“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
As a boy I was obsessed with Muhammad Ali’s fights. I watched just about every single one. Frazier, Norton and Foreman were his greatest fights. It is interesting to note that they all happened when his youthful talent had begun to wane.
In his youth, he could do things that no other boxer before or since could do. He had gifts. Pure talent. Timing, speed and power. And then he had something else. A strange kind of confidence and bravery. He would win most of his fights before he even stepped into the ring. A relentless charisma that seemed to hypnotise his opponents.Those old black and white films make him seem like he is glowing and floating. At a press conference in 1964 Ali said Sonny Liston was too ugly to be the champ. He was young and he believed in his gifts. And then, he couldn’t fight for 5 long years for refusing to go to and fight in Vietnam. His prime was taken away from him. When he returned he was a little slower and he lost to Joe Frazier. So some might say he lost his talent. I disagree. I would say he had begun to lose one and gain another.
1974 Kinshasa. The Rumble in the Jungle. George Foreman. He had something called an all over punch. Basically the concept was it didn’t matter where it hit you, you would go down. Undefeated. 120 kgs and 6 feet 4 inches.Terrifying. He had destroyed Frazier in two rounds. Nobody on the planet thought Ali could beat him.
In eight rounds Ali didn’t just knock Foreman out. He showed that one man can have more than one talent. His physical skills were diminished but he found a way to win. He beat Foreman with his mind. And that is probably the worst beating a man can take. Foreman retired from boxing soon afterwards.
Ali showed me there were two types of talent. There is the innate talent you have. Ali was born to be a boxer. He had all the skills. And on that day in 1974 he showed a much rarer type of talent.This is a talent you have to go and find. It is in you somewhere. It is made up of life’s experiences and the decision not to yield to your fears. It is not the carefree talent you have when you are young but comes from the bottom of an ocean somewhere. It is immensely powerful. It is dark and brooding. It is the talent you use when everything is on the line. It will conquer those voices in your head. It will make you walk forward. It will show you how to do things that have never been done before.
I think talent is a very convenient word. It describes ability, creativity, bravery and honesty. These qualities are all very different. The truth is that there are many, many different types of talent. Sometimes, for a just brief moment, you will glimpse it all in one man like Muhammad Ali. For the rest of us mere mortals, we only have parts of it. It is like a gigantic and endless code that is in us but is impossible to see in its entirety. Yet sometimes when you are with the right people you can see it for a couple of seconds.
This is why it will be hard for machines to replace human beings when it comes to the strange business of having ideas.When the talent of one person meets another the Universe really does become infinite.
The idea code is not just big it is truly endless. Let me explain. Having ideas depends on who is in the room, or what day it is, and what particular talents are combined. This and about a million other factors that range from what your girlfriend said this morning to the music playing in the background will dictate the ideas that are created. It is remarkable what can be created when there is more than one talent in the room bouncing off each others ideas. And the next day will be different. And the one after that. It is like a Rubik’s cube on crack. It is forever evolving without any need to be solved.
Picasso said the problem with computers are they only give you answers. He was right. Ideas come from life and machines don’t have one. Ideas are not about answers but about possibility. And possibility will always come from impossibility. It will come from going to places nobody has ever been or could imagine. It comes from what does not exist. It goes against the odds and conventional wisdom. It comes from what most believe cannot be done.
2 thoughts on “Muhammad Ali and the Talent Code.”
Great read Damon.