Part 3 - Smashing through the barriers
May 6, 1954.
When Roger Bannister broke the tape at the Iffley Road track, he became the first human to run a mile in under 4 minutes.
It caught the attention of the world.
It might seem like just this single moment of achievement was what mattered.
But to really understand its importance we need to look at what came before.
And what happened next.
You’re going to see that it’s not just an inspiring story. There are some seriously significant implications for your music too…
A long-standing record
Before Bannister came along, the world record for the mile was 4:01.
Set in 1945 by Gunder Hägg, it had stood, unbroken, for 9 years.
It didn’t look like falling any time soon, either.
Many people weren’t sure it was even possible to run a mile in under 4 minutes. The common view was that the human body simply wasn’t capable of that sort of speed.
And Bannister apparently shouldn’t have stood even the slightest chance on the day when it actually happened.
According to the experts – if the record was ever going to fall – it would need perfect weather, the right sort of track, and a huge crowd urging the runner on to his performance of a lifetime.
But he did it on a cold, wet day, on the wrong sort of track, in front of a tiny crowd.
What Roger did have in his favour, though, was that he believed.
He was studying medicine – and this gave him a different view to everyone else:
“Even then people were talking about whether it would ever be possible for someone to run a mile in 4 minutes. ... There was no logic in my mind that if you can run a mile in 4:01, you can't run it in 3:59. ... I knew enough medicine and physiology to know it wasn't a physical barrier, but I think it had become a psychological barrier.”
That attitude eventually led to him achieving what others thought impossible.
The floodgates open...
Here’s where things get really interesting.
The record had stood for 9 years. But, only a few weeks later, it was broken again.
This time by John Landy – someone who’d previously believed it was out of his reach:
“Frankly, I think the four-minute mile is beyond my capabilities. […] Someone may achieve [it], but I don’t think I can.”
Before Bannister went through the barrier, Landy had recorded several runs of 4:02.
Afterwards he broke Bannister’s new record with a time of 3:58 – a full 4 seconds faster than his previous best.
And, only a year later, three runners went on to break the 4 minute mile in a single race.
So what had changed?
The training regimes were the same.
The athletes weren’t working any harder than they had been before.
There was no difference in how badly they wanted it.
In fact, the prize of being the first to break the barrier was now off the table.
The only thing that changed was what they believed was possible.
They’d seen Roger Bannister go under 4 minutes. He’d broken the psychological barrier for them.
And, as a result, athletes started to discover that there was no physical barrier standing in their way.
Music is exactly the same
Your beliefs can hold you back.
Not just a little bit. The effect can be bigger than you might think possible.
And here’s the kicker:
Most of the time, you’re not even aware that those beliefs are there inside you.
Let alone that they – not your physical skills – are controlling what you achieve.
When you manage to change one of those beliefs, the blockages holding you back seem to magically disappear.
You can play things you didn’t think you were capable of.
It’s just like with the athletes. Once their minds believed it was possible, their bodies followed so easily.
Sometimes something happens outside you that breaks an unhelpful belief. That’s great, but you can’t control when – or if – it happens.
It is possible to work to identify and change your beliefs, though.
What does progress look like?
Everyone’s beliefs are different.
So there’s no guarantee of what’s possible for you when you change your beliefs.
For some of my students, working on their beliefs leads to an immediate breakthrough in their playing.
For others, it’s more like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.
They start to enjoy playing again. They see potential growth where, previously, they had no hope.
For example, Bryony spent years believing she wasn’t a natural performer. As a result, she got nervous before gigs and hated performing. She felt much more comfortable in the practice room.
Then she discovered that belief was totally false. Now she looks forward to performing and finds it exciting.
John had practiced hard for decades without making any significant progress.
He realised that he’d never really believed that his practice was going to make a difference.
And so it never did.
Essentially, he was sabotaging himself.
Once he changed his belief, he started to see progress again. The results only came slowly – but they were real gains.
Imagine what a difference you could see in your playing if we worked to discover and change the specific beliefs that are holding you back...
Start with the foundations
In order to see those sorts of breakthroughs, there are two steps.
You start by identifying your limiting beliefs.
Then you can work to change them.
I’d be lying if I told you there was a “one size fits all” method for doing this. It’s something that needs to be tackled on a case-by-case basis.
And I’m afraid that’s more than we can achieve in this article.
[I promise we’ll get onto it further down the line, though]
However, there are a few key mindsets that EVERY performer needs to put in place to play their best.
That’s something I can help you with. And it's a great place to start in any case.
To help you take that next step, I’d like to give you my short ebook: Unshakeable Foundations. It maps out 9 key mindsets that the top performers share.
And there’s a short series of accompanying emails that helps you actually put those mindsets into practice.
Don’t worry – it’s totally free. And you can unsubscribe at any time if you don’t like the emails. I suspect you’ll stick around, though.