25 Muhammad Ali Quotes for the Champion In You

Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali circa 1972

Lessons from the Greatest

Muhammad Ali inspired a generation with his lessons of perseverance, of hard work, of determination, and of giving. A former heavyweight boxer, he transcended beyond boxing to be known as one of the greatest sports figures of all time.

He said he was “the greatest.” Not many would argue with it, either. But he also said, “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given.”

His many quotes are memorable because of their imagery and poetic qualities.

Though Muhammad Ali’s life journey has ended, his lessons and quotes will remain timeless reminders. From his passion to his philanthropy, Ali trail blazed his own path and stood out from the crowd.

Let his own words remind you that there’s a champion inside of you—because all of us have the opportunity to be great.

 

25 Quotes from a Champion

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit, what his eyes can’t see.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“Don’t count the days; make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali

 

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

 

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

 

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“I’m no leader; I’m a little humble follower.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“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

 

“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you down. It’s the pebble in your shoe.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“Old age is just a record of one’s whole life.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” –Muhammad Ali

 

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.” –Muhammad Ali

 

 

“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” –Muhammad Ali

Embrace Greater Transparency

Learn to Embrace Greater Transparency

It’s an attribute most of us say we want. We crave authenticity. We admire individuals and companies who are transparent. No one wants to be known as someone who hides the truth or distorts it.

As I write this, my mind immediately flashes back to a conversation with someone who would definitely be described as transparent. He clearly had no filter between his brain and his mouth, spouting off stories that would make anyone wince. Dinner with him was, uh, quite memorable, to say the least. I learned things that I still wish I could unlearn.

But that’s the exception. Most of us could benefit from being a little more open, a little more transparent than we are today.

 

“A little honesty will go a long way.” –Morgan Spurlock

 

Are You Afraid of Transparency?

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has been immersing himself in environments that most of us would never experience. Remember his movie “Super Size Me” where he eats McDonald’s for thirty days? It didn’t stop there. He also stayed in prison and worked a month in a coal mine. In 2011 he made a film about marketing and product placement that was funded entirely by sponsors. It’s called “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

Most companies that he met with did not want anything to do with the film. In fact, six hundred companies turned him down because they didn’t like the idea of having no control. But seventeen partners said yes.

 

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” -Thomas Jefferson

 

 

Why did most companies turned him down?

They were afraid of transparency. Companies want to tell their own story. They don’t want someone else to unpredictably tell it for them.

And that’s understandable.

But the lesson that Spurlock teaches is that we should embrace greater transparency because it increases trust.

 

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” –Dalai Lama

 

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“Increased transparency equals increased trust.” -Skip Prichard

5 Principles of Engagement That Will Transform Your Business

Snowblowers in Miami

It’s All About Engagement

We’ve all seen it. Questionable decisions, made in a corporate office, are rolled out. No one questions the corporate mandate. Sure, some may grumble or may complain about the stupidity of something, but little is done. No one is listening anyway, especially to the employees who are just told to hit their numbers.

 

“Engagement is being totally present.” -Steven D. Goldstein

 

Steven Goldstein was an executive at Sears when he visited a store in Florida. His question Why Are There Snowblowers in Miami?, is now the title of his book and is a wakeup call to leaders. Engaging with employees and customers in the right way will help organizations make better decisions.

Steve has held executive positions with leading global brands including American Express (Chairman & CEO of American Express Bank), Sears (President of Sears Credit), Citigroup and others. He also has advised numerous CEOs on how to improve performance.

 

“Leaders connect by interacting authentically with employees, not by dictating to them.” -Steven D. Goldstein

 

How a Snowblower Changed Everything

The story is such a compelling example that I have to ask you to start with it. Tell us about the title of the book and how it impacted your leadership thinking.

