Monday, June 6, 2016

Pay the Price

As a child, he was denied a glass of water at a store, because of the colour of his skin. That really affected him as did another incident when his bicycle was stolen. The 12 year old told the police officer that he wanted to beat up the thief. The officer told him to learn how to fight before you start challenging people. Immediately he began to train under that officer and soon began his boxing career. After winning his first amateur bout in 1954, he went on to win at higher levels.

At the age of 18 he won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. In 1964, he became the heavyweight champion of the world. In 1967, he started a different kind of fight with his outspoken views against the Vietnam War. He refused to serve in the army, arguing that his religious beliefs (he had converted to Islam in 1964) prevented him from killing innocents. He was convicted for committing a felony and stripped of his world title and boxing license.

The US Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction in 1971, but he had lost nearly four prime years of his career. On his return, he reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times, in the 1970s, winning against Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, he devoted his time to philanthropy, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. On June 3, 2016, Muhammad Ali died but continues to be an immortal inspiration across the world.

Not just Ali’s near-invincibility as a boxer, but it is his commitment to his values that has positively influenced our world. Al Sharpton said it well, ‘For someone who had achieved the highest level of athletic celebrity, to put all of that on the line – the money, the ability to get endorsements – to sacrifice all of that for a cause, gave a whole sense of legitimacy to the movement… He knew he was going to jail and did it anyway. That's another level of leadership and sacrifice.’

Leadership is eventually about backing your own values and vision, even at the cost of paying a heavy price. We have to learn that from Ali… He paid the price because he saw worth in staying steadfast with his principles. He was robbed of his prime years as well as the money and other benefits. But he stood his ground and spoke out, to become an icon for the global counterculture movement.

‘The Greatest’ showed that leaders truly rise
If they stand their ground and pay the price!

- Pravin K. Sabnis

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