Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Rebel, Revolutionary, Reformer (1918 – 2013)
What can we learn from Mandela’s heroic legacy of hope to
become better human beings? Let us use his name as an acronym for remembrance
Mission. Action. Nourishment. Discipline. Education. Love. Attitude.
Mandela had a deep sense of mission. In his fight for freedom from apartheid in
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society
in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities...
If needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
creates meaning, and meaning is the fuel for sustained achievement. People are
willing to lay down their lives for a worthy cause.
Do you have a mission statement for your life and career?
What about for your family, team, or organization?
Action. Too many
political leaders today do not back up their empty rhetoric with action.
Mandela at his core was an activist, a man of action; so
much so, that even in his later years amidst failing health when he announced
he was “retiring from retirement,” he still managed to found the Nelson Mandela
Legacy Trust promoting economic assistance to Africa
He also campaigned successfully for South Africa
to host the 2010 FIFA
Are you actively campaigning for your mission? Do you back
up your words with action?
Imprisoned for 18 years at Robben
for his anti
apartheid activities, Mandela was confined to hard labour in a lime quarry
where the glare of the sun burned his tear ducts, making it difficult for him
to weep for his lost youth.
Despite his privations, Mandela found solace through
literature, nourishing his inner soul and that of his fellow inmates by reading
’s Victorian poem “Invictus” over and
During his imprisonment at Pollsmoor Prison, Mandela
smuggled a letter of encouragement to South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela,
inspiring him to write the upbeat anthem song, “Bring Him Back Home,” thus
nourishing the souls of his supporters through music.
Years later, after the song fulfilled its wish, a free
Mandela as first black President of South Africa, provided nourishment to
François Pienaar, captain of the national rugby team, the Springboks, through
moral encouragement and support, giving him a copy of the “Man in the Arena”
passage from a Roosevelt speech.
The Springboks went on to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup –
providing nourishment to a nation.
How are you nourishing your inner soul and the souls of
those that matter to you in times of adversity? Is there a poem, a passage, or
play you can read, or a recording or film clip you can play to provide
nourishment to family, friends, fellows, and even foes?
Mandela was a dreamer with discipline. Even during imprisonment, every morning
without fail he would get up and perform his daily exercise regimen, which
consisted of up to 45 minutes of stationary running in his cell, a hundred
fingertip push-ups, two hundred sit-ups, and other callisthenics.
His daily routine kept his mind sharp and alert so he could
stay focused on his mission.
What daily discipline can you adopt to better your life? (It
doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Many successful people report that a few minutes
of meditation at the start of the day helps them to be more calm, focused, and
Mandela was a strong advocate for higher education.
Earning his law degree from the University
, Mandela was a
practising lawyer who founded South
’s first black law firm with Oliver
Tambo in 1952.
In his own words, Mandela believed: “Education is the most
powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Excellence is about education and execution. In tough times,
many organizations have cut-out the educational component, focusing solely on
execution. That posses a danger, for if you continually preach execution,
execution, execution with little to no education, the proverbial well will run
How are you incorporating education into your life? Have you
thought of getting higher education beyond your diploma, certificate, or
degree? Consider adopting the daily discipline of reading an hour a day in your
Love. You don’t
have to like your enemies, but you can learn to respect them. And respect is
the first step toward love.
How did Mandela accomplish the impossible task: to love thy
enemy? He took it upon himself to learn everything he could about his Afrikaner
oppressors by studying their culture, history, and literature.
The empathy and understanding gained from his efforts was
instrumental in getting him freed from prison; and he returned not a bitter
man, but a compassionate leader – offering reconciliation over retribution.
It was this colossal love that conquered hatred that earned
him the Nobel Peace Prize and Presidency of South Africa.
What act of love can you do this week in memory of Mandela?
It doesn’t have to be a colossal act; start small, like lending a helping hand
to someone in need, or paying a genuine compliment to a foe.
If nothing comes to mind, perhaps the greatest enemy of all
is within. Learning to forgive yourself and love yourself unconditionally helps
unburden the soul and clears the way for expressing love.
is a way of thinking and behaving. It is our attitude that ultimately
determines our altitude in life.
Regardless of the circumstances life brings us, we always have
the choice to respond or react accordingly.
Mandela chose optimism, hope, and possibility over despair,
hopelessness, and helplessness. He was certain that he and his people would one
day be free.
Right from the beginning of his imprisonment at Robben Island
he told his inmates to slow down their march, and he directed the pace. He
believed he was in control. He believed in the passage from the poem, Invictus:
“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
Carefully observe your attitude. Do you focus on the problem
or the solution? Do you view yourself as the victim or victor?
Mandela clearly envisioned himself as the victor. He was and
is Invictus, which means ‘unconquered.’ Unconquered by hardships, unconquered
by hate, and in some respects, even unconquered by death.
For although the world has lost a great leader, a light has
not gone out in the world, but is reborn, blazing brighter in the hearts of
millions who honour his heroic legacy of hope.
With each act of courage, with each act of compassion, let
Author note: After a long hiatus, I have finally completed a
manuscript for an epic heroic fantasy novel. I am now on a quest to find the
right agent, editor, and publisher for this project. I welcome any suggestions,
introductions or referrals. You can reach me directly at: sharif (AT) herosoul