This is Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile barrier for the first time in history in 1954. It’s one of the most famous sports photographs in history. This was a remarkable achievement because so many people were convinced it was impossible.
Many people have pointed out that once Bannister accomplished this, dozens of other men also ran sub-4 minute miles within 2 years. That’s an important lesson from the story, but not the only one.
What few people understand is the creative way that Bannister made sure he could run fast enough to break the record. Bannister was in medical school at the time, and did not do a lot of serious training before this event. Let’s look at another picture from that same day, 2 laps earlier in the race:
Who is #42 and what is he doing? Bannister enlisted the help of three friends to act as pacesetters for him in the first three laps. These men ran at a quarter mile pace of just less than 1 minute, just ahead of him. Bannister only had to run with them to keep up the correct speed to break the record.
No one disputes Bannister’s accomplishment. He ran the mile in 3:59. Hardly anyone remembers the names of his pacesetters. They didn’t get any glory that day, but Bannister could not have broken the record without their help.
The secret to breakthroughs is that you need to enlist some pacesetters. Get smart, capable people around you. Think together and work together. Let others be your pacesetters and hold you accountable for progress.