5 Things Muhammad Ali Taught Us About Greatness

Posted Nov 10 2016 06:23 AM

By Anand Satheesh

Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest, if not the greatest sporting hero of all time. He transcended boxing and sport, becoming a person ingrained into our culture. In the ring and outside of it, he provoked us and challenged us to fight our personal battles with pride and class, just as he did. The only 3-time Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion and one of the most loved men ever, he is truly the Greatest of All Time. Here are the 5 things that Muhammad Ali taught us about what it takes to be the Greatest of All Time at anything.

1.There is no such thing as overconfidence.

Muhammad Ali was renowned for his supreme confidence. His penchant for predicting the round that he would knock out his opponent and rhymes such as “I done drowned a drink of water and killed a dead tree, don’t mess with Muhammad Ali.”, were seen as arrogant.

However, Ali backed up all his talk with results in the form of 3 World Heavyweight titles. Ali’s greatest moments, such as his first title fight against Sonny Liston and The Rumble in The Jungle against George Foreman, came when he was given no chance of winning.

However, he still won, because he believed he would win. Ali was an underdog to everybody but himself. He saw no possibility of losing, because in his mind and heart, he was nothing less than the greatest of all time.

Ali showed us that the difference between confidence and arrogance is that arrogance will die down after a defeat. When you beat an arrogant person, he will back away. When you beat a confident person, he will get up stronger than ever.

Ali came back stronger from every setback he faced, never losing his faith in himself until the day he died. Rather than denting his confidence, defeat strengthened it. He believed that his defeats would give him the power to be champion in the end.

This is why he said, “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.”

The lesson to learn from Ali is the power of absolute certainty. When you think you are the greatest, it is arrogance. However, when you know and believe that you are the greatest, without a shred of doubt in your mind, you inevitably become the greatest.

2.Market Yourself

Before Muhammad Ali, boxers were silent figures who did their business in the ring. The talking was left to the managers and corner men. However, Ali flipped the equation on it’s head. He acted cocky and carried himself with pride in an era when black men were expected to be silent and not rebel against the establishment.

People hated him for the way he carried himself, which was only increased by his tendency to taunt his opponents and his frequent assertions that he was the greatest of all time. However, his confidence and cocky sayings were what attracted the worldwide audience he had.

The people who loved him wanted him to win, and the people who hated him wanted to see his big mouth shut. However, Ali due to his sheer ability, did not afford his haters this pleasure. Therefore, the haters kept coming back, in the hopes that he would be silenced one day, while his supporters stayed on.

By marketing himself as the greatest of all time, Ali attracted to himself the audience befitting of such greatness. Only by having the courage and foresight to tell the world your true worth does it give you the audience to appreciate your gifts. Next time you are faced with a challenge, take a bit of the Muhammad Ali philosophy and say, “I’ll show you how great I am.”

3.You get what you are willing to accept in life

In Muhammad Ali’s eyes, he was nothing less than the greatest of all time. He said once, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” The problem with most people is not that their goals are too big, it is that they are too small.

Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, would reference this story when asked about Ali. One day, when Ali was 15 years old, Ali heard that Dundee was in town. By this time, Dundee was a renowned trainer, having trained the light-heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano.

Dundee recalled getting a call, with Ali saying something like, “This is Cassius Clay, the Golde Gloves champion of Louisville, Kentucky. I’m going to be the heavyweight champion of the world. Can I come up?”

Ali was invited up, Dundee became his trainer, and the rest is history. Until his death in 2012, Dundee, after telling this story, would shake his head in wonder and say, “Can you believe that he was only 15 years old at the time?”

There is a choice we have to make as individuals. We can all be masters at our craft. But we have to accept the sacrifices that come along with that. Family time, being a great friend, or a great son, or whatever the case maybe.

Greatness demands everything. It is possible for anyone to reach the peak of their field. However, very few have the courage to put everybody on notice and say, “I am here to be an all time-great.” Consequently, very few ever reach the top of their field.

When you take the plunge and say, “Come hell or high water, I am going to be this.”, then you should not be surprised when you achieve it, because that ideal has always been there in your mind. When you desire something with all your heart, there is no other alternative for you other than to achieve it.

When you make the choice to be nothing less than an all-time great, your craft becomes everything to you. You start viewing your work as your calling and it becomes easy to sacrifice yourself in it’s pursuit.

4.Humble people don’t get very far

When asked about his rampant trash talking and tendency to hype himself up as better than everyone else, Muhammad Ali once said, “At home, I’m a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”

What this means is not that humility is a quality detrimental to success. In fact, humility is very important for success. What it means is that staying quiet and being afraid to express one’s beliefs and aspirations proudly in order to “fit in” with people is going to lead you down the road to mediocrity.

Muhammad Ali lived in a time when Black people were expected to stay quiet and accept the treatment that they were being given. However, Ali refused to stay quiet, carrying himself proudly, as if he were as good as anyone else.

This spirit was looked down upon by many people and he was hated for it. To all the haters, Ali said, “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky. My name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me.”

When asked to stand for the Vietnam War, Ali stood proud and refused induction, an act for which he was despised around the country. He would later be revered for standing up for his beliefs and helping Black people to find their voice in an era that would try and silence them.

Don’t stay silent about your beliefs and aspirations just to try and fit in with the crowd. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to refuse conventional wisdom and do not be afraid to put everybody on notice that you are here to achieve nothing less than true greatness.

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