if the conditions... I guess it would be just like you being on Everest and you can see the summit. You know you're going to get there in maybe half a day, but a 90 mile-an-hour wind comes in, a storm. You don't just say, "Come on. Let's tough it out." You get together and you say, "We better start heading down. We've got to save our lives and get safe."

Diana Nyad:
Well, the same thing when you're out there in the ocean. The four times I didn't make this swim, I never quit. I never put up my hand and said, "I've bitten off more than I can chew. I didn't train hard enough. I'm hurting. I want to stop." There was never any of that.

Diana Nyad:
There was a discussion, "How bad is it? Is it impossible to reach the other shore?" We're not out just there just to prove we can swim forever toward a nonexistent goal out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We're trying to make it shore to shore, and walk up on that other shore. That's what the sport is all about. You walk up on the other shore.

Diana Nyad:
Each of those four times I didn't make it, and the time you were talking about, with triage, with doctors from the University of Miami, I was hit hard by a swarm of box jellyfish. Now, there are thousands, I venture to say tens of thousands, of species of jellyfish all over the world. Most of them do sting. None of them are pleasant, but nobody dies by a sting from the Portuguese man o' war.

Diana Nyad:
People die from the box jellyfish. It's called the Irukandji syndrome. There are also many species of box, but that particular one that lives just north of Cuba and then out in the waters between Cuba and Florida. It's a dangerous animal. Many people have died within one minute of one sting, one tentacle. I swam into a swarm of tentacles, wrapped all around the neck, all down the back, and I was in serious trouble. I don't think it's hyperbole to say I should have died that night, but we had that crack medical team. Bonnie was immediately involved.

Diana Nyad:
When I started to breathe again, I said, "Let's go. Let's keep on going." There are people on that team who thought that was insane, and that what sport is worth risking your life and getting stung again? But that was my choice. Each time, we had a powwow. "Is the swim over? Is it absolutely impossible, because of our position, because of the weather, because of the winds, whatever it is? And if it's impossible..."

Diana Nyad:
Erik, I would be dragged onto the boat, and within minutes I was talking to Bonnie and Bartlett about, "This is what we've got to do next time. We've got to put this together. We got to get the world's leading expert in the box jellyfish." I was never depressed. I always believed we were going to make it across.

Erik Weihenmayer:
I remember you mentioning, in maybe a TED Talk, something about grace, just you have to have grace when you fall short, because you're doing something so big. But you're so driven, so how do you balance between grace and drive? You know what I mean? Is that always a healthy thing for you?

Erik Weihenmayer:
For you, it seems pretty healthy. I'd say, for me, that drive, sometimes I feel almost crushed by the dream. You know what I mean? Because it's so overwhelming. I think, "God, is this even good for my health to be driving this hard towards this dream?"

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, I hear you. I can imagine that you've gone through that from time to time.

Diana Nyad:
I think for me, the grace was coming more to be respectful of my team. They're taking time away from their families and their lives, and certainly making money. Not one of them made a cent as we made all these attempts. How many times do I ask them to go through an entire year of training and their sacrifices when it's really my dream?

Diana Nyad:
When we came to the fifth time, I didn't say, "This is the last time," but there was something, honestly, and I shared it with Bonnie, inside me that said, "If Mother Nature raises up her head again and doesn't allow us to get across again, I'd have to, I think, find a state of grace to say, 'Didn't I throw enough at this? Didn't I give it everything I had, and everything I had wasn't good enough? Maybe nobody will make it across.'"

Diana Nyad:
Erik, I, frankly, doubt I would've come to that state of grace, but I was up against a fine line of, do I keep the willpower hard, or do I reach a state of grace and say... If I were doing this all by myself, I would just keep going, going, going until I'm 90 years old, and keep trying to make it. But because of the team, I think I was starting to look in the mirror and face that state of grace might be coming.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Hmm. Why such the long delay? Not delay. Excuse me. But there was a 30-year span, I believe, right, in some of your efforts?

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. Well, the first one-

Erik Weihenmayer:
Did life just take over? I know you were doing shows with NPR. Did other things just take over, or did it always stay right there below the surface?

Diana Nyad:
I paid attention. First of all, a career came. When I turned 30, I had tried Cuba once, didn't make it. Waited around two full years, training hard, the team involved and ready. Couldn't get the weather. Couldn't get the permits to get into Cuba. Didn't want to switch it. A lot of people on the team would say, "Hey, we can't get into Cuba this year. How about Guam? Guam is beautiful this time of year." I said, "But Guam is not in my soul. Cuba. I grew up with Havana right across the ocean from me."

