Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. “The Greatest,” taught us how to be great. He could only teach what he knew, and he knew greatness. He knew how to be grand and how to be grandiose; he knew how to be extravagant and how to be exaggerent; and he especially knew how to be over-the-top and under the table, all at once at the same time. Ali was one of a kind and in a class all by himself. That’s why he was loved and loathed, reviled and revered, and shunned and wooed the world over.
In the 1960’s, Ali was known for being a captivating and a controversial and a popular and a polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He was one of the most recognized sports figures of all time, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.
Ali was iconic and an icon, a legend and legendary, a trend setter and a trailblazer. Ali did what no other athlete, and a black athlete at that, did before. He stood up for his rights as he stared down the draft. He made many friends and made many more enemies, all in the same breath. He did his fighting in and out of the ring. And along the way, he taught us some things he didn’t intend or set out to. Ali taught us how to take a hit, and why not to.
Ali is said to have ushered in the “Golden Era” of boxing. Along the way, he won the Heavyweight Championship of the World three times as he fought and defeated some of the best boxers ever to enter then ring. Ali defeated the likes of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Leon Spinks. He also fought to defeat racism and classicism, poverty and paucity, inequity and inequality, imbalance and injustice, just to name a few.
Ali was impressive “on and off the court” and in and out of the ring. He was lush and lavish, most times gaudy and garish, oft times loud and lurid and showy and brassy and crude and what we thought was rude. But Ali was truthful and candid and straight and frank, especially about himself and the times he lived in.
Ali could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” His style of fighting was new and novel and different and divisive. During his career, he was criticized and ridiculed and jeered and sneered and derided and disparaged from day one. Yet and still he managed to reach the top of his craft three times, and stayed at the top of the charts and was first in the hearts of millions of fans the world over.
So how did he do it?
Ali remained true. He was who he was and he didn’t try to please or appease just to “get a vote.” He made many decisions I’m sure he’d like to take back; but then again, he wouldn’t be Ali if he didn’t do what he did or say what he said. This is the lesson that Ali taught us.
So don’t be afraid to be different and to make a difference, even if it costs you a few friends or your championship belt. Dare to be distinct. Dare to be divergent. Dare to be diverse from the crowd. We are made to be our own snowflake. So, if God made you uniquely you, why are you trying to fit in? If you don’t fit, it’s because God made you NOT to fit, but to be a stand up and to stand out and to make a difference where there needs to be change and modification and alteration and transformation.
Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for teaching us the trade secrets of success in sports and in life.
Here are some the other things Ali taught us, in quotes:
It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.
I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.