Turn your life around (The great Muhammad Ali)
Changing your life around, or setting your life on a course; getting on the rail that will lead through specific life scenarios and end at a specific destination, is a gradual process. Often taking many seeming detours, which when looked back upon aren’t detours at all but part of the destination.
Some of those scenarios are obvious: starting school, graduating, first love, marriage and relationships, children, passing of loved ones, fighting an illness, successes and failures.
Those are the defining life-scenarios or moments to be sure. They are however reasonably standard and serve as guide posts and adjustments that keep us on and bump us back on, general course.
Then there are the Life-Shaping moments and incidents. These are more profound insofar as they set the general life course. It also isn’t unusual for these to be traumatic.
Take for example an incident in the youthful life of a man I have admired for most of my life. A man who has achieved more in one lifetime than just about anyone I can think of right now. Most of his achievement coming through personal risk, sacrifice as well as at times disrespect and derision.
Greatness doesn’t come cheap.
That man was Muhammad Ali. If you ever want an example of what a human being can achieve look no further. Not only was he born into a dirt-poor family, he was born at a time when, as an African-American he couldn’t walk into some burger joints to buy a meal. Think about that for moment, dear reader. Think about that and appreciate what this man, and those others who stood up at that time faced.
It’s easy to be outspoken and heroic when everyone is behind a cause or idea. I see actors and celebrities from all kinds of fields stand up at award shows mouthing off about this cause and that and the media goes into frenzy. Talk about tales told by the inconsequent and heralded by the insignificant.
True heroes are those who stand up when the odds are against them, when to stand up means sacrificing and risking it all, including your life.
The moment that set Ali’s life course was when he was about 12 years old and his bicycle was stolen. He was so angry he told a policeman he was going to “Whup” the thief when he found him. The policeman apparently suggested that for that to happen Ali (Cassius Clay at the time) might want to learn to fight first. He took the advice and started boxing and the rest, as they say is history. Out of what at the time was a frustrating and hurtful experience was born the greatest fighter of all time.
Think about that and try to remember that events that happen in life, events that at the time seem very unpleasant, anxiety filled and often deeply hurtful are things that must happen for your life to get on track, bound for the deep fulfilment you are on this earth to achieve.
Becoming the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, renowned philanthropist and humanitarian are indeed grand accomplishments. But in my view those weren’t Muhammad Ali’s greatest successes. His greatest achievement was inspiring millions of people around the globe. The ones he never met and who never saw him fight.
People like a small boy in Bosnia who only caught glimpses of him on TV but loved the confidence and the strength of a man who came from a similar underprivileged, tyranny ridden background. Then later that same boy drew strength and inspiration when as an immigrant in Australia and without a word of English, he was called a wog, a wop and a greaser. But instead of submitting to all that the boy used Ali as a model and did the best he could, to become the best he could become.
That boy was me, and I’ve loved and admired Ali forever it seems, and of course, forever never ends.
Rest in peace Champ!
I’ll leave the last word to the great man. When asked that the secret to being great was he replied:
“Don’t look down on those who look up to you.”