What You Can Learn From Muhammad Ali.

What You Can Learn From Muhammad Ali

What You Can Learn From Muhammad Ali.
What You Can Learn From Muhammad Ali.


By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)


Muhammad Ali was arguably the great boxing champion of all time. With his incredible skill inside the ring and even greater charisma outside it, he inspired millions across the globe to achieve success in the fields they wanted.

Countless boxing champions cite Ali as their greatest inspiration and the reason why they got started with boxing.

On June 3, 2016, the champion passed away. This post is dedicated as a tribute to him and through it I hope to impart many of the life lessons we can learn from Ali.

Muhammad Ali was born as Cassius Clay in an African American family. As a young child, his bicycle was stolen by a thief. When he went to the police to report it, he told the officer that he would find the thief and beat him up. Incidentally, the police officer  Joe Martin happened to be a boxing enthusiast with his own gym.

The officer suggested that he should probably train in boxing before he decided to do that. He accepted and thus began his boxing career. He made rapid progress due to his great talent, dedication, self belief and immense work ethic. He became a force to reckon with. At the age of 18, he went to the Rome Olympics and won a gold medal in boxing and Joe Martin accompanied him as his coach.

Once he returned as a champion, he thought he would now be treated like Royalty in his hometown of Louiseville, Kentucky. And for a while he was, especially in the Victory Day Parade. He was so happy that he wore the medal around his neck, all the time even during sleeping.

However an incident one evening where he countered immense racism and was denied entry into a restaurant just because he was Black made it clear to him that even becoming an Olympic Hero wouldn’t change the fact that in the 60’s America he was still considered a second class citizen because of his color.  Frustrated, angry and disappointed, he threw his Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio River from a bridge.

Soon after, he decided to renounce his “slave name” of Cassius Clay, converted to Islam and changed his new “free” name to Muhammad Ali.

Around the same time Ali decided that he no longer wanted to compete in the Olympics and decided to turn Pro. As a pro, Ali quickly dominated the circuit and became one of the biggest stars of his era. Not only did he inflict great damage on his opponents, he was incredible with his words and unbelievably charismatic.

He inspired millions of young people with his wisdom and at the same time mentally defeated his competition by deflating their confidence even before they stepped in the ring with him.

Even though Ali was involved in a  hard hitting sport, outside of it he was a proponent of peace.  He famously refused to go to the Vietnam war after being drafted by the US Army. When he was tried in court and faced possible jail time for his dissent he said, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Salute to the man! This just shows that Ali was not just a champion in the ring, but a great human being outside as well. There is so much we can learn from him.  So now, I will be sharing with you Five of his most famous quotations along with my (Anubhav Srivastava’s) interpretation of them!

I hated every minute of training. But I said to myself, ‘Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.’

To succeed in any endeavor in life you need to be either madly in love with the process or be madly in love with the end result. The former means you are so passionate about a field that it is thoroughly enjoyable and does not seem tedious even for a moment. The latter means, even though you may find the process excruciating, you possess such an intense burning desire for the end result that you are ready to sacrifice everything for it. If you love the process, great! But if you don’t, love the dream.


The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.

Working really hard on preparation is the number one way to succeed.  Muhammad Ali,  had a habit of proclaiming he was the greatest as an affirmation to build confidence. However, thousands of other boxers tried the same affirmation and failed. Why did it work for Muhammad Ali, when it did not work for others?

It worked for Ali because he backed up his talent and confidence with supreme hard work and preparation. Training for hours every single day, going through the most rigorous of preparations he built himself into an indomitable force. He trained so hard that he became an unassailable wall that could not be beaten. Apply the same dedication to your goal as Ali did to his, confidence and skill will both come automatically.  Champions are made far away from the limelight where nobody is cheering them on, except their own will to win.

“It isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you down. It’s the pebble in your shoe.”


This wise quotation tells us that it is unlike what a lot of us assume, it’s not huge problems or obstacles that we think lie ahead or anticipate to face that actually limit our success. What limits us are our own limiting beliefs that we have held steadfastly close to us and the people whom we trust that discourage us that gradually erode our courage, energy and capacity to achieve what we want.

When we get rid of these beliefs and people who hold us back, in other words throw the pebbles out of our shoes, our chances of success will be much higher. So do that!


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

A lot of us often measure the kind of work we do in terms of time. For example people will often boast about putting in 80 hour work weeks or having 20 years of work experience. Well it is perfectly possible to be busy doing absolutely nothing productive. If someone is putting in a lot of hours, it need not necessarily mean they are hard working, it could also mean they are inefficient or they could simply be sitting in the office for the sake of sitting, it does not reflect WHAT amount of work was ACTUALLY done.

Similarly, if someone talks about work experience in terms of time, the first question that pops up is ten years of experience doing what? Did they actually accomplish something worthwhile in those ten years or did they just count the days and the years. It is perfectly possible for a dedicated and focused person to achieve more in one year than what others would achieve in ten years. And therefore Ali’s statement “Don’t count the days, make the days count” is wise and makes perfect sense!

They have to have the skill and the will but the will needs to be stronger than the skill.

In this quote Ali talks about what it takes to be a winner and about how a winner needs to have both the skill to perform and the will to want to win. But the will needs to be stronger than the skill. The reason behind that is that while it is the skill that makes you competent enough to perform the activities you wish to do, it is the will that ultimately determines how far your skills grow.

Cristiano Ronaldo the great footballer was considered an average talent while Wayne Rooney was considered a far greater talent. So Rooney’s skills were rated much better. But Cristiano’s will was far greater and through sheer hard work and a burning desire to win, he became a much greater player than Rooney. The will to win built the skill!

Someone with good talent and skill can have it slowly rot away because they simply did not have the will or the desire to turn it into something extraordinary. On the other hand someone with average talent and skill can become incredibly skilled simple because of the will. The will to win makes them put in the thousands of hours of practice to hone their skills and eventually their skill becomes as extra ordinary as their will!


Final Words

Muhammad Ali was truly special, not because he was a great boxer, but because he was a greater teacher.  On a surface level some of the things he said maybe considered egoistic, like proclaiming himself the greatest. But, if you explore deeper and as Ali himself said, the reason Ali proclaimed himself the greatest was because until he convinced himself of being able to do great things, there was no way he would be able to make his dreams a reality. And he also taught us that all the big talk means nothing if you can’t back it up with bigger action. He was great because he was truly the hardest working boxer of his era not just because he called himself great.

A lot of the other quotations he said throughout his life are incredibly inspiring and deep. He was a champion not only inside the ring but also outside it.   My respects to the great boxer and teacher who not only entertained us but also enlightened us tremendously through his wisdom. Rest in Peace!


About the Author

Anubhav Srivastava is an author, speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields. It has been seen by over 1 Million People on Youtube. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.

For one on one consulting or a motivational workshop at your organization please email anubhav101@gmail.com . If you would like to write a guest blog post on Anubhavsrivastava.com you contact me on the same email address.

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