It’s hard to put into words what one extraordinary human being’s legacy means to to the world.
There are actually writers, reporters and photographers all over my city of Louisville, Kentucky this week doing just that, and many more eloquently that I will.
What I know is what it means to me — a person whose life, in countless ways, is so very different from that of The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali’s life.
Different race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, neighborhood, families, friends, opportunities and adversities.
What is it about one person that moves so many people to slow down in our crazy-fast world to notice, reflect and consider his 74 years of life with such respect and reverence?
It is his greatness — his powerful, balletic, otherworldly athleticism; his commitment to his faith; his service to others; his kindness, wisdom, his strident swagger and poetic wit.
For me personally, I have become a student of Muhammad Ali’s life in recent years because I connected with something I saw within him that I wanted to understand about myself: what does it mean to have a deep, unwavering, confident love for and belief in yourself?
I wanted to know for myself. I wanted to know for my children. I wanted to know for you, the people I serve.
I believe that when a human being can really inhabit that — in every pore of their being — then that is what fuels a well-lived, pure-of-heart way of life.
It’s not about perfection, arrogance, being unrealistic or out-of-touch, or having something or someone outside of yourself meet all of your needs.
My teenager, Grace, is an ardent fan of The Greatest of All Time — she’s read everything about him she can get her eyes on and watched films, documentaries, his fights and news reels.
Her favorite clip is this interview when Ali was just 22 years old. She loves the flow of these three declarations:
“I’m pretty. I’m a baaaadd man. I shook up the world! I shook up the world!”
He doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t stutter. He doesn’t back down. At all. A 22 year old black man from Kentucky in 1964 — a target for people full of hate and prejudice, and his brilliance was exactly what they wanted shut down and snuff out.
Most importantly, he was a beacon for those who watched and saw what was possible; and not just in the boxing ring, but when he stood firm in his consciousness and faith and refused Army induction in 1967. And the years beyond that when he was received in Africa and the rest of the world as an ambassador and humanitarian.
He was magic. A walking miracle.
And here is what his existence let me know and what I want you to know:
We all have that magic. We are all walking miracles.
I think when someone like Muhammad Ali leaves this life, we rightfully mourn the loss as we read about and watch the accountings of their extraordinary contributions, courage and magnetism.
I think we do this a lot with a person like Muhammad Ali whom we think possesses something we could never have or access within ourselves.
We might consider for a moment, “what would it be like to live that passionately? to experience life as something extraordinary like that?” and a lot of us leave it at that.
What I’m interested in is letting those questions linger and having the curiosity and high regard for yourself to find out what the answers are.
Our greatness, like that of someone such as Muhammad Ali, comes from an unwavering practice of being that man or woman who says something like this to themselves each day:
I may not always know the fucking way.
I may get tired and not know the answers.
What I do know is that I’m a child of God / the Universe.
What I do know is that I am committed to living on purpose — giving my body, mind and spirit every opportunity for growth, health, love and passion.
And I will tell myself this and live in a way that is congruent with that until my brain and my heart are indelibly stamped.
I will seek resilience versus perfection.
And I will never look back.
That was my hero’s Body of Work. He might be remembered foremost for the beauty of his body and his athleticism, but he was a study in ferocity, altruism, kindness, consciousness, discipline and humor.
He personifies what I try to help the women I work with realize about their bodies — honor your body and love your body — but you are so much more than your body.
As my friend Susan Hyatt says: your body is really a home for your spirit. You are not defined by that number on a scale.
Muhammad Ali personified this as he lived with Parkinson’s Disease in the latter part of his life. He was not his body — his spirit was so much bigger than that.
His body was a beautiful (I’m so pretty!) home for that spirit, and his spirit certainly transcended that vessel that carried him on this earth.
That’s greatness. That’s confidence. That’s swagger. That is love. That is what makes life extraordinary.
And it’s for anyone who wants it.
Want to own your greatness and refine your Body of Work?
Time to stop sitting outside of the ring of life and get into the box and dance?
I’m leading a group of women through a six week course where you can do all of that, meet extraordinary people, ask and answer meaningful questions, and have fun. Fun is a must in my brand of personal growth and development. All would be Ali-approved, I’m pretty sure.
Class starts on June 15th and space is limited, so register now and let’s get something going.