"What we consider possible or impossible is rarely a function of our true capacity. It is more likely a function of our beliefs"
Mind Over Matter
April 15, 2022
Ask a group of sports enthusiasts what they think the one record most likely never to be broken, and you will receive a variety of replies. Some may say Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a single NBA game, others will point to Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive baseball games played, and perhaps some will suggest Lance Armstrong’s seven consecutive Tour de France victories.
Certain sports records most likely will never be broken due to inherent changes in the game in which they occurred. For example, the longest tennis match – over 11 hours – is sure to stand, since professional tennis has since instituted certain tiebreakers which will prevent matches from continuing to that ex tent. Even Ripken’s streak is unlikely to be broken, as these days baseball players get “days off” from time to time in order to make sure they remain 100% healthy.
While no athlete has yet to run a marathon in less than two-hours (the current record is 2:01:39), most running experts concur that it will happen, sooner rather than later. After all, over the last 20 years the record time has gradually dropped by over four minutes.
The 4-minute mile was once widely considered to be unreachable, simply beyond physical human ability. Accurate records for the mile run have been kept since 1860. At that time, the top runners were hovering around 4:30. Over the next 70 years, the mile time had dropped to 4:10. It was also around this time that interest in track and field events had picked up – in part due to Jesse Owen’s performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he became the first American athlete to win four gold medals at a single Olympics. Of course, his feats were all the more memorable due to the games being held in Nazi Germany.
Throughout the rest of the 1930’s and 40’s, the elusive 4-minute mile was drawing closer for elite runners, but still seemed out of reach. Experts believed that the mark would only fall under precise conditions – 68 degrees, little to no wind, a large boisterous crowd, and a hard, dry clay track. However, in May of 1954, Roger Bannister, a largely unheralded English runner, posted a time of 3:59.4 on a cool, damp, and windy day in front of less than 3000 spectators. The once unthought of had indeed occurred. It was possible to run a mile in under four minutes. Perhaps even more surprising, was the fact that over the next two years, four other runners managed to break the once unthinkable barrier, and as of 2021, more than a thousand runners have since surpassed the mark.
But why had it taken so long, and why all of a sudden did so many others accomplish the same feat? There are a number of theories as to why this unfolded as it did. First, record times did not improve much for several years, as World War II had interrupted athletic progress and the world was more concerned with war rather than setting running records. As far as why the floodgates burst open after Bannister’s run, most experts concede to a change in the “mental model.” In other words, some of the greatest athletes in the world began to believe the “impossible” was indeed possible.
Elite athletes are notorious for being hard workers. They remain disciplined and show up prepared. In addition, they have little to no fear of failure when competing. Just like in sports, the ability to remove emotion from the investment process is important. Numerous academic studies point to the fact that investors who allow their emotions to dictate investment decisions ultimately make poor decisions at the most inopportune times. A disciplined, rules-based approach plays a major role one’s ability to reach their financial goals.
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