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Ali: The Go Big or Go Home Communicator

Muhammad Ali was a triple threat. He had personality, passion and principles – an unbeatable knock out punch in any ring.

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I grew up in Louisville, KY. where Muhammad Ali was an ever-present reminder of the impact of personality, passion and principles. I marveled then, as I do now, about how he boldly took a stand that transcended his sport – risked it all – and stood for things that shone a light on the most important issues of the day. Writer David Remnick recently said, “Ali became arguably the most famous person on the planet, known as a supreme athlete, an uncanny blend of power, improvisation, and velocity; a master of rhyming prediction and derision; an exemplar and symbol of racial pride; a fighter, a draft resister, an acolyte, a preacher, a separatist, an integrationist, a comedian, an actor, a dancer, a butterfly, a bee, a figure of immense courage.”

As a communicator, he was masterful. He was charismatic, funny, and had unbelievable swagger. He knew how to command attention and hold it – sometimes without saying a word. He was an innovator – rapping and rhyming before it was a major part of popular culture.  He worked hard and grabbed the opportunities that came his way. He leveraged his success as an athlete to segue to an even more important communication platform as a civil rights champion.

I will let his words tell the story.

  1. Personality

Be quotable and let your unique personality shine through.

“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”

I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

“Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee. You can’t hit what your eyes don’t see.”

I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And threw thunder in jail.”

  1. Passion

Express what matters to you in a way that sparks thoughtfulness.

“A man who has no imagination has no wings.”

“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

  1. Lead with your Principles

Take a stand for what you believe in.

“I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.”

“I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.”

“People say I talk so slow today. That’s no surprise. I calculated I’ve taken 29,000 punches. But I earned $57 million and I saved half of it. So I took a few hard knocks. Do you know how many black men are killed every year by guns and knives without a penny to their names?”

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Thank you Muhammad Ali for inspiring us all.  You had a lot to say and you said it.  The world is a better place for having had you in it.