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The Legacy of a Champion


Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill. – Muhammad Ali

This past week in Louisville was one of remembrance and pride. One of the greatest legends of all time, Muhammad Ali was put to rest. As the world watched 100’s of thousands of people line the streets of Louisville to bid farewell and mourn together one of its greatest heroes, it made me pause for a moment and think about the legacy that all of us leave behind. Everything you read about Muhammed Ali points to him being very purposeful in everything he did and the impact that his life would have on the world. There are many lessons for all of us to learn from such an amazing person. Many of those lessons are reflected in the poetic words he left behind for us to ponder.

I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.

Some thought Ali was cocky. Even arrogant. He was always talking about how fast, pretty and smart he was. It was this confidence and positive self-talk that helped him become a champion. He knew what he wanted and went after it. He pushed and pushed to show the world that he truly was the greatest. Each of us has the ability to do the same thing. Achieving greatness starts with believing in yourself and knowing what success looks like for you.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

Watching my youngest son learn to play baseball provided a great reminder of how important it is to take risks. New to the game, he was so afraid of striking out and for the longest time he would get up to bat and not swing. It took us a few times reminding him that if you don’t swing at the ball you will never be able to hit it. Today he swung and got a hit and made it to 3rd base and scored a run. The joy in his face and the cheers from the fellow parents and players made us and him incredibly proud. Just like in baseball, you will never accomplish great things unless you take risks. You are going to strike out sometimes but from each strike out you learn how not to swing the next time, eventually getting a hit.

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.

As someone who is much closer to 50 than I am to 20, I can truly appreciate the many lessons you learn over time. While we think we know all there is to know in our 20’s, one realizes as you get older there is so much you learn along the way. As I reflect back on my career I think about the many lessons I have learned including the importance of patience, listening and contemplation. With each phase of your life you switch out your lenses and look at the world differently. It could be as a student, a new college graduate, being a first time manager, being unemployed, becoming a parent, losing a loved one, getting a big promotion, or eventually starting your own business.  If you take the time to pause and contemplate each of life’s events, you will begin to see the world with more clarity.

Muhammad Ali came into this world just like you and I, naked, afraid and crying. He took what gifts he was given and chose to make the most of his humble beginnings and was eventually named the “Greatest of All Time” aka the G.O.A.T.  A well-deserved title for an amazing human being whose legacy will live on for generations to come. Each of us has the ability to become a champion, you just have to believe, be willing to take risks and pay attention to the lessons life teaches you along the way.

Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

Linda Ruffenach

Customer experience guru, original Whisky Chick, and strong believer that roadblocks are not meant to stop you but to help you find a better path.

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