LPL Financial's FOCUS15 Annual Conference began to fill the Boston Convention Center early Sunday morning on July 26. Focus on Women was one of the preconference workshops that closed with powerhouse, record-setting endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. Throughout her electrifying rendition of overcoming odds and adversity, comparisons between the swimming legend, Janis Joplin, The Seven Dwarfs and financial planning were masterfully woven together.

Inspirational speakers are usually a dime a dozen for financial planners, and few resonate like Nyad. At 64-years-young and on her fifth attempt, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim nonstop from Havana to Key West, Fla., (60 hours and 103 miles) without a shark cage. She completed the swim on September 2, 2013. "Because I'd like to prove to other 60-year-olds that it's never too late to start your dreams," she said of what inspired the undertaking. Nyad says that age 30 is accepted as normal "athlete retirement".

She was also inspired by her Greek-Egyptian father. "I have been to the ocean, and it is a Rembrandt painting. We have to go meet it .. .I am telling you school is overrated, and sleep is more overrated," she remembered him lecturing. Nyad's father even read from the dictionary and told her that Nyad meant "girl or woman champion swimmer."

"I thirsted for the commitment of it all," Nyad told the all-female audience. She did 1,000 elbow-to-knee sit ups every night as a girl, never 999. Her parents began to make fun of her, as she imitated them questioning her fanaticism with their "buzzing Zs and rolling Rs." Nyad's mother was French. Her dad "called (Nyad's) muscles big 'like football player' and (her) hair green ... Your mother and I, we are afraid of you!"

Diana answered, "You know what, dad? I am a fanatic. And, that's how people get ahead in life, by being a fanatic." Diana went on to tell the female financial advisors that she is always curious about where we garner our philosophies of life. For her, that wisdom came from when she was a teen. Back then, Nyad realized, "dreams don't get made with the big-picture perspective. It's the tiny moments ... it's that far away star. Maybe you never touch it, but it inspires you."

Nyad calls Billie Jean King "the first Zen athlete" and says that King did not play the tennis ball but played "the fuzz on the tennis ball." When her fellow athlete King steps onto the court, "she is like a cheetah on a hunt." The "cheetah" won Wimbledon 20 times, she says. And so Nyad learned to believe from her teenage friend and Billie Jean King that "I couldn't have done it a fingernail faster. If you say it and you mean it, then you will have no regrets." "No regrets!" became a motto for Nyad every time she did her absolute best and did not yet reach her goal.

"The tragedy of sports is that you have to retire early," thought Nyad, before deciding that what some took as tragedy would be triumph for her. "What if you never find that passion again in anything else?" she wondered. "Do you take the character and qualities and carry them over to other areas of your life?" 

Nyad described living through her aborted attempt at a marathon swim in 2011, living through numerous potentially fatal box jellyfish stings. She described her friend climbing Mount Everest "the pure way without bottled oxygen." Nearing the top, he would have to stop near the peak and take 25 deep breaths every time he wanted to walk a single step.

How did Nyad swim 103 nautical miles across the earth and survive? "I had a playlist of 85 songs. They're not on headphones. They are just in my head," the blonde, tanned, spritely powerhouse relayed as she almost floated back and forth across the stage recalling her life. "If I sang the Janis Joplin version of Me and Bobby McGee 1,000 times ... nine hours and 45 minutes (of swimming) is precisely what I am at."

At age 60--before her fifth and successful attempt across the ocean--she was "beginning to feel the malaise of a spectator." She said, "I wasn't a doer anymore." She worked as a TV commentator.

Prior to Nyad's world record on September 2, 2013, people told her, "We can't watch you fail over and over again." She said that during her attempts at the marathon endurance swimming record, she was told, "nutrition was not going into my bloodstream. I was digesting in a supine position and experiencing overwhelming glycogen deprivation." Her partner, Bonnie Stoll, would man the boat and feed her pasta by the handful, as if she were a dolphin at Sea World.

After Nyad's failed third and fourth attempts, she told Bonnie, "It's not even about making it anymore; it's about not giving up." Diana told the women advisors, "The most crucial element in any endeavor is the human spirit. You can't measure it and you can't deny it."

Nyad would lose a lot of body weight and would hallucinate. "I thought I saw the yellow brick road. It wasn't Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, it was the seven dwarfs, along with their little backpacks." Bonnie, in the boat, told her to follow the Seven Dwarfs on the yellow brick road. The hallucination makes slightly more sense after reading that the boat would use a line of LED lights at night so that she would not veer off course. "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go," Diana sang along with them. "And then, I lost them. The seven dwarfs were too fast!" she said.

The lights of Key West glimmered in the distance. Nyad knew that meant she had 15 hours left to swim. Describing the lights of Key West, Nyad said, "that was the star I had been following for 35 years!"

"Living large is the way to live life. It leaves you with no regrets," Nyad said. She says she has been living life "out loud" these past two years. She is the first American to win the Cuban Medal of Honor, and the U.S. national anthem played in Cuba when she succeeded in her swim for the first time in 30 years.

Nyad wants all of us advisors to answer the question, "What are you doing with this one wild and special life of yours?" She decided at age 60 that "I refuse to let this one wild and special life drift by."

"Be bold, and go get it!" Nyad exclaimed in closing. Her energy is undeniable--from her standing ovation upon her taking the stage to the thunderous applause and standing ovation upon her finishing her story. I do not think I have ever clapped harder--so hard that I knocked the stone off my ring. 

Countless gentlemen came up to me at FOCUS15 and expressed how disappointed they were that Nyad was only a speaker for the women. So, here is hoping this play-by-play rendition of Nyad's story inspires all the men in our financial services industry, too. Just imagine a thin, tanned, blonde, spritely powerhouse woman owning the stage and her story.

Lisa A. Ditkowsky, CFP, is the president of Pllush Capital Management Inc. and can be reached at (847) 859-2530.