Diana Nyad:
When I turned 30, I was getting offers from the Wide World of Sports, which at that time was the king of sports television, National Public Radio, others, to make a living. I just thought, "Maybe it's my time to move on in my life and not be that athlete anymore, and make a living and make a career."

Diana Nyad:
During that 30 years of career, I kept my eye on Cuba. People were trying it. It's the best men and women, strong, fast, young swimmers, since 1950, because it's been called the Mount Everest of the Earth's oceans. Many good swimmers have tried it, and I would keep an eye on it. I would. I admit to you, Erik, that I'm only human. I never wanted anybody injured, but I did do a little happy dance when they wouldn't make it-

Erik Weihenmayer:
Hey, that's human. That is very human. I relate. Yeah.

Diana Nyad:
It was just human. I was starting to feel a real, I don't know what you'd call it, like a malaise of being a spectator. As I turned 60, it's not that I didn't enjoy that work. I was covering Olympic Games and the Tour de France, amazing people like yourself who were doing things in the world. But I was chasing after other people who were chasing their dreams. I wasn't really chasing my dreams anymore, so I decided to see if I could get back into that kind of shape again at age 60.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Now, you mentioned some of the differences between your 30s and your 60s. Again, the point of this podcast isn't all the logistics, but I was totally fascinated reading your book, because it was a crazy story, how you had a shoulder problem, and you went to all these doctors and they're like, "Yeah, you can't do that stroke." Then you found a doctor who was like, "No, if you change your stroke, you can totally do this."

Erik Weihenmayer:
I find that fascinating because you go to a... By the way, the reason I'm bringing this up is because, at No Barriers, we have this element that we talk about a lot called pioneering, which is like, "Okay, how do you engineer your way forward?" You've got to be smart. You just kept going to different doctors until this one doctor told you something that no one else had told you. I find that amazing, because you think every doctor is going to tell you the same thing.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, and they did. They just said, "There's no way, without surgery." Then when this one doctor, Dr. Jo Hannafin... She's retired now, but she was an orthopedist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, an athlete herself, which really makes a difference sometimes. She was a rower, world-class rower. She said to me, "Well, do you have to swim with your elbow and shoulder way up high? That's what's impinging on that biceps tendon of yours. Is there any way to move forward through the water? Maybe not as fast, but your thing out there isn't fast."

Diana Nyad:
I found this guy named Ous Mellouli. He was the first-ever African male to win an Olympic medal in swimming, gold. He had the exact same biceps tendon I did, a problem. I went and talked to him, and he showed me in the water how he started. It's not as pretty, but it's effective, because all of swimming, really, what moves you forward is happening under the water. What's happening over the water is just supposed to be as efficient as you can make it.

Diana Nyad:
He started bringing up his elbow and shoulder and dipping them down very low and then gliding out in front and doing his normal stroke underwater, so he wasn't doing that impingement. It was hard for me to learn. I'd been swimming all my life. Swimming, it's a cliche, people say, "High elbows." You watch Michael Phelps. His elbows are way high. So I started swimming with that low entry glide on the right arm, never had to have surgery. The whole thing was not a problem.

Diana Nyad:
You go to people who know something. You go to individuals who have researched. They've got the pedigree, but they don't always know what you know, especially as an athlete. A lot of orthopedic surgeons, they listen to athletes, but they didn't actually themselves swim or climb mountains or whatnot. So I'm not disrespectful, but I'm leery of thinking there might be another answer than the one I'm hearing.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah, which is find a way, which I want to get into. There's a photo or a video that somebody described to me of you emerging onto the beach at Key West. Being blind, I don't think you looked that good. Describe that photo-

Diana Nyad:
You got that right.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Was it a video or a photo? It was really famous. You just looked swollen. You'd been stung by jellyfish, and the salt and the dehydration. It took a toll on your body, and your mind of course.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. I was pretty depleted when I got there. I'll tell you the real truth. I don't flash back to that moment of triumph. What I flash back to is looking at the clock at 2:00 a.m. while you're sleeping, knowing you're going to get up at 2:15 for a training swim. Who's to tell me that I have to get up that day? I could get up and say to Bonnie and the crew, "You know what, I just don't feel like it today. I'm going to sleep in. I'm going to eat a big breakfast. I'm going to go to a movie." But I would never, ever not get up and do the swim that we planned.

Diana Nyad:
By the way, if it's a 14-hour swim, and I'm coming toward the dock or the boat at 13 hours and 58 minutes, Bonnie knows me, I do not want to finish short of 14 hours, so she would whistle and she'd say, "You're almost there. Turn around. Swim back out. I'll blow the whistle. You'll come in, and then you'll really get your honest 14." As I said, I'm the one who set the schedule. There's nobody around saying, "Oh, you didn't do 14."

