There is no doubt that Muhammad Ali was an inspirational man. His passing highlights the span of his influence– across race, gender and nationality. In fact, it can be argued that he is the most influential athlete of all time.
I have followed Muhammad Ali since I was young. At first, it was Muhammed Ali the athlete who inspired me to shadow box in my basement. As I aged, it was Muhammed Ali the humanitarian, the visionary for change, and the advocate who impacted me. What actually captures my attention most, however, is how Muhammed Ali built a platform from which he shared his overarching passion and purpose—achieving equality for all. Ali used his story and athletic accomplishments as the platform to launch a movement for world-wide positive change. People listened, learned, and loved him for it. And, the world changed.
Ali’s Purpose—His True Legacy
I became more profoundly aware of Ali’s purpose after my first visit to the Muhammad Ali Center located in Louisville, KY. Two years later, I remain awestruck by its design and the thought-provoking effort that went into the Center’s creation, and how it communicated Ali’s purpose of desiring peace and equality for all.
Visiting the Ali Center is not your typical museum experience. You walk through his journey: from a young boy who outplayed, outhustled, and was on the receiving end of racial injustice; to the outspoken and animated athlete troubled by the atrocities of war; to the loving and compassionate man he was for not just his family, but for nations throughout the world.
I believe his journey illustrates that from a very early age, Muhammad Ali recognized that he was pre-ordained for a greater purpose. He identified his unique gifts and maximized them to promote his purpose, which was not athletics, but peace and equality. “Muhammad Ali has proven that one person can change the world.” Witnessing his life’s work should inspire us all to do greater things–to make a difference. We are all pre-ordained to do so.
At the Ali Center, you experience the 6 core principles by which Ali lived. These principles were foundational to seeing Ali’s purpose fulfilled. We can all model these to enhance our impact.
Confidence – Belief in oneself, one’s abilities, and one’s future.
You need to know what you want and go after it hard. You are the only limiting factor of making an impact – believe in yourself.
Conviction – A firm belief that gives one the courage to stand behind that belief, despite pressure to do otherwise.
Are you willing to face objection? Will you stand firm on what you believe in?
Be confident in standing for your convictions – despite what others think.
Dedication – The act of devoting all of one’s energy, effort, and abilities to a certain task.
Being a leader is tough. Prioritizing is tough. Find your purpose, passion and be dedicated to it every day. When you find your greatest purpose it makes your dedication of time, energy and resources so much clearer. Your purpose is bigger than yourself.
Giving – To present voluntarily without expecting something in return.
You need to give of yourself – your time, your energy, your treasures and your resources. Your time here on earth is about making a greater impact. What legacy will you leave? How do you want to be remembered?
Respect – Esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, oneself and others.
Be respectful and be worthy of respect. Be trustworthy. Define what you will do and deliver with excellence.
Spirituality – A sense of awe, reverence, and inner peace inspired by a connection to all of creation and/or that which is greater than oneself.
Remember that life is temporary and many go through it seeking to identify their greater purpose. The quicker you are able to understand this life is not just about you and that there is a greater calling the quicker you find hope, happiness and strength to pursue something greater than getting through another day.
Purpose is Power
When one person has this great of an impact on the world, it’s worthy to examine what he did to attract and motivate others. As a leader, I want to learn from Ali– how to unite and motivate others to realize a brighter future.
His “M.O” was simple, really. Ali embodied purpose-driven leadership. His purpose became his power since it was always top-of-mind. Because he not only lived with purpose, but on purpose, Ali was able to rally others around him and create a movement.
Do you know your purpose? It is something we all seek—and it is what drives us. When you can clearly communicate your purpose to others, you create momentum. Furthermore, momentum leads to movement—movement of energy heading toward the same goal. And that is what leaders want to be leading. That is what Ali exemplified.
If you aren’t quite sure what your purpose is, don’t panic-it is revealed over time. But make sure your journey toward your purpose includes many questions—it will lead to the discovery you are seeking. Ask yourself, how will you be the greatest you can be? Simply answering that can lead to your purpose. It did for Ali. How will you help those around you–in your workplace, your family, your community– become the greatest version they can be? Answering that can lead to your purpose as well.
A sense of purpose is so foundational to finding fulfillment. It is a topic I want to grow in as a leader, seeking to inspire my employees and fellow team members. I want to inspire my family and children to find their greater purpose. I want us all to be powered by purpose.
Ultimately this will lead to exactly what Muhammad Ali stated when he said, ““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.” Purpose transforms impossible into possible.
I have shared with you via this post pictures of some of my favorite exhibits at the Ali Center. Look at them and reflect on the words for a moment. Better yet, schedule a visit there this summer. You’ll be glad you did.
The celebration of Ali’s life shows that our world has experienced not just an athletic champion, but a true champion of life. I believe we can all be champions of life—and that is the way the world will improve. May you identify and live out your purpose–becoming the champion that is in you. And, may we all rise to further Muhammed Ali’s dream and purpose of peace and equality for all.