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Last week the world lost the iconic Muhammad Ali as he passed away at the age of 74.
Ali, previously known as Cassius Clay was the transcendent sports and cultural figure of the 20th century. Everyone knew of Muhammad Ali!
Ali was a generational athlete and social activist of the likes which we had not seen and will not ever see again.
He lost the prime years of his boxing career due to not serving in the Vietnam War and still was able to reclaim the heavyweight title in dramatic fashion during his return to the ring.
Many folks who were born in the 1980’s did not begin to truly understand the magnitude of who he was until the 2001 film Ali.
The great Will Smith magnificently portrayed him and his piqued new interest in The Greatest.
As talented and as inspirational as Ali was, there is no doubt that he was also a polarizing figure.
There were folks who applauded his style. Many people strongly supported his decision to take a stand for what he believed in by not wanting to participate in the Vietnam War.
There were also many folks who reviled him because of his decision and his personality.
But whether you liked or disliked Ali, there are 3 lessons that can be learned from the Greatest. Many of you reading were not even born when Ali fought in his prime or did any of his work as a social activist in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
When you consider the climate of the country at the time when he was doing these things it truly is a tremendous story.
Here are the 3 lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali, aka The Greatest:
1) Believe In Yourself
Of the 3 lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali, this is the most important one.
If you have no belief in your abilities then you will be going nowhere fast.
When Muhammad Ali was known as Cassius Clay he was set to fight Sonny Liston.
Sonny Liston was the heavyweight champion of the world at this time. No one believed in Cassius Clay except one person…Cassius Clay!
Clay constantly told the media and anyone who would listen about how he was going to whup Sonny Liston. The media largely laughed him off as a joke.
On fight night, the words and predictions of a young Clay would come true. He completely outclassed and out boxed Liston to the point where Liston did not rise from his stool to start the 7th round. He flat out quit.
None of this would have occurred if Cassius Clay did not have a deep belief in his ability to succeed. How does this relate to you?
You may be an athlete looking to increase their speed in the 100-meter dash.
Maybe you are a figure competitor looking to get leaner for a competition.
You may even be an Average Joe just looking to get stronger and feel better.
Athletes you have to believe in yourselves when you walk-on to that sports team.
Young adults you have to believe in yourselves when you move out of your parents home.
Entrepreneurs you have to believe in yourselves when you start your business.
Lifters you have to believe in yourselves when you are in the gym and trying to get stronger.
Your belief in yourself will allow you to be successful in these endeavors. There will be many folks around you who do not believe in your ability to have success but what they think does not matter if you believe in you.
Believe in yourself and you will reach your goals.
2) You Have To Have The Will To Win
Of the 3 lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali, this is the one where most people fall short. As a younger man, I also failed in this area.
Your will to win must outweigh the inevitable pain you will face on the road to reaching your goals.
Muhammad Ali faced the toughest fight of his career when he faced George Foreman at the Rumble in the Jungle.
Going into the fight no one thought Ali had a chance to go toe to toe with Foreman. Foreman was the hardest hitting and strongest boxer that Ali would ever face.
The pundits were right. Ali could not go punch for punch with Foreman but he had a plan.
His plan was to get Foreman to punch himself out. This plan, the “Rope-A-Dope”, would require Ali to absorb the brunt of Foreman’s best punches to his body.
This plan required Ali to become close friends with pain.
It was Ali’s will to win that allowed this plan to be successful. His will to win outweighed the pain of Foreman’s hardest punches.
Eventually Foreman was completely out of gas in the 8th round. Ali then knocked him out in dramatic fashion.
Let’s say you are an aspiring bodybuilder with legs that resemble pipe cleaners. Your legs could be used as chimney cleaners because they have absolutely no muscle mass attached to them!
But if you are determined to compete in bodybuilding then your will to step on stage has to outweigh the pain you will endure building your legs.
It will hurt to squat to the bucket for high reps or to do those heavy deadlifts.
It will hurt to perform those barbell walking lunges or to run those hill sprints.
But if your will to win is unwavering and your belief in yourself is ironclad, then you will build those wheels. You will get on that stage.
Whatever battle you are facing right now in or outside of the gym is your George Foreman. You will have to absorb the hits, but you will eventually score a knockout and defeat your Foreman if you stay committed to the plan.
3) You Must Stand For Something
Some folks in America saw Muhammad Ali as a controversial figure.
Ali joined the Nation of Islam.
Ali openly spoke about how he would be the champ the way he wanted to be the champ. This caused some folks to be uncomfortable.
However, the decision that he made at the height of his boxing career was the one that defined him: he did not want to participate in the Vietnam War.
Ali made sure that folks knew how he felt about the war.
He openly questioned why he should go fight in the Vietnam War when black people at home were being treated like they were sub-human.
He felt so strongly about it that he lost his license to box for taking this stand. This happened at the prime of his boxing career.
There were people who supported Ali but there were also people who were completely opposed to his view on the war.
Regardless of what others were saying Ali was willing to derail his boxing career because he stood for something.
Many folks in multiple industries do not stand for anything. They ride the wave of what is popular and go with the crowd.
If you do not stand for something then you will fall for anything. When you take a stand for something there is a chance it will be unpopular. There is a chance that others around you may ridicule you.
In the fitness game, there are great principles to stand for. I stand for hard work, consistency, and patience.
I also stand for strength, conditioning, and doing things the right way. We must have integrity and respect for this beautiful game.
But many of those traits are not popular. Many folks are looking for shortcuts and the easy way out in order to attain their goals. Many “trainers” are looking for quick cash and are willing to sell their soul to get it.
Where is the integrity in pushing worthless products like waist trainers?
What is the value of pushing ineffective diet pills to the masses?
If you do not stand for anything or have any principles then you could easily be sucked up into the waves of deception.
The 3 lessons I learned from Muhammad Ali have had a positive impact on how I approach life.
Ali was human and flawed just like all of us. But Ali also showed us that great things that can be accomplished if we take the lessons above and apply them to our lives.
Stay true to whom you are. He did that until the end.
I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,
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