Do you know who Diana Nyad is? I’ll get back to her in a minute.
Five times in my life I have been either unemployed or attempting to make a living with part time work. Those time periods began with my being fired from a job or from a change in company strategy that left me unqualified for their new direction or from my intentional choice to make a career adjustment.
Each period of unemployment began with a flurry of activity. I updated my resume, reached out to everyone I knew to ask if they knew of any jobs. In two cases I attempted to start a business. My goal was always to get another full time job but I did those other things along the way to generate some amount of income. One time I was out of steady work for a month, another time six months; one time I made a living from only part time jobs for more than a year (four separate part time jobs).
Each period of unemployment nearly ended with my giving up on my career. And myself. I was in my 20s and 30s through most of those ‘adventures’ and just into my 40s for the one with all the part time jobs.
Sadly, I cannot identify any role models I might have had to emulate as I struggled through those tough times. The parents of boomers typically worked just a couple of jobs through their whole lives, then retired with pensions and Social Security. Finding a new job wasn’t that much of a challenge and many of them retired in their mid-50s. Boomers, on the other hand, typically work many jobs over our lives and if we’re out of work in our 50s we struggle to find a suitable new job.
I honestly do not know how I worked my way through those situations, although determination, luck and fear probably played a role. I thought about giving up many times. Being unemployed or underemployed at any age is frustrating and challenges our self-confidence and self-esteem. So what do you do if you keep getting turned down for jobs you thought you would qualify for?
You don’t give up. You do continue to believe in your dream. If you stumble, you get up and try again. Easy words to type, hard advice to follow. I know.
In the absence of career role models, we can all look to Diana Nyad as a role model for never giving up on a dream.
Nyad is the woman who swam from Cuba to Florida last week. Cuba to Florida! More than 50 hours in the water and sun, stroke after stroke after stroke over a distance of 110 miles. She wore a custom mask to keep jellyfish from stinging her face, making it difficult to eat and drink. Hell, being in the water non-stop for more than two days without directly contacting any hard surface, like a boat, makes it hard to eat. Did I mention she is 64 years old?
Diana Nyad had a dream to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage and had attempted this feat five times since her first try in 1978. She was only 29 then. She failed each time. She never gave up. Never gave up. Never gave up.
As she began the last two miles of her swim she told her team, "This is a lifelong dream of mine and I'm very very glad to be with you."
Her comment to one of the many spectators on the beach as she completed this incredible feat … “Never give up.”
Next time I think I can’t get some task done at work because it’s too hard, I’ll think of Diana Nyad. Next time I’m out of work doubting that I’ll ever find another job I will think of Diana Nyad. Next time I consider giving up on some dream I will remember Diana Nyad. I think she was crazy for trying to swim from Cuba to Florida but that was her dream, not mine. I won’t judge her dream. She never gave up. And the most difficult challenges I have ever had in my life or am ever likely to have in the future are not nearly as challenging as swimming from Cuba to Florida.
The point? Never give up.