Lessons from “The Greatest”

Greetings.  This week while I was working with a customer in Louisville (pronounced “Loo-ville” by many of the locals), Kentucky, I had the opportunity to visit the Muhammed Ali Center which opened in 2005.  The Center is dedicated to exploring the life and legacy of a man who rose from the segregated streets of this city become the world’s most renowned and recognized boxer, and who later devoted himself to promoting hope and peace for disenfranchised people around the world.

Born as Cassius Clay, Ali would become the Olympic and World heavyweight boxing champion and bring a remarkable sense of skill, flair, and poetry to this somewhat brutal profession.  He called himself “The Greatest” and backed up this claim with an amazing commitment to training and a unique style that no one had ever seen before.  His ability to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” marked a dramatic change in the way people boxed, and his pre-fight poems predicting victory brought a sense of humor and energy to his battles.  But he would also gain notoriety for his conversion to Islam and his conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam.  This personal stand would keep him out of boxing for four years during the prime of his career.  And he would become one of the few sports figures to not only transcend his sport but to use his global fame in a wide range of initiatives to help the poor…engaging world leaders, creating constructive dialogue, and providing food, medical supplies, optimism, and the chance for healthier and more hopeful lives.

At the heart of Ali’s life and work are six “core” principles:

Confidence – Belief in oneself, one’s abilities, and one’s future.

Conviction – A firm belief that gives one the courage to stand behind that belief, despite pressure to do otherwise.

Dedication – The act of devoting all of one’s energy, effort, and abilities to a certain task.

Giving – To present voluntarily without expecting something in return.

Respect – Esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, oneself and others.

Spirituality – A sense of awe, reverence, and inner peace inspired by a connection to all of creation and/or that which is greater than oneself.

These are principles worth thinking about in the work that all of us do and in the rest of our lives.

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We win in business and in life when we reinvent the very nature of our work.  And when we choose, in following our core principles, to make the world a better place.

Finding Your Creativity

Greetings.  It’s a new week and a chance to unlock greater innovation in yourself and your organization.  And it might also be a good time to gain insight from a group of people who are constantly trying to be creative…and funny.  Yes, standup comedians.  Folks whose jobs depend on their special ability to earn laughs by finding humor in the world around us.  And a recent article by Samuel Bacharach in Inc. magazine provides helpful advice from the likes of John Cleese, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis CK, and Ricky Gervais.

It’s a fun and quick read with a clear emphasis on the importance of play and playfulness, the value of testing new ideas and learning from “failure,” the logic of never being satisfied, the real potential for finding possibilities in the mundane, and the wisdom of revisiting old ideas for new insights and possibilities.

Important lessons for all of us as individuals and companies.  And important lessons for leaders charged with bringing out the real genius in all of their people.  Leaders who can get better results when they combine humor and humility.

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We win in business and in life when we take a fresh look at the simple and complex aspects of life.  And when we find humor in the most likely and unlikely places.

Cheers!

Ideas Worth Thinking About

Greetings.  Today is the Martin Luther King holiday here in the U.S. and many schools and workplaces are closed in observance of Dr. King's life and legacy in creating a more just, caring, open, and hopeful society.  A society that values more fully the real genius in everyone and the power of diversity when viewed as more than simply a set of words and quotas in a press release, on a web page, or in an annual report.  While he wasn't focused specifically on the challenges we face today in our companies and organizations, many of his words should cause us to think–in more compelling ways–about our true potential as individuals, leaders, businesses, and communities.

And here are a few quotes that might strike at the heart of your vision, values, and hopes for the future…

"If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

"The time is always right to do what is right."


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We win in business and in life when we see the brilliance in everyone around us.  And when we pause to recall those who gave their energy and lives to the values we all hold dear.

Cheers!