Before May 6th, 1954, no one believed that it was physically possible to break the four-minute mile. In fact, people had even suggested that running at such a pace for that long might lead to death if it was attempted. It was simply ruled out as an option.
And then, on that day, amateur runner and medical student, Roger Bannister, changed everything. In the morning he went to work as usual to St Mary’s hospital, then grabbed his running spikes, jumped on the train, and went to the match between Oxford University and the Amateur Athletic Association.
What happened next will forever go down in history as Bannister, supported by his teammates Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, broke the 4-minute mile.
Now, the bit that I’m interested in here, and that you should be too, is the fact that no one thought this could be done. No-one. And then someone did it.
And that opened the floodgates, as six weeks later, John Landy beat that time by more than a second. Dozens of runners broke the same barrier the following year.
Now, what changed wasn’t a physical thing. People didn’t stumble upon a new training regime and adopt it (although it appears Bannister did avoid chronic cardio and trained in short, intense bursts!). They didn’t add core training to their running. They didn’t adjust their diets – Bannister had a ham sandwich on the day of the race.
No, the only thing that changed is that people suddenly realised it was possible. The entire belief system was shifted. Once people knew it could be done, they did it, but it took Roger Bannister to prove it.
It’s a story I’ve thought a lot about over the past few years. When I had doubts about starting our own company, I reminded myself that people all over England have started companies that tick along just nicely. People far less prepared than me have done it and made a success of it. When I had doubts that I could make a living as a Personal Trainer, I looked at the trainers in the gym I went to and realised they were all making a living. If they could do it, so could I. When I had doubts about living a life that’s a little off the mainstream, wearing weird shoes, eating weird food, and training in a way that most people aren’t accustomed to, I looked to the pioneers out there who have taken control of their health and helped others, and realised that I wanted to do the same.
This leads to two exciting possibilities, both of which you can grab by the horns. Firstly, if you’re constantly talking yourself out of the big leap that you’re waiting to take, know that someone, somewhere, has done it before. If you think you can’t lose weight, you can. Millions of people have, and some of them have started in even more difficult positions than you. If you think you’ll never be fit, you can. People all over the world, at the same age you are, have done just that. If you think you can’t change your diet, you can. People everywhere have done it before.
You don’t have to wait for someone around you to prove it’s possible. People out there have done it, and you can too.
The second possibility is one of true entrepreneurship. What could you do that hasn’t actually been done before? What path could you take that no one has ever taken? In what area of your life could you become a true pioneer?
I think that me and Angie are trying to take both of these possibilities and make them work for us. We know there are plenty of Personal Trainers and Pilates teachers out there, and there are plenty of people who have started their own business. There are also Personal Trainers and Pilates teachers who have built home studios and made it work. In that respect, we are following the path that people have created, and when you see someone doing what you’ve always wanted to do, you shouldn’t be jealous, as they are really, really helping you – they’ve proved that it can be done, which means you can do it too.
We have friends who have started businesses who have been big inspirations. We know Personal Trainers who are simply awesome. We have been helped by many amazing Pilates teachers along the way – all of whom have shared their knowledge to show us what is possible.
But not many people have quit their corporate jobs, started a blog and fitness company, and embraced the principles of minimalism to make it all come together in one package, while focusing on living rather than working.
Even better, we already know we’ve inspired people to begin their own journeys on a different path, so in their eyes, we are the pioneers.
A great starting point in all of this is to embrace Carol Dweck’s idea of a growth mindset:
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence.”
When you hear yourself saying ‘I can’t do that’, it’s not true, and it can prevent you changing something important, or progressing with a new skill.
It’s time to ask yourself a few questions. What is the thing that you’ve always wanted to do that you don’t believe you can? What is the life that you dream of? What’s holding you back?
If you embrace a growth mindset, anything is possible. Be inspired by Roger. He did the impossible, and opened the door for others to do the same. Maybe you could too.