Diana Nyad:
It's the same thing with just all the rigors of it. I kind of got lost in what I was talking about. I got lost off your question. Lead me again to where we were going.

Erik Weihenmayer:
No, what you're talking about is amazing. I'm not going to say these things that you set in your mind are arbitrary, but you are creating the discipline. Obviously, would you believe that the discipline that you create in your mind is going to help you get across the finish line, right?

Diana Nyad:
Yeah.

Erik Weihenmayer:
In reality, a minute less than 14 hours doesn't mean anything, but it means something to you in terms of the discipline of believing that you can do this, and that you have maybe the right to be there? Tell me.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. Well, no, you're onto it now. It's not those two minutes. That could be equal. You go 14 hours. You go 13 hours, 58 minutes. But did you stop early? Did you let it go before you were really going to put your mind to getting in what you set out to do that day?

Diana Nyad:
I'll give you an example, Erik. I started playing tennis. I've been a tennis fan my whole life but was never a player. I started playing at the age of 68. How good am I going to be?

Erik Weihenmayer:
Awesome.

Diana Nyad:
I've definitely got some limitations in terms of foot speed, but I have a tennis training center in my garage. I play seven days a week, two to four hours a day. I want to be the best-level potential I can get to in this game that I'm enthralled with.

Diana Nyad:
I go out in the morning. I've got this little machine, and I do a bunch of foot drills to try to improve that foot speed. Also, I hit 100 forehand groundstrokes and 100 volleys. Then I hit a 100 backhand groundstrokes, 100 volleys. Well, that's nothing compared to what Rafael Nadal hits. But at my level, for the limited time I have, because I have other things in my life in this stage, that's a lot. But I would never do 99, never, because I said I think I'm going to get better by doing 100 of those strokes every day, and so 99 is not acceptable to me.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. And 1,000 burpees. Don't forget that. I think you do that once a week still.

Diana Nyad:
I broke my wrist a couple years ago, and it hampered my burpee performance.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Oh, man.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. I've been very, very down about that. But this January, the wrist finally came around. I do 1,000 burpees twice a week, but I don't do the push-up. If you can figure, you throw yourself down into plank position and then you jump back up, you leapfrog back up, and then you stand up. That's the burpee I do without the full push-up.

Erik Weihenmayer:
See, I'm convinced, without your kind of discipline and mental toughness, you're not going to really achieve monumental things. Maybe that's not people's goal. Some people just want to live an everyday life, which is beautiful, fine, nothing wrong with that. But to do these big things, you have to have that sort of mindset that you're talking about.

Erik Weihenmayer:
I remember when I was in times training, I'd run this 50-story building with a big pack on, and I'd always time myself. I'd say, "If I don't make it in less than 15 minutes, I'm not going to summit," and my God, would that create this desperate drive to do my best. You know what I mean?

Diana Nyad:
Yeah.

Erik Weihenmayer:
There's all these mental games that you're talking about, that I don't think you could do what you do without them, right?

Diana Nyad:
No. It's a real visual that you're giving me about a big, heavy pack, going up 50 stories in 15 minutes, and just knowing that that's got to be your barometer, that if you're not going to do that, if you're going to give up on that, or be satisfied with 38 floors instead of 50, then you're not in it. You're not in it the way you've defined what it takes to be in it.

Diana Nyad:
You said something really crucial just a second ago. You said, "But some people are..." We just say the word "just," which isn't fair-

Erik Weihenmayer:
Right. That is unfair.

Diana Nyad:
Just living a life. But honestly, those are the people I surround myself with. Bonnie is a good example. Bonnie is not lazy at all, but she just doesn't live a life where she wants to be driven and just be the best she can at everything you do. She takes her dogs to the beach at sunrise and just revels in the beauty of planet Earth and her dogs being happy running. When I go to her on that, I say, "You know what, this is also what life is about, not just your own personal development all the time."

Erik Weihenmayer:
Do you ever drive her crazy?

Diana Nyad:
No, because I don't demand that of her. When we were on the swim, we got matching tattoos when it was over that, in Japanese, say ishin-denshin, meaning, in Japanese, one heart, one mind. Even though-

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's beautiful.

Diana Nyad:
... I'm made of a different cloth in terms of discipline, but she's made of different cloth in terms of just, they call it smelling the roses every day, which I miss a lot of. I think that balance is important.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah, sounds like a beautiful balance.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Now, you also talk about the sensory deprivation of the ocean. I get, honestly, a little bit of fear in my chest when I think about you out there in the middle of the ocean, just swallowed up by this gigantic, vast ocean, with all this life all under you and around you. Is that just something you take for granted, or do you think about that sometimes, "I'm this little tiny creature in this freaking huge ocean"?

