Welcome to Keep On Pushing radio.
I am your host Devon Harris and I definitely appreciate you stopping by.
As always, my goal is to provide you with information and insights that will challenge and inspire you to live your best life.
So, again, welcome!
He was arguably boxing’s most celebrated athlete. A three time heavy weight champion who is regarded as one of the Top 50 Athletes of the 20th Century.
To the chagrin of many, he converted to Islam, changed his name and became a member of The Nation of Islam, a group widely regarded by the American media as highly dangerous.
He became even more polarizing after he refused to be enlisted in the United States Army and strenuously voiced his opposition to the Vietnam war.
He devoted much of his time to philanthropy and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He endured some tough battles……faced some tenacious opponents during his life but none as fierce and as unyielding as Parkinson’s disease— a battle and an opponent he tussled with from the time he was first diagnosed in 1984 until he passed away at the age of 74 years on June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you guessed it right….I am speaking about
Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee….no one can defeat Muhammad Ali……the true GOAT…..the Greatest Of All Time.
As you well know, the world of sports is filled with great athletes and showmen….those who know intuitively how to reel in the world, not only with their athletic prowess but also with their charm and charisma and wit.
And perhaps none was better at combining the two—athletics and entertainment than the man who was loved and revered by many all over the world….as I said earlier, the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali.
So as we mourn the passing and celebrate the life of this extraordinary man, it dawned on me that surely part of his legacy is the many lessons all of us can take away from the way he lived his life. Lessons that we undoubtedly can apply to our own lives, of course, not to become another Muhammad Ali but to become the best we can be.
So, in this podcast, I would like us to look at six life lessons we can glean from Muhammad Ali’s life and as we do so, hopefully spark something in you. You know it’s all about you right?
It is about you and your growth and your success. So as we explore these life lessons from Muhammad Ali, my hope is that you will hear something that will light a spark in you and inspire you to live a more productive and fulfilled life.
But before we do that….before we delve into the lessons, let’s do a quick recap of his life.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17,1942 to Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr and Odessa O’Grady Clay.
It was an odd twist of fate that brought the young Clay to boxing. When he was 12 years old someone stole his bike and boy was he mad….so mad that he told the police officer, Joe Martin who happened to be a boxing coach as well that he was going to “whup” the thief. The wise officer told the young man that he should probably learn to box first and that, ladies and gentlemen is how the legend began!
Clay won his first amateur bout in 1954 by a split decision. He then went on to win the 1956 Golden Glove tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. Three years later, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, as well as the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title for light heavyweight’s.
At age 18, 6 years after he first donned a pair of boxing gloves, he won a gold medal in the Rome Olympic Games in 1960.
And 4 yrs after at age 22, he became the youngest man to win the world heavyweight title when he defeated Sonny Liston in an upset in 1964.
Shortly after becoming the Heavy Weight Boxing Champion of the World, Cassius Clay announced that he’d joined the Nation of Islam, and changed what he described as his slave name Cassius Marcellus Clay to Muhammad Ali.
In 1966, two years after he won the heavyweight title; citing religious objection and opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War; Ali
refused to be drafted into the US Army.He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing titles. His conviction was overturned in 1971 after successfully appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By that time, he had not fought for nearly four years—losing what could be argued as a period of peak performance as an athlete. On the other hand. his actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.
Now, once he was reinstated, Ali quickly became a contender for the World Heavy Weight Boxing title setting up a showdown with the reigning Champion, Joe Frazier. It was was known as the “Fight of the century” and Frazier won by unanimous decision.
George Foreman’s defeat of Frazier set up another title match for Ali when he squared off against George in Zaire in what was was known as “The Rumble in the jungle”. That was the fight in which Ali introduced us to the “Rope-A-Dope”—a strategy in which he retreated to the ropes and invited Foreman to hit him while covering up, clinching and counter-punching, all while verbally taunting Foreman. After Foreman had tire himself out, Ali countered and knocked him out in the 8th round, regaining the world heavyweight title.
Ali had a number of other fights until he faced Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manilla”. And boy, was it a Thriller! Ali won that fight after Frazier’s trainer refused to allow him to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, despite Frazier’s protests.
In 1978, an aging Ali lost the title to Leon Spinks in a 15-round split decision but regained it seven months later by defeating Spinks and in the process becoming the first man to win the World heavyweight Boxing title three times.
There has been much discussion as to whether the severe head trauma he suffered during his boxing career contributed to his diagnosis with Parkinson disease in 1984. The disease significantly hampered his motor skills, limited his speech and his movement.
