Every year, Australia hosts a 900 klm race from Sydney to Melbourne. It’s a long, tough race that makes marathons look easy. It takes five days.
In 1983, a farmer named Cliff Young showed up to run in the race. Nobody there knew he was planning to run, because, after all, he was 61 years old and showed up in overalls and galoshes over his work boots to join a group of 150 world class athletes.
As Cliff walked up to the table to take his number, it became evident to everybody he was going to run. They all thought, “This must be a publicity stunt. Who’s backing this guy? He’ll drop out in 30 minutes. He’s 61 years old. He’s wearing rubber galoshes and overalls. This is crazy!”
But the press was curious, so as he took his number 64 and moved into the pack of runners in their special, expensive racing gear, the media moved their microphones into Cliff’s face, and asked, “Who are you and what are you doing?”
“I’m Cliff Young. I’m from a large ranch where we run sheep outside of Melbourne.”
They said, “You’re really going to run in this race?”
“Yeah,” Cliff nodded.
“Got any backers?”
“Then you can’t run.”
Yeah I can.” Cliff replied. “See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four wheel drives, and the whole time I was growing up– until about four years ago when we finally made some money and got a four wheeler– whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head, and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them. I believe I can run this race, it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”
When Cliff Young started the race with all these world-class athletes, people shouted, “Somebody stop him, he’ll die. He’s crazy.” They broadcast it on the news immediately, and all of Australia was watching this crazy guy who shuffled along in galoshes.
The existing paradigm for the Sydney to Melbourne race was to run 18 hours and sleep six. But Cliff didn’t stop after the first 18 hours. He kept running. Every night he got just a little bit closer to the pack. By the last night, he passed them. By the last day, he was way in front of them. Not only did he run the Melbourne to Sydney race at age 61– all 900 kilometers, he won first place by fifteen hours and became a national hero!
When he finished the race, the media asked him what he thought enabled him to win: Cliff didn’t know you were supposed to sleep! His paradigm was chasing sheep, trying to outrun a storm.
Cliff Young, with every conceivable limitation against him, changed the whole paradigm of that race. Now, nobody sleeps. To win that race, you have to run all night as well as all day. And you know what’s really funny? The last three winners of the race have used the “Young shuffle,” because it’s more aerodynamic than the way the world-class runners were running before!
So, If that can happen to Cliff Young, in a physically demanding 900 kilometer race, what can I do….. if I have the right paradigms?
Over and Out