With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali who was known as the greatest boxer of all time, I decided to dedicate this episode to him because I think everybody has a Muhammad Ali story.
I’m going to talk about 10 lessons we can all learn as entrepreneurs from Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali had certain values and principles and was very vocal about them.
Many entrepreneurs don’t have real, rock-solid beliefs that we would give our life to, let alone do prison time for. But he wasn’t willing to compromise the values and principles that he had, even though it meant he couldn’t box for five years.
Entrepreneurs need to ask the question of why they are running a business. Is it just about the money or the fame, and accolades? What are the core values and principles that you’re willing to fight for to the very end?
Take a moment to actually write those things down and see if they get you emotional; they should.
Take advantage of your platform to make a difference in the world. Ali used his platform of boxing to talk about his crusade. He used his platform to talk about issues of racism, war, faith, and many other things. He used his platform for a bigger purpose.
In today’s world there are a lot of entrepreneurs that do this right, but a lot of times people are too afraid to use their platform for a bigger cause, because it may hurt them from a business perspective. But Ali wasn’t afraid to do that, because it was about more than money to him — he really wanted to make a difference in the world.
3. Be Vocal
Muhammad Ali was very, very vocal. He didn’t have a problem saying what was on his mind, even though it got him in trouble at times. It also sparked conversations that other people didn’t have the guts to bring up.
A lot of times you’ll get counsel that says, “Don’t be vocal,” and if it’s just to create a ruckus, then no. But if it’s something that’s a true core value in a positive change sort of way, then use your platform to do that.
A lot of people want to talk about how they’re the greatest, and if you look at Ali’s record, he lost five times in his career.
Think about it. Here is a man who was the greatest boxer of all time. He had 61 fights, and he lost five times.
Ali was willing to fight people and potentially get his butt kicked. You have to have a certain level of respect for that.
Sometimes entrepreneurs are afraid to take risks, because they’re afraid they’ll get knocked out. He wasn’t afraid of that.
You have to be willing to pick yourself up and admit that you’re not really good yet, even if you thought you were, and take that motivation to get better immediately. That’s what Ali did.
I visited the Muhammad Ali museum in Louisville, KY. The museum is about 100,000 square feet, and at the museum you learn a lot about Ali. You hear what people said about him, and everyone talked about how competitive he was, and how bad he wanted to fight. He just couldn’t help himself, he wanted to compete so bad. His competitive drive was, in and of itself, attractive.
As an entrepreneur, look at the guys that end up crushing it in the highest level of business and you’ll see how competitive they are.
There is a notion that competition isn’t healthy because it gives you anxiety and panic attacks. But you know who says that? People who lost. People who tried to build a business and it didn’t work for them.
So they want to tell everyone else that competition is bad as a way to cover up their own failures. Don’t listen to that. If you want to chase something and do something very big, you’ve got to learn from the people that are absolute competitors.
Ali associated with people who were ahead of him and it always kept him sharper.
7. Have Faith
Muhammad Ali was very devoted to his faith. Faith is becoming less and less popular because a lot of people are going a more agnostic or atheist route. That’s totally fine. I’m not here to change anybody’s position. But almost everyone I’ve studied that has done anything on a very, very high scale has a certain faith in something bigger that’s going to take care of them.
They have a certain faith in something and a sense of calling for them to do something supernatural.
I was an atheist for the first 20+ years of my life and faith played a very big role in the right things taking place in my life.
I’ll describe belief in a completely different way than you’re thinking about. There’s a part where Ali talks about how he was so afraid to fight. He had such a fear that he had to convince himself. He talked about how when he said, “I’m the greatest,” it was an affirmation he was saying to himself because he didn’t believe he was the greatest.
He was psyching himself out to believe that he was the greatest. And then he eventually believed that he was the greatest and look what ended up happening to him. Once he ended up believing it about himself, everyone else ended up calling him the world’s greatest, not just boxer, but athlete.
You need to reinforce the belief in yourself that you are the greatest, and that others will want to go into business with you.
It could take five to 10 years, but you’ve got to inject that self-affirming belief into yourself over and over again so that eventually this spirit, this body that you’re in actually believes in the words that are coming out of your mouth.
9. Be a Student
In the Muhammad Ali museum, when you go to a certain area, there’s a place where they went and interviewed everybody in this gym where he trained. People said that Ali was famous for going to the trainer as a student and asking them who was the best, in different areas. For instance, he would ask who was the best that he could learn footwork from. Then he would learn from others who were best in other areas.
As entrepreneurs, you can also use this in your space. Find out who is the best in certain areas of business and learn from them.
The last one is somewhat contradictory, but makes a whole lot of sense is that he was probably one of the best self-promoters of all time.
Entrepreneurs sometimes have a hard time with self-promotion.
How did Ali self-promote? He said, “I’m the greatest!” Talk about self-promotion!
It’s kind of like saying, “I’m the best real estate agent in the local area and I would love to earn your business and prove to you why I’m the greatest.” Who is this guy? Who talks like that?
One of the reasons why Gary Vaynerchuk does so well in social media is not because he’s the best guy in social media. It’s because he’s convinced the world that he is. And so people keep going to him. Now let me tell you, he’s my #1 in social media. But I know a lot of people that are very good. But he’s a great self-promoter. Mark Cuban’s an excellent self-promoter. Donald Trump is an excellent self-promoter. Our president is an excellent self-promoter.
In order for self-promotion to work, you also have to deliver. There are people who are very good in self-promotion, but they aren’t good in the delivery part. They become hypocrites. If you can master the art of self-promotion AND delivery, you get saint status. And saint status is when everybody says, “Whatever this person says, it will happen. Go do business with them.”
It’s unfortunate that we lost Muhammad Ali at 74 years of age, but look at what he did with his 74 years. He was an underdog and ended up being somebody that billions of people around the world know about. And why shouldn’t that be true of you as well? Why not go out and impact the world in the same way that he did?
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