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, I definitely think about it and-

Erik Weihenmayer:
I'm going to shake it out.

Diana Nyad:
Actually, that brings us again full circle to where we started this conversation, which was why, in my 60s, could I do something that was so difficult, nobody has ever done, and I didn't do in my 20s. One of the things was I was in awe this time. I can't see much, it's true, but still, you come fit in for a feeding, and it's 2:00 in the morning, and you're under a billion stars, which literally you can see out on a clear summer night in the Gulf Stream.

Diana Nyad:
I don't happen to be a religious person. I'm an atheist. But that doesn't mean I can't feel the awe of this blue planet, of the universe we live in, of the vastness of it. I thought, "What a privilege. What a joy it is." I am literally traveling, I'm swimming, over the curvature of the Earth. It was a high, and I was in awe of being able to have that experience.

Diana Nyad:
It's easy to talk about this sport, and I think climbing is similar, with a lot of hardship. There's a lot of pain. There's a lot of weather issues. There's a lot of discomfort to your body. On the other hand, I loved your statement, as a blind man, to say... What did you say when you were on the summit, "That was the most beautiful site you ever saw"?

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah.

Diana Nyad:
That was good. That was good. That was different for me, and I think it was part of... It's hard to talk about joy when you're out there working so hard, you're under a lot of duress, but there is some. There's some awe and there's some joy. Part of it is what you just said. I'm this little speck on this little planet that's in this unspeakably vast universe.

Diana Nyad:
That, by the way, has been one of the lay subjects of interest to me since I've been a teenager. I'm always reading, not about the pure science, because I'm not a physicist. It goes without saying. But I've been reading on the philosophical, sociological end of the cosmos. What was the beginning of time? Was there a beginning of time? Do we exist unto infinity, both in time and space?

Diana Nyad:
When you're out there and those subjects come roiling through your brain day or night, it's a trip. It's a high to be out there experiencing it and thinking about it all like you would never think about it just sitting at a dinner table with people.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Do you even have awe for the jellyfish and the sharks?

Diana Nyad:
I do-

Erik Weihenmayer:
How far does that awe extend?

Diana Nyad:
Well, I think awe is just when you stand back and you see the power of Mother Nature. A lot of people get the wrong idea. People have sent me cards and all kinds of things with, "Boy, I hate those jellyfish. We're going to kill them all." I don't feel that way. They're gorgeous.

Diana Nyad:
The box jellyfish is a tiny little thing. It's the size of a sugar cube. It's a translucent blue. It's the only jellyfish with eyes. It has 12 eyes that look all around. It's the only jellyfish that swims. It actually knows how to draw in its tentacles and propel itself toward a target.

Diana Nyad:
When it hits protein, that's what it's seeking, a fish, a human being. When it hits protein, it takes it down. It paralyzes the central nervous system. It puts you into anaphylactic shock. Most people don't live, and most people don't live long. I'm lucky I lived through it. So of course I'm in awe of that animal. It's awesome. It really is.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. Oh my gosh.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Let's talk about transitions for a minute, because you were nearly an Olympic swimmer, right? You were real close to making the Olympics. That was swimming in a pool. Big difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in the ocean or around Manhattan. I think that strikes a chord for our community, transitions. They're really hard. Describe that transition for you, how and why, and how hard it was or how easy it was.

Diana Nyad:
Well, first of all, I need to correct you, because I was a decent sprint swimmer, swam in the U.S. Nationals and all that, but I was not Olympic material. I wasn't that close. I came close to making it to the Olympic trials, not the Olympics. I was-

Erik Weihenmayer:
That's right. I heard you keynote one time at this fitness association, and I think the expression you used was something... I'll probably butcher it. It was something like a fingernail difference between the winner and the second-place finisher.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. Actually, that was the lifelong mantra that my friend said that night, that last 100-meter backstroke I had as a kid. I had trained for eight years. Yes, I did, I had sugar-plum-fairy Olympic dreams in my head, but a lot of kids do. You can ask 11-year-olds how their tennis game is going, and they say, "Oh yeah, I'm going to be in Wimbledon for sure." The realism wasn't there for me. I was a good sprint swimmer, but not a great sprint swimmer.

Diana Nyad:
But my friend on the pool deck when I was trying... That was my last time to try to make it to the elite Olympic trials. Suzanne came to me and said, "You like you're in a fog. This is the most important race of your career." And I started in with all the sacrifices. I had gone through sexual abuse as a teenager by my coach. I just was confused and lost, and wanted to win so badly, et cetera.