In spite of the Parkinson’s, Ali remained in the public spotlight, traveling the world to make humanitarian, goodwill and charitable appearances. He had the honor of lighting the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. The BBC named him “Sporting Personality of the Century,” and Sports Illustrated named him “Sportsman of the Century.”
As I mentioned earlier, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and he opened the Muhammad Ali Center, a nonprofit museum and cultural center focusing on peace and social responsibility,in his hometown of Louisville.
Ok, so that’s me trying to condense 74 yrs of a life, most of which was spent in the public eye, doing some amazing things….that’s me trying to condense all of that into a just few minutes.
So let’s jump into some of the lessons that we can learn from the life of Muahammad Ali.
The first one is:
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Some people actually consider Sonny Liston to be among the best heavyweights of all-time but without a doubt, he was the most intimidating fighter of his day, and The guy was so dominating….so intimidating that many fighters of the day…..many would be opponents simply refused to meet him in the ring.
He was feared inside the ring but his suspected ties to the mob, perhaps the fact that he spent some time in prison made him feared outside the ring as well and he was not well liked.
Now, you would think that the public’s hostility toward Liston would warm them to Cassius Clay as Ali was known at the time but to the contrary, the brash young Clay was equally disliked by the reporters and most if not all of them didn’t give him a snowball’s chance in hell against Liston.
Here is a quick sample of what the press had to say about Ali at the time:
Lester Bromberg of the New York World-Telegram said, and I quote,
“It will last longer than the Patterson fight—almost the entire first round.” , end quote
Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times quipped, and I quote, ”The only thing at which Clay can beat Liston is reading the dictionary.” end quote.
Of the 46 sportswriters at ringside, 43 had picked Sonny Liston to win by knockout.
You get the picture right? The press wasn’t in Ali’s corner.
Boxing experts were not bursting at the seems with confidence about Ali’s chances either!
Yes, he was fast, they thought his speed was mesmerizing, in fact he was blessed with a rare combination of skill, speed, and talent but they saw him as a light puncher lacking the ability to take a punch or to fight inside.
The bookies didn’t believe in him either. Ali was a seven to one betting underdog.
Of course, as we know, Ali stopped Liston in 8 rounds and declared, “I shook up the world!, I shook up the world!”
The bottom line is this: Although the challenges were enormous and many people didn’t believe in him, Ali believed in himself.
As he remarked and I quote,
“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” , end quote
The interesting thing about life is that if you don’t believe in yourself, then guess what?
No one else will either!
And really, how can you expect others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?
What Ali demonstrated is that even when others don’t believe in you, you must believe in yourself.
AFFIRM YOURSELFThere are tons of people who fail to live the life they have always wished to live. They fail to realize their ambitions and they give up on their big dreams at the first sign of trouble. The main reason for this is that they do not believe in themselves.
Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone who believes in him or herself. They believe in themselves, even when the world doesn’t believe in them. It is this self-belief that is often the difference between successful people and the not so successful, even more so than intelligence, resources, opportunities and so on. They believe that no matter what, they can achieve their goals. That self belief is the thing that inspires them to take action and to keep on pushing when things get tough.
The second thing that Muhammad Ali taught us is that we should
“I’m the greatest thing that ever lived! I’m the king of the world! I’m a bad man. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.”
Do you remember that?
That was Muhammad Ali himself, talking about himself. That was Muhammad Ali talking to himself about himself and we had the privilege of listening in.
He also said and I quote, “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” end quote.
And in a more subdued, almost philosophical tone he also reminded us or taught us and I quote, “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” , end quote.
Many people saw Ali as a loud mouth braggart and although he did say, and I quote, “It aint bragging if you can back it up.”, end quote. Yes, he said that but I think most people didn’t understand him and what he was doing.
You see, his witty little poems predicting the round in which he would eventually dispatch his opponent, was a way to negatively play on his opponent’s mind and at the same time to positively play on his. Those poems and his boisterous outbursts were his way of affirming to himself that he was indeed the best at what his does. So when he makes good on his predictions, declaring or even boasting that his next opponent will be knocked out in the 6th round, it makes lesser-willed opponents believe its probability. This is probably the first time we saw psychological warfare being used in the boxing ring and it certainly helped to beat tough fighter even before bout began.
So how exactly was Ali able to do that you ask?
Was he connected to some mysterious force that allowed him to see into the future?
Muhammad Ali had tapped into a powerful force called affirmations
So what are affirmations?
