Do you think any boxers preparing for Muhammad Ali weren’t preparing like their life depended on it? Of course they were. They still lost. But not because they didn’t work hard.
Look no further than Silicon Valley if you need a today example. So many startups fail year after year. Yes, some of them could have worked harder. But most failed startups didn’t fail because “they didn’t work hard enough”.
I’m not advocating you become a success by sleeping all day and picking your nose. Working hard is important, but working smart is far more important.
The heavyweight boxers of Muhammad Ali’s time were winning titles by raw bruteforce. The harder the punch, the more successful the boxer. The most feared of the 60s was Sonny Liston. He won the heavyweight title by knocking out the previous title-holder, Floyd Merriweather, in a single round.
Liston was a monster. No one wanted to fight him. Until an upstart Cassius Clay challenged and took him down in 6 rounds.
Ali wasn’t a hard hitter at all. He talked a lot of shit. He almost seemed “scrawny” for being a heavyweight boxer. So how the fuck did he make Liston look like a amateur?
Ali moved too fast for heavy punches. He conserved energy so he was always prepared to go 12+ rounds. His own punches were fast and precise — eventually enough head blows would be game over for his opponent.
Defense wins championships. And Ali’s agility and endurance gave him the best defense in the game.
Ali fought smart.