Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Breaking the 4-Minute Mile & Ending Veteran Homelessness

Marilyn Paul and David Peter Stroh of Bridgeway Partners in their coursework tell the story of the British competitive runner, Roger Bannister.  The story goes something like this:

For centuries runners had been trying unsuccessfully to break the 4-minute mile.  Most people believed (their mental model) that doing so was simply beyond the limits of human capability and may, in fact, be unhealthy for humans. 

But they forgot to tell Roger Bannister it couldn't be done.  He focused his energies and preparation in meeting that very goal.  Race after race, he kept getting faster and closer to the breaking the 4-minute mile.

On May 6th, 1954 at Oxford University, he did what what experts for centuries had said was not possible: he broke the 4-minute mile.  In doing so he smashed the mental barrier that said, "Impossible."

But perhaps even more remarkable, just 46 days later, the mark was broken again by another runner.  Since 1954 the 4-minute mile mark has been surpassed 1,192 times and counting.

It's a remarkable example of not listening to the experts when you believe something is possible.  It's also an example of the Law of Attraction.  As Matt Frazier wrote in his blog, "When you become certain of something, when every part of your makeup believes it because you focus on it every single day, something “magical” happens...When you have a clearly-defined purpose, a mission, and when you live every moment in a state of certainty that you’ll achieve pay special attention things that help you achieve what you’re after, things you otherwise would have never noticed."

It reminds us too that so many of our limits are perceptions.

I believe ending veteran homelessness is a 4-minute mile.  It is within our grasp.  We see the path, we just need to execute.  The political will is in place like never before thanks to lessons from Vietnam in how we treat America's war veterans, and best practices in combining housing vouchers with support services (whether treating mental, physical, or other issues) are working.

And once veteran homelessness is ended, we might just say, "Hmm. We did it.  Turns out it was possible.  Now what?  How about we end, say, youth homelessness next..."

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