Roger Bannister: How One Person Changed the World

If you’ve been in one of my audiences during a presentation, then you likely have heard the amazing story about Roger Bannister. It’s one of my favorites because the story shares a universal message that will help all of us break through adversity and envision new possibility in our personal lives and career.

The story of Bannister is also a great one to share with others to help motivate them to think differently and press onward to achieve what naysayers might say is “impossible.”

We all have naysayers in some way don’t we?  And sometimes, the naysayer is our own mind!

The story of Roger Bannister …

Up until 1954, it was thought to be impossible that anyone could run a mile quicker than 4 minutes. This was known as the 4-minute mile.

Doctors, psychologists and even other expert runners assumed that the human body could not perform at that level – it was physically impossible. And these same naysayers believed it was crazy to even try.

Roger Bannister did though. In fact, he proved everyone wrong. In 1954, Roger Bannister was the first person to break the 4-minute mile. His time was 3:59.4 to be exact.

“The real story is always behind the story though … we can learn so much more from the adversity that people break through rather than the achievement they’re known for.”

Since 1954, thousands more have also been able to break the 4-minute mile … because one person showed them it was possible.

Roger Bannister showed others that breaking the 4-minute mile barrier was not only possible, but it was a mindset. Through dedicated training and personal motivation, he changed the world and inspired others to do the same.

Bannister is a leader because of his influence upon others. Breaking the 4-minute mile didn’t make him a leader … influencing others did.

Influence is the difference between a transactional manager and a transformative leader.  Transactional managers might get things done, but they don’t inspire anyone else to join along or do it better. On the contrary, transformational leaders empower others to not only perform with more motivation and efficiency, but also constantly improve. People following a transformational leader also feel better about themselves and enjoy the ride.

Many of us know transactional managers in a leadership role. It’s tough to work for them. Three out of four professionals self-reported in 2018 that their top daily stressor is their boss … ouch! Sounds like a quite many transactional bosses out there.

Back to Bannister … he wasn’t born with any type of silver spoon in his mouth. He grew up in a working class family who struggled to make ends meet. All he had was a passion for running.

And he trained. Hard. Intensely. And there were times when we wanted to quit. But he refused to settle. He focused on his passion and envisioned the reality of living his dream.

His running time kept getting better and better too. The more he trained, the quicker he became.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Repetition is the mother of skill.”

“If you want to be good at something, practice. If you want to be great at something and master it, practice with passion.”

Roger Bannister not only raised the bar, he became the bar that inspired others to be better too.

So what about you … has anyone ever told you that you couldn’t do something?

Has anyone ever said that your goal was not possible?

Perhaps you know someone who needs a bit more “belief” in themselves right now?

“Don’t focus on reasons why you can’t do something. Instead, focus on reasons why you should.”

Remember the story of Roger Bannister when someone doubts you or you doubt yourself. There’s likely someone close to you who needs to hear this message too.

Watch Roger break the 4-minute mile below


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