“I wanted to be a neurologist. That seemed to be the most difficult, most intriguing, and the most important aspect of medicine, which had links with psychology, aggression, behavior, and human affairs. The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
~Roger Bannister, Athlete, Physician
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
~Muhammad Ali, Professional Boxer, Activist
We learn various essential elements of entrepreneurship from the Roger Bannister story. Bannister had the determination and physical drive to break the 4-minute mile. While he was pursuing this goal, and attending medical school, he was strongly warned by “professionals” that it was humanly impossible to run that distance in such a short amount of time. He was told his knees would give out and his heart would fail.
We all hear certain platitudes in our lives. People often tell us just to accept things the way they are. This is a declaration of war against the entrepreneurial spirit. We are designed to break the norms and what is deemed as status quo. Our minds are Socratic, programmed to question the reality around us without ceasing.
After failing at the 1952 Olympics, Bannister spent two months deciding if he was going to give up running. He ultimately chose not to let failure guide his course. He realigned his focus and moved forward.
Bannister believed in doing what others claimed was impossible. It is important to note that he had a bigger vision; his goal was not, “I can break the 4-minute mile.” His goal was, “Mankind can break the 4-minute mile.”
Here is what was key: Roger did not just write a great speech or publish his research on breaking the record; he did it. On May 6, 1954, with minimal training under his belt, Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4. He modeled the behavior necessary to bring about the results he desired, and moreover, he showed others what was possible for not just him, but for them. True change comes from a spirit of adoption when people can see living examples of what is possible. Many people have broken Bannister’s record since, setting new standards for runners to complete the mile. His record lasted only forty-six days.
How did Bannister do it?
Here’s something we do not often read about in history: Bannister ran the race with two of his closest friends, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher to help pace him to a historic victory. Bannister is the one we hear about in history, but it was not Bannister who broke the impossible; it was the team.
We often see the front person receiving the credit for their great creations. People like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney are entrepreneurial icons in the success of Apple and Mickey Mouse. However, Jobs did not create the first Apple I Computer; Steve Wozniak was the creator, and Disney was not that great of an artist when it came to drawing.
Entrepreneurial success is usually comprised of great teams that bring together the ideas of several talented people. Steve Jobs stated that the Beatles were good when they were solo, but became really great when they were together. They cancelled out the negatives in each other and created an excellent product, music, as a team. As entrepreneurs, we must possess the intuition to surround ourselves with people who are greater than us in certain areas; those who challenge us to higher levels. It is with the right team that we can accomplish a goal that, alone, was impossible.