Lesson 15

Believe in Yourself, Even When No One Else Does

Remember the four-minute mile? People had been trying to achieve it since the days of the ancient Greeks. In fact, folklore has it that the Greeks had lions chase the runners, thinking that would make them run faster. They also tried tiger’s milk—not the stuff you get down at the health-food store, but the real thing. Nothing worked. So they decided it was impossible. And for thousands of years everyone believed it. It was physiologically impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes. Our bone structure was all wrong. Wind resistance too great. Inadequate lung power. There were a million reasons.

Then one man, one single human being, proved that the doctors, the trainers, the athletes, and the millions and millions before him who tried and failed, were all wrong. And miracle of miracles, the year after Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, thirty-seven other runners broke the four-minute mile, and the year after that three hundred runners broke the four-minute mile

A few years ago, in New York, I stood at the finish line of the Fifth Avenue Mile and watched thirteen out of thirteen runners break the four-minute mile in a single race. In other words, the runner who finished dead last would have been regarded as having accomplished the impossible a few decades ago.

What happened? There were no great breakthroughs in training. Human bone structure didn’t suddenly improve. But human attitudes did.

Think about the stonecutter: He hammers at his rock a hundred times without denting it. On the hundred-and-first blow, the rock will split in two. You know it is not that blow that did it but all that had gone before. You can accomplish your goals… if you set them. Who says you’re not tougher, smarter, better, harder-working, more able than your competition? It doesn’t matter if they say you can’t do it. What matters, the only thing that matters, is if you say it. Until Bannister came along, we all believed in the experts. Bannister believed in himself… and changed the world. If you believe in yourself, well, then, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. So don’t quit. Don’t ever quit.

 

* Excerpted from Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

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