Whenever we revisit the past, we must make sure to enjoy the good moments as much as we scrutinize our bad moments. It’s easy to spend time scrutinizing every mistake you’ve ever made – who else besides us knows every mistake we’ve ever made? But for some reason, it’s so easy to forget the things we do correctly: the good decisions. The decisions where present-day you would be proud of younger you for making that choice. Most of us (when invited) would easily celebrate the victory of a good friend or someone else we care about, but why do we forget to celebrate our victories as greatly as we scrutinize our pain? Perhaps we’ve contlditioned to look for the faults in others, instead of improving ourselves, because the former is much easier than the latter – judging others is easy, yet changing ourselves requires a lot of failure, pain and introspection. Is there a painless way to learn? No. Pain is an integral part of the human experience. Suffering however is optional. What we choose to do with the pain is what ultimately transforms us into the person we want to become. We’ve learned to become who we are from the pain of our mistakes. Pain is guaranteed, but suffering is optional.
Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of our time, but his opponents extended far beyond the boxing ring. We too can be the champions of the battles we fight each day if we are adaptable and courageous.
Being a black Muslim in the 1970’s produced its own challenges in the forms of racism and Islamophobia. One of the characteristics that made Ali so remarkable was his ability to stand firm in his beliefs, regardless of who was opposing him. If you look up any video today, you’ll see ferocious confidence in his self-expression.
Being unique today requires tremendous courage to challenge the status quo. Heroes are scarce in our generation because most of us have been taught to limit our critical thinking for a paycheck; by fitting into society like a standardized cog in a machine. Ali found courage within himself and became an individual. You can also cultivate this courage for self-expression.
In nature, a butterfly is able to float because it is light, agile and curious. On the other hand, a bumble bee has similar capabilities but different mindset: workers that’ll defend the queen and hive with their sting. Humans however are not restricted to any particular pattern, because self awareness allow us to change our perspective when presented with new information.
When Muhammad Ali’s saying, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was also a comment on how humans can adapt their nature. We can be light on our feet and observe like a butterfly, but change and strike with purpose like a bee. We are not restricted to nature’s patterns, but to recognize and change them requires self-awareness and that courage deep inside you. Adapt, and you will overcome anything.