It’s not about me…
It’s not about Muhammad Ali…
It’s all about you!
Last week I was preparing for one of my advanced speeches for Toastmasters. The project was a sales training speech to teach marketing and selling techniques to my audience.
As ironic as this sounds, I started the speech with this quote, “I am the greatest thing since sliced bread,” intending to use it as a rally / pep talk for the audience. A few days later, I heard of the passing of Muhammad Ali. When I started preparing the speech, he and his famous “I am the greatest” quote were far from my mind, yet it was the same message I wanted to convey to my audience.
Ali branded himself as “The Greatest” and it stuck. He affirmed it until it became his reality. Most of all, he used it to taunt and conquer his boxing opponents. But, those words also encouraged many of us to believe in ourselves and our capabilities. Whether you liked him or not is debatable, but he was authentic, and believed in himself and his message. Why was he so effective? Because he believed that “as a man thinketh, so is he.”
Now, before anyone starts wondering how could a human being propagate himself to be the greatest, let me allay your fears. Even Ali himself recognized his limitations, when he said, “I am not greater than God; I am just the greatest in the ring.” And I concur.
What does Muhammad Ali’s quote have to do with career advice? It’s about the mindset. Writer Arthur Golden said, “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.” Isn’t that true? When we clog our minds with doubt, or when we surround ourselves with people who speak negativity all day long, we are not opening ourselves to attain what’s possible.
As I reflect on some of Ali’s quotes, I want to remind you that you, too, are great, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You will meet naysayers of all stripes, but don’t let them throw cold water on your dreams. I have been there. I have many met people who tried to tell me what I could and could not do.
When I wanted to teach at a college years ago, there were people who asked me who told me I could. When I first announced I was going to write a book, one individual asked me a similar question. In their mind’s eye, it didn’t look possible, but I didn’t listen to them. Instead, I acted like the bumble bee. The story is told of the bumble bee who didn’t get the memo that it wasn’t supposed to fly. Although it has wings, the shape of its body (according to the law of aerodynamics), should prevent it from flying. No expert could talk this bumble bee out of flying. I imagine it felt its wings on its barrel-shaped body and something in its DNA said, “I am supposed to fly. I am not made to just crawl around on the ground”, and away it went flying. Muhammad Ali once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” The bumblebee took a courageous risk and look what happened.
You have to be courageous like the bumble bee, and take a risk. You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind. When negativity calls you on the phone, don’t argue with it, just hang up! That job opportunity you are after can be yours; that teaching position your are looking for can be yours; that business you are yearning to start can happen…just believe in yourself.
But, belief in self alone won’t cut it. You need to take action. That’s where most of us falter. We get excited about the possibilities, but fail to take action, or we give up after the novelty wears off. When you have been knocked down by the blows of life, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and remind yourself that you are the greatest. Remember, “Champions are not made in gyms. Champions are made from something deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will, but the will must be stronger than the skill.” ~Muhammad Ali.
Let me end with one more quote from Ali’s book The Soul of a Butterfly:
THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS
“All of my life, if I wanted to do something, I studied those who were good at it; then I memorized, what I learned, and believed that I could do it too, then I went out and did it.”
Dare to dream big! Dare to take chances. Let your mantra be “I am the greatest!” and believe it. Then apply the will and follow through, and see what happens.