In a time of hype, sensationalism and hyperbole, often words get overused to the point they diminish the true meaning.
Words like legend, great, inspiration, world class, leader, hero, impactful, pioneer, game-changer, humanitarian, iconic, empowering, activist. These are powerful words. We use many of these interchangeably to describe someone who has done well in their industry or chosen field. We call the founder of a big company a pioneer and a good footballer world class. We call a fireman a hero and a head of a charity a humanitarian. A dress might be iconic, and a new pizza topping could be a game changer.
Today is the 4th anniversary of his death — and we are reminded of what all of those words truly mean. Having one of those words describe you would mean that you probably lived a successful life. Having ALL of these words (and more) describe you like they described Muhammad Ali, is something else, entirely. This was an entire different species of ‘celebrity’ — yet he remained humble and a man of the people until his final breath.
We champion the ‘celebrity’ today like never before. We fawn over Z-listers and consume their lives instead of living our own. We aspire for fame and glory ourselves — without doing a smidgen of the work required. Yet what sets apart true icons is that they champion truth and independence. They prefer the struggle for freedom over the comfort of conformity. They devote themselves to a cause greater than themselves. They transcend their own fields and they shake things up. They speak out against wrong and promote what is right. They know their self-worth and won’t let anyone tell them otherwise. They educate through action and sincerity. They don’t settle because it’s easy. They live their true and best version of themselves — and inspire the world whilst doing so. They unite people. They give people hope and spirit. And they let people dream.
I remember studying Muhammad Ali in my English language class — about the power of words. And his life would make an amazing case study for any one of us seeking excellence in any field, be it sport, language, business, spirituality, justice and humanity. He did so by knowing who he was, what he wanted and by feeling free to act this out.
We all have a gift to give to the world, if we begin to know who we are, our true purpose and feel free enough to use it.
Maybe we need to remind ourselves of Ali’s life and what he stood for before we use these powerful words so casually in every day use.
RIP to the G.O.A.T. May Allah grant him the highest heaven. Ameen.
A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.