“Only in something like running can finality be achieved, the sort of finality that is almost perfection. But it is not the kind of perfection that leaves you with nothing to live for… because sport is not the main aim of life. Yet to achieve perfection in one thing, however small, makes it possible to face uncertainty in the more difficult problems of life.” – Roger Bannister
I heard this quote spoken by Bruce Jenner on ESPN Classic while I was on the treadmill this morning (doing a mile in 20 minutes, instead of the sub-4 minutes that Bannister achieved on that day in 1954), and I was quite struck by the point about how “achieving perfection” can help you in other ways, even if it’s concerning something that’s “not the main aim of life”.
This aroused my curiousity about Bannister so I Googled him, and what I found was an utterly facinating story about a man who chased “perfection” (the sub-4 minute mile) but not at a cost of his real goal in life, which was to pursue a career in medicine (in neurology, no less). His biography notes that even while he was training for that fateful race, he only allocated 45 minutes to it per day because he was a full-time medical student.
Here was a man that was chasing history but could really put it in perspective – it was just a sport. But yet he knew that by breaking this barrier it could help him in the later challenges to come. There is a great interview that accompanies the biography that is well worth reading to get an even better sense of his motivations and influences.
I found one more quote from Bannister that aptly puts the icing on the cake – “This–this was what made life: a moment of quiet, the water falling in the fountain, the girl’s voice…a moment of captured beauty. He who is truly wise will never permit such moments to escape.”
The big lesson here is that if we can seek “perfection” somehow, someway, in one little aspect of our lives, while yet keeping perspective and balance, we can build up our inner strength to summon the courage to take on what other fates await us. Nice thought to take into the weekend – thanks Roger!