Shaking up the World

What advice does Muhammad Ali have for socially aware business people? Follow these six core principles.

“I shook up the world!” is one of Muhammad Ali’s most enduring proclamations. 

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Even in death, Muhammad has something to say.

Indeed he did, first as the bombastic boxer who proclaimed himself the Greatest of All Time, then later as the humble humanitarian whose remarkable ability to connect to people at every level has spanned decades and inspired countless millions.

In life, Muhammad was always ready with a good line. He was a constant source of clever jabs, inspirational crosses and profound hooks:

“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”

Muhammad’s recent passing has left us on the ropes, stunned by a combination of disbelief and grief.

[Also on Longitudes: Why Logistics Will be the Key to Solving Hunger]

His legacy

The Champ’s wife, Lonnie Ali, told us in her moving eulogy that her husband wanted to use his life and death as a teaching moment for the world. “Even in death, Muhammad has something to say,” she said.

Muhammad Ali’s voice, in fact, may speak louder now than ever before. When Muhammad and Lonnie opened the Muhammad Ali Center in 2005 in Louisville, Ky., their wish was that the Center be a place that would share, teach and inspire people to be their best and to pursue their dreams. 

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Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.

Muhammad’s global message was to bring people together, build bridges and tear down walls; his inspiration was to drive a positive and impactful change in the world.

Muhammad was the ultimate global citizen. He was adored everywhere, regardless of one’s age, ethnicity, religion, culture or gender.

He once said, “I love people, people love me.”

In her beautiful eulogy, Lonnie said, “All of his life, Muhammad was fascinated by travel. He was childlike in his encounter with new surroundings and new people. He took his world championship fights to the ends of the earth, from the South Pacific, to Europe, to the Belgian Congo.”

As Muhammad traveled, he saw that “the world really wasn’t black and white at all. It was filled with many shades of rich colors of languages and religions. And as he moved with ease around the world, the rich and powerful were drawn to him. But he was drawn to the poor and the forgotten.”

Addressing the needs of the less fortunate, offering guidance and support to young people who want to “be great and do great things” are important aspects of the Ali Center’s education programs: UCrew, Generation Ali, Creating Our Future and the Muhammad Ali Council of Students.

These programs teach young people leadership, social responsibility and even the business skills of entrepreneurship.

After all, trade promotes education and healthcare; trade provides for higher standards of living; and nations that trade don’t fight. 

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Have the courage to stand behind your beliefs, despite pressure to do otherwise. 

As Muhammad once said, “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”

[Also on Longitudes: Playing to Our Strengths]

Live like Muhammad Ali 

We are pleased to be able to advance our education programs thanks to a generous grant from UPS.

The relevance of Muhammad Ali’s life has never been more important or more pronounced. His six core principles offer guideposts for the Center and hopefully motivation to others around the world for many generations to come:


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


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


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


To give voluntarily without expecting something in return.


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


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


If you follow these six principles and believe in and work toward your own personal greatness, you too will make life better for yourself and others. You too can shake up the world. goldbrown2


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Donald E. Lassere is the president and chief executive officer of the Muhammad Ali Center. He is responsible for promoting the Center's mission and expanding its educational programs, partnerships and any other initiatives.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.