Diana Nyad:
She said, "I'll tell you what, this is what you're going to do. You're going to march up to those blocks, you're going to blast off with the shoulders that you have built for eight years, with the drive that's made you do 1,000 sit-ups every night. None of the rest of us did that. You did that. You're going to get up to those blocks and blast off with everything that's in you. And when you touch the wall, close your eyes, close your fist, and say it, and mean it, 'I couldn't have done it a fingernail faster.'" She said, "I guarantee, you do it that way, you do anything in your life that way, you can just move on with no regrets, because what more can you give?"

Diana Nyad:
That's the way I did that race. I said to myself, kind of naively, as a teenager, that night when I didn't make it, I said, "You know what, today is your day to march on to the rest of your life, whatever that's going to become. The only thing I'm going to ask of you," talking to myself, "is that you do everything, you do every day of your life, so you can't do it a fingernail better. You'll never have any regrets." That really was what that story was about. It was about transitioning out of a dream into how to live a life.

Erik Weihenmayer:
I don't think I'm as evolved to that. I sometimes regret things, like, "I could have done that better. I could have trained harder. I could have slept less." I do that a lot to myself. You don't seem to do that. Is that really maybe the secret you're talking about in terms of not regretting, not being like, "I could have, I should have"? Is that what you're getting at?

Diana Nyad:
Well, yeah, I think so. I think there's value to "I could have or should have" if you're really just doing a baseline analysis of what... Let's say it could be something very successful. Here you make it to the summit of Everest, but maybe could you or your team even done things a little bit better? Maybe.

Diana Nyad:
It doesn't always come from failure, but certainly more so. When you haven't achieved something you want to achieve, I think it's not a bad idea to either make a literal list of positives and negatives, or in your head say, "I don't regret the way I went about it, but if I have a chance to do it again, I'm going to do it differently." I think that's where the analysis comes in, rather than the constant psychological beating oneself up, "I should have. I could have. I should have. I could have." That just get gets you wallowing instead of moving forward.

Erik Weihenmayer:
I like the way you separate that. That's great. Then back to that transition into open-water swimming, that's a huge thing. A lot of people just go, "Okay, I didn't make it. I had a swimming career, and now I'll move on and get a job." I know you did all that. But to have this awakening of a new dream, what was that like?

Diana Nyad:
Well, and I'm going to bring it up to modern times, because it's even more pertinent, what you're talking about, is going through a big life transition. Back then, the pedestrian way to put it is already a lot of short distance runners who hadn't made it to their Olympic dreams, there was the marathon there, and then eventually the ultra marathon. There was someplace where, if their speed wasn't good enough as a 400-meter runner, maybe they could bump that up, run a little bit slower, but use their talent as a runner to be a marathon runner. A lot of marathon runners used to be milers, et cetera.

Diana Nyad:
In swimming, you really have the same thing. I was swimming in a pool in New York City when I was going to graduate school there, and a friend who was in grad school with me stopped me and said, "Oh my God, you've got such a smooth, beautiful stroke, and I know you've got this fire. You can't go back to sprint swimming. You did your best at that, and that's over. But did you know it is a blue planet, and there are people who stand at the edge of rivers, lakes, and oceans every weekend, and a gun goes off and they all race to the other side?" He said, "You'd be great at that." I didn't know that I could bump up from the sprinter to the distance swimmer. I didn't know that was a possibility, and now we all know that. But I was going to say here-

Erik Weihenmayer:
Isn't that beautiful that somebody told you that? That's so great that person came into your life at that point. That's amazing.

Diana Nyad:
It was so great. It was such an awakening. That day, I finished my little pool workout, and I said to myself, "I'm going to start looking into this." I started researching.

Diana Nyad:
Well, here I am at the most famous... I was in graduate school in New York. I said, "I'm living on the most famous island in the world. I wonder if anybody ever swam around it." I started researching it and I thought, "Well, that's pretty cool. I'm going to do that." Then there's a whole circuit of marathon swimming.

Diana Nyad:
What I really wanted to say, Erik, is that when I finally made the Cuba swim, I knew that that was my retirement from open-water swimming. Like I said, we could take a globe and look at all these different European and Asian and South American and Canadian lakes and oceans and whatnot, but I did what was my Holy Grail, the Cuba swim. I don't want to just be a swimmer the rest of my life. I've got all other kinds of things I'm doing and I want to do, and I felt ultimately satisfied with that Cuba swim as the final reckoning to my open-water swimming career.

