Katie Spotz: Rowing solo across the Atlantic provided a valuable lesson on the strength of the human spirit

Katie Spotz

Katie Spotz

It was Day 36 of my 3,000-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean, and I found myself filled with doubt. I was at the halfway mark, which just happened to be one of the most remote places on Earth. What should have been a celebratory moment was instead filled with great uncertainty.

I wanted to give up, but that was not really an option when you’re out in the middle of the ocean.

I needed to dig deep and find a new way to get myself mentally focused.

So I took a deep breath and told myself, ‘I am no longer rowing 3,000 miles.’ Instead, I told myself, “I am going to row 1 mile…3,000 times.”

That difference in perspective was huge. It kept me going when the enormity of the task at hand was more than I could handle. I was not going to row across an entire ocean in a day. So it was important for me to break it down into daily, sometimes hourly goals and focus on that one step ahead.


Overcoming doubt

If I could use one word to describe the Atlantic Ocean, it would be “teacher.”

In 2010 at age 22, I set off with two sets of oars, four iPods, 300 chocolate bars and a lot of determination to row solo across the ocean. No motor, no sail — just oars. After 70 days at sea facing everything from 30-foot waves, sharks and extreme isolation, I became the youngest person in history to do it alone.

Rowing the Atlantic challenged me mentally, physically and spiritually. Nothing could prepare me for what those 70 days would bring covering 1 million oar strokes to make it 3,000 miles from West Africa to South America.

I learned about motivation, goal setting, success, failure, risk-taking, overcoming adversity and achieving what we set out to achieve, no matter how steep the odds.

There wasn’t a lot to keep me motivated during the journey itself. I did not have screaming fans as with organized sports or the booths with food and refreshments every few miles as with endurance races. When I reached the quarter or halfway marks, I knew there would be no welcoming party for me.


Teachable moments

But it’s those moments that help us grow. Whenever you’re facing an incredible challenge, it’s those moments of doubt that drive you to reach beyond your limits.

By reaching for success, you must also be willing to fail and view it not as a stopping point but as part of the journey toward success. I have learned much more from adversity, and I now understand that a setback is only a setback if I believe it is.

The way to reach success and accomplish goals in life is simple, whether it be in an ocean or an office. It’s not about being stronger or smarter. It’s about holding on a little bit longer even when you lose the strength to continue on. As long as you keep going, you will get there.


Katie Spotz

Charity ambassador and speaker

H2O For Life works to raise awareness of the global water crisis and the struggles of many in the world to obtain drinkable water.

Katie was honored by Glamour as one of the magazine’s “Women of the Year”, alongside such famous women as Julia Roberts, Cher and Queen Rania of Jordan.