You may not be old enough to have watched him ply his trade, but you likely know who he was. And you also know that he died several days ago. His name is Mohamad Ali.
So, what does Ali, arguably the best boxer of all time, have to do with the fire service? A lot. First, we both compete in fights with extremely dangerous foe.
All super successful people have things that we can glean from them.
Greatness. “To be a great champion you must believe that you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” First of all not everybody liked Ali. He was brash and loved to talk. Some may have called him cocky. Most either loved him or hated him, but regardless everyone tuned in to watch the fight. Could we use this same tactic in the fire service? The media is always looking for a story. Let’s give them one that we are the greatest.
Media. “I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest.” Ali appeared to love the spotlight. He also knew how to use the media. Long time sports announcer Howard Cosell was usually part of the act. The two were in synch not unlike two Hollywood actors. Bantering back and forth, Ali throwing out quotes where he claimed to be the greatest of all time. We don’t need to be cocky, but having some well-rehearsed stories can give us a polished look.
Work ethic. “I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as champion.” His work ethic was stellar. Ali fought back when matches went fifteen rounds. He used many of those rounds to tire his opponents. One of the most famous was a match against George Foreman. Ali let the more powerful Foreman beat on him for three quarters of the fight. Ali leaned back into ropes – later the strategy was named “rope a dope.” Anyway, in the latter rounds Ali finished off the exhausted Foreman. Train with the same intensity as what did Ali.
Strategy. “At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” ”Ali probably wouldn’t have been able to defeat Foreman if a conventional approach was taken. But, once Foreman was tired he was less dangerous. We too must utilize strategy when we fight fire. Do we attack the fire through the window pushing it into the core of the structure, or do we fight it by entering the structure through the doorway and then pushing the fire out through the window?
Perfectness. “I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were jet pilots. I’m in the world of my own.” A friend of Alis talks about the day he was riding with Ali to a fundraiser. Ali had long time Parkinson’s disease. He was signing signature cards. All of the sudden he took one and tore it apart. When asked what he was doing, he explained the signature wasn’t just right. We can apply this same principle to fighting fire. Being careful to protect all of the fire victim’s valuables. Look at it as a signature that you want perfect.
Safety. “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.” It’s difficult to give a boxer kudos for safety, but at least Ali didn’t fight too long after his prime. In the fire service we sometimes must go defensive. Sooner or later we will beat the opponent. If defensive then it might be later.
Rest in peace great one.