Diana Nyad:
But there are lots of people who finally write their novel or launch their million-dollar company, or whatever it is, and when they've reached their goal, there's an emptiness, like, "I'm not chasing anything big anymore." That transition has been more difficult. Even though, as I said before, I'm never going to be some great tennis player, I am engaged in being the best tennis player I can be. I'm writing my first children's book. I'm launching an archive of people who have been sexually abused to have a place to go, to have their voice listened to, their words respected finally. So I've got all these goals that-

Erik Weihenmayer:
You're writing a play. You wrote a play, a one-woman play, I believe.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, I did that off Broadway, and it had pretty nice reviews. I just did another one in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I'm bad at lots of things. I'm pretty good at telling stories on stage.

Diana Nyad:
There are lots of things I want to do. Not one of them is earth-shattering, dangerous, and nobody else in history has ever done it. I'm just not going to be in that space anymore, and I have to find excitement by the things that are not necessarily earth-shattering.

Erik Weihenmayer:
We'll save this for the end, but you founded this organization, EverWalk. That's really exciting, and I want to talk about that at the end, though.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Again, tell me to shut up or tell me you don't want to talk about this. That's fine, but it's in your book. Swimming 110.8 miles is amazing, but man, being sexually abused by your coach, that would just crush a human being, fill you with rage and anger. How the hell do you survive that? That seems more monumental than anything in the water.

Diana Nyad:
Well, it has been. In my life, it has been. I always try to keep perspective. I didn't lose my sight as a very young person the way you did. Let's go into, I'm not living in Ukraine at the moment. So it's easy to get perspective as to all the privilege and chances and great fortune I've had in my life. It's easy to get there.

Diana Nyad:
On the other hand, it is my life and I'm allowed to live it. I'm 72 now, a pretty good, fit, energetic, dynamic 72, if I did say so myself. But still, Erik, after decades and decades of happiness, of friends, of love in my life, I still have anger. I still have moments of very low self-esteem and abusing myself, which is part of, I've learned, part of the cycle of what goes through when you're abused as a kid.

Diana Nyad:
That guy, that coach who abused me for all those years of my high school years, and others, by the way, I wasn't the only one, he is in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. I hope when this movie comes out... You've alluded to the feature film that's getting done right now. I hope that that moment of my having a moment of respect and being out in the world again for just a moment is going to lead some feminists and men, like yourself, who respect women toward getting that guy out of the Hall of Fame. Has nothing to do with me being in the Hall of Fame. He shouldn't be there.

Diana Nyad:
The great Mark Spitz shouldn't have his picture and his dedication hanging next to this guy who was a molester when he was supposed to be protecting and leading kids and helping them get to the next stage of their lives with confidence. Instead, he humiliated. He was a perpetrator. He's dead now. I don't care. I want him out of the Hall of Fame.

Erik Weihenmayer:
It's crazy that he's there.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Do you think this idea of letting go, letting it go, and forgiveness, is that BS, or is there something true to that? How do you navigate?

Diana Nyad:
Not for me in this case. I think there are more minor things, somebody looks at me sideways, or I walk by a tennis court and these four great players are playing, but I wasn't invited. I can suffer a little bit of insecurity, and I can quickly say, "Let it go. You're working on your own game. Stop getting that in your head." If my book doesn't make it to number one on the New York Times Best Seller list, but it's been respected, it's been well-reviewed, it's sold pretty well, I can let that go.

Diana Nyad:
But this, I can't tell anybody else how to do it. A lot of people who have been abused say that the most important thing is for them to go find their abuser and forgive them. That was never my way. He would never even admit to it, no matter how many times the police came to him. He was kicked out of schools and he was kicked out of the University of Miami, but he was never prosecuted for the crime of sexual abuse. That isn't so easy for me to cavalierly say, "These things happen. Let it go." There's-

Erik Weihenmayer:
It violates my sense of justice.

Diana Nyad:
There's something in my being. It's not my head. There's something in my cellular being that evidently has not let it go.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah, it's in your nervous system. Yeah, for sure. You have to figure out how to reckon with that, I imagine.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. I get asked this a lot, so I'm going to turn it on you and say, is there a why? Why do you do these things? Why do you have such drive to swim the longest distance of any human on Earth? Is there a why, or is that just a circular question that really has no answer?

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, I think the latter, not the stupid part, but the circular, no-answer part.

Diana Nyad:
You're a parent, and I'm not. But I must say, most parents I know, they might say, "Hey, I want you to meet my son Ben. He's 38 years old." I'll say, "He's so easygoing. Just everything rolls off his shoulders. It's like nothing bothers him. Why is he like that?" The mother will say to me, "I don't know, but I'll tell you something, if you met Ben when he was two years old, that was his personality. But my daughter, if you met my daughter today, and she's 40, she was just a rabble-rouser. She was, 'Get out of my way. I'm going to march across my crib faster than anyone has ever marched across.'"

