4 March 2018

Roger Bannister four minute mile - mindset, belief and motivation

Roger Bannister completing his epic run. (Image @BritAthletics, Twitter)

I was sad to read that the legendary athlete Roger Bannister passed away today.

Back in 1954 in Oxford, Roger was the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. Whilst it stood as a record time for just 46 days, he was the first to break that boundary. He showed what is possible.

Roger became a Commonwealth Gold medallist and, later, a leading neurologist. What an incredible character.

So many people thought that running a mile in less than four minutes was an impossibility. How many times did he hear “it can’t be done”?

To this day, it is an incredible achievement and benchmark to have set.

The Person Who Says It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt The Person Doing It.

Chinese Proverb

Mindset matters

I believe it all comes down to mindset. If you believe that you can do something, you put the extra effort in to make sure that you can achieve it. I have seen this happen time and again in my own life and in friends around me, both in business, sport and life in general.

I remember a conversation with squash champion Laura Massaro many years ago. In our first ever conversation, albeit brief, when I asked her “do you not want to be World Number One?” She replied, “No-one will ever beat Nicole.”

Laura Massaro, Squash World Champion

Nicole David the then-champion had been Number One for nine consecutive years and went on for a 10th, so it was a fair comment. Luckily I didn’t know this and I stuck to my guns: ”So if could show you how to beat Nicole without any extra effort, would you be interested?” I lied about the extra effort but the rest, as they say, is history, quite literally.

Game On

As soon as Laura removed that Limiting Belief (as Tony Robbins calls them), it was game on.
In my first stint working with Laura, she won the World Championship. In the second, she reached her goal, the ultimate prize, the number one spot in the world.

Every now and then, we encounter extraordinary characters, like Roger Bannister, and Laura, who don’t take no for an answer. They know what they’re capable of but they are inquisitive to see if they can even stretch to another level. They do this time and time again, putting in time and commitment. The work Laura put in was nothing short of incredible. Her commitment to training, diet and all the disciplines associated with squash really set her apart.

But I believe this commitment is in us all, sometime buried deep down, but nevertheless its in everyone. It’s merely a choice some make to stretch ourselves.
The same technique I showed Laura is something I have applied to UKFast and other areas of my life, so I know it works.

It is safe to say my own life has been peppered by occasions where people have told me that I can’t achieve something. Some I listened to and honestly, although I don’t like to admit it, I gave up! Music being the big one. Rugby the other, which I ironically gave up for music.

But more often than not, when people tell you, you can’t do something, I don’t know about you, but it usually has the opposite effect and just drives me harder.

I remember my first job, aged 15, at Humphries Signs in Denbigh, I worked in a screen printing factory breaking down FOR SALE signs and building new ones.

After the first morning, I visited my mum at the school where she taught on my lunch hour, my hands covered in blood and cuts. I was rather hoping she’d tell me not to go back.

I got no sympathy whatsoever, she just told me: “Your father said you wouldn’t be able to stick at it.”
It was the greatest lesson I ever learnt and I loved that job. It was tough but it taught me so much.
On another occasion, I overheard Mother Dee, a Nun at school, telling Sister Liz and my mother: “The only place that boy will ever swim to is the bottom!”

That summer I spent the whole holiday in the local swimming pool in Denbigh. I not only learned how to swim, but by the end of the summer I had earned my 3,000m badge.

Years later, a competitor once wrote me a letter, angered that I’d won a contract with the Midland Hotel in Manchester, he wrote: “You are the worst piano player in Manchester and you will never make it as a businessman.”

He was half right! Haha! He was a brilliant pianist, far better than me.

Plain Sailing

And for anyone who thinks my life was plain sailing, I can assure you it wasn’t. I sold my first business to Granada for far less than I should have on the promise of a well-paid job and a seat on the board. A year later they sacked me. I certainly wasn’t expecting that!

After 12 months of puzzling what to do, I decided to hang up my dream to write a musical and songs for a living and I set up UKFast.

There was a funny and memorable moment after an event at the Lowry Hotel in Salford. Myself and Steve McGuirk the Chief of Fire for Greater Manchester had just been on stage being interviewed by Chris Maguire.
Vernon Lord, the person who sacked came up to me and said: “That was probably my biggest mistake in business, letting you go, Lawrence.”

It was nice of him to say it. People seldom admit when they make mistakes. It sort of completed a previously incomplete circle.

Each of these occasions – there are too many to list in one blog post! – are now some of my greatest motivators and memories.

Paying It Forward

I suppose in many ways this is why I enjoy helping others do the impossible. It’s infectious watching people do better than they expected. In a similar moment to my first encounter with Laura Massaro, I met AJ MacGinty at Sale Sharks.

AJ MacGinty Sale Sharks

AJ playing for Sale Sharks

Excited to put my theory to  the test. I had make it work in business with UKFast and now in sport with Laura. Could I do it again in rugby?

AJ was the perfect candidate too. He is the Fly Half and a very good one at that. As the nominated kicker for the team, it would be easy to measure his results.

It takes a winner, a champion in the making to be brave and curious enough to take time out of their busy sporting schedule to come and talk to a crazy businessman. But just like Laura, he came to meet me.
In less than a couple of hours I explained a technique that fascinated him. It struck a chord and he tried it. It worked and he has used ever since. I can’t tell you what it is, but what is public knowledge is that AJ officially became the highest percentage point scorer in the premiership. But not just for this season, for all time. That includes greats like Jonny Wilkinson and Charlie Hodgson.

An incredible achievement and whilst my part is tiny, it’s lovely knowing I have helped someone achieve such an amazing goal.


So how do you react when you’re told you’re not capable of something? Do you let it knock you back or do you see it as a challenge?

Funnily enough, I spent all day yesterday and a few hours today in the recording studio at UKFast. Whilst it’s no longer my job, it’s a wonderful way for me to switch off and its something that I am extraordinarily passionate about. I may not be writing number ones but I am having fun writing the music for the video team at work.

So if you are told by an “expert”  that you “can’t” just remember Laura, AJ and Roger Bannister. They are all legends in their own right and deserve a huge amount of credit for setting new benchmarks for the generations nipping at their heels to chase. But it’s important to remember they are also all human too. The difference is, they said: “Yes I can. I believe in myself!” and went for it.

The road to the top is always steeper than the road to nowhere. It requires that extra effort, but you can achieve whatever you set your mind on.

So get dreaming and get on with it!

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