What Young People Can Learn From Muhammad Ali

By Mashal Mirza

Is it the three heavyweight championship titles? Is it his leadership for the Nation of Islam? Is it his famous line, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee?”

Muhammad Ali demonstrates leadership in a multitude of ways.

His athleticism and character leaves an enormous mark on history. He inspires sportsmanship and standing up for what you believe in; he is an icon of physical and mental ability.

But here is what I think is Muhammad Ali’s greatest lesson is to people like myself, a twenty-first century American college student:

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

Some may think this is extremely conceited.

I say that this phrase should be something we all embrace for our own individual journeys.

As a college student, you are always aware of someone who wants your dream and who is better than you: better grades, better resume, better recommendations. It’s easy to stop believing in yourself and your pursuit to achieve your goals when you begin to think that you’re not good enough.

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Here’s where Muhammad Ali comes in: his belief in himself and his capabilities is what lead him to be one of the greatest athletes of all time and a leader in a historical movement.

People say that he never gave up on his dreams. You know what? He never gave up on himself.

His confidence paved the way for his life, both inside and out of the boxing ring.

Without his self-assurance, he would have never achieved his status in the sports world and would have never spoken up for what he believed in.

Great leaders know they can change the world. It is that knowledge that allows them to push boundaries and create a revolution. It all begins in self worth.

Again, people may think that Muhammad Ali was arrogant. 

Yet he eventually knew his place in life: when addressing his disease, he once said, “God gave me Parkinson’s syndrome to show me I’m not ‘The Greatest’ – he is.”

His experience of battling with Parkinson’s humbled him, demonstrating that while he was aware of his abilities, he was also aware of where his abilities came from.

While Facebook statuses and Instagram posts are great ways to pay tribute to this phenomenal man, the best way, I believe, to honor Muhammad Ali is to look to his confidence.

His words are not just good for captions on photos- they are valuable lessons that can apply to everyone.

We could all learn a thing or two for someone who left such an impact on the world around him.

So today, look to Muhammad Ali for inspiration, because he was a man who made his dreams into a reality.

It all began with his belief in himself.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Gonzague Petit Trabal/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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