The Man Who Views the World at 50 the Same as He Did at 20 Has Wasted 30 Years of His Life

Muhammad Ali? Apocryphal?

globe08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a statement attributed to Muhammad Ali about the natural changes in viewpoint an individual experiences during decades of growth and maturation. Ali stated that a person who does not change his or her perspective over a long period of time has wasted the years. Are you familiar with this statement?

Quote Investigator: In November 1974 the UPI wire service reported that Muhammad Ali spoke at a news conference in London for forty minutes non-stop. The promoter of Ali’s boxing tour feared that he might lose his voice, but Ali wished to continue, and he delivered a remark that matched the one specified by the questioner above. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“Don’t you worry me,” said Ali, posing for the battery of TV and press cameras. “I can talk all night.”

He was finally cut short, but not before he had answered a question about his philosophy of life. “If a man looks at the world when he is 50 the same way he looked at it when he was 20 and it hasn’t changed, then be has wasted 30 years of his life,” he said.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In November 1975 “Playboy” magazine published an interview with Muhammad Ali that included another more concise version of the remark: 2

Ali: You listen up and maybe I’ll make you as famous as I made Howard Cosell “Wars on nations are fought to change maps, but wars on poverty are fought to map change.” Good, huh? “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” These are words of wisdom, so pay attention, Mr. Playboy “The man who has no imagination stands on the earth—he has no wings, he cannot fly” Catch this “When we are right, no one remembers, but when we are wrong, no one forgets. Watergate!”

In 1989 the adage appeared as “Today’s Quote” in a syndicated feature called “The World Almanac Date Book”: 3

TODAY’S QUOTE: “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” — Muhammad Ali

In conclusion, Muhammad Ali employed this saying on multiple occasions. The version in the November 1975 interview is stated more elegantly than the 1974 version.

Image Notes: Cropped portrait of Muhammad Ali from a United States Congress image via Wikimedia Commons. Earth globe from geralt at PixaBay.

(Great thanks to Theric Jepson whose query led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1974 November 30, The News (The Port Arthur News), Ali wants both Joe, Foreman at same time (UPI news service), Quote Page 11, Column 3, Port Arthur, Texas. (Newspapers_com)
  2. Website: iPlayboy – Playboy Magazine, Article title: Muhammad Ali Interview, Issue date of magazine listed on website: November 1975, Website description: Scans of every issue of Playboy magazine cover-to-cover, Website publisher: Playboy Enterprises, Inc. (Accessed iplayboy.com on November 1, 2014) link
  3. 1989 January 17, Daily Sitka Sentinel, The World Almanac Date Book, Quote Page 5, Column 3, Sitka, Alaska. (Newspapers_com)