What We Can Learn From ‘The Greatest’
June 7, 2016
He was The Greatest, The People’s Champion and so much more. I never saw Muhammad Ali in his prime, only the man silenced by a ruthless disease. Since his passing, I’ve taken a deep dive into the life of Muhammad Ali to find the traits that made him the man he was. After all, he was The Greatest, and I think that’s something we should all strive to be.
You have to believe in something and stand by it. You may be wrong, but if it’s something you believe, it’s worth fighting for—literally and figuratively, in Ali’s case. He didn’t believe in the Vietnam War, so he ignored his Army draft notice. He believed African-Americans were treated as inferiors, so he fought back. Right or wrong, he held on to his beliefs and spoke his mind.
Whether it was banter with Howard Cosell or trash talk in the ring, Ali’s personality always shined through. He once said, “I know I look good.” He often described upcoming bouts in long soliloquies, rhyming at every turn. Do yourself a favor, watch old Ali interviews and soak it all in. We’ll never see another personality quite like him.
A $60 bike was stolen from Ali—then Cassius Clay—when he was 12 years old. The bike was never found, but Ali promised that if he ever found the kid who stole his bike, he’d “whup him.” I’ll just say, that kid really got away with something—because he would have been in a world of hurt had Ali ever made good on his promise. Ali used that tiny chip on his shoulder to become the world’s greatest boxer. Through rigorous training, he became a monster in the ring. It was that, among many other things, that served as motivation every day.
Perhaps the No. 1 thing you need to be The Greatest is a large, strong heart. Ali’s heart fit the bill, beating for half an hour after all other organs had shut down. More impressive was his approach to those around him. When asked how he’d like to be remembered, he said: