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  • Writer's pictureRussell Lookadoo

Find a way

Updated: Jul 26, 2018

In August 1978 the radio airwaves were filled with the Donna Summers’ “Last Dance”, the Rolling Stones “Miss You” and Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded”, and I was a local swimming pool lifeguard without a care and enjoying teen age life. At the pool, we had just completed a 24 hour water treading marathon to raise money for charity. What inspired such an act? Diana Nyad and her first attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. Fast forward 35 years, September 2, 2013 and Diana Nyad again is in the headlines. She did it.!

Can you imagine being in the ocean 52 hours, 54 minutes, 18.6 seconds, travelling 110.4 statute miles? Why did she do it? Her own answer, she turned 60. In a TED talk in October of 2012 she postulated that since her mother died at 82 she only had 22 years to make a difference. She asked herself at this milestone, “What have I become? What legacy am I leaving? Why have I given in to so much negative thought?” She decided instead to pursue an old, extreme dream: swim from Cuba to Florida.

In running a business many entrepreneurs start their business with an extreme dream. But after years of the battle, they get tired. Powering back up is a constant challenge. After this and other related videos, I want to share some lessons learned:

  • Hold to Standard of Excellence. In training Ms. Nyad set out to swim non-stop for 15 hours. She reached the shore at 14 hours, and 58 minutes. Her trainer started to lift her out of the water telling her about the time. She turned around, swam out one minute and one minute back to achieve her goal of 15 hours without compromise. What are your standards of excellence?

  • Accept the Uncontrollable. In the crossing to Key West she had to cross the Gulf Stream. This massive and powerful river in the middle of the sea flows east. She needed to swim north. Her route planning took into account the drift this obstacle would cause and built this into her plan. What plans do you have for the uncontrollable obstacles in your way?

  • Surround yourself with experts. The most poisonous animals in the ocean, box jelly fish, and the most perfect predators in the world, sharks live in the waters she swam. Her team included committed experts who contrived methods and solutions for combating these challenges. She knew having and listening to an expert team with strengths she did not have would make her successful. Do you have the right people around you? Do you listen to them?

  • Persevere. The politics of getting her team with 50 people and 5 boats, into Cuba with all the diplomatic hurdles took months of effort. Her team and network continued to apply, and despite rejection after rejection, procured the regulatory approvals she needed. Do you have the team and processes you need for the long haul?

  • Resolve to achieve a clear goal. This crossing was her fifth attempt. She faced the defeats and setbacks encountered over time and decided not to give into failure and regrets to give up gracefully. Instead she set out to find a way. Ms Nyad asserted, “I can swim from Cuba to Florida and I will swim from Cuba to Florida. “ Do you have a clear, measureable extreme goal?

At the end of her speech Ms. Nyad quoted the poet Mary Oliver. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Tired? What was the extreme dream you held passionately when you opened your doors that first day? What was your vision? You know you had one. Find it, revive it, and don’t give up. Find a way. What will you do with your wild and precious life?

Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at

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