Affirmations are the words we say to ourselves or quite frankly, that others say to us that we believe, think about, act on. These words or statements describe a situation or a goal we desire to achieve and as we repeat them frequently and with emotion, they become impressed in our subconscious.
Now, understand this…..affirming yourself is a process. You don’t just declare “I am the best” or whatever quality you want to have and it instantly happens. It is a process. It is something you have to do repeatedly. For when you do, it causes your subconscious mind to to strive and to work on your behalf, to make those positive statements come true.
Now, it important to note that Ali never said, I’m great or I’m almost the greatest. He certainly never said, Next year I’ll be the greatest. He simply said I’m the greatest!
And when he did, he accomplished a few things at the same time:
Firstly, he was telling his own subconscious mind what it had to work with. You see, as far as the subconscious is concerned, there is only the present — the eternal present. So, Ali defined himself as the greatest and let his subconscious know right then and there that that is what is was supposed to believe….not tomorrow or next next year but right now.
Secondly, by speaking his affirmation with such force and emotion, he putting his subconscious on notice. He had declared it, now he had to live up to it.
And thirdly, once he had lived up to it….once he became champion of the world or he knocked out an opponent as predicted, he got others to believe it, as well.
So, affirmations strengthen…..they strengthen us by helping us believe in our potential. They help us believe in our ability to achieve a particular goal. When we articulate and affirm our dreams and ambitions verbally and with emotion, we become empowered with a deep sense of reassurance that our wishful words will in fact become reality.
Do you know what the challenge for most people is?
They spend most of their time repeating negative words and statements concerning their aspirations and circumstances and consequently, and unfortunately, they create the undesirable situations they want to change around. The thing you have to realize is that the words that you say to yourself, the thoughts that you think, work both ways—they can build and they can destroy.
Which one will you choose?
As you ponder this question, understand this….
It is the words and thoughts that you use…..in other words, the things that you affirm to yourself…..the things that you declare to be true that determine whether you will reap positive or negative results.
So, Ali taught us to believe in yourself….even when no one else will believe in you….you must believe in yourself.
He taught us to affirm yourself. Today, much of the world acknowledges that he was or is the Greatest Of All Time. And as he declared, and I quote, “I said it even before I knew I was”
The third lesson we can glean from his life is that you should
One journalist says this about Muhammad Ali and and I quote, “He was The Greatest, not just in the ring, but a man who was ahead of his time, believed in core values and had the courage of his own convictions to go against the grain,” end quote
Muhammad Ali was the superstar of superstars and yet, If there is one thing you can say about him, it’s that he was comfortable, very comfortable in his own skin. He never forgot other people that weren’t as privileged as he was … never forgot the ‘little” people. And for all his braggadocio, he was a very humble guy. He looked at people for who they were, not what they were.
Yes, as he puts it, he was “pretty”, he was loudly, bold, undaunted, brash, but more than that he was hardworking, honest, principled, and a man of conviction. He stood up for what he believed in regardless of what others thought or what it might cost him.
His conversion and vocal devotion to Islam and his name change,his frank conversations on racial violence and injustice, his unapologetic love for black people, his willingness to confront the U.S. government,……all of this resulted in him being reviled in many quarters but he held his ground.
As he said, and I quote, “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.”, end quote.
One of the things that trip up most people is that they try to fit in to please others. They try not to rock the boat but instead toe the line by behaving in a way they believe others would approve of.
Many young people believe that when they do things to please their peers, such as drink when they shouldn’t, or behave and party in inappropriate ways, they will be popular and liked. They go against the advice of their parents or their own common sense only to find themselves in trouble and not accomplishing what they set out to do.
Of course, the same can be said about adults as well. They put up appearances, trying to keep up with the Joneses not realizing that that kind of behavior in its own way is just as dangerous as a teenager engaging in binge drinking.
But more than that what people have to realize is that the best, most powerful and compelling way they can show up in the world is to be themselves, their true authentic self.
It is true that a lot of people struggle, it is a real challenge for them to feel confident in who we are. Some feel vulnerable physically, emotionally, intellectually even spiritually. And while it is true that we all suffer to some extent from some kind of insecurity….we all have areas in our lives where we eel less than adequate, know that when we focus on those short comings, our self confidence wanes and we fail to live up to our fullest potential.
So, we all have to learn to become comfortable in your own skin.
That means accepting yourself as you are….warts and all…just being secure with all the imperfections and short comings.
But here is the thing….even as you acknowledge and embrace the blemishes, at the core of it all, you must have the sense or you must develop the sense that you are fine just as you are. And I am not just referring to physical appearance—lots of people have multiple plastic surgeries and still struggle to be at ease with who they are deep down inside. When you are truly comfortable with yourself, you don’t feel the need for comparisons, and you don’t feel the need to do things simply to impress others.
