“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali
Reflecting on the life of one of the world’s most influential sports figures and humanitarians of the 20th century, it’s no wonder many of us feel heavy-hearted about Muhammad Ali’s recent passing. I personally surprised myself by getting hooked on video footage of Ali in the weeks after his death, scouring the Internet for clips displaying his magnetic charisma, conviction and sense of humor. (It’s impossible not to smile in admiration while watching him speak, isn’t it?) For a man to proclaim himself The Greatest and for the world not only to recognize it – but to applaud him for it – is beyond inspiring.
Muhammad Ali’s life story is as compelling as his personality. As a two-year-old, he knocked his mom’s tooth out and as an eight-year-old he told the neighborhood kids he would be champion of the world. When others called him arrogant, he responded that he wasn’t conceited, he was convinced. And being the greatest boxer of all time is only part of what made Ali so exceptional. Growing up in segregated Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali experienced a great deal of oppression that took years to overcome; yet he never succumbed to bitterness or violence. He legally abandoned his “slave name” of Cassius Clay and converted to Islam, not because anyone else was doing it but because it’s what he believed in. He was an unapologetic game-changer and a messenger of peace. For refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali faced federal prosecution, was stripped of his title and license to box, and was even sentenced to prison. He stood by his unpopular decisions and faced their consequences, and years later won back love, respect and admiration from the world. Muhammad Ali’s authenticity is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
This article was a bit challenging for me to write because it feels so important – urgent even. As I’m writing, I’m reminded of and awakened to the reason I launched No Bubblegum: to inspire and empower others to live and be their best. In a world full of distractions (from Instagram to Snapchat to Netflix), authentic connection and genuine inspiration are more critical than ever. Muhammed Ali’s life and accomplishments remind us of two fundamental points that we’d all do well to remember: 1) we each have the power to change the world and 2) we owe it to ourselves and others to be our greatest.
Nine days after Ali’s death, as we’re painfully aware, the United States experienced its most deadly mass shooting in history in Orlando, Florida. One person is killed every seventeen minutes as a result of gun violence in the US today because, despite President Obama’s many efforts over the last 8 years, our gun control laws remain not nearly strict enough. And although this tragic news has nothing to do with Muhammad Ali, it reminds us that the world is in dire need of courageous leaders like him. Like you, and like me. Real change often requires struggle, perseverance, an incredible work ethic and unrelenting resilience. We can not sit back and watch as life happens; we need to actively engage and be the change in order to create it.
6 Quotes to Live By: In Muhammad Ali’s Words.
- Self-love. I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.
- Kindness. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
- Authenticity. 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.
- Resilience. 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.
- Courage. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
- Vision. The man who has no imagination has no wings.
As eloquently spoken by wife Lonnie Williams during his funeral service, “Muhammad Ali was a great man and he makes all of us proud. We need to take notes from his life as to how we can make our world better.” Williams continued by beautifully pointing out that her husband believed in the boundless possibilities of love and the strength of our diversity, and that he was a work in progress — just like each of us. When we tap into our higher selves and increase our self-love and self-awareness, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.
* Song For This Moment: “Glory” by Common and John Legend.