Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer ever to enter the boxing ring, died a couple of weeks ago, June 3, at the age of 74.

Many people have the vision seared in their minds of Ali, hands pumped up in the air, holding the heavyweight title, filled with triumph and glory as he successfully knocked out Frazier in the classic “Thrilla in Manilla” fight that took place in 1975. What many people don’t know is that after he claimed the title he was driven to the hospital and couldn’t get out of his bed for the next 21 days!

Throughout all that pain and suffering he was experiencing during the match, he kept on fighting, until he ultimately won and was crowned champion. Then, as glorious victor, he nursed his horrific wounds for three full weeks.

Ali once estimated that over his professional career he took more than one million blows to his head, many of which completely knocked him off his feet.

Yet he is considered The Champ, the most celebrated boxer.

Successful people are not necessarily the most talented or smartest. They are the people that need to have success like they need to breathe, that are willing to fight and continue fighting, no matter how many times they are viciously thrown down and set back.

We need to be willing to chew on the fat of failure, not be fazed by any setback and relentlessly persevere towards achieving our goals and dreams.

King Solomon taught that the “righteous fall seven times and they get up.” Falling is part of life. If you are living then you are falling.

What differentiates the successful people from the failures is how we react to falling.

How do we talk to ourselves when we are crushed on the floor, heavily bruised in the boxing ring of life? How do we view ourselves when we are broken and in pain?

Do we focus on the embarrassment and shame of failure or do we have the courage to learn and grow from our mistakes and try another route?

Do we give up or do we get up?

I discovered a powerful tool that helps instill hope and courage to get up and persevere in a quote from a poem written by a Jewish girl who had been tragically abused by people she knew and trusted. She concludes her long – at times bitter – poem with this line:

Sometimes we are in a dark place and we feel like we’ve been buried – actually we’ve been planted.”

When we fall down hard it looks so dim and hopeless. We feel like we’ve been buried in mud and are all alone.

When God wants to see us grow and flourish, He plants us , like a seed, deep into the ground, so that one day that lonely, forsaken seed will rise up and flourish into a beautiful, towering tree, giving off the most beautiful, sweetest fruits.

God has a way of planting and guiding us, to help us bring out our own unique potential and contribution to the world.

May we have the motivation to want the right things as much as we need to breathe, and have the courage to fight like Muhammad Ali for those things, despite any setback. May we blossom into our own unique, beautiful tree and give to the world our delicious, bountiful fruits.