If You Want to be Great

I am always on  the lookout for new movies to watch. Gifted with a racing mind, I find it can be challenging to wind down before bedtime. Watching TV in some form - episodic shows, movies, documentaries - can be really helpful. Thoughts quiet and I slowly begin to relax. To put it in a funnier way it quiets the monkeys. 

I hadn't heard a lot about the movie NYAD, but what little I heard intrigued me. Thumbs up  for featuring two mature female leads, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster. They brought serious acting skills to the table. It was also based on a true story which is something I enjoy, and focused on a mature, long-retired athlete. It is an incredible story.  

I didn't have the early success like swimmer Diana Nyad.  I was brought up to believe I was broken, and floundered until almost 50 to find self acceptance and purpose. The struggle was real. I could relate to her looking in the mirror at age 60 and being haunted by things not accomplished, dreams that still called, and the need to push herself out of her comfort zone again.

I could also understand her passion. In the movie Nyad drove herself and her team relentlessly without pause or kindness. At one point they all walked away.  Fortunately it allowed her time to gain greater understanding and begin with a fresh, more balanced focus. Once I found what I was meant to do, I dove in the deep end without thinking. I pushed ahead without understanding fully what I was doing, or how to do it in a way that didn't drain me dry. There was a better way, but it took me years to realize that. I also had a period of pause where I had time to reconsider my actions.


I watched this movie in our loft with no cell phone or paper and pencil. Bad mistake, as all of a sudden a quote caught my attention and wouldn't let go.  It was fairly early in the movie. I almost paused the TV and ran down two flights of stairs to get my phone, but instead decided let it go for the moment and return another day to search for it. It's a gem and that has stayed with me since. 

If you want to be great, it is you, your will, your mind, that will take you there. - Annette Bening in NYAD

Over the next month I thought back over my time from the age of 50 onward. I began my journey as a writer after answering a Craigslist ad for which I had no credentials or experience.  That led me to becoming a co-owner/editor of a local fashion magazine and writing for another in NYC. Again, I had no experience or credentials. What a wild ride of highs and lows as I learned in the public eye by doing, sometimes doing badly, and connected with people from around the globe. From there I went on to publish two books

There was always a community around me supporting my passion. Always. I would not be where I am today without them. They had my back in good times and bad. That said, in the end, I was always on my own when it came to doing the work. No one could force me to show up every day. No could make me keep going at the computer during dark patches, and no one could take the blame for me when I faced setbacks. It was my journey. I could share about going through highs and lows and receive support, but they couldn't do it for me. 

Nyad started hitting the pool to train before she told anyone about her dream to finish a swim she failed as a young adult.  Every day she showed up at the pool, fully in charge of how long she swam. There was no one to run her training. No one to swim beside her, or share a coffee with her after. It was just her alone in the pool day after day. That changed when she publicly committed to her goal, but she still was the one in the water for hours - swimming lap after lap until aching and exhausted. 

It took several tries it took to finally succeed.  She had support in the boat, but she was the one in the unforgiving ocean doing the work, even while hallucinating from lack of sleep.  Someone could jump in. swim beside her and talk to her, but no one could help her swim. Lack of sleep and constant exercise brought on an exhaustion most of us can't imagine facing.  In her darkest moment, that support was crucial in keeping her going. We all need that support. But never forget  - no one can do our work for us.  

There is one other thing about this quote that made me think. It is the reference to being great.  In our current world that usually means success by social standards - sport awards, tons of money, luxury possessions, being famous, and enjoying entitlement. To seek greatness in our own lives means letting go of that often unattainable definition. It won't bring the feel of satisfaction promised. One quote I think sums up what I feel the term greatness means and how to achieve it is this -

The most practical step to greatness is to find your purpose, give all to it and in value to others. -Eizu Uwaoma


For me, greatness and success cannot be defined in dollars and cents, or in possessions, or in status. I find that feeling in achieving the goals I set for myself, in hearing someone say I helped them, in lifting myself and my community up, in following my passion and in living a authentic life in a way that has meaning for me. And living it without apology.  

Status, wealth, fame and more might come to you as your follow your passion, but never let those things distract you from reaching your dreams. It is in your dreams you find a greatness that warms your soul.