Maybe I’m just feeling my age. That’s entirely possible. As I get older, I’m having a harder time dealing with the deaths of some of the idols from my childhood. Folks like Prince, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey helped defined my youth. Now their deaths are leaving their marks on my middle age.
But Muhammad Ali? My god. This one is particularly hard to take.
He wasn’t a boxer. He was a transformative human being. He was an example of how to take everything your opponent has and turn it into motivation to affect change.
He showed us all how to be better than what the world thought we ought to be.
I wish I could articulate it better than that.
Ali was The Greatest, and not because he could beat another man with his fists.
Ali was The Greatest because he was one of the first cultural icons of my generation who put his money where his mouth was. He told us what his life was about, and he lived it. He compromised for no one. He said, “Here’s what I believe. I will live my life based on those beliefs. Deal with it.”
Too many of us compromise our core values for the sake of public acceptance. That’s a mistake. Yes, we have to be willing to transform ourselves to stay relevant. It’s the only way we’ll survive.
At the same time, there are some things that should never change. The things that define us. Our core values. Our purpose. Our why. They are the essence of who we are. You can’t be The Greatest if you try to please everyone.
Find your purpose. Live it. Use that as motivation to make the world a better a place.
That is Muhammad Ali’s legacy.
In these ways and so many others, he really was The Greatest.