Muhammad Ali is certainly best known as a boxer, but he was also an incredibly productive, inspirational person. He got a lot done in his life, so let’s take a look at some of his best tips for getting things done and enjoying life.
Muhammad Ali is often called the greatest heavyweight boxer in history, but he was also a proponent for religious freedoms, racial justice, and was a conscientious objector during the war. Beyond all that, he was an avid talker, and would often speak out about his general rules for life. While they’re not the type of productivity tips you can take and directly apply to your life, his ideas are still useful in defining what it means to get things done.
Your Time’s Limited, Make the Most of It
Nobody out there is going to deny that your time is limited, but while “make the most of the time you have” is a cliche, Ali has a great spin on the idea. Throughout countless interviews, Ali would often talk about doing the best with what you have. In a 1975 interview with Playboy, Ali boils it down like so.
The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
It isn’t just in boxing or sports though. Ali wanted to be the best in everything. In his book, The Soul of the Butterfly, Ali reminds us that a good work ethic is often all that matters:
If I had been a garbageman, I would have picked up more trash quicker and neater than anyone else ever had. If I’d been a reporter who got the chance to spend the day with Muhammed Ali, before I came to the interview, I would have thought long and hard about Ali the other reporters who had interviewed him before me. I would have reviewed all of their stories so that I could get a different perspective.
The point is, your time’s limited. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, do your best, and when you look back on that time, you’ll be a lot happier for it.
Be Confident In Yourself (Even If It’s Overblown)
Confidence is one of those hard to nail down things that we’re all told to feel. Nobody wants to be meek, but at the same time, most of us don’t want to boast at the level that Ali could. However, Ali used that boasting to get through his tougher fights and his confidence, even in defeat, was obvious.
Confidence comes from all kinds of things, but for Ali, it was about taking risks. In an interview with Ebony, Ali famously said:
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
We’ve shown you how to build up your confidence before and while nobody’s telling you to boast like Ali, overconfidence can help you out in the long run. The more risks you take, the better off you’ll be.
It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are, Training Sucks
People like to think that everyone who exercises must love doing it. But anyone who doesn’t admit that exercising sucks sometimes is lying to you. The fact is, no matter who you are-whether you’re Muhammad Ali or someone from Michigan working on a couch to 5K-training is hard. The quicker you accept that, the better.
In an interview with Newsweek in 1978, Ali talked about his own training:
I hated every minute of it. But I said to myself, ‘Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.’
Most of us aren’t going to live out the rest of our lives as champions just because we go to the gym three times a week. But the point to “suffer now so you can kick ass later” is applicable in all walks of life. If you’re learning something new, it’s going to suck before it’s awesome. The same goes for exercising, starting out at a new job, college, and just about every single thing in life.
Sometimes You Lose
Muhammad Ali’s record was 56 wins, 5 losses, 0 draws. That is an incredible record, but when you’re that good, those five losses can feel like ultimate failures. Despite his boastfulness in winning, Ali was often surprisingly navel-gazing when it came to losing. Before a fight with George Foreman in 1973, Ali told the press:
I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.
Moving past failure isn’t easy for any of us, but we can all do it. Ali’s idea is overly simplistic for most of us, but the point rings true regardless: if you fail, the only thing you can really do is try again and get it right.
Keep Your Friends Close
Typically speaking, when we take a look at productivity and life tips from history, they’re very self-reflective. It seems that many famous people throughout history forget friends, but Ali believed friends were the real glue that helped him get things done. He lays it out in an interview with Harold Bell:
Friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought nor sold, but its value is far greater than a mountain made of gold; for gold is cold and lifeless – it can neither see nor hear, in time of trouble its powerless to cheer – it has no ears to listen, no heart to understand, it cannot bring you comfort or reach out a helping hand. So when you ask God for a gift, be thankful if sends not diamonds, pearls or riches but the love of real true friends.
Of course, sometimes, good friendships are hard to come by and making friends is a science in itself. Which is exactly why it’s worth holding onto the friendships that really matter when you have them.