“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
or in case you didn’t hear him say that Ali goes on to say later in life…
“I'm not the greatest; I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round.”
We all know the story of Muhammed Ali, he is widely recognized as the greatest boxer of all time, he has been dubbed arguably the greatest Sports Person of all time and he is also known as a great humanitarian of our time, but Ali made such profound statements about his greatness way before any real reason to do so, what did he know that the world didn’t.
The answer is obvious, in reality Ali was always destined for greatness and this obviousness was on display for all those who cared to watch. He lived out his personal life in very public circumstances and made his view on just about every topic, taboo or otherwise, well known.
From politics, to religion, to others in his sport and later in life he had opinions on most global issues.
“I ain't got no quarrel with the Vietcong. No Vietcong ever called meNigger.”
What made Ali different is that he wasn’t scared to put his words into action. He backed up everything that ever came out of his mouth with an amazing attitude to implement whatever needed to be implemented for him to achieve his greatness. Whether that was throwing his Gold Medal from the 1960 Olympic Games into the Ohio River because he was refused service in a “Whites Only Restaurant” to him refusing Conscription into the US Army for the Vietnam War, and later to be charged with the felony of his actions which brought about a 5 year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine and stripped of his boxing titles. He was famously quoted as saying;
"No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end." "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?"
So forthright was Ali’s opinions on this matter that he pursued to challenge this conviction and some almost 5 years later, in the American Supreme Court, the original judgment was reversed, but Ali had still lost 5 years of his career, arguably his prime time.
History now shows that this didn’t sway his desire to be the greatest and he came out after this and had another 29 professional bouts for an amazing 25 & 4 record.
The secret to Ali’s greatness lies in his commitment to himself, to take the position in most instances, of opposite the majority…and although he dubbed himself great in reality he was the underdog more often than not.
So do we want to be great or are we just happy to settle for the title of being average Joe Blow, or the Norm…what the hell are these anyway, how does any person allow themselves to be defined by a mathematical equation…and what does this even look like?
I believe we all have a calling to greatness, I believe that we all have the qualities to attain greatness and I believe we all truly deserve to own the title of being The Greatest, sadly what I believe counts for very little…what counts is what YOU believe.
Are you prepared to look yourself in the eye and be the underdog on any cause?
Can you accept that in acknowledging failure you are one step closer to your TRUE greatness?
I wake up everyday and I say:
“Conrad, you deserve to be healthy, you deserve to be happy, you deserve to be loved and you deserve to love. Now stay outside your swing circle and believe in your greatness.”
Call that statement whatever you want if you must “logicise”, I call it my Ali moment…whereby every day I challenge myself to fulfill my promise to myself, I invite myself to be great! That’s my choice!
In choosing this as my default position I am setting myself up to be the best person I can be above and beyond any title anybody chooses to place upon me.
I choose to be the exception to the rule and by this choice I have defaulted as the minority in a world whereby the majority are ok with being the Norm, even if they don’t admit it their actions are not as obvious and committed as their words.
More importantly their vision is so shallow that they miss the opportunity to join the dots on their life lessons that hindsight has afforded them and the eventuality of this is a plethora of missed opportunities, that will not be me. I learn from these people and this makes me even hungrier to stay above the line of normality and push on with my commitment to me, my promise to achieve my greatness.
I have faced adversity many times, and know and accept that I will be faced with this in my future. I have faced ridicule and racism and these make me stronger, I am a single father and by stereotype I am not a particularly suitable partner due to my baggage…yet my life feels less burdened than some of my single “unbaggaged” friends, and it’s because of these and other the tags society beautifully bestows on me that I am the minority and I love it ; ) There is my motivation, my catalyst my opportunity, my challenge to be great.
I said earlier that in my morning Ali moment I invite myself to stay outside my Swing Circle and what I mean by this is standing outside of my comfort zone, zigging while others zag. We have the opportunity to stick with convention and in turn the masses and in doing so we miss our own truth, our own opportunity to be great. You see to be great means to do things significantly different to those around you. To challenge yourself to see light where there is darkness, to see the sky through the clouds, to see love where there is hate…to see the silver lining in any given situation and it all starts within you!
Albert Einstein, yep another great man, once defined insanity as doing the same and expecting a different result…now did he become great because he did what the norm of his time did…would he ever have discovered the amazing Theory of Relativity if he had?
In short achieving your greatness is all about the choices we make during the day, during the week, during the month, year….during our life!
Ali’s conviction to his core values as a person and his steadfastness in the face of true suppression, degradation, humiliation and adversity makes him in my opinion The Greatest! Are you willing to live your life above the line defined as the norm…how willing are you to stand up and put your words into actions…how strong is your desire to make your actions known and to invite other to assist in championing your cause in attaining your greatness? What will be YOUR legacy?
I found this poem many years ago when my Papa passed away, I have read and re read it many times and I will leave it with you for your own reflection:
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning..to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears, 1964-1994
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth..
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars..the house..the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you”d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’’s true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we”ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile..
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy’’s being read
With your life’’s actions to rehash..
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
By Linda Ellis