It’s taken me a long time to write this simply because even though logically it made sense, emotionally I hadn’t accepted it…
The passing of “The Greatest” himself meant my hero had departed this world… And in his typical fashion, he made it a show for everyone to smile, laugh, cry, and accept his passing.
I’m obviously talking about the one and only, Muhammad Ali.
Now, this post is a small tribute to the man so many of the last 2-3 generations have hailed as their inspiration, hero, and guiding light.
Though I never met my hero, his work and life impacted a lot of who I am today.
When I was younger and fought in Muay Thai, I loved mimicking his footwork, the brash style of keeping my hands sorta low, bobbing and weaving, and of course – talking trash.
Now, Ali’s book, The Soul Of A Butterfly was one of the first books I read end to end that wasn’t fiction.
It massively changed the way I looked at things as at the time I was going through my teenage hormonal change and had been told I had Bipolar/Manic Depression. (Listen to the podcast with Alex Charfen and I as we really talk about what this and other conditions really are).
I started to realize that if I didn’t change the way I saw the world, then by the time I hit my mid-30s, I would’ve squandered 20 years of my life.
Below is a short list of the 5 lessons “The G.O.A.T” (Greatest Of All Time) taught me before he passed away. (These are pretty personal).
1 – Recount, give thanks, and improve.
One of the best lessons that I learnt from Muhammad Ali was this practice he had.
Obviously I’m paraphrasing here but it was….
“Recount your day at the end of the day, see how you could’ve done better, and give thanks you made it to a bed.”
This is something that helped me get out of the worst part of my depression when I was in my teens and a practice I still do today.
It used to take me a long time, now I do it within 10 minutes and then just fall asleep.
Sometimes it helps to write it down, but I’ll give you an example right now as my handwriting is very doctor-esque.
What was my day like?
I had a great day, I made 5 people smile, and I met someone new. I got home to see my parents and it was nice to enjoy time with mum and dad. Then I saw my best friend back home, and got some dinner.
After I came home, spoke to the girl I met earlier in the day and we arranged a date for tomorrow.
Workwise – I had a lot of fun, I completed a few client pieces and actually enjoyed just chilling out and vegging, I want to do more of that. Though not too much as I still want to keep training.
What did I learn?
I learned that I can make people laugh, I do enjoy that feeling, and there are a lot of people out there who surprisingly find me attractive. I like this feeling of knowing.
Not only that, I realised that my life is pretty damn awesome that I could travel between my home town and my new home, London, in only 90 minutes or so. All while giving thanks that I managed to live the life I do.
I also learned that I could happily always come home and be accepted there.
What 5 things am I grateful for?
- My face
- My personality
- My humour
- My family
- My business and customers.
What could I improve tomorrow?
Be more caring, keep smiling, and don’t let people drag me down.
Oh and don’t argue with dad – let him have his thoughts but don’t let them intrude on your happiness.
So you see it doesn’t need to be hard, difficult or long. It is all about you, your innermost thoughts, and what you want to do about them.
The next thing was…
2 – Even if you hate training, keep your end result in mind.
Now training can be seen as workouts, work training courses, business courses, or any other thing that will improve your life in some way.
One of the things I have on my bedroom wall is a whiteboard with the amount of days I have until my birthday, and how many goals I have to achieve in that time space.
Surprisingly mapping the end result, and it’s path from where I am to where I want to be has helped me a great deal.
Ali did this exact thing when he beat Leon Spinks for his 3rd heavyweight title. He kept his end result in mind while training – and boy did he hate training.
3 – Have faith in who you are, your belief system, and be an ambassador for your beliefs instead of a tyrant.
This one is a little personal but I’ll share it anyway. Growing up with a belief system that is now being used for propaganda and also for people to hurt others (Islam), I took great peace from knowing that Muhammad Ali – one of the most loved people on earth, was a Muslim too.
And more importantly he chose to be good and help people vs getting angry toward people for the injustices around the world committed in the name of Islam.
I learned this lesson at age 11 or 12. It was a few days after 9/11 and the world was going crazy. I grew up in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious family and thankfully, a city that was the same.
But this didn’t stop some of the racial bullying. So I realised very quickly I need to either get angry like my friends did, or take the power away by making fun of the situation the people were imposing on me.
So I chose to make people laugh and use my belief system to be the ambassador for my beliefs. As I don’t drink, I never lectured others, I just made sure not to drink when they did, and if they needed a ride home, I was the designated driver.
Surprisingly my sobriety inspired a few friends to do the same and they stopped drinking too.
4 – Be confident, even if you DON’T currently believe it, and keep going until you do.
Lesson 4 was a big one for me.
I still struggle with this from time to time.
First, why would you want to be confident?
Well confidence breeds opportunity and action.
You don’t have to be confident to get opportunities or take action BUT it does increase the amount of opportunity and the size of actions that you take.
People observe what you’re doing and they become drawn to it.
How to cultivate the confidence even if you don’t have it?
That’s right, just start giving yourself credit for small wins to start with and then let that build by making the wins a little bit bigger.
Just like lifting weights, start small and add more weight to get better results.
5 – Get good at throwing combinations. Life doesn’t slow down.
Life is a bitch, I’ve said this enough times. She’s not any old bitch though, she’s all the psycho bitches and the literal definition of “Bunny boiler”.
Anyway, here’s the thing, just like a good fight, if you can throw a good combination, you can slow down life’s onslaught and actually get it to respect you a little.
An example would be, if you’re going through life’s ringer and it’s got you on the back foot…
Then first you need to establish your base, move your head off center like Ali does here, and start pumping that Jab, while working on a combination to back Life up and give you a little breathing room.
“But Adil, My arms and legs hurt.”
Hey I never said you have to always do this, just give yourself enough breathing room to make it to the end of the round. Take a break and then come back stronger than before.
But remember to keep throwing those combinations as they will serve you!
Those are 5 lessons I learned from the Greatest Of All Time, and my personal hero, Muhammad Ali.
Rest in Peace Champ.