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Minimalism & Muhammad Ali: A Lesson from The Champ

Minimalism & Muhammad Ali: A Lesson from The Champ

Muhammad Ali’s discovery of minimalism is as inspiring as it is relatable.

Ali’s death in 2016 compelled many to reexamine his life. His presence endures in the lives of those who — like me — are only connected by old video footage and stories of late-nights by the television. Yet, from boxing rings to board rooms, Ali continues to give the world more than he took.

After three years in exile, banned from boxing in the U.S., Muhammad Ali returned to the ring where he lost to Joe Frazier in March of 1971. Following this defeat — in the first of three Ali-Frazier fights — Ali searched for a way to improve his training. What he found was the need to adjust his life.

During his career, Ali rejected many of the training methods used by older fighters. In particular, he rejected the idea of seclusion. Ali loved people. He felt his interactions with the “everyman” on the street gave him perspective and fueled his drive. As you can imagine, the announcement that he would change his training environment came as a shock to many.

In his book, The Greatest: My Own Story, Ali described the need for a greater amount of focus. He said the old-school boxers swore by training in the mountains or forested areas, far from cities and people, far from distraction.

Ali described his fear of isolation in the mountain camp. He justified the move by his desire to excel, to be the best. Ali said he was filled with anxiety and boredom during the first week. After that first week he settled in.

Ali began designing and equipping the Deer Lake Training Camp in the Pennsylvania countryside, 30 minutes away from

Photo courtesy of

Allentown. He made it a point to allow only essentials inside his camp. Only essential tools and living comforts were brought in. Only essential people were granted access.

As the rematch drew near, Ali intensified his minimalism and emphasized mindfulness. He rotated his time between training and solitude and he grew to appreciate early morning sunrises during running workouts. The silence cleared his mind to focus solely on the task at hand. The task of defeating Joe Frazier was his top priority.

In New York City on Jan. 28, 1974, Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier in 12 rounds (of 12 scheduled rounds). Ali won the fight by unanimous decision. Muhammad later attributed his success to his new level of focus. A focus he achieved through minimalism.

We all find minimalism in our own time and we all incorporate the principles of minimalism in different ways. Ali needed minimalism during training. Some of us need minimalism full-time. Either way, we can all find increased focus.

Minimalism is becoming a complete lifestyle for me. In the short time Tiff and I have worked to implement minimalism, my workflow has improved. I have greater focus and my new freedom of focus has given me more time to create.

How are you using minimalism in your life?

What have you been able to accomplish with the help of minimalism?

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