Diana Nyad:
I do think that we genetically have personalities. I don't think there was... I've tried to analyze it. I don't think something happened to me or I read something or met someone who, when I was early, I said, "That's how I'm going to be. I'm going to be driven." I don't think you can choose it.

Diana Nyad:
People say to me all the time, "My son, it really bothers me. He's a good triathlete, but he won't train for the swimming. He doesn't like to get up early in the morning. It's not his thing, and so he's always failing at the swimming, even though he's pretty good at the bike and the run."

Diana Nyad:
I said, "Are you speaking for him, or is this your goal? Because if he doesn't like swimming, he doesn't like training for swimming, then why should you push him into it? He's not driven toward it. He's not driven toward being the best triathlete he can be, and you're not going to instill that in him."

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. Then the parent owns it. My son, Arjun, great kid. We used to try to give him feedback and motivation. It just backfired. Eventually, he just told me, "Dad, I do sports for the connection. I like hanging out with my friends." I'm like, "Okay." God, why didn't I know that?

Diana Nyad:
What a concept.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah, what a concept. Right. He didn't care. He liked winning, made him smile, but the real thing was, for him, hanging out with his friends and being connected. That's beautiful in itself.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Now tell us about EverWalk, this amazing movement that you're building that, at one point in the near future, I'm going to come out and participate-

Diana Nyad:
Right on.

Erik Weihenmayer:
... because I love walking.

Diana Nyad:
Well, you're always welcome, by the way. We were in Telluride, not too far from you, a couple of summers ago, but-

Erik Weihenmayer:
I saw that. Yeah.

Diana Nyad:
That was fun-

Erik Weihenmayer:
I'm on your newsletter. The top of my inbox is a new one, that you guys received some kind of award or something.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. Anyway, first of all, COVID really started the walking mechanism in this country. It's the only thing people could do. At least in my neighborhood right here, I think of myself as a pretty friendly person. I wave hello, and I kind of know my neighbors, but nothing like during those first two years of COVID. Everybody was out walking their dogs, walking their kids, just walking, and they've kept doing it. In my neighborhood, I've gotten to know literally a couple hundred people I never saw before, but were all out walking.

Diana Nyad:
Walking was never my passion. I've mentioned Bonnie Stoll before as my life-adventurer partner. We were both a little more badass than that, but I have really enjoyed...

Diana Nyad:
To go back, EverWalk is a national walking initiative. We're audacious in our goal, which is let's turn America from a driving culture, a sedentary culture, into a walking culture. There are people here, Erik, in Los Angeles who drive a quarter of a mile to get their newspaper. They drive there.

Diana Nyad:
Our whole point is not so much even Bonnie and I loving walking, and walking millions of miles, and walking across country, or anything like that. Our goal is to get millions of Americans into the daily habit of walking. We want people to say, "I brush my teeth every morning, and every morning I walk three miles. That's what I do. That's part of my life. It sets me up. I see the great outdoors. I come home dreaming of what I want to do with this day and with my life. I walk the curvature of the Earth if you count all my miles together."

Diana Nyad:
That's our goal with EverWalk, is to virtually, with us online, and in real, when we do live events, just getting people in love with walking. Until the advent of the car, the Homo sapien was the superlative walking athlete of all animals, except maybe the camel. We walked out of Africa. We walked to Asia. We used to walk everywhere. You never thought of something... In 1860, you'd walk 40 miles to eat lunch with your brother and walk 40 miles back that day. We're out of that because of the car, but Bonnie and I want to get people back into it with EverWalk.

Erik Weihenmayer:
You have events, too, where you do group walks and invite people to join the community, and you're in beautiful places like Telluride. I thought there was one where you walked along the ocean somewhere. Tell-

Diana Nyad:
Lots of them. Lots of them-

Erik Weihenmayer:
... some of the highlights, some of the really beautiful places that you've been walking.

Diana Nyad:
My favorite by far was Boston up to Port Elizabeth, Maine. We don't go that far. It's 140 miles. Lots of people walk farther than that. We walk 20 miles a day-

Erik Weihenmayer:
Pretty far.

Diana Nyad:
People feel satisfied. They feel they've done something. They've never done something that tough before, and they look back... When you stand way up on the New Hampshire coast and you look back toward Boston, you see the skyline of Boston and you feel like, "Dang, I did that with my own two legs and my own spirit."

Diana Nyad:
We walk from Philly to D.C.; from White Rock, Canada, down to Seattle; from LA to San Diego. We just got back from a great walk every day in New Mexico, the high desert in New Mexico. In the afternoon, we were doing plein air painting out on Georgia O'Keeffe's property at night. We were all under the stars with an astronomy professor who taught us about the celestial navigation of the Native Americans. We try to make it a great experience, not just walking, but walking is the core of it all.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah. Physical but also cultural and community. Yeah, that's beautiful.

