Hard Fought Success

Athena's Executive Director, Cheryl Goodman, recently emceed Qualcomm Venture’s 11th Annual CEO Summit. The event showcased the great minds, groundbreaking innovations and insights of Qualcomm’s 140+ portfolio companies. We were particularly impressed by keynote speakers astronaut Captain Scott Kelly, who just returned from spending a year in space, and Diana Nyad, who became the only person to swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64 years old.  

Diane Nyad and Captain Scott Kelly speak at Qualcomm Ventures CEO Forum

Whether you are an entrepreneur working to launch a new company, a scientist breaking new ground or a professional striving to achieve new levels of success, you will be inspired by their messages about pushing boundaries to achieve personal and professional success.

Out of This World Success Is Achievable

Captain Scott Kelly inspires CEO's at Qualcomm Ventures SummitCaptain Scott Kelly, who spent 340 consecutive days traveling 143 million miles aboard the International Space Station discussed his space travel experiences and shared lessons in leadership and teamwork. Personal stories revealed his remarkable perseverance, ability to push beyond limits, and the commitment to discovery that led to securing his place in history. 

Kelly was very clear on why he spent almost a year in space. It was to discover something, to be a part of the teamwork that will be required to eventually get astronauts to Mars. "I did it to push the boundaries, to see how space acts on the body and mind," he said, noting that it took thousands of people working together to keep him in space and it will take thousands more to eventually get astronauts to Mars. "This wasn't my mission; it was our country's mission and our country's achievement," Kelly said. "None of us can succeed without the help of others." 

Kelly marveled at the view from space, describing what it was like to see his first sunrise from the space station, but his focus was on the joy of taking on what was really difficult, challenging himself and of pushing himself and doing his best. 

He went on to explain that he also barely made it to flight school and wasn't a good pilot in the beginning, noting that his twin brother always says that “it's not how good you are at the start that counts, but how good at it you become.”  Scott Kelly adds, "You can start out a bad pilot and end up flying rocket ships to outer space." 

Kelly’s year in space laid the groundwork for the future of space travel. The work of Scott and his identical twin brother and fellow astronaut, Captain Mark Kelly, is enabling NASA to learn and understand more about how space affects the human body.  Read more about Kelly’s amazing journey in his book, Endurance: My Year in Space and Our Journey to Mars, scheduled for publication in November 2017.

Braving Rough Waters Pays Off

Swimmer Diane Nyad keynote address Qualcomm Ventures SummitAfter the death of her mother, Diana Nyad decided to attempt a record-breaking 110-mile swim — from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Fla.  But these weren't uncharted waters for her. Nyad had actually tried - and failed - this swim four times before.

In 2013, at age 64, Diana finally achieved her lifetime goal, making her an inspiration to people from around the world. “You never give up; you find a way to whatever your other shore is,” she says.

During the long swim - nearly 53 hours - the nights were the most treacherous.  By the second nightfall, Nyad had been in the water for 40 hours. Stung by jellyfish, tongue swelling from the salt water, and suffering from hypothermia, she was becoming delirious.  "I was stopping and I was shivering. I forgot what we were doing."  Then, still hours away, she saw a glimmer of light on the Florida shoreline, and knew that there was no stopping her.

When she took those shaky steps onto the shoreline of cheering crowds, she had three messages she wanted to deliver.  "One is we should never, ever give up. Two is that you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team," she said.

Diana leaves us with this message; “ Isn’t life about determining your own finish line? This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore, no matter what it is, and that dream continues.”

Lessons Learned from These Inspiring Speakers

Determination & Perseverance - It is possible to dig deeper than you thought was possible to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and to get past hardships to achieve your goals. Don’t ever give up.

Embrace the Challenge - Find joy in taking on the difficult challenges that will force you to grow. The journey to success can take years of hard work. Put together a plan and celebrate the milestones.

Don’t Fear Failure – Both Kelly and Nyad failed many time before they reached their goals. They did not lose sight or interest in what mattered - even when they failed.

It Takes a Team – Your individual success will ultimately be built on the efforts of others. Assemble the right people then work together toward a common and clear goal.

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