3 Life Lessons From Muhammad Ali’s Story

Muhammad Ali’s was a story that touched lives the world over. We have seen a flood of articles and blog posts, social media updates, and broadcasts about him following his recent passing on June 3.

And rightfully so. The three-time heavyweight champion was a man whose impact transcended sports, as people who knew nothing about boxing somehow were affected by the man and his life. His protest of the Vietnam War saw him lose his boxing license, stripped of his title, and facing prison, following his refusal to be inducted into the Army in 1967 under a claim that the war was against his beliefs.

Yet, he held true to his beliefs, unwavering as the battle for those beliefs stretched over three years. But his resolute determination paid off: The Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971. Ali won the fight for his beliefs. So many celebrate his life today because of his bold ability to speak his truth, work ethic, and fearlessness in the face of adversity. Ali made a difference far beyond the boxing ring, as his words and actions inspired others, lent courage to them to live their truths, and helped to challenge unfair beliefs and practices.

As a story strategist and book consultant who helps business owners, professionals, and leaders craft their stories into books, I see several powerful lessons wrapped in Ali’s story. These are lessons that can be noted, no matter who we are or where we are in life.

So what can we all learn from Ali’s story and apply to our own?

#1. Be you.

It’s not necessary to pretend to be someone else to live the life you were placed here to live. You are here for a reason — not by accident, happenstance, or mishap. The reason you showed up, at this time, in this space is to be what only you can be, in all the world: You. So be you, brilliantly.

#2. Take a stand.

You can coast through life like you’re some lump of tofu, taking on the flavor of whatever is around you. Or, in keeping with the food analogies, you can be the spice that makes its presence known and causes whatever comes into contact with it to come away a little bit affected by that presence. Ali was spice. His sassy words challenged those who tried to diminish or paint him with their brush. He didn’t mind — and often reveled in — challenging the beliefs of others, with the stands he took.

So if you’ve been more comfortable taking on the beliefs, opinions, and ideas of everyone around you, rather than speaking up about your own, then take courage from Ali’s example to stand tall in your own beliefs.

#3. Use what you have for something good.

Ali had a gift for boxing. He used the platform that boxing provided to do something good in the world. He challenged a war, urged peace, and drew attention to the plight of the disenfranchised.

So take the success you have in your life and work and turn that into something bigger than just a paycheck or the material possessions you can buy because of that success. Turn that into something good, based on the needs you see around you. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Draw attention to a cause. Teach others what you know, to help them along the way.

Your level of success may not be as large as that of Muhammad Ali, after all, he was The Greatest, but you can do what you can do at whatever level of success you attain. Someone needs to benefit from the good you can do.

Muhammad Ali is gone, but his impact will last far beyond his lifetime. And like him, you too can build a legacy of good deeds, lives touched, and help provided, if you tap into the power of your story. Your story is the place where you can have an impact. Live your life. Share your story.

[If you need help writing a book to tell your story, check out my book coaching program here.]