Be in­spired by Ali’s self­less life

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­press.co.za

The tributes to Muham­mad Ali have been flow­ing like the Mis­sis­sippi River. His last fight was 35 years ago, against Trevor Ber­bick, which he lost. Yet the world is mourn­ing as if we’ve lost Mother Teresa all over again.

“I beat peo­ple up for a liv­ing,” he said about his job.

So why does his death mat­ter so much to the world? Nurses and doc­tors save lives ev­ery day, but do not have such an ef­fect on peo­ple’s lives. Why?

Per­haps a bet­ter way of ask­ing this ques­tion is: why do the sub­lime be­come sub­lime? The news of your pass­ing will be muted, even though you think you’re do­ing so much good for hu­man­ity.

First, Muham­mad Ali was not a pris­oner of scarcity. If you are too scared to lose your job and pussy­foot around mat­ters that wrench your heart, con­sider your­self a liv­ing dead per­son.

He was not naive. He knew who paid his bills.

“Box­ing,” he once said, “is a lot of white men watch­ing two black men beat each other up.” But he was not afraid of up­set­ting his pay­mas­ters.

He ac­cepted Is­lam and changed his name; he was born Cas­sius Clay.

“I am Amer­ica. I am the part you won’t recog­nise, but get used to me. Black, con­fi­dent, cocky. My name, not yours. My re­li­gion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me,” he said.

Jimmy Canon, a news­pa­per colum­nist who was in­ducted into the Box­ing Hall of Fame for his abil­ity to fight with the pen, wrote: “I pity Clay and ab­hor what he rep­re­sents.”

In his eyes, and that of mil­lions of white peo­ple, Ali was sup­posed to be like Joe Louis, who was, as Canon wrote, “a credit to his race”.

The champ was un­yield­ing. He didn’t even try to get into the good books of the most re­spected sports colum­nist of his time, Red Smith, who wrote: “Cas­sius makes him­self as sorry a spec­ta­cle as those un­washed punks who picket and demon­strate against the war.”

Free­dom from scarcity gave Ali the wis­dom to be self­less. “I’m gonna fight for the pres­tige, not for me, but to up­lift my lit­tle broth­ers who are sleeping on con­crete floors to­day in Amer­ica. Black peo­ple who are liv­ing on wel­fare; black peo­ple who can’t eat; black peo­ple who don’t have a fu­ture.”

Peo­ple who want all the suc­cess for them­selves sel­dom get it.

It is like jump­ing into a well and hop­ing to drink as much as you wish. You won’t; you will drown. The worst form of sui­cide you can com­mit as a hu­man be­ing is to de­fend the priv­i­lege of the rich. When Ali was drafted to join the US war in Viet­nam, he said: “I’m not go­ing 10 000 miles from home to help mur­der and burn another poor na­tion sim­ply to con­tinue the dom­i­na­tion of white slave masters of the darker peo­ple the world over.”

He lost his box­ing li­cence and faced a jail term.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, Ali was not a uni­fier. He was prin­ci­pled and those who shared his val­ues crossed the line to be with him. In other words, he was not an ap­peaser. In the busi­ness world, com­pa­nies that try to ap­pease their cus­tomers lose to the ones that de­light their cus­tomers with in­no­va­tion.

Ali was widely con­sid­ered to be the “great­est boxer of all time”, and he fought with flair.

The sub­lime do not just do their jobs, they add spice to the way they do them.

What­ever you do, make it de­lec­ta­ble and, like Muham­mad Ali who de­fied the con­fines of the ring, you will have an ef­fect on oth­ers, in places you scarcely know. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive,

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