July 19, 1996.
Centennial Olympic Stadium in Atlanta.
I was there with my dad for the Opening Ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympics.
It was a steamy, humid, sweaty night.
The athletes paraded into the stadium. Thousands of them.
And then, the climactic moment arrived.
There he was, Mohammed Ali, being handed the Olympic torch.
He was given the honor to light the Olympic cauldron and kick off the Games of the 26th Olympiad.
But Mohammed Ali’s arms were shaking wildly. His Parkinsons limited his body control. He could barely hold on to the torch and I, along with the millions of people watching, were hoping he didn’t drop it.
He seemed so fragile.
This is my memory of Mohammed Ali.
His best years came well before my time. I only knew him as a weakened shell of his heavyweight self.
I mean, I’d heard the stories, seen the pictures, watched the movie. But I never totally understood the mystique of Mohammed Ali.
And then he died on Friday night. And story after story after story covered him not as a great boxer, but as a messenger.
What was the message?
In today’s world, we watch the great athletes win championships, but how do those athletes inspires us in our jobs and in our relationships, when we turn off the TV and are dealing with the nitty gritty? Where’s the carry over?
The day after Ali died, I hung out with an old friend. In casual conversation, she told me about the ways in which she has failed in life.
I think of this friend as a brilliant, blessed person with a great life. And yet, her inner dialogue was laced with stories of failure. It changes my perception completely. If she doesn’t think of herself as a brilliant, blessed person, how can anyone else think of her like that?
Maybe you can relate?
I do it. I get frustrated and tell myself the ways in which I’ve stumbled and how I better be careful not to keep stumbling. And sometimes, my inner dialogue is filled with self-doubt.
How can we be our greatest self if the inner dialogue is something less than our greatest thoughts and beliefs?
You have to believe you are great. And to believe you are great, you have to think about your greatness.
You have to believe you will bounce back. And to bounce back, you have to think about bouncing back.
You have to believe you will get past an obstacle. And to get through something, you have to think what it will be like once you are past it.
This is about changing, refreshing, updating your inner dialogue.
Mohammed Ali, at least from all accounts, believed he was great.
He said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
Mohammed Ali believed in the impossible.
He said, “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.”
Mohammed Ali believed that his struggles were rooted in meaning
He said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
What would it take for YOU to talk, and act, and live like a champion?
Take a moment to think about the thoughts, stories, and messages you tell yourself each day.
Mohammed Ali might have been the most famous man on earth not because of his accomplishments but because of his message.
He taught us that if we think like a champion, and stand like a champion, and talk like a champion…we will find ourselves turning into a champion.