When Ali Was On TV

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I became aware of Muhammad Ali when I was a little boy sitting on a living room rug watching him on a black and white television. When I listened to some men–some white men, to be more exact—-talk about him, I got the impression I wasn’t supposed to like him.

But I loved him no matter what anyone else thought. I didn’t care that much about boxing; I just wanted to hear the man speak.

Every time he was on the screen, I was nothing but eyes and ears. What was he going to say next?

He boasted in a way I’d never heard anyone boast before, with rhyme and rhythm and humor and no malice. He had a cadence and a presence and he made a liar out of every bigot I ever knew, because whatever they wanted me to think of him, the little boy that I was recognized the indisputable: this black man appearing on my tv really was the greatest, and I knew it drove them mad.

It made them even madder when he refused to fight a war he didn’t believe in. I know there were others who went off to fight that war and many who never came back, and I believe it’s right to honor their service, courage, and sacrifice.

But I often wish there were more people in the world who would say, “No, I will not go off to kill or be killed by people I don’t know just because you’ve stamped the orders with the emblem of a country, ideology, or creed. You have to give me damned good reasons to do that, not just wave a flag or some other symbol in my face. I don’t kill or die for flags. I’d only do something like that, like I said, for a very damned good reason, and you haven’t given me one yet, not as far as I can see.”

If there were more people in the world willing to do that, older men of every nation and creed would have a much harder time recklessly spending the lives of the young.

Ali was never greater, in my book, than when he stood up, put his fists and his foot down, and said, “No, not me. I’m not going to kill for you.”

And I don’t care what anyone thinks of me for thinking that. I was just a little boy when a man on my tv screen taught me not to worry about such things.

Longing to Set Sail? You’ve Got a Lot of Ships to Choose From

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Maybe you’re standing on the shore. You’re looking out across the big, blue ocean, longing to set sail, aching to get your journey started, but not sure where to begin.

A Shore Thing

Some of your friends have already launched. You can see them on the horizon, their sails whipping in the wind and their bows plowing through the waves, and you want to join them. You want to be out there, splashing about, getting wet, moving forward, exploring, discovering, making your way.

But you don’t have a ship to sail. It’s not that there aren’t any available. You simply haven’t chosen one.

The Sails Pitch

Many have tried to convince you of the merits of their ship, the one they’ve chosen for their own particular voyage. And some are quite persuasive, so much so that at times they can make you believe that theirs is the only ship worth boarding.

“What,” one might say while hauling in their nets, “you have a job? Poor thing. You really must try entrepreneurSHIP.”

“Oh no,” cries out another while holding up their captain’s log, “still working with your hands? Haven’t you heard of scholarSHIP?”

“Hey you,” calls yet one more from aboard a crowded deck, “you seem to be lost and alone and confused. Why not join our fellowSHIP? We have all the answers you seek.”

But you’re not so sure about all that they’re so certain about, so you stand in the sand with all your doubts and reservations, wondering what it will take for you to finally begin your own journey.

I’m not sure. I don’t have your answers. It’s okay if you don’t either.

Going Below the Deck

Not having the answers just means you have to ask questions, questions of yourself, questions that ignore the assertions being fed to you, questions that focus instead on what’s real.

You have to choose your own ship. You may even have to build it. You may have to amass or construct entire fleets of them, because there are so many ships to choose from and one might not be enough.

I’ve already mentioned entrepreneurSHIP, scholarSHIP, and fellowSHIP, but you know there are others. FriendSHIP, craftsmanSHIP, citizenSHIP, leaderSHIP, showmanSHIP, and partnerSHIP are just a few that come to mind.

And there are some you’d do well to avoid like censorSHIP, dictatorSHIP, and one-upmanSHIP.

Which ship do you wish to set sail on? Don’t be afraid. Pick the one that’s calling to you and forget the ones others are calling you to. It’s your voyage. Which way is the wind blowing in your world, today?

Eat Your Words. They’re Good for You.

“If you never change your mind, why have one?” Edward De Bono

It happens. You support a candidate and they turn out to be a crook. You wear a belief on your chest only to have it ripped away by undeniable evidence. Your big idea turns out to be not so big and pretty terrible.

You have two choices.

You can close your eyes, plant your feet, and stick your chest out, or you can do what you know you need to do: eat your words. The sooner you do, the faster you’ll grow. It’s okay to be wrong, but it’s stupid to stay wrong as a matter of principle.

Do you have some words you need to eat? Why not swallow them now and get on with it?