Unfortunately, when you do things that are not genuine or a reflection of the real you, you will not be happy with yourself and you will end up confused. You’ll be confused because you won’t know whom to please, or how to please whoever it is you need to please. And that diminishes your self respect.
Muhammad Ali taught us that when you respect yourself, others will respect you. They may not always like you initially but they will eventually come to love and respect you.
So, remember, you do not need validation from others. Be yourself. Be comfortable in your own skin. For when you are, as Ali demonstrate, you will be strong and capable of standing up for yourself and your beliefs.
Ok, just a quick recap…..
Muhammad Ali taught that you should believe in yourself….you should affirm yourself and you should be yourself and as you know these are not theories folks….these are not just some hair-brained ideas that we pulled out of the ether. These are lessons gleaned from how the man actually lived his life. And I would argue that he lived a successful life and certainly one of the keys to success is to model the things that other successful people have done.
Ok…..Let’s take a quick break
You are listening to Keep On Pushing radio….I am your host Devon
Thanks for staying with us….you are listening to Keep On Pushing radio and I am your host Devon Harris
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We are discussing some of the lessons we can learn from the life of boxing great, humanitarian and activist. Muhammad Ali.
Earlier, we spoke about the fact that you have to believe in yourself. Even when the world doesn’t believe in you, you must have an unwavering belief in your ability to achieve your goals and dreams. Ali shook up the world with his upset of Sonny Liston. No one else believed that that was possible but he did.
We also discussed the fact that You must Affirm yourself.
You have to use powerful, positive words and thoughts to train your subconscious mind to create the results you desire. We saw Ali doing that numerous times with his with witty poems predicting the round he would win his fights.
And you must be yourself. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin…..accept yourself as you are. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you will not feel the need to compare yourself to others but will instead present yourself to the world as the genuine, authentic you.
the fourth lesson we can glean from his life is that you must
TAKE A STAND
Muhammad Ali was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War.
In March 1966 after three failed appeals to have his draft status changed due to what he called his non-violent Muslim faith and membership in the Nation of Islam,he refused to be drafted in the US Army. He went before military induction officials inside Houston’s Military Entrance Processing Station building and refused to step forward for induction when his name was called. He was later arrested.
At the time, the war was enjoying a 50 percent rating in the polls and for the most famous athlete on the planet to openly speak disparagingly of the war was at the time was tantamount to blasphemy if not worse. And to add fuel to an already incendiary situation, Ali declared “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” He quickly became one of the most hated person in the country.
Because of his stance, his career spiraled out of control:
His boxing license was suspended by the New York State Athletic Commission He was systematically denied a boxing license in every state
He was stripped of his World heavy Weight Title
He was banned from Boxing in the United States and
His passport was taken away so that he couldn’t fight anywhere else in the world
For a time, Ali continued to face public pressure to accept service. During his four years of court battles, he was given opportunities to recant, apologize and join the military in an entertainment capacity — to perform for the troops and cameras and show off his own signature persona. He declined.
Some of his allies turned against him.
The Nation of Islam, the same religious group that anointed him Muhammad Ali, disavowed him for his style of active resistance,
The great Jackie Robinson, an athlete and activist himself during his playing years and beyond, ripped Ali for disappointing black war veterans, and by and large, black soldiers agreed with Robinson. They all felt that Ali was being too radical.
Nonetheless, Ali, stood his ground, declaring, and I quote, “I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.” end quote
As you can see, the consequences for Ali’s action were far reaching but he took a stand. He abided by the courage of his convictions to voice his dissent against something that he didn’t agree with.
It is very easy to have contempt for something you don’t like but what Ali has taught us is that you have to also speak out against it.
You don’t necessarily need to take on the government like Ali did but you can take a stand against an injustice you notice in your neighborhood, in the office or even in your own family.
I am not suggesting that it is an easy thing to do. As you saw in Ali’s life, it will more than likely come with steep price to paY — criticism, ridicule and sometimes even worse. It’s up to you to decide if you have the courage of your conviction to stand up for what you believe.
HAVE A PURPOSE
Muhammad Ali invested a lot of his time in philanthropic and humanitarian work. A quick synopsis of his work shows:
He visited a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon, where he declared “support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland”
He visited Kenya and successfully convinced the government to boycott the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
In Los Angeles, he talked a suicidal man down from jumping off a ninth-floor ledge.
He visited Sudan to raise awareness about the plight of famine victims.
