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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

F50 Issue #11: Chase Your Dreams Like Diana Nyad

Published 7 months ago • 5 min read

F50 Issue #11: December 5, 2023


Chasing Your Dreams: Key Lessons from the Movie, Nyad

The moon shines down on a solitary swimmer. On one side, a faithful kayaker keeps a red spotlight focused on her. On the other side, the tired crew of a small boat keep watch, making sure she stays safe in shark-infested waters.

This is a scene from the movie Nyad, based on Diana Nyad’s autobiography titled Find a Way: The Inspiring Story of One Woman's Pursuit of a Lifelong Dream. At the age of 60, Nyad began reviving a dream she had given up at the age of 28 — an attempt to swim more than 100 miles from Cuba to Florida. Her goal was to cross the open ocean without a shark cage.

As parents of competitive swimmers, this movie was a must-see for our family movie night. We recognized the focus and tenacity exhibited in our own girls’ competitive efforts and were interested in seeing how these qualities can shine as brightly in people over 50.

An Inspiring Performance

Although Nyad’s 2013 swim has never been formally ratified, her training and accomplishments inspire us to remember that age should never be a barrier. And just as inspiring is Annette Bening’s performance as Nyad.

At the time of this newsletter publication, Bening is 65 years old. According to a Hollywood Reporter article, she sometimes swam for eight hours a day while making the movie and rarely used stunt doubles.

Nyad herself remarked, “We professional swimmers watched her in the footage and said, ‘You can’t tell that that isn’t a professional swimmer.’ You did it, girlfriend.”

Bening never let age or lack of experience hold her back. Instead, she dedicated herself to training in the pool and the gym. The results you see in the film are extraordinary.

So, what does that mean for you and for others deciding whether to freelance after 50?

At the beginning of the movie, Bening (as Nyad) quotes lines from a poem by Mary Oliver:

“What else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

These lines are your inspiration too. You are still living your one wild and precious life, and it’s not too late to do more with it.

Let’s think about three things Bening (as Nyad) says near the end of the movie.

Three Key Lessons from the Movie, Nyad

#1. "Never, ever give up."

Although Nyad took a 30-year hiatus from competitive swimming, she never gave up on her dream. It captured her imagination again.

Her crossing eventually took five attempts, the first one in 1978 and the last four between 2011 and 2013. The first four times, asthma attacks, jellyfish stings, and bad weather forced her to abandon her dream. But only temporarily.

And each time she encountered adversity, she was eager to get back in the water. We see her determination in the movie and her unwillingness to take no for an answer.

Similarly, during the global pandemic, the competitive swimmers in our family (two of our daughters) never gave up when the pools were closed. They trained on dry land, in lakes, and met virtually with their coaches.

Sometimes never giving up means getting creative and doing everything you can to keep your dreams in focus.

#2. “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”

Speaking of dreams, some would say that Nyad was too old to chase her dream. After all, her previous attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida ended when she was 28. How could she possibly accomplish this feat at the age of 60?

But her character in the movie says, “Yeah, I don’t believe in imposed limitations. I don’t believe in any limitations. And that’s the reason to do it, not the other way around.”

Can you relate to this feeling? Or do you find yourself doubting your ability to chase your dreams? They might look different from Nyad’s, but feel as distant as the Florida shoreline.

  • Maybe you want to continue a career you’re enjoying, even though people keep asking you if you’re going to retire.
  • Maybe you want to start a new freelance business but worry it’s impossible at your age.
  • Maybe you want to learn a new skill or technology but worry it’s just for young folks.

Don’t believe these imposed limitations. Don’t believe in any limitations. Grab hold of your dreams and take the plunge!

#3. “It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

At FreeU, we often say, “Never freelance alone.” When you become a freelancer, you need to surround yourself with people who support you — most importantly, a business champion.

As we mentioned in a previous newsletter, your business champion is your greatest support and a constant source of encouragement. They know you well enough to keep you focused on the path that will lead you to your dream.

As Nyad explains on her website,

“My Head Handler through all the grueling years of training, Bonnie Stoll, who had been in my sightline every stroke as I breathed to the left for the 52 hrs, 54 mins, of the swim was in a virtual dance with me, through the throng of fans who had come to witness the moment in history. Bonnie inched her way backwards, with me dazed and off balance, following her to dry land, as the rules of the sport state.”

Nyad’s team also included a box jellyfish expert, a navigator, and a 40-person crew. She may have looked like a solitary swimmer, but she was never alone.

Likewise, when you become a freelancer, you may look like a solitary person working from home, but you won’t be alone either. You can have the support of close family and friends, a coach or mentor, and a supportive online or offline community of peers.

And as you begin to reach the distant shore of your dreams, they’ll all be there to cheer you on!


Did You Know?

Exercise provides life-changing benefits and a better quality of life after 60.

Indeed, a Hollywood Reporter article shares this quote from Annette Bening:

“It has changed my life,” Bening said of swimming for the film. “I actually came to the conclusion recently that I’m a better swimmer now than even when I made the movie because I just kept swimming. I love it so much.”

An article titled “The Life-Changing Benefits of Exercise After 60,” explains,

“Regular activity can positively impact our physical health as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing. It can help give us more energy and greater self-confidence, enabling us to embrace our later years with gusto.”

It also shares advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommending regular, moderate physical activity for all older adults, even those with medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis.

If you’re looking for exercises that are ideal for adults over 50, consider these suggestions from the article:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day (swimming, walking, or stationary bike)
  • Low-impact bodyweight training exercises 2-3 times weekly (stair climbing, wall pushups, single-leg stands, and squats).

And don’t forget to look for community exercise programs that will further enhance your feelings of motivation and social connection.

Note: Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your doctor to make sure you’re choosing the best option for you.


Words to Live By

We mentioned this first quote already, but it’s worth repeating:

“Yeah, I don’t believe in imposed limitations. I don’t believe in any limitations. And that’s the reason to do it, not the other way around.”

— Annette Bening (as Diana Nyad)

“Right now, I love the fact that I have so many opportunities, but I know this privileged position cannot last. That doesn't mean that I'll stop working. I picture myself as an old actress doing cameos in films with people saying: 'Isn't that that Bening woman?'”

— Annette Bening (as herself)

Now, choose your ocean, don your metaphorical swimming gear, and start pursuing your freelance dreams! We’re always here to cheer you on!

Until next time,

Craig & Kelly

Co-founders of Freelance University

431B 41st Avenue NE - Unit 94, Calgary, AB T2E 2N4
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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

Craig & Kelly Cannings, Co-founders of Freelance University

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