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← What open water swimming taught me about resilience

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Showing Revision 7 created 11/04/2019 by Brian Greene.

  1. Shah Rukh Khan: Courage, determination,
    and a single-minded vision.
  2. These are the qualities
    the biggest achievers have in common.
  3. These are those brave hearts
    for whom failure is not an option.
  4. What looks to us an unconquerable sea,
  5. to our next speaker
    is an irresistible stage
  6. she was born to perform on.
  7. So let's dive straight
    into the story of our fearless speaker,
  8. Bhakti Sharma,
  9. who's making waves in the world
    of long-distance swimming.
  10. Bhakti Sharma.
  11. (Applause)

  12. Bhakti Sharma: Imagine,
    in the scorching Rajasthan heat,

  13. on a hot summer afternoon,
  14. a two-and-a-half-year-old
    riding on a moped behind her mom,
  15. not knowing where they were headed.
  16. And 20 minutes later,
  17. that two-and-a-half-year-old finds herself
  18. completely submerged in water.
  19. Before I knew it,
  20. I would be kicking, splashing, screaming,
  21. gulping down water,
  22. holding onto my mom for my dear life.
  23. That's how I learned how to swim.
  24. I started pool-swimming
    when I was two and a half,

  25. and open water swimming
    when I was 14 years old.
  26. And so I have given
    over 25 years of my life to this sport,
  27. during which I have swum
    in all five oceans of the world,
  28. crossed the English Channel --
  29. which is also known
    as the Mount Everest of swimming --
  30. and set a world record
    in the freezing Antarctic ocean.
  31. (Applause)

  32. When you spend so much time with a sport,

  33. it ceases to be just that
  34. and becomes a mirror.
  35. And that shows who you really are.
  36. You see that your mettle as an athlete
    is not only tested on race day
  37. but every single day,
  38. when the sport demands that you get up
    at 4:30 in the morning,
  39. swim for two hours,
  40. go to school, come back,
    swim for three hours,
  41. go home, eat and sleep.
  42. When you win a medal
    or set a world record,
  43. this mirror shows the happiness
    that you and your loved ones feel,
  44. but also reflects the tears that you shed
  45. all by yourself, alone in the water.
  46. Open water swimming
    is a very lonely sport.

  47. I have spent hours
  48. looking into the infinite,
    seemingly bottomless ocean underneath me,
  49. with nothing to keep me company
    but my own thoughts.
  50. And so, I have not only
    been tested as a swimmer
  51. but also as a thinking, feeling,
    imaginative human being.
  52. Be it my first test as a marathon swimmer,
  53. when I decided to swim for 12 hours
    non-stop in a swimming pool
  54. or crossing the English Channel
    in 13 hours and 55 minutes.
  55. When you're swimming, you don't talk,
  56. you don't hear very well,
  57. and your vision is restricted
    to what's right in front of you
  58. or underneath you.
  59. This isolation has been
    my sport's biggest gift to me.
  60. Through open water swimming,

  61. I have come to know myself in ways
    that I could have never expected to.
  62. I remember, at the age of 14,
  63. when I jumped into an ocean
    for the first time for a swim,
  64. and throughout this swim,
  65. the waves were picking me up
    and throwing me down,
  66. I saw the child in me,
    who enjoys such adventures.
  67. While crossing the English Channel,
  68. after already having swam for 10 hours,
  69. when I got stuck in one place
    for one and a half hour
  70. because of the currents,
  71. I saw the strong
    and dedicated athlete in me,
  72. who did not want to disappoint
    her parents or her country.
  73. In an open water marathon
    held in Switzerland,
  74. when I won my first
    gold medal for India --
  75. (Applause)

  76. I witnessed a proud Indian in me.

  77. While crossing the English Channel again,
  78. this time in a relay with my mother,
  79. not knowing that we were creating history,
  80. I saw the protective daughter in me,
  81. who just wanted to see her mom
    fulfill her own dreams.
  82. And four years ago,
  83. when I jumped into the Antarctic Ocean,
  84. wearing nothing but a swimsuit,
    cap and goggles,
  85. with an unwavering spirit of just doing,
  86. I saw a fighter in me.
  87. When I jumped into that
    zero-to-one-degree-Celsius water,

  88. I realized that I had prepared
    my body and mind for the cold,
  89. but what I wasn't prepared for
    was the density of the water.
  90. Every stroke felt
    like pulling through oil.
  91. And in the first five minutes,
  92. I had that paralyzing thought
    of just giving up.
  93. How nice it would be
    to just forget about all this,
  94. get on the boat,
  95. stand underneath the hot shower
  96. or wrap myself in a warm blanket?
  97. But with that thought,
  98. also came a stronger,
    a more willful voice from deep within.
  99. "You know you have it in you
    to just take one more stroke."
  100. So I lifted my arm and took a stroke.
  101. "Now one more."
  102. So I took a second and a third stroke.
  103. By the fourth one,
  104. I saw a penguin swimming
    underneath my stomach.
  105. It came up to my left
    and started swimming with me.
  106. "See? A penguin is cheering you on,"
  107. said that voice within.
  108. (Applause and cheers)

