One of my favourite speeches is from Les Brown talking about attaining something you didn’t once think was possible. In it, he shares this inspiring story of Roger Bannister, and all those that broke the four minute mile barrier after him(transcript found from this blog):
Before 1954, the common belief, the universal belief, the belief was that man was physically not capable of breaking the 4 minute barrier, that he could not run a mile in less than 4 minutes. That was the belief. On the planet. It had never been done…
But here’s what happened, ladies and gentlemen: Roger Bannister came along. And he broke the 4 minute barrier. Now here’s what’s significant about that. Since that time, up to this day, over 20.000 people have done it, including high-school kids! What changed?
Here’s what happened when they got on the track: they knew it had been done! And because they knew it had been done, there was a new belief about this barrier, about this goal that was “unreachable”. And those 20.000 people got in the race believing, knowing in their heart that someone had done it, that IT’S POSSIBLE, that they could do it.
And I’m saying that if you know anybody that had some goals, some dreams, something they wanted to do … and they did it, then I’m saying that you know it in your heart that if someone has done it, than you can do it. It’s possible.
And that if someone can make their dream become a reality, that it’s possible; that you can make your dream become a reality.
I was reminded of this speech when I was talking to others on Twitter about some of the constraints in our systems that hold us back. Sometimes we blame politicians, administrators, teachers, or the “system” on why change isn’t happening. But then we look at other schools, classrooms, or large systems that are doing amazing things, it is easy to realize that those same “barriers” are things they are dealing with and breaking through.
I remember walking into one school that was absolutely amazing, and hearing teachers talking about all of the things that they had in their system, that these teachers didn’t. The reality is they saw the product, not the journey. In the beginning, this same school dealt with the same obstacles, but by thinking in innovative ways, and, as Les Brown would say, worked from their imagination, not their memory, they created something better not only for their students, but themselves. We know amazing schools exist. We know amazing classrooms led by amazing teachers are creating better learning opportunities for students every days. They look at opportunities, not obstacles. This is how great leaders think every single day.
The thing that is often holding us back is ourselves. Once we realize that we can create something better, we often do better.
And as Les Brown would say, it’s possible.