Twenty years ago, while I was President of the Sears Credit Card business, I happened to be in Miami in February to make a speech. As I always did, I visited the local store – to have a look around, talk to employees and see what we could do for them to help improve sales. When I walked into the lawn and garden department, my eyes were immediately drawn to four shiny red snowblowers. I found a salesman and asked him, “Why are there snowblowers in Miami?”

On my flight back to Chicago, I started to think about all of the other “snowblower” stories I had come across in my career, and it struck me as a perfect metaphor for what is wrong in business. Since then, my experience in leading, advising and investing in companies convinced me that there had to be a way to attack this.

 

“Maintaining the status quo keeps you from achieving your full potential.” -Steven D. Goldstein

 

I tend to question everything.   If someone tells me, “That’s the way it’s always been done,” I will challenge that process. Because what I have found is that with many leaders, there is a gravitational bias towards the status quo. And while it’s not likely to get you into trouble, simply maintaining the status quo will keep you from achieving your full potential.

I began codifying the approaches, principles and practices I was using and realized it would be great if I could share this learning with other leaders so that they could improve the performance in their own organizations. So I began writing this book, and I thought this was the only title that made sense.

Most recently, I have been giving speeches about these principles and working with several leadership teams to teach them how to make this part of their daily diet. It is resonating extremely well.

 

“A company is only good as the people it keeps.” -Mary Kay Ash

 

Adopt an Outsider’s Perspective

How do leaders best adopt an outsider’s perspective — especially if they have been at an organization for many years?

For many leaders, this is not easy to do. If you are a consultant or a private equity investor, you look at a business as an enterprise consisting of assets that generate cash flow, which in turn generates attractive returns to shareholders. Through that aperture, you want to identify those areas where changes, improvement and new directions can be made to enhance value. You are consciously looking for those nuggets.

For many leaders, those nuggets are hiding in plain sight. Leaders must first accept that adopting an “outside in” perspective is critical to finding this gold. I’m currently Chairman of a private equity-owned company, and recently the leadership team was in a brainstorming session to explore new opportunities and approaches as well as to consider whether our existing business model needed changes. After discussing many good ideas, someone asked, “Will our PE owners be OK with this? I’m not sure they will.” My answer to him was, “They are looking to us to present them with a plan that makes sense, and if it does, they will say thank you.”

Like most things, leaders must accept the fact that their views are colored, even distorted, by their history with the company – and that this skewed perspective limits the possibilities they are able to see. They have to be willing to take the first step, as with any program that induces change. I tell leaders to take a long walk, forget everything they know about their business, come back into the building as if it were the first time and just start asking questions. While it may sound somewhat silly, it actually creates some discomfort; more importantly, it generates excitement about this exploration possibly leading them in new directions. I myself question everything: Why do we do it that way? What does that mean? What other options have you explored? Do you have the right players in each position? This “fresh eyes” approach is one of my five principles of engagement and is essential for generating any real, positive change.

 

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Most connections don’t happen inside the boardroom. Why do so many leaders fail to connect with those who could fuel the company’s success?

5 Fundamentals to Achieve Peak Performance

Performance Breakthrough

A Radical Approach to Success at Work

Every day, you are performing. You step onto stage whether you are in the lead role or whether you are supporting others. Before the curtain goes up on today’s performance, study these 5 performance fundamentals so that you can perform at your peak.

Who better to teach these fundamentals than Cathy Salit? Cathy is the CEO and founder of Performance of a Lifetime. Her firm helps leaders and companies with the human side of business and strategy. For over twenty years, she has created custom workshops for companies ranging from American Express to Coca-Cola. Her new book, Performance Breakthrough: A Radical Approach to Success at Work is filled with lessons that will transform your performance.

 

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” -Lao-tzu

 

Performance Fundamental 1: Choose to grow.

You talk about growing instead of knowing. What’s the difference? And why is that important?

We live in a culture where knowing — having all the data, getting the right answer, knowing how to do things as a precondition for doing them — reigns supreme. I call this the “Knowing Paradigm,” and it’s commonly accepted as crucial to success in school, at work, and for life in general. And in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with knowing — it’s critically important when you want to cross the street in traffic, calculate a tip, perform brain surgery, etc.

