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The Man Who Did The Impossible

March 5, 2018

They said it couldn’t be done. Well, they hinted at it anyway. Like the speed of light, some viewed it not as an attainable goal that you could break through, but instead like a wall that those experiencing Zeno’s paradox could get impossibly close to, but never actually touch.

The day he did it, was not a great day for it. The cross winds were 15 MPH. It was not a day that anyone would pick for an historic event. May 6, 1954. The site was Iffley Road track in Oxford. The man who was about to make history was an amature. A part-time runner and a fulltime medical student. Roger Bannister was about to make history.

In less than 4 minutes he did something that no one in recorded history had ever done. He round around a 440 yard track 4 times. A distance of 1760 yards. A mile.

He achieved it by the slimmest of margins: 3:59.4

Interestingly, once he proved it could be done, his record would be broken a scant 46 days later. No one remembers who the second man to run a sub-four minute mile was. Roger Bannister was the first.

He went on to become a neurologist. Later in life he said that he counted his contributions to science as his greatest achievement. And no doubt many in his field could tell you what contributions he made. But, despite his modesty, the world will remember him for a feat of athletic prowess.

In the modern world of collaborative research and “team” contributions and pair-programming, it’s rare to find an individual feat of distinction. Bill Gates is most associated with Microsoft, but he was more brilliant at assembling a great team around him that he was as a coder. Steve Jobs tasked his Mac computer team to make it “insanely great.” Jobs provided the brilliant marketing.

In business, we are all interconnected. We each have a part to play. We rely on our team and they rely on us. Successes should be shared. As should failures. We should recognize extraordinary individual contributions, but also acknowledge that loose cannons sink projects.

And we are stronger together than we can be separate. And yet, we still can stop at times to recognize the individual who does the impossible.

On March 3, 2018, Sir Roger Bannister passed away at the age of 88. I just wanted to take a moment and recognize one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th century.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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