I’ve read no fewer than a dozen articles in the last four days about Muhammad Ali since he passed away. Believe it or not, I am too young to have seen him box during his career, but he was always a larger than life superstar. From his appearance at the Major League Baseball All Star Game in 2004 to lighting the Olympic Cauldron at the 1996 games in Atlanta, he was always the biggest star in the room.
You can say a lot without speaking. Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, hindering his ability to speak. He went from being outspoken to being understated in his speech, but those around him always knew the point he was trying to get across. He became a master at subtle looks and non-verbal communication, as well as the occasional magic trick.
Find the right work environment. Ali trained in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, where he chopped wood, moved heavy rocks, and ran miles at a time. It was a quiet place, absent distractions that could have derailed his training.
Surround yourself with the right team. Ali’s crew at Deer Lake included his trainer, Angelo Dundee, his business manager and camp facilitator, Gene Kilroy, security chief Pat Patterson, witch doctor and cheerleader, Drew Bundini Brown, and timekeeper and bucket man, Wali Muhammad. In Jerry Izenberg’s article this weekend, he commented, “There never was and never will be a group that belonged together as much as this one did.” It’s so important to be around people who will bring out your strengths, help you solve the weaknesses, and stand by you when things get tough.
Be yourself. Ali was an original and that’s an understatement.
Stand up for what you believe in, especially if it will cost you money. Ali refused to step forward when he was drafted to serve during the Vietnam War. I am not commenting on the politics of his decision. He had a strong belief and knew it would cost him millions of dollars, which it did, and his heavyweight title. Right, wrong, or indifferent, he stood up for his beliefs, even when he knew it would hurt in the short term. When facing a tough decision, will you do the same?
Believe in yourself. This is the most important, in my opinion. Ali called himself The Greatest, he backed it up, and everyone agreed. As a broker, when you make a cold call, chase business, or make a presentation, it’s important to believe in yourself. No one else will if you don’t.
“If the measure of greatness is to gladden the heart of every human being on the face of the earth, then he truly was the greatest. In every way he was the bravest, the kindest and the most excellent of men.”