Laila Ali is no stranger to hard work. The former boxing world champion and current fitness and wellness advocate has had to put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where she is today — literally. “I’ve had more nos than I’ve had yeses over the years…but I never gave up,” Ali said.
“When I think back to any time I’ve been successful at anything — whether it be in business or in my athletic career — I think about all of the hard work and dedication that it took,” she said. “[People] know that as an athlete you have to put in a lot of hard work, but they don’t realize how much work it actually takes, what actually goes on behind the scenes.”
It’s this same sense of tireless dedication and relentlessness that Ali admires in others. “Selfless, compassionate, courageous, patient, kind. These are some of the words that come to mind when I think of individuals who are going to be changemakers in our world,” she shared. “Those individuals are always thinking about others, giving back, not worried about what they’re actually going to get, if they’re going to be recognized for it.”
We’ve partnered with TIAA to bring you the stories of some of those individuals as part of the TIAA Difference Maker 100, and to hear from advocate and program ambassador Laila Ali about the kinds of people who inspire her. Ali’s role as an advocate for individuals who work tirelessly to lift up their local communities and serve others strongly aligns with TIAA’s belief that if you support and celebrate people doing good in the world, you enable more progress to happen. This is one reason among many Ali and TIAA have partnered together on this initiative. Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block, My Hood, My City; Harvey Mysel, founder of Living Kidney Donors Network; and Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana leader Chelsie Nelson are just a few examples of the kind of people dedicating themselves to making change happen every day.
Check out the video above to learn more about Cole’s work with My Block, My Hood, My City, an organization that takes teenagers from under-resourced Chicago communities on educational field trips. Hear about Mysel’s dedication to helping people who need kidney transplants find living donors through the Living Kidney Donors Network. And watch as Nelson talks about the work she does as leader of Girl Scout Troop 25680, a troop at a center for women and children in Chicago.
TIAA is celebrating its centennial — 100 years of helping people doing good do well — and putting the spotlight on visionaries whose inspirational work is shaping the next century, through the TIAA Difference Maker 100. To build awareness of this program and to support individuals like Jahmal Cole, Harvey Mysel and Chelsie Nelson, TIAA has partnered with difference maker Laila Ali as program ambassador, as she embodies the same commitment to making positive, lasting change as TIAA. To learn more about the program and the difference makers featured so far, go here: www.TIAAdifferencemaker100.org.
Words by Jesse Sposato