Three-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali is considered one of the world’s greatest boxers. His professional record of 56 wins and five losses is unprecedented. After retirement, he traveled the world as an ambassador of peace and championed social causes like ending poverty and discrimination.
A Short Biography
Muhammad Ali was born “Cassius Clay” on January 17th, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky.
At age 12, Cassius was discovered by a boxing coach. He trained under various coaches as an amateur boxer and had an amazing record of 100 wins to 5 losses. He became a professional boxer after winning the Summer Olympics gold medal in 1960.
He took the name Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam at age 22.
Ali had a unique fighting style. He did not adopt the high arm guard but instead relied on his speed to avoid opponent’s punches. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” as he used to say.
More than technique, he had incredible belief in himself. He never believed that he would lose a fight, and used his words to either taunt his opponent or ‘predict’ his defeat by calling out the round which his opponent would be knocked out.
Ali had an extremely successful professional boxing career; he suffered only 5 defeats, with 56 wins and over half of them knock-outs. During his career Ali defeated every top heavyweight (an era which has been called the Golden Age of Heavyweight boxing).
After his retirement, he traveled around the world to fight for humanitarian causes such as poverty, hunger, and racism.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and faded from the public eye. He passed away on June 3rd, 2016.
- Believe in yourself
Muhammad Ali’s physical skill in the ring wasn’t his only advantage. One of his greatest assets was his belief in himself and his abilities. His life was a testimonial of how far self-belief and affirmation can carry oneself. Ali had often said that he began believing he was the greatest before he became the greatest.
As leaders, it’s important to cultivate self-belief as well. It’s crucial not just to think, but know that we are more than capable for the task before us. Before you can achieve victory on the outside, you have to achieve the victory on the inside.
- Envision your desired future
Muhammad Ali not only believed in himself, he constantly articulated his vision for his future. Before he fought an opponent, Ali would not only tell an opponent he would be beaten by knockout, he would even ‘predict’ the round.
While Ali’s predictions were used to intimidate his opponents, the principle is sound. The power of a leader is his ability to envision the future, and to couple that vision with the self-belief to see it through. Whatever you want to see happen in your life and your organization, start by envisioning it and then articulate it to your team.
- Preparation is key
Muhammad Ali believed that a fight was won not in the boxing ring, but in time spent preparing for the match. As he famously said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
This is the principle of preparation: 90% of the battle is won not when you’re fighting, but before you even step in the ring.
Whether you’re speaking in public or leading your organization, your success or failure has already been predetermined by the time you spent preparing for it. How can you train to be the best at what you do? What can you practice daily to win the match before it begins?
Quotes from Muhammad Ali
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
“I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.”
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
“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.”
“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.”