My father was a kind, gentle, caring man. I have so many fond memories with him, and when I saw a tweet celebrating Muhammad Ali’s 1964 win against Sonny Liston to become world heavyweight champion, it brought back the memory of my dad’s happiness when he watched Ali on our small black-and-white TV screen. It prompted me to call my sister and ask her if she remembered why he seemed to love the fast-talking, fast punching, boxing icon. When I asked her she couldn’t tell me why. So turning to my internet research skills, I decided to search, find, and listen to Ali’s interviews, and watch some of his fights. 

After hours of watching grainy, entertaining footage, and reading hundreds of Ali quotes, I believe I have a good sense of why my father had so much respect and admiration for him.

My dad was not a fast-talker or fighter for that matter. But he served others, believed in hard work, and lived each day to its fullest. I realized that these core values likely connected him to Ali. In my search for Ali’s visual and written legacy, I found three quotes that left a strong impact on me and likely on my father as well. As you fight your way through life in 2021, you can rely on these three quotes to become a world champion!

Quote 1: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

I really cannot think of a man who embodied this phrase more than my father. He was the epitome of serving friends, family, relatives, neighbors, and even strangers. He was kind-hearted beyond my ability to describe. The downside to kindness is that sometimes people take advantage of you. I recall hearing my father talk about how some of those whom he helped might not fully appreciate his kindness. But that never stopped him from being kind and available to serve others. Sometimes I think I am too kind, but am quick to remember that my dad gave freely without expecting anything in return. 

These days, in a world where we are overwhelmed by information, I sense that human beings are becoming more transactional and calculated. So many actions and interactions are tied to likes, shares, business, and profits. We live in a time where an act of genuine giving, service, and kindness is more of an outlier rather than the norm. This quote serves as a reminder for all of us to abide by the strong principles of men like Muhammad Ali and my father. Life is about serving others without expecting anything in return. When we practice this as a global community, I feel like we all win. 

Quote 2: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

How many of us cruise through life without actively partaking in it? How many of us quit an ambitious goal because things are not lining up the way we expected? How many of us wake up in the morning with a defeatist mindset, ready to accept failure?

I’ve been guilty of all the above and I always blamed it on my mountain being too lofty and my ingenuity not good enough.

This quote is a reminder for me and hopefully many others that regardless of how I feel about my mountain, I’ve got to dump the pebble out of my shoe first. I need to find ways to rid myself of the baggage that is self-sabotage and doubt. I’ve got to have a positive mindset and embrace myself for who I am! 

Quote 3: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

How many of us grind through our days without stopping to enjoy the precious, small moments? How many of us seem to have an innate resistance to happiness and appreciation? How many of us walk through life with a palpable tension in every muscle fiber in our being? If I am being honest, I am guilty of all the above.

This quote is a reminder for me and hopefully many others to not coast through life—enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. As a boxer, you must learn to dust off hardship and loss, using it as fuel for your next bout. I have always been fascinated by fighters and their ability to keep stepping into the ring or the octagon. If you need a boost from the monotony of quarantine life, try to focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t. Even the best boxers lose. Ali, my father, and I have lost at times. But that does not mean that we are lost. When I feel down or defeated, I pause and reflect on the reality that we all have imperfections and are broken at times. For me, there is a great deal of unity in knowing that life is not easy. It is one thing we all have in common. By focusing on making the best of each day, even if it is bad, we set ourselves up for winning at the game of life. 

In conclusion

My father’s admiration for Muhammad Ali was more than appreciation of his three-time world heavyweight championships or Olympic gold medal. Ali was more than his skills in the ring. He was a Black, Muslim man who championed civil rights, and believed that he was the greatest at what he did. This belief in himself helped others believe in themselves. He inspired my father and will inspire generations to follow. When you serve others, find strength in yourself, and make your days count, you are honoring his legacy, too. If you have other favorite Muhammed Ali quotes, tweet them to me, and I’ll retweet!