Muhammad Ali: A Case Study in Purpose-Driven Decision Making

February 28, 2023

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, rose from a poor family in segregated Louisville, Kentucky to international fame, winning three heavyweight boxing titles and becoming a civil rights leader and role model for millions of people around the world. How did he do it?

Early in his career, Ali’s creativity and hard work helped him overcome significant obstacles. Rather than letting his fear of flying keep him from competing in the 1960 Olympics, he traveled to Italy wearing a parachute — and easily won the gold medal in boxing.

When he returned to the U.S. as a gold medalist, Ali used his growing fame to bring attention to racial justice and humanitarian causes he supported, including his then-controversial decision to refuse to fight in the Vietnam War.

Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons discusses how Ali made decisions throughout his life and career to leave a lasting impact on the world in his case, “Muhammad Ali: Changing the World.”

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