Prior to operation Desert shield, he traveled to Iraq and secured the release of American hostages from Saddam Hussein
He teamed up with actor Michael J Fox to raise awareness and fund research for a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
He went to Afghanistan as the “U.N. Messenger of Peace
Muhammad Ali recognized that he had a greater purpose in life beyond throwing left jabs and right upper cuts in the ring and I believe the synopsis I just shared with you of his life outside the ring demonstrates that. It is a tremendous legacy.
Now to be honest, I don’t think anyone starts out life thinking of the legacy they want to leave behind. No one starts out thinking about the impact they want to have on the world. They start out thinking about how they want to change their world but as they begin to make progress, as they start to rack up some successes along the way, many people become introspective and begin to dig deeper into who they really are, what they really want and the part they want to play in the world at large, a role that is outside of themselves and much bigger than themselves.
Author Daniel Pink reminds us, and I quote, “Humans, by their nature, seek purpose – a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.”, end quote
So yes, having a successful business or career, being successful personally might be the stated goal but purpose is about what you can do with that success to make the world a better place. That’s what Muhammad Ali’s life taught us.
I believe that when we start to see the needs of others, When we begin to feel empathy for the challenges they are experiencing, When we begin to examine how we can use our skills, talent, knowledge and experience to address some of those needs and challenges and we decide to step out with conviction…… a strong desire and belief in our abilities to make a difference we begin to identify and live our purpose and we become inspired to give more of ourselves in the service of others. And as Ali famously said once, and I quote, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” , end quote. Here’s the thing….. The more you grow, the more you can contribute. The more you grow, the more you have of yourself to give. So yes, we all start out looking at how best we can serve ourselves but if that remains your only goal, then happiness and contentment….true success will be fleeting for you. On the other hand if your mission is to serve others, then you will definitely be more fulfilled. You’d be living a life of and on purpose because you are going beyond success, you are going beyond yourself to make a real difference in the lives of others.
WHEN YOU GET KNOCKED DOWN, GET BACK UP!
“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.” That’s a quote by Muhammad Ali.
If there is ever a sport that epitomized this philosophy, it is boxing. During his illustrious career, in which he contested 56 bouts, Muhammad Ali was knocked down 5 five times in the ring. I’d say those are pretty good numbers, wouldn’t you? Now, he wasn’t able to get back up and win all of those fights……that only happens in the movies. What is sure, is that Ali was always able to pick himself back up, retool and found found a way to win his next fight.
After Ken Norton broke his jaw he said this, and I quote, “I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.” end quote
If you know anything about his life though, I think you would agree that it was out of the ring that he took his biggest punches and got his most knock downs but still managed to get back up again.
He paid a heavy price for his refusal to be drafted in the army and for his stance against the Vietnam war. Not only was he stripped of his boxing title but he lost what many would argue the prime years of his life as an athlete. Not to mention the money he lost because he was not allowed to fight anywhere. He ended up in debt.
As I mentioned earlier, he was deserted by friends, reviled by society. Even Parkinson’s disease dealt him a severe blow. The debilitating disease wrecked his body but couldn’t stop him from working on behalf of the needy and disadvantaged. It took his speech but could not silence his voice, it altered his life but could not dampen his joy for life.
Yes man, life knocked him to the ground time and time again but he found a way to get back up.
The bottom life is that nothing that is worth accomplishing in life is going to come easy.
We will all experience moments of despair, frustration, disappointment even outright defeat. Absolutely, you will be knocked down a few times, perhaps more that a few times along the way, I guarantee it, but know that you have the strength within you to find a way to get back to your feet and start swinging again.
I really see it as a test. Life is going to test your commitment to achieving your dreams. It will test you by knocking you down…kicking your feet from under you. You will lose your businesses…your livelihood, your relationships will fail, your health will deteriorate, your career will skid off the rails, the list goes on. You answer life’s challenge is the same way the same way a boxer answers the bell….getting back on your feet.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen……six lessons from the life of the Greatest Of All Time—Muhammad Ali. Lessons that all of us can no doubt apply to our lives or reinforce in our own lives to create a more productive, fulfilling experience during our time here on earth.
There are of course many more gems that we could mine from the life of this incredible man, but these six are the ones I wanted to share with you.
Perhaps as you ponder the ideas I just shared with you in this podcast, you can think of a few other lessons from this extraordinary life that you can add to the list.
Thank you for tuning in.
You have been listening to Keep On Pushing RadiO, I am your host, Devon Harris.
And as always,
Keep On Pushing!