  109. I looked up to my people on the boat.

  110. They had the same smile on their faces
    that I had on mine.
  111. The same smile that we all have
  112. when we are stuck in a difficult situation
  113. and we see a ray of hope.
  114. We take it as a sign from destiny,
  115. and we just keep pushing forward.
  116. Just as I did,
  117. and 41 minutes later,
  118. set the world record
    for swimming the longest distance
  119. in the Antarctic Ocean.
  120. (Applause)

  121. Imagine, it doesn't even
    snow in Rajasthan.

  122. (Laughter)

  123. That voice, which has accompanied me
    through all my difficult situations

  124. throughout my swims,
  125. would have never shown itself
  126. if I had not spent so much time alone,
  127. had not paid attention
    to every single thought
  128. that crossed my mind.
  129. When you find yourself alone
    in an ocean, with your thoughts,
  130. the dangers that you face
    are not just external,
  131. like whales, sharks, jellyfish
  132. or even demotivating people.
  133. But the more dangerous demons you face

  134. are the fear and negativity inside you
  135. that tell you, "You're not good enough.
  136. You will never reach the other shore.
  137. You haven't trained enough.
  138. What if you fail? What will people think?
  139. I'm sure everybody is thinking
    right now how slow you are."
  140. We all have our own
    internal demons, don't we?
  141. In a day-to-day life,
    you can hide from them,
  142. behind your work
    or many other distractions.
  143. But like I said,
  144. in the middle of the ocean,
    there is nowhere to hide.
  145. I have to face my internal demons,
  146. just as much as I have to taste
    the salt in the sea,
  147. feel the chafing on my skin,
  148. and acknowledge the whales
    swimming beside me.
  149. I hate it, and I love it.
  150. I hate it because this sport
    shows me the side of myself

  151. that I don't want to believe exists.
  152. The side of me that is human
    and not perfect.
  153. Like the part of me
  154. that can't get out of bed in the morning
    and make it to practice.
  155. The side of me that gets
    so burned out, so tired,
  156. that just wants to quit swimming.
  157. But I also love it,
  158. because this sport has given me
    moments that I can look back on
  159. when I feel unmotivated.
  160. And they bring me to my knees,
  161. because I feel so grateful.
  162. Many of you may not
    spend hours swimming non-stop.

  163. But who do you spend
    the most amount of your time with?
  164. You may share your external space
    with many others,
  165. but there is one constant companion
    that you all have:
  166. you.
  167. And yet, most of us may never come
    to knowing who we really are.
  168. I'm a daughter, an Indian,
    a swimmer, a student.
  169. But I am so much more.
  170. If you are not investing in yourself,
  171. not setting a path
    that brings you closer to you,
  172. no amount of "success" in life
    can bring you lasting joy or satisfaction.
  173. Even today,

  174. when I can't find motivation
    or joy in what I'm doing,
  175. all I ask myself is,
  176. "Is this the best I can do right now?"
  177. And the meaning of my "best" changes.
  178. On some days, it means not giving up,
  179. continuing to swim in freezing water
    and setting a world record.
  180. But on many other days,
  181. it means getting over
    my depressing thoughts,
  182. stepping out of the house
  183. and being able to do the daily chores.
  184. What does not change is that voice within.
  185. That internal compass
  186. which guides me
    to a better self every day.
  187. And I believe
  188. that a truly successful life
    is the one which is spent in the pursuit
  189. of becoming the best possible
    version of yourself
  190. when you take that last breath.
  191. Thank you.

  192. (Applause)

  193. SRK: I think the only sport
    I can't do is swim --

  194. I sink like a rock.
  195. So standing next to
    the world's best swimmer
  196. makes me kind of feel --
  197. if you can excuse my pun --
  198. kind of at sea.
  199. But --
  200. BS: (Laughs) No pun intended, of course.

  201. SRK: But what is your next
    goal as a swimmer?

  202. BS: I have a major fear of competition,

  203. so what better goal to set
    than aiming for the Olympics?
  204. Because open water swimming
    is an Olympic sport now.
  205. (Applause)

  206. Even saying it out loud gives me shivers,

  207. because it's such a huge goal
  208. that I don't want to accept
    that I have set that goal,
  209. but that's the thrill of it,
    that's the part of it.
  210. And my idea is that if I make it
    to the Olympics or I don't make it,
  211. that doesn't matter,
  212. but in the process of training for it,
  213. I will have become a better swimmer
    and a better person.
  214. SRK: Inshallah, you will make it
    to the Olympics.

  215. And I want to tell you
  216. a lot of people who are watching
    this show at home,
  217. there's lots of people, all of whom
    are thinking only positively for you,
  218. so when you go for the Olympics,
  219. imagine all of us will be wearing
    our penguin suits and swimming with you,
  220. and saying, "Go on,
    go on, Bhakti, go on, go on."
  221. BS: Can you be my personal penguin?

  222. SRK: I am your penguin now.

  223. It would have been cooler
    if you said, like, a shark and all,
  224. but penguin --
  225. BS: Orcas are my spirit animal,
    but you can be my orca.

  226. (Applause)

  227. SRK: Ladies and gentleman, Bhakti.

  228. BS: Thank you.

  229. (Applause)