The world literally stood still the day the news broke that boxing’s biggest export and greatest ambassador, the greatest-of-all-times, not only in boxing but arguably in sports in general, a man who stood up for activism outside the court ring as much as he stood with his skills and exploits inside it, born Cassius Clay but self-renamed Muhammad Ali, had passed.
The tributes poured in from all over. It was headline news on all international news channels. He trended on social media for consecutive days. The man Muhammad Ali was great when alive and probably greater in death, as his life becomes chronicled among the greats in history books.
Generations yet unborn will read his life story and wander how an ordinary man could have achieved such extraordinary feat and as his story is passed down from one generation to another, you can be sure someone will be inspired to commit to a life of greatness, someone will dare to walk a different path, someone will aspire to have their life chronicled among the greats that came, saw and changed the world.
I looked at Muhammad Ali’s life and while there is so much about the man (a Google search of his name returned one hundred and sixteen million hits), I identified seven life hacks that made him unique and if imbibed can alter one’s life path.
Create An Identity:
For Muhammad Ali, this started with changing his name. Ali also chose to identify with his religion and beliefs about racial inequality and injustice. He so much stood for his beliefs that he refused to be conscripted into the army because of his religious views on war. He would be stripped of his boxing titles which he later got after a Supreme Court verdict.
His day job was boxing but his life job was speaking up against the ills of the society, lending a voice to causes that otherwise would have been unheard.
Our life job answers the question why was I born? What is my purpose in life? These questions set one on a path of self discovery and mastery. Discovering your life job is the beginning of your identity and every other thing you do draws its energy from the understanding of your identity.
Greatness Can Be Found In All Endeavours
Greatness has been found in people from diverse backgrounds. It is not gender or race biased, neither is it age or faith biased. Ali was a boxer and he was a black Muslim. Winston Churchhill, Mother Teresa, Nnamdi Azikwe, Micheal Jackson, Barrack Obama, Pele etc expressed greatness in diverse fields.
One of several differentiating factors found in great people is the unwillingness for them to accept the status quo as it is. They draw on inner courage and find the passion to live out the understanding of their identity.
Challenges Are Part Of The Package
When you buy, rent or lease a furnished apartment, the air conditioning, cookers and a lot of other things come with the package. The day you were born, life already packaged challenges for you. The challenges are not meant to destroy you, the challenges are meant to test your resolve, build your character, values and patience.
Ali had several challenges in life. He suffered discrimination, suffered career setbacks and would have a prolonged fight with Parkinson’s disease. Those who win never stop believing in their ability to win.
Everything Starts With Self Belief
Henry Ford once said whether you think you are right or you are wrong, you are right. Every expression or aspiration to greatness starts with self belief. The person in the mirror is your greatest asset and also your greatest enemy.
Our inability to properly navigate the path called life is based on limitations we have placed on ourselves. Ali before any fight will always tell you he will knock his opponent down, sometimes he even tells you the particular round. He tells his opponents he will turn them to punching bags. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, fake believing in yourself till you eventually believe in yourself.
Talk Your Dreams To Reality
Big dreamers are big talkers. They constantly talk about the future like it were current reality. Ali was such a big talker there are well over one hundred thought provoking quotes credited to him.
You have to talk about your future intent in present tense. Say, you are rich, not you are going to be rich. You are not going to build a multi-million dollar business, you own a multi-million dollar business. Avoid talking about your dreams among people with small minds as they will attempt to reduce your dreams to the size of their minds.
Take The Road Less Travelled
Boxing before Muhammad Ali’s era was opponents taking each other’s punches till someone got weak and gave up. Ali came and said he won’t get hit, rather he would dance around the ring and avoid his opponents punches, wearing them out in the process and jabbing the opponents when they were least expecting him to do so.
If you do what everybody else is doing the same way everyone else is doing it, you will get the same results everyone is getting. Dare to travel the road less travelled. Question the status quo, cringe and inquire why when people make the statement that’s how we have always done it. Every innovation starts with someone asking a different question.
Aim For Mastery
The world only remembers those who attained mastery in their endeavours regardless of what it is. In whatever field you play, aspire to move into the top 5% of influencers in that field. Ali in his time was top 1%. Michael Jackson, Aliko Dangote, Jack Welch etc attained mastery and reached the top of their games.
Mastery comes from countless hours of practice, many cycles of failure and continuous learning. A continuous loop of learning and disciplined practice over time generates mastery in any field.
Muhammad Ali’s life even in death continues to be an inspiration and I join the world to light a candle for an all time great Muhammad Ali 1942-2016.