Diana Nyad:
That's it.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Diana, if people want to learn more about EverWalk, more about your book, Find a Way, or your upcoming film, or just get involved in your work, we'll have this in the notes, but what do you suggest people do?

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, it's just easy, like everybody else. It's everwalk.com. Then we have an app, EverWalk, which a pretty cool app. It's free. We've got a book club and a nature club and just all kinds of things going on in that app, a pretty vibrant community, everybody taking pictures when they're on their walk and sending them in, et cetera.

Diana Nyad:
Then me personally, I'm at diananyad.com, which has my book. Whatever other boring things you want to read about me, you can find there.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Okay, so I don't even know if this will get in the podcast, but you have Conrad Anker, who's this famous climber; you're Diana Nyad, and you're a swimmer. How did that work out? Is that coincidence?

Diana Nyad:
Well, it's unreal. You know what, I never knew how I could get this lucky. First of all, the venerable Annette Bening is playing me in this upcoming future film.

Erik Weihenmayer:
I saw that. That's so awesome.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. The talented Jodie Foster is playing Bonnie. All of that is beyond belief. Hopefully, it's going to be a great film. You probably are a friend of Jimmy Chin's, the climber.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Yeah.

Diana Nyad:
Jimmy and his wife, Elizabeth Chai, they are directing this film. They've got a total understanding of why a spirit would want to do this-

Erik Weihenmayer:
Outstanding filmmakers.

Diana Nyad:
Yeah, they're outstanding-

Erik Weihenmayer:
I haven't seen the thing about the kids who are trapped in the cave in Thailand, but I hear it's tremendous. I'm going to go check that out.

Diana Nyad:
I thought that was better than Free Solo, because of the characters involved.

Diana Nyad:
What I was going to say is they're calling this film Nyad. I don't know, how could I get more lucky than that?

Diana Nyad:
What I really love, Erik, I try to be polite. I'm sure you're polite, too, to a fan who wants to come and chat with you or get a picture with you. I always am. But I must say, it makes me laugh, before it rankles me, that I might finish a speech and somebody will come up to me and say, "Do you have any idea what the word nyad means in Greek?"

Erik Weihenmayer:
No, I've never heard of that.

Diana Nyad:
I try to be polite, yeah, say, "You know, I am 72. I've been living with this name a long time."

Diana Nyad:
But to tell you the absolute biological truth, I was born Diana Winslow Sneed. My mother got rid of Sneed very quickly. I guess he was a no-good kind of guy, and she had my name changed legally. I grew up with this Greek father, Aristotle Zenith Nyad. I always thought my name was Nyad. I was Greek as far as I'm concerned, just like my sister and brother.

Diana Nyad:
When I was 48 and Nyad died, my mother told me that he was not actually my birth father. At that point, I had been inducted into the Hellenic Hall of Fame, and I had to call them to tell them I don't have a drop of Greek blood. They said they were having trouble finding Greeks, anyway, to induct, and I grew up thinking that that was my heritage and thinking that that was my Greek father, so they let me stay in the Hellenic Hall of Fame.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Well, that's fortuitous, and maybe one of those weird mysteries of life where things come together. Well, Diana-

Diana Nyad:
Yeah. What is it called? It's called an eponym, like if Dr. Brain becomes the brain surgeon. I become the swimmer as a Nyad. Yeah.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Diana, it's so wonderful to connect with you. Your life is just a testament to No Barriers, and I love this connection. I tell some guests that this podcast is as valuable for me personally as it is for our community. Wonderful to reconnect with you, and I'll see you walking at some point with EverWalk.

Diana Nyad:
The same, Erik. You're such an inspiration. You probably have no idea how many millions of people you've moved. It's so easy, it's a cliche, to say, "Well, a blind man climbed Mount Everest. A blind man leads this, No Barriers," but the truth is it wouldn't matter if you were of sight. You are that human being who inspires, who strives, who's humble. I think your blindness is the least part of your success.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Awesome. Well, I can't wait to "see" you in person, give you a hug, and lots of adventures to come.

Diana Nyad:
Thank you.

Erik Weihenmayer:
Thanks, everyone. No barriers to everyone.

Dietrich Jonk:
The production team behind this podcast includes producer Dietrich Jonk, that's me; sound design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman; marketing and graphic support from Stone Ward; and web support by Jamlo. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, Guidance.

Dietrich Jonk:
Thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review.

Dietrich Jonk:
Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com. That's nobarrierspodcast.com. There's also a link to shoot me an email with any suggestions for this show, or any ideas you've got at all. Thanks so much, and have a great day. (singing)



No Barriers

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