Influential Motivators: Muhammad Ali

This evening will mark the beginning of a new segment I would like to begin: Influential Motivators. These are going to be men and women who have influenced me to become the person I am today, in one way or another.

The first person I would like to recognize as a major influence on my life has been none other than the Champ himself, Mr. Cassius Clay, Pretty Boy, Muhammad Ali.

Origins of Influence

I was in 6th grade when I first read about Muhammad Ali and immediately was drawn to his confidence. Seeing video clips of Ali, I could see the type of man I wanted to be: Strong, Charismatic, Confident… a Champion. You could say he was the first celebrity influence of mine that would commonly be referred to as “arrogant” or even “narcissistic” by society.

So there’s 12 year old Jake, learning about Muhammad Ali for (what I think was) Black History Month. My friend Jim chose Malcolm X, another chose Martin Luther King Jr, but I chose a different type of activist. Reading through the, what I can only imagine to be, skimpy material I had before me, I DO remember one quote jumping right out to me

“Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee”

I didn’t know it at the time, but that quote, along with his “Never Give Up” mentality would end up being a major part of reshaping my entire outlook on life

Circa 199…9? I was just a few years younger than the 12 year old Ali fan discussed.

Growing up, I was a very passive and talkative kid with a Master’s in confrontation-aversion. I went through my entire education without a single fist fight, or anyone even wanting to get into it with me. Unfortunately, I was never able to practice floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, though at that point in time, I could have been blown over by the wind.

In Between the Influence

Fast forward to Fall 2014.

I’m freshly 24, in a new town with new people, a new job in a field and management style I was unfamiliar with, and jumping residences a handful of times within 3 months.

While I was glad that I took a leap of faith by accepting a full-time job opportunity in logistics as a stepping stone in my path of financial freedom, it was a burden to my mind.

While it was taxing me physically, I could handle the drastic difference in routine. I’d wake up at 5AM, go to work, come “home” at 6 or 7PM, just to drive around in my car to de-stress and have time to myself.

When I first moved to Bangor, I slept in the basement of a relatives place in Old Town. I was very grateful to have a place to sleep, but I knew I needed to find a new place to stay.

Conflict arose with my family as miscommunication  and expectations went out of control. Things are weird with my biological father’s side of the family now, and for the first time I was not invited to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

This is a two-way street, and I am in no way saying that I am not to blame, but sometimes changes happen for the better, no?

The bottom line is that I sank into a mental darkness. In an earlier post I said it was more of a pseudo-depression, but I don’t feel as if I had lost control of my life. I knew very well I was still in control, but became dark, moody and took on a negative outlook and destructive persona.

I’d start speeding in my car just to see how fast I could go without losing control. I’d get these urges to do other illogical things and I acted on those more often than I’d admit,

I felt like happiness was ignorance and people were selfish and weak.

But then things got better. I moved from a small house with 3 strangers in Hampden to a nicer place in Bangor with 3 others, 2 whom I knew well, and from one of those bedrooms is where I am writing this.

I was less stressed out, but still had gloom hanging over me that just would not go away.

I took on a second job in retail to make more money, and for the first time in my life, I am happy to say that money is not an issue. Paying bills involved no anxiety, and splurging a bit on the finer things was a-ok.

I was still not happy…..

Present Day Influence

I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw this old video of Muhammad Ali in a classroom

This brought me back to when I was fascinated with Ali.. and when I saw the amazement and joy in the children, something inside me lifted that hadn’t in quite some time… and I began to feel powerful again.

I read into Muhammad Ali’s story a bit more than my 12 year old self, and loved the pure passion, charisma, skill, strength, and showmanship Ali exuded. His take on “being the best” brought me this realization:

Inside every one of us, is a champion

After that moment, I was back in the game, and stronger than I ever had been before.

I’ve developed my own spin on Ali’s outlook on success, and while I cannot show it physically, like through boxing… I got back into the writing game which has always been my 80’s training montage to personal success and excellence.

Ali was ahead of his time with the philosophy of betterment and he used his faith to catapult him into greatness. He is a man deserving of great respect and admiration.  And I certainly thank him from the bottom of my heart for, though unknowingly, pulling me out of that destructive funk I was in refreshed and with a new perspective on life.

In an interview, Ali once said, “When I get out of boxing, I’m going to do all I can to help people… I’m being called to help people. God is watching me. God isn’t praising me for (my feats)… He wants to know, “How do we treat each other?” “How do we help each other?” I’m going to dedicate my life to helping charities, uniting people. We need to make peace… so when I die, if there’s a heaven, I want to see it”

He is the Champion



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