“A different example of this phenomenon began on a blustery day in May 1954, when a skinny Oxford medical student named Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. The broad outlines of his achievement are well known: how physiologists and athletes alike regarded the four-minute mile as an unbreakable physiological barrier; how Bannister systematically attacked the record; how he broke the mark by a fraction of a second, earning headlines around the world and lasting fame for what Sports Illustrated later called the single greatest athletic accomplishment of the twentieth century.
Less well known is what happened in the weeks after Bannister’s feat: another runner, an Australian named John Landy, also broke the four-minute barrier. The next season a few more runners did too. Then they started breaking it in droves. Within three years no fewer than seventeen runners had matched the greatest sporting accomplishment of the twentieth century. Nothing profound had changed. The track surfaces were the same, the training was the same, the genes were the same. To chalk it up to self-belief or positive thinking is to miss the point. The change didn’t come from inside the athletes: they were responding to something outside them. The seventeen runners had received a clear signal—you can do this too—and the four-minute mark, once an insurmountable wall, was instantly recast as a stepping-stone.” The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
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