But to the extent that the Knowing Paradigm crowds out everything else we can do — the growing and developing that comes not from knowing an answer or being right, but from the interplay of our creativity, emotions, perceptions, relationships, and environments — we’re missing out.

This wasn’t a problem when we were little kids (a time of enormous growth and transformation), when we were free to experiment, play, pretend, imagine, and perform. That kind of learning — sometimes called “developmental learning” — is how we learned to walk, talk, ride a bike and about a million other things that weren’t based in facts and we never studied for. And we got a ton of support from the adults in our lives to experiment, explore, and grow in this way.

Illustrations © 2016 by Drew Dernavich for PERFORMANCE BREAKTHROUGH. Approved for use by Drew Dernavich. Illustrations © 2016 by Drew Dernavich for PERFORMANCE BREAKTHROUGH. Approved for use by Drew Dernavich.

But it doesn’t last. For most of us there comes a point when we go from being praised for trying something new (even when we didn’t get it right) to being told we didn’t get it right (even though we were trying something new). Now it’s time to color inside the lines, stop playing around and get serious.

And by the time we get into the job market, the support we got to learn developmentally as children is long gone. As an adult, it can be embarrassing to not know. There are repercussions if we don’t get it right. We feel stupid, and we make others feel stupid if they don’t “have it together.”

 

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” –Sean O’Casey

 

That’s one of the downsides of the Knowing Paradigm, and I think we need to challenge it. Being “smart” in this way is making us not so smart in other ways. We get stuck in our roles and our “scripts.” We narrow our interests and forget how to see and act in new ways.

Fortunately, we can start growing again — by reintroducing play, pretending, performing and improvising into our work and lives. We’re not just limited to what we already know and who we already are. We can be who we are and who we’re not…yet. We can be who we’re becoming. This is called the Becoming Principle, and it underlies everything we do and teach.

 

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” –John Wooden

 

Embrace the Unknown

We shun the unknown and the ambiguous, but you say that embracing it is often the best path toward growth. Why is that, and what can help us to embrace it?

Oh, yes. Don’t we all wish we could know how things are going to turn out! Should I take this job? Get married? Come out? Move to another city? Have a kid? If only I knew for sure!

But we can’t know it all, and embracing the unknown and the ambiguous is a way to get in tune with that basic fact of life. As I’ve said, data and information are important, but they’re not all there is. For many of life’s opportunities, instead of “look before you leap,” I think you should “leap before you look.” Perform that new job, that move to a new city, that new relationship — and in the process live life, learn, grow, stretch, and go places and do things that can enrich you. And that goes for things that ultimately fail, as well as succeed.

Improvisation innovator Keith Johnstone said, “Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.” If you perform in a more adventurous way, you will have more adventures! If we are only who we already are — then we can’t grow. That’s why I write about the Becoming Principle, which is about being who you are and who you’re not…yet, at the same time.

 

“Those who say yes are rewarded by the adventures they have.” -Keith Johnstone

 

Performance Fundamental 2: Build ensembles everywhere.

Why are ensembles so helpful?

Happy Memorial Day

Don’t Forget

In the United States, it’s Memorial Day weekend. It’s a time when families and friends get together. This week, you’ll see picnics and catch the smell of hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. Go to the mall and you’ll find a big sale. You may have the chance to catch a baseball game. The summer is officially beginning.

In the midst of all of this, let’s also pause to remember what Memorial Day really is all about. It’s about those who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives for our country and for our freedom.

My friend Lee Greenwood’s song, God Bless the USA, is one of those remarkable anthems that inspires patriotism and reminds us of the precious gift we have been given. Take a few minutes out of your long weekend and enjoy this song. I love this live version from a baseball stadium in 2001.

 

“I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.” –Lee Greenwood

 

“For love of country they accepted death.” –James Garfield