Paving the Way

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In 1954, Roger Bannister was the first person confirmed to run a mile in under four minutes. A newspaper article at the time described the feat as “sport’s greatest goal.”

The 25-year old Bannister shattered the record after recently placing a disappointing fourth in a race he was expected to win at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. After the disheartening Olympic finish, Bannister thought about quitting. Instead, he decided to pursue a new goal of a sub-four-minute mile.

The “four-minute barrier” has since been broken by more than 1,400 male athletes…but Roger Bannister was the first. In fact, he accomplished the feat less than two years after Helsinki – with minimal training, while also practicing as a junior doctor. This remarkable athletic achievement created a new mindset that “It can be done,” and inspired thousands to try – and many to achieve – what was once thought to be an impossible goal. In fact, the current world record holder, Hicham El Guerrouj, ran the mile in 3:43.13. More than 500 American men have also clocked in at under four minutes since Roger Bannister’s record-breaking run.

Sir Edmund Hillary and the Tibetan mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Prior to 1953 this had not been recorded, although many had tried – including Norgay – battling altitude sickness, avalanches and extreme weather. Hillary and Norgay spent a world-changing 15 minutes on the summit before descending. Since their climb, nearly 4000 people have achieved what Hillary and Norgay started. By accomplishing the unthinkable, they opened the possibility to others.

What do these two things have in common? If you have the confidence to try to be the first, you can attain personal satisfaction and pave the way for others to reach and even surpass your achievement. By shattering expectations and encouraging others to shatter yours, you have the opportunity to model true leadership.

So build that hospital or school, paint a masterpiece, inspire kids to break barriers and defy expectations in math, music or whatever they choose. Because if you have the confidence to achieve, you will inspire others to do the same and climb their own Mt. Everest, reaching out to the next in line to help them “up the mountain.”


Laura has more than 20 years of Association/Nonprofit leadership experience, including serving as a Development/Marketing Consultant for over 30 organizations. She has extensive experience with development, staff recruitment, staff management, career coaching, grant writing, major gifts, planned giving, prospect research, strategic development planning, event management, sponsorship, volunteer management, and annual fundraising. She has been with KEES since 2012.