In 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes. Until then it was thought that the human body was incapable of achieving such a feat. That same year, Australian John Landy also broke the four-minute barrier. The following year, three others made it. A year later, four made it. Another year passed and seven made it. Within a decade a high-school student made it.
The four-minute-mile myth is a great example of a local maximum in action. If those around us have modest goals, our achievements are almost always modest. Not because we can’t do better, but because we won’t do better.
Our performance is restricted to what we believe we can achieve. And believing requires seeing. If you see runners and only runners, you’re going to take up running. If you see poor runners and only poor runners, you’re going to be a poor runner. It’s why they say we’re the average of the five closest people in our lives. Because we set our limitations to their limitations.
Unfortunately, the reason most fail to soar is because they have the will to pick their field, but not their competitors. They become fixated on being the smartest in the room. And whilst the ambition is natural, it’s also foolish. If you’re the smartest in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
That feeling of dissatisfaction in life is natural. It’s what keeps us alive and kicking. Acknowledge it. Listen to it. Ambition is not something to be suppressed. The quality of our life is equal to the quality of our questions, which are generated by the quality of our company. That fear of new rooms, full of new competitors, is also natural. It’s what kept us safe. It’s what kept us free from the jaws of giants. But today that fear is unfounded. Today, there are no giants. We just need to get up from our knees to see.
The waiting room is no place to live a life.