Sadly we’ve had to say goodbye recently to Muhammad Ali.
He changed my view on boxing.
Yes, I had once thought it was all clobbering people for money until a boxing enthusiast friend showed me a video of highlights from his top fights.
In the best matches such as Ali vs Sonny Liston I saw someone at the peak of their game operating on full power and making the demanding seem effortless. I saw a performance that transcended adrenaline and aggression.
So it seemed appropriate to dedicate a blog post to ‘The Greatest’ and take a look at some of the lessons he has to teach business owners like you and me.
Muhammad was one of the first sport stars (or indeed TV Personalities) to make shameless self-promotion an art form.
In an era when most boxers walked around in T-shirts advertising their local gyms Muhammad wore a white t-shirt with his name proudly stamped in large, bold type on the front. You were going to remember his name, he made sure of that!
In one story he jumped into a hotel swimming pool and started throwing punches. When asked what he was doing he replied that he often trained underwater to build up speed and agility. Later he confessed that he made it up on the spot because there was a magazine photographer standing close by and he thought it would make a good story. His efforts were rewarded with being splashed- pun not intended– on the front page!
Most of his fights were played psychologically in the press and on TV before he even stepped foot in the ring. He could hurt just as much with his slurs as he could with his fists.
So what can we take from his life?
Develop your legend.
Muhammad new that if he gave himself a big, bold label and kept repeating it that it would end up being how people categorised him. The fact that he was a boxing genius meant that he would always be talked about but he chose to be known as ‘The Greatest.’
“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are”
He was vocal about his strengths and gracefully put down his ‘enemies’ with humour. He eulogised himself with poetry.
“I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”
He used the power of novelty and repetition to control other people’s perceptions and build his personal brand.
He also chose to be known by one or two large, bombastic labels rather than loads of small ones. This is actually neurologically smart because we chunk people’s accomplishments down to the average rather than just focusing on the best. Choose one big thing you want people to know you for and repeat, repeat, repeat. Use novelty and humour to make it stick.
Muhammad had an opinion about everything and was never shy about saying it even when it would hurt his reputation. The key here is that he planted his flag in the key issues of the day. He made himself big, bold and relevant.
Does your business/ personal brand stand for anything? Do people know what you are for and against? Do you make yourself relevant to the big issues of the day or in your industry?
Prepare to Succeed and have tenacity.
If there was one defining characteristic that marked Muhammad out it was self-belief. He believed (or rather taught himself through repeated visualisation and affirmation) that he would succeed. He talked so big that he forced himself to succeed or lose face. Most importantly he never gave up.
“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”-
P.S- Thanks to JonARTon for his amazing drawing. Check out the vid here.