I met Bruce and Jan Gordon 10 years or so ago golfing and boating here on Lake Coeur d’Alene. They are from the Denver area but found their way here through a mutual friend.
Last year Bruce told me about his vision for swimming the Kaiwi Channel (a.k.a. Molokai Channel), a 26-mile, open water swim in the Hawaiian Islands that has only been crossed 13 times. Ultimately he was considering the possibility of completing Oceans Seven: completing the seven most difficult open water ocean crossings—a feat no one to date has done.
Being a long distance swimmer is a vision Bruce has carried in his mind and heart since he was 12. Life got in the way, and 35 years went by before he cleared away enough of his other priorities to make room for his dream once again. I am honored that his reading of Mach II: The Art of Personal Vision and Self Motivation was inspirational in reviving that dream for him.
But the real story of Bruce Gordon is what is in his mind and heart. Having a big dream is one thing. Acting on it is quite another, and the big deal is acting on it every day. Bruce swims five days a week in an alternating sequence: one hour, then two hours, then one hour, then two hours, and then five hours for a total of 10 hours a week … every week (and this is the most important part) … NO MATTER WHAT.
My definition of commitment is “No Matter What.” Anyone can make a decision to do something. Anyone can get inspired for a day or a week and make a decision. We call those “decisions of convenience.” We make them when we feel like it, and when it is no longer convenient … we make another decision. A decision to do something else, to give up, to quit.
Nike missed the mark on their slogan “Just Do It.” They needed to add “Anyway” to it. JUST DO IT ANYWAY. That is what makes the difference between one who wins their dreams and one who sleeps on them.
When writing out his vision, Bruce wrote out his own story of swimming the Molokai Channel and, as part of his training, swimming the length of Lake Coeur d’Alene. He wrote it out, shared it with his family, and got their support. He studied his document and his vision, and he went about acting on it every day … no matter what.
Bruce and I have boated the length of Lake Coeur d’Alene many times. One of our favorite bars is One Shot Charlie’s down in Harrison. It takes an hour to drive from Coeur d’Alene to Harrison by car and can easily take that long by a slow boat. It is over 18.5 miles. Over 18.5 miles of wind chop and tall boat wakes. Over 18.5 miles of nothingness. Plus it is 300 feet deep, which I joke is definitely too deep to stand in. Swimming 18.5 miles seems, at least to me, like crawling 18.5 miles on my hands and knees. From the deck of my home to about 500 feet or so off the lake, the route looks so massive, so big, so forever … and I can only see about four miles of it.
Yet when the time came to swim Lake Coeur d’Alene last Friday at 8:20 a.m., Bruce jumped in and started swimming easy, long strokes. Every 20 minutes Bruce treaded water while we gave him food and water. He couldn’t touch the boat.
At the first pause, his mind was easy. He could swim for 20 minutes any time of any day effortlessly. And he did … about 40 times on Friday. Surely swimming for 20 minutes is easier than swimming 18.5 miles, which just shows how perspective changes the size of the task ahead.
I was with Bruce for all but the third and fourth hours. I marveled at his attitude and his physical conditioning. Each time he paused and treaded water, I asked him how he felt.
“I feel fine,” he said … even after 25 20-minute swims. Even at pause number 39, when it was pitch dark outside and he could barely see our boat: he still felt fine. But most importantly I asked Bruce each time what he was thinking, and you know what?
Each time he was thinking thoughts that would make it work for him. Every time he said he was thinking something during that 20-minute segment that would get him through it. Something that would have it all make sense.
He chose those thoughts. He could have decided it was all too hard or not worth the effort and pain. Instead of focusing on his positive thoughts, he could have focused on negative thoughts like these. Surely they crept in … how couldn’t they?
So how did he keep them at bay?
Simple: he had something on ready alert to push them out, something he made up, something he just decided, something he chose as more important to him, something to flood his mind and leave no room for Mr. Dubious Doubt … who was left drowning in Mr. Gordon’s wake.
And in the end, the 8:45 p.m. end in pitch darkness with just a handful of loyal fans waiting on the beach, Bruce Gordon felt sand in his hands. It was the first solid thing he had touched in over 12 hours.
Sand in his hands was his Ferrari in the garage. He stood up wobbling, which he said was “like a new-born fawn,” and he answered questions and signed autographs for a little girl who just happened to be walking by.
“He did what?” she said. She had just met Superman.
Thirty-five years and 18.5 miles of open water later, it was easy to see a 12-year-old boy’s dream manifested in 12 hours of vision, courage and heart. And this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for Molokai.