We read and learn every day. Access to information makes it much easier. Eventually all of us end up looking for more. We want more from life even if more has a different meaning for each of us. We keep searching. We find the support of like-minded people, attend courses, learn new skills and develop awareness. Everything in order to find something that could help us connect our knowing with our doing and being. We look up to people who seem to have found a better way and greater lives and who seem to understand more. We absorb their teachings and greatest life lessons. But the question is: Does the knowledge show up in our actions? Do we walk our talk?
So we continue the search having done and having learnt so much already. Is it necessary? They say that change is a process, not an event and that you grow all your life. But what else can be said that hasn’t been said already? What else are we waiting for before we start using the wealth of wisdom we have already been offered? What else has to happen before we truly appreciate and start learning from people who are there, right here and now, showing us how it’s done?
The moment is today, this very hour, this very minute. The person is the great statesman Nelson Mandela. Here are 5 valuable lessons inspired by Nelson Mandela’s life.
(all quotes by Nelson Mandela unless stated otherwise).
Discover your purpose, believe in it and stand up for it
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
The line “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”, from a Victorian poem “Invictus” (Latin for “Unconquerable”) by William Ernest Henley, is one of the most memorable quotes associated with Nelson Mandela. Whilst in the Robben Island prison he recited this empowering poem to his fellow prisoners and it helped to sustain him through his 27 years there.
He has always lived his life true to his values and taken every opportunity to educate others as to his beliefs. He is an example of a man who remained strong and who stood up for what’s right and expressing what he described himself as a “stubborn sense of fairness“. He remained true to his purpose and ready for the commitment and sacrifice that it required.
Even in a seemingly hopeless situation he saw an opportunity to have his voice heard. This is how in 1994 he described his 1962 court hearing
“I was the symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor, the representative of the great ideals of freedom, fairness and democracy in a society that dishonoured those virtues. I realized then and there that I could carry on the fight even in the fortress of the enemy.”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
While in prison he remained active fighting against the physical and mental abuse of prisoners. Standing up for their rights and demanding the improvement of prison conditions.
Regardless of circumstances Mandela was always driven by the greater goal. Being able to see a bigger picture, he maintained his focus. With patience every day taking steps towards what he perceived to be right. He believed that with the help from others he was capable of making the difference. This was the strength of character that enabled him to overcome his challenges. He understood that even small actions taken every day can eventually bring about change and lead to something much greater for humanity. He was driven by his sense of fairness, passion and purpose. He has lived his life driven by the truth and there are no greater examples to follow.
Be on a path of personal growth, self-development and continuous education all your life
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation”
Mandela’s life is a life of learning. Education played a major part in shaping his development. Although he was raised in a poor family with both of his parents illiterate, when he was about 7 years old his mother sent him to a local Methodist mission school where he studied English, history and geography. He developed a love of African history, and became influenced by it. Mandela began his secondary education at Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo. In 1937 he completed his Junior Certificate and moved to the Methodist college. During this time he was involved in various different activities and exposed to new experiences. He took up ballroom dancing, performed in a drama society play, discovered his love for gardening and gave Bible classes to the local community.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done”
Mandela began working on his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree at the University of Fort Hare, an elite black institution in Alice, Eastern Cape with around 150 students. Continuing his higher education, he signed up to a University of South Africa correspondence course and in 1943 he also began law studies at the University of Witwatersrand. At the time Mandela was the only native African there.
Whilst in Robben Island prison in the 60’s, Mandela also began correspondence studies for a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of London. Mandela also initiated the prison “University of Robben Island,” whereby prisoners lectured on their own areas of expertise.
Nelson Mandela’s life is a proof of the value of education. Under Mandela’s presidency by 1999 around 1.5 million children were brought into the education system. In 1998 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of South Australia to recognise his commitment to empowerment through education.
Speaking at the Presidential and Premier Education Awards in 1997 President Nelson Mandela said:
“We are steadily but surely introducing education that enables our children to exploit their similarities and common goals, while appreciating the strength in their diversity.”
