3 lessons boxing legend Muhammad Ali taught daughter Laila about success and money

Muhammad Ali throws a left hook at Trevor Berbick at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre on December 11, 1981 in Nassau, Bahamas.
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Boxing legend Muhammad Ali reached GOAT status (aka, the greatest of all time) before Michael Jordan could bounce a basketball and before Tom Brady was born.

Ali captured three heavyweight titles over his career and was an Olympic gold medalist, accumulating earnings of around $60 million, which not only changed the economics of the sport but paved the way for other athletes' earning potential. At the time of his death in 2016 at age 74, Ali had an estimated net worth of $80 million, according to Forbes.

But at home with his nine children, Ali was simply known as Dad.

December 19, 1978: Heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali with his daughters Laila (9 months) and Hanna (2 years 5 months)
Frank Tewkesbury | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Laila Ali, Ali's eighth child (her mom is Ali's third wife Veronica Porche Ali), is now 41, a mother of two and a former world champion boxer in her own right.

Though Ali wasn't one to give Laila advice, she says she gleaned a lot from watching him succeed. Here are three lessons she learned from her dad.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18: Former professional boxer Laila Ali attends The 2018 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin | FilmMagic | Getty Images

You have to follow your passion

Though Muhammad Ali wasn't the reason Laila became a fighter, he demonstrated to her that it was imperative to go after what felt most natural.

"One of the things that I learned [from Dad] early on is that you have to find your passion and you got to follow your heart," Ali tells CNBC's Make It.

Laila was originally a manicurist, but when she saw a women's boxing match on television for the first time, something clicked.

"I mean, they walked out of the ring with blood all over them and everything, and I was like, 'That's for me! I want to do that," Ali told

How to be a champion

Laila also learned from her dad that everything you pursue — whether you have a passion for it or not — is going to be a challenge, so embrace it.

"You have to be dedicated and consistent because a lot of people say they want this or that but they are not really ready to do the hard work that it takes," Laila says.

For example, Ali actually told Laila that boxing wasn't for women.

He said, "What are you going to do if you get knocked down in the ring and the whole world is watching?" according to an essay Laila wrote for Fatherly in 2017. "I said, 'I'll do what you did and get back up.'"

Despite his disapproval, Ali still attended most of his daughter's fights, and Laila retired undefeated in 2007 with a 24-0 record and several of world champion titles of her own.

"There's going to be failures and setbacks," Laila tells CNBC Make It, "but you have to learn how to push through them because there's always a lesson in every setback."

"If it was easy to be a champion, everybody would be one," she says.

What's really important in life

Ali was born in 1942 to middle-class parents in Louisville, Kentucky, and even with his success, business wasn't really his thing, according to Laila.

"When people who aren't used to having money, get money, it is important to know the basics like paying your taxes, to who's on your payroll, to simply knowing the things that are investing your money in," she says.

So even though he wasn't a keen businessman, he did teach her one important thing about money: "It's not about how much money you have, it's thinking about how we can make this world a better place," she told CNBC last year. 

In fact, Laila said being inspired by her father's philanthropy was his greatest gift to her.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali poses with his daughter, Laila Ali on February 5, 2003 in Harlem, New York City.
Ezra Shaw | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

After his boxing career, Ali became heavily involved in public service traveling the world to help disadvantaged people and promote religious, racial and economic equality. In 1998, Ali, who battled Parkinson's disease, began working with Michael J. Fox (who also has Parkinson's) to raise awareness about the disease and to help fund research to find a cure.

In 2005, Ali was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

Laila says her father's philanthropy is one of the reasons she has been committed to working with Feeding America and Undeniably Dairy as a spokesperson to fight childhood hunger.

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