Legend has it that for the first half of the 20th century, experts agreed that running a mile in under four minutes was impossible. People had been running for thousands of years and no one was able to break the four minute barrier. It was considered the absolute limit of the human body.
On May 6, 1954 Roger Bannister proved them all wrong when he ran a mile in 3:59:4. He relied on his own training regimen, his own pacing technique, and his own determination in achieving his goal. More than any of his contemporaries, he was the one willing to train harder, work smarter, and believe more faithfully in his purpose.
Remarkably, just six weeks after Bannister’s achievement, John Landy ran a mile in 3:57:9. And about a year after that, three additional runners broke the four minute barrier in a single race. So much for thousands of years of slow pokes, and so much for the experts.
All kinds of people, places and things will put barriers in front of each of us. We will be told over and over again that something isn’t possible, or that something “bigger” than us will prevent us from reaching our goals. There’s always something. I’ve certainly heard my fair share since day one: outperforming the market isn’t possible, you can’t compete against a team of 40 analysts, you’re not big enough, not well known enough, the company you own is over/under valued.
The only way to prove your worth when it really counts is to be like Bannister. It’s about being so focused on working harder, working smarter, and believing in your purpose that you achieve your goals regardless of what people say. And once we smash through the barriers, the rest of the world takes notice and sees what is possible. Then breaking the barrier becomes the routine.
There are a lot of investors down on themselves these days. Oil is a barrier, the dollar is a barrier, and a year and a half into a bear market, even cash is a barrier (Canadians of all ages are now holding a record amount of cash).
It certainly feels like we’re at the four minute mark. This is when the guy/girl that’s been working the hardest makes it happen.
Ben Kizemchuk is a Portfolio Manager & Investment Advisor with Altus Securities Inc. in Toronto. He offers financial planning and investment management for high net worth Canadian investors. Ben focuses on high quality investments, the Growth and Income Portfolios, low risk investing, and reducing tax.