Two days ago, the world mourned the passing of boxing great Muhammad Ali. He left this world at age 74 due to respiratory complications after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
He is probably better known to those not familiar with his boxing career for his quote “Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee”. Even I had a t-shirt with those very words emblazoned across my chest.
The real tragedy, though, is that his long time association with Parkinson’s plundered both his grace and power. However, that did not stop him from continuing to use his massive influence to inspire and help communities and charities all over the globe.
He was more than just a pop culture phenomenon, he was a human being trying to make a positive difference.
Throughout the years, from when he was still active as a boxer, and even during his post-retirement era, Muhammad Ali continued to be an inspirational figure and role-model to young and old alike. With it also came streams of iconic one liners and speeches, that until this day, still resonate with anyone regardless of gender, social status, and upbringing.
Whether you are a student, or a working adult, here are some of his greatest quotes that you will definitely be able to draw inspiration from.
10 Lessons From Muhammad Ali
Not everyone is a prodigy or a genius.
Everyone has got to start somewhere, and what is important is to not give it up when the going gets tough, especially at the rocky beginning stages. Reaping the rewards of your blood, sweat and tears will be all the more satisfactory should you attain what you have aimed for all this time.
“Impossible is just a 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 potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.“
Popularised through his collaborative campaign with Adidas, this quote is a longstanding favourite of those who have found themselves caught in a rut.
When faced against insurmountable odds, it is more convenient to call it quits and leave things unfinished; true survivors are those who can overcome any form of futility and advance to the next stage with renewed vigour even in the face of failure.
Make progress, not excuses. pic.twitter.com/OD9BGwUhoz
— Muhammad Ali (@MuhammadAli) December 7, 2015
Continuing the theme of going against the impossible, making progress in whatever you do, no matter how little, is definitely one way to overcome any setbacks.
It may take a while with slow but steady steps, but at the very least you are not making up excuses to detract yourself from your final destination. Excuses are for the weak-willed.
The start of anything is always the easy bit – the honeymoon period, as some would call it, is merely the calm before the storm. It is when the things get rough, or in some cases, when you hit rock bottom, that the true qualities of a person can be seen.
As a saying in Islam goes, “The greater the hardship, the greater the reward”. Hard work will almost always never betray you.
“Friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought nor sold, but its value is far greater than a mountain made of gold; for gold is cold & lifeless – it can neither see nor hear, in time of trouble its powerless to cheer — it has no ears to listen, no heart to understand, it cannot bring you comfort or reach out a helping hand. So when you ask God for a gift, be thankful if sends not diamonds, pearls or riches but the love of real true friends.” – In an interview with the late Harold Bell
Friends aren’t something that Muhammad Ali took for granted. He greatly treasured each and every person he got to know in his lifetime; from other public figures to his next door neighbours.
This is something all of us should emulate, especially in this age of social media, where it is easy for us to take our close friends for granted since they are merely a tap away on our smartphones.
“Wouldn’t it be a beautiful world if just 10 percent of the people who believe in the power of love would compete with one another to see who could do the most good for the most people? So many of us enjoy taking part in competitions, why not hold a competition of love instead of one that leads to jealousy and envy? If we continue to think and live as if we belong only to different cultures and different religions, with separate missions and goals, we will always be in self-defeating competition with each other.” – From his autobiography, Soul of a Butterfly
Muhammad Ali consistently advocates for humanity to do good. It may not be something on a large scale like changing the world, but simply starting with small gestures that people around you would appreciate. Many have fallen victim to the rat race of climbing the corporate ladder as quickly as they can and they forget that by doing so, it is at the expense of everyone else they left behind.
“Once we realise we are all members of humanity, we will want to compete in the spirit of love. In a competition of love we would not be running against one another, but with one another. We would be trying to gain victory for all humanity. If I am a faster runner than you, you may feel bad seeing me pass you in the race, but if you know that we are both racing to make our world better, you will feel good knowing that we are racing toward a common goal, a mutual reward. In a competition of love we’ll all share in the victory, no matter who comes first.” – From his autobiography, Soul of a Butterfly
Doing good doesn’t mean that you have to struggle at it alone; the more that people realise that working together can be a powerful asset to move hearts across continents, a much better place our world would become.
When working together, we will also be able to better realise others’ strengths. While some will reach the finish line a lot earlier, you will feel better to know that once you eventually reach that common goal, your contribution will add on to the deed done.
A similar line that many will know better is “With great power, comes great responsibility”, told by Uncle Ben to Peter Parker in the popular Spider-Man comic books. Muhammad Ali also believes in these same sentiments – if you have the the ability and means to help and contribute, you should. This is all the more so if you are in a position of privilege that many are not entitled to.
Admit it, millennials are mostly guilty of this. The endless pursuit of material gains, and the greed of wanting to be the first to own the latest fashionable items, to be the first to try out a swanky new hipster cafe, or to go on that exotic holiday no one can afford to go for. Social media has once again reared its ugly head in the name of narcissism and the ‘need’ to show off. Once people move away from the constant peer pressure, they will actually find peace.
Give back to the community instead – maybe some volunteer work during your free time. Have some animal welfare causes that you are passionate about, but never really got around to joining? Do it.
This is perhaps on of the most important points to take note of.
Ideas are cheap, and you can have a surge of them at any time, but the following through is what’s important. If you don’t believe in your idea and in yourself, no amount of assistance rendered can ever bring about greatness.
Goodbye Muhammad Ali; you have been, and will always be, an inspiration. Float like a butterfly into the sunset.
Image Credits: Muhammad Ali Facebook, Instagram, Twitter