17 Life lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is one of my modern heroes and I am saddened to hear of his passing away.
By Mustafa Kurdi BPharm
Muhammad Ali is one of my modern heroes and I am saddened to hear of his passing away. He is considered one of the greatest athletes to ever have lived by many – and in my opinion he was. When a great mind and personality passes away, there is usually sadness and sorrow. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the lessons I learned as I grow into the man I want to be. Coincidently, Muhammad Ali and I share the same birthday, January 17, so in tribute; here are 17 lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali.
1. Stick to your values: Muhammad Ali embodied true masculine energy by sticking to his mission and purpose no matter what the consequences were. When he declined induction to the army to fight in the Vietnam war he was banned from the sport of boxing. He lost some of the most important prime years (age 25-29) of his life away from the boxing ring. He did so believing in his core values and what he stood for as a man. In hindsight, everyone would agree that Muhammad Ali was right in his decision. Let your value system run your decision-making. Focus on the process of listening to your core and let the results be as it may. At the end of the day, by following your values, you can ensure no regrets.
2. Be yourself : ‘I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want to be.’ You do not need validation from others. Be yourself. Feel comfortable under your skin and improve yourself. No need to apologize if you are a person of character. Be yourself and then you’ll attract the right people in your life.
3. Have a purpose: ‘Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them–a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster. They have to have the skill and the will, but the will must be stronger than the skill.’ It is not what you do that makes you a champion, it is why you do it and how you do it. Muhammad Ali was a champion because his big goal was to help others. Therefore, he was the same person (of principle) in and outside the ring.
4. Be great: ‘I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.’ To be great you must know you are great. You must realize that your potential to be great exists within you and it’s just a matter of showing it. No one can see the potential that you have except you. Execute! You do not need validation from others.
5.Focus on the positive: After getting Parkinson disease, he kept a positive attitude. ‘Parkinson’s is my toughest fight. No, it doesn’t hurt. It’s hard to explain. I’m being tested to see if I’ll keep praying, to see if I’ll keep my faith. All great people are tested by God.’ Enough said! What would you do if you are faced with a calamity? How would your attitude change? For every hardship and failure there are opportunities that formulate. Can you see them? Can you capture the opportunities?
6. Get back up when you fall down: ‘ 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.’ If you fall, pick yourself back up. Let the opportunity of falling down be a lesson on how to get back up. Learn from your failures in order to grow as a person of character.
7. No pain no gain: ‘I hated every minute of training, but I said don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Who ever said training was fun. Stick to the habits of practicing on your craft/skill and you will reap the rewards over time. Focus on one rep, one jump, one movement at a time.
8. Believe in yourself: ‘It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.’ If you don’t believe in your gift and your skills that you want to give to the world, then the world won’t believe in you. Show and tell. Don’t fool yourself. Listen to the voice in your head telling you of your potential to be great. Just follow it.
9. Laugh and make others laugh: ‘Comedy is a funny way of being serious. My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world.’ People like others who can make them laugh. Some studies even say that men who are funny are intelligent. In this world of violence and problems, humor can diffuse any situation. Laugh things off and make others smile. You have the power to be a magician by changing other people’s moods instantly. This is what Muhammad Ali did to people. A genius!
10. Be a good friend: ‘friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.’ A friend is someone who is there for you when it counts. Someone who is there to pick you up when you’re down and stand up for you when you are not around. Be a good friend by your actions and not your words. Anyone can wine and dine you or flatter you, but not everyone can be there for you when you need him or her, unless they are your true friend. Be that friend who is always there for your friends.
11. Use your time wisely: ‘Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.’ Your time is your life. Don’t waste it. Focus on your goals and keep on going. Take it one day at a time and win more days than you loose. This follows to point #12.
12. What you think is what you become: ‘What you are thinking about, you are becoming .’ Actions stem from thoughts. If you want to control your actions then develop positive thoughts. Great thoughts lead to great actions.
13. Keep learning: ‘ A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.’ Learning never ends. If you think you know it all then you don’t know anything. Growth happens overtime. Challenge yourself to learn what you do not know so that one day you will know and help others do the same.
14. Take risks and speak up: ‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.’ Don’t just remain quiet, take a risk and put yourself out there. Muhammad Ali was always an expressive person. He took a risk even by speaking-not fearing any judgments, but at the end of the day, we can all say he was an influential speaker because of it.
15. Fake it till you make it: ‘To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.’ Before you are good at something, embrace the attitude/ persona/ thought process you want to achieve. Overtime the acting will become a new habit and you will exemplify those qualities you desire. No one is born with every skill or attribute. If there is a quality you like and you don’t have it-yet, learn how to fake it till you make it. Go!
16. Love others: ‘ If we continue to think and live as if we belong only to different cultures and different religions, with separate missions and goals, we will always be in self-defeating competition with each other. Once we realize we are all members of humanity, we will want to compete in the spirit of love.’ If you want to give to others you must first be able to love others.
17. Inspire and give to others : ‘I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world. You have a gift that the world needs. “Service to others is the rent we pay for our room in heaven.’ -Ali. Ali was known to help the poor on the streets and be part of multiple humanitarian organizations. He was awarded the “lifetime Achievement Award.” My Kofi Annan among others.
In one of Ali’s interviews he was asked 'What would you like people to think about you when you’re gone?' Muhammad Ali replied,
‘He took a few cups of love.
He took one tablespoon of patience.
One teaspoon of generosity.
One pint of kindness.
He took one quart of laughter.
One pinch of concern.
And then he mixed willingness with happiness.
He added lots of faith.
And he stirred it up well.
Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime.
And he served it to each and every deserving person he met.’
In short, Muhammad Ali taught me to stick to my values and therefore be comfortable with who I am. I learned that if I am myself then I can sincerely be in a position to improve and be able to give my gift to people around me. If everyone can do this then the world would be a better place. We need everyone’s gifts to shine especially in the darkness.
Rest in peace, champ.