What People Teach Us: Muhammad Ali — Free To Be What I Want

Every so often society endures the passing of an icon–someone whose absence makes the world feel like it’s lost a bit of its luster and faded in energy.

These icons are people who seemed to not only stray from the script of what society expected of them, but took the script, incinerated it, and set out to lay out their own path for others to follow, should they choose, making all to feel welcome to do so. These icons, such as Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, for example, called on all of us, through the generations, to come forward and make life better for ourselves by making life better for our fellow man and woman. They espoused the idea of service to others.

Muhammad Ali was one of these icons.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” –Muhammad Ali

Although traditionally more aggressive than the others mentioned by the nature of his profession, his message was just as powerful as it evolved through his decades, from his stand against the establishment in the time of civil rights and war, to the humanitarian causes he championed later in his life, in spite of his debilitation brought on by Parkinson’s Disease.

Through classic video clips, documentaries, and movies, younger generations learned how caustic he could be with his words, doing verbal laps around those with whom he disagreed and whom he would cut down to size in the ring in his prime. There were so many great messages, though, as he shifted from using his words to goad his appointments to making statements against the oppression and injustices he witnessed in society. He knew he had the attention of the world and a voice for the people.

There were so many messages for all of us to take away from his words. Where to begin? Everyone must have their favorites.

“What you’re thinking is what you’re becoming.” –Muhammad Ali

The ones that stand out are those in which he references both the power and self-limitations of the individual. One only need to read through his quotes to see that undercurrent of a theme in his words.

We should all draw inspiration from his words.

Will we have the world’s attention at the level he did? No.

Can we make a difference one person at a time in our environment with just as much passion, reassurance, and support as he had? Of course.

Why not?

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” –Muhammad Ali

So…What About You?

  • Which words strike you the most?
  • How can you put those into practice?
  • Do his words change the way or influence the way in which you view “service to others?”

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