It was a requirement to run a 10-minute mile when I was in high school. That was extremely difficult to achieve for a handful of teenagers, including myself. We were the ones walking or light jogging the four laps around the brownish red rubber track.
I was always active and played sports, but the constant duration of activity (i.e. the act of continuous running) was the issue. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the energy, I had asthma and running for 10 minutes straight was strenuous on my lungs.
I’m sure there were ways to get out of the 10-minute mile, including everyone’s favorite “doctor’s note,” but I never took that path. I’m sure I beat the time limit — I did after all graduate! — but by how much I will never remember.
I recalled this the other day as I was completing a run around the lake that I live on. The run was about 2.3 miles and as I strolled up to my driveway, my Apple Watch ticked to just over the 20-minute mark.
A couple years ago, I had made it a goal to complete a 5k in under 20 minutes. It took a few months before I felt ready to commit, but I was able to accomplish it. It felt absolutely amazing.
The point of all of this is that what may seem impossible at one time might not later on down the road. High school was not my time to achieve a 10-minute mile, but that impossibility became a norm as I got older and stronger. (I now stay consistently around an eight-to-nine minute mile.)
The harder you work, the more you want it or the way outside influences change over time can all play a factor in achieving something that may seem impossible now.
The same goes for success in business. I often tell my classes at NYU about the perfect alignment of technological advancements that led to Uber becoming as popular as it is. Had Uber come out only a couple years before they did, they would have failed. It was the fact that Apple created the iPhone with a GPS that led to their achievements.
Think about it: Would ordering an Uber from a desktop computer be as impactful? Sure, you’d be able to order a car, but being able to see where it is as you’re standing on the sidewalk, get exact timing when it would arrive and an instant notification, when it was arriving, would have been near impossible.
I often read stories about companies who had similar business ideas as the ones who become massively successful. I know there are a million other factors in the mix, but often timing is one that leads to failure. As the saying goes, “they were ahead of their time.”
Being ahead of their time means the timing wasn’t right. If the timing wasn’t right, that means success is practically impossible.
But impossible doesn’t mean forever.
I have to run.