I would like to dedicate this post to Wallingford Elementary School. They invited me to speak this past Friday, October 3rd and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The school theme for this year is Perseverance and I was asked to come and speak about my English Channel Swim as a part of that. I pondered the topic for a while. I mean… how can I help a school full of children to learn to persevere? I was delighted to come up with the following four elements of perseverance and it seemed like a revelation well worth sharing. This is basically the presentation I gave to WES, modified slightly, and without some of the swim details and facts or video presentation I made for them.
On September 1st, 2014 at about 4:40 in the morning, my hand turned around in its normal swimming stroke and struck something. Sand. It was the sand of a French beach! I was so excited, I jumped to my feet. I had been swimming non-stop since 11 am the morning before when I left Shakespeare Beach in England. I hadn’t ever left the water since starting. I hadn’t had much to eat. I hadn’t spoken to very many people. It had been dark in the sky and black in the water for hours upon hours after the sunset. I had been fighting the cold, cold sea and navigating her very strong tides with my boat and crew beside me… just swimming… turning my arms around and around and around… I had been very, very sick for most of the night.
But when my hand touched the sand, I knew I made it. I knew that all my hard work was worth it. I had persevered and it got me to the other side.
I’m sure you all know what Perseverance is by now. The dictionary defines it as:
- steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
It’s kind of easy to define perseverance, but how do you get it? Where does it come from? I was thinking about it and I came up with four ways that I found perseverance within myself. It came gradually. It took years of making myself strong. Not just physically strong – I developed strength of heart, strength of mind, strength of body, and strength of spirit.