The Four Minute Mile

Late post today so I’ll make it brief.  I was returning from some morning meetings (hence my lateness) and I heard someone talking on the radio about one crisis or another – geopolitical, financial – who knows.  They kept saying that a fix was “impossible” and spent the better part of the segment explaining why that was so.  I, of course, immediately thought of Roger Bannister.



(Photo credit: I am I.A.M.)


Right up until that day in May of 1954, it was thought that running a mile in under four minutes was not humanly possible.  I’m sure there were a lot of sportswriters who pontificated much as did the person on the radio this morning about why that was so.  15MPH for that period of time?  No way.  I’m sure they were doing so right up until Bannister crossed the finish line in under four minutes.  To show it wasn’t some superhuman feat, John Landy finished right behind him – also under four minutes.  Suddenly, the common knowledge – and the mental barrier it imposed – changed.  Miles have been run hundreds of times under that barrier now and the record is 3:43, closer to three and a half minutes than to four.


We often do the same thing in business.  A sales goal is not achievable   A product can’t be built.  The person with the qualifications we really think are required for the job can’t be found so we settle on someone lesser.  Four minute barriers we can’t break.  Until we do.


I’ve used the Bannister example with groups before to get them to think about how our mental barriers hold us back.  What do you think?


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