Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot written about the passing of Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe. And rightfully so. These two athletes both behind their legacies that are true to who they are and to their values. In doing so, they both inspired millions of people to put their best out into the world.
At first, I assumed that these two great athletes went about making their marks on the world in very different ways: Ali, in his outspoken manner, and Howe, known for his more quiet way of interacting. But when looking closer, I saw a common thread woven through their two separate journeys. Both men were doggedly committed to ensuring their actions and words represented who they were, and what they believed in.
The ever-so determined Ali never seemed to give up — on anything. Whether in the ring or speaking out against racial injustice, he didn’t waver in exemplifying his values. Though he may have rubbed some people the wrong way at times, his conviction, sense of justice and commitment to being authentic to himself left doubters behind. It can also be said that with his contagious drive, and no-holds-barred honesty, Ali had a way of igniting a spark within others.
It seems he acted the same in those quieter, “Howe-like” moments of intimate interactions with others. The Muhammad Ali heard in front of the media, I believe, is the same Muhammad Ali you would have heard if you had been out on a run with him. There is a scene from “The Greatest” (movie about Ali’s life) that gives us a look at what I’m talking about. During the scene, he’s running with another guy who wants to give up on the session. Ali won’t have anything to do with it. Instead, he rips into speech about what it takes to push one’s limits.
So much of what a person leaves behind is built upon moments like these. However, as Ali and Howe both demonstrated in their own lives, the foundation of a legacy is not solely built upon interactions with others. Oftentimes, it’s constructed in the moments when nobody is looking.
An example of this that I found, is one that many runners will be able to get value from. Some newly published video (below) of Ali shows him training during an early morning workout. In it a voice-over states: “This is the part the ladies and the gentlemen and the kids of the world don’t see.”
It is defining moments of solitude like this when a person’s character lays the foundation of their legacy. (Runners — particularly solo runners– can relate well to building character in solitude.) Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe will forever be remembered for their greatness, but what they have left for the world reaches far beyond a memory. What they have left is stories that inspire others to do the same as them– regardless of their sport of choice.