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Impossible is nothing: Life lessons from Muhammad Ali

impossible is nothing

Olympic medallist at 18, the youngest pugilist to take the heavyweight title from a reigning heavyweight champion at 22, the first to win the world heavyweight title three times—the late Muhammad Ali’s career is a clutch of sporting records.

From the son of a sign painter in Louisville, Kentucky to exemplerary sportsman, social activist and crusader for racial equality, Ali travelled a remarkable distance to reach the pinnacle of human success. All of which go to reinforce the idea he articulated so forcefully—that impossible is nothing more than a woeful state of mind.

A man of quick wit and great charisma, the legendary boxer’s famous quotes serve as useful workplace lessons.

Here’s a look at his words that teach us all to punch above one’s weight.

1. “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

A great sportsman himself, Muhammad Ali inspired other people to excel by urging them to live their lives to the full. At the workplace, this translates into working both harder and smarter, shedding negative baggage and adopting a positive frame of mind. It means coming to office with the intention of making a difference every day. You will surprise even yourself with the positive changes you experience once you decide to make every day count.

2. “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

The next time you are saddled with a tough assignment or an impossible deadline, remember these words by the legendary boxer. They will inspire you to rise to the challenge. On the other hand, certain management experts also believe that being assigned a difficult task is recognition of an employee’s potential. Thus, if you are assigned a difficult assignment, take it up as a “dare” and set about accomplishing it in small steps by assessing what is required, breaking it up into manageable parts, prioritizing correctly and tracking your progress.

3. “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

We all want great results without hard work. But the reality is that success necessitates hard work and the degree of success we achieve is often proportional to the amount of hard work we put into something. Even champions like Ali feel a strong urge to quit but the attribute that separates them from the rest of the crowd is the extent to which they can steel themselves and continue to toil. But hard work by itself is seldom enough—it’s important to pair it up with smart work to be truly successful.

4. “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.”

Accepting defeat with grace and humility is one of the signs of a true professional. During the span of your career, you will not always end up on the winning side—and you need to be ready to take it into your stride when you fail at something. An ability to accept defeat with grace and dignity will improve your image in the eyes of all your colleagues. It will make also you appear as a mature and stable individual who can be counted upon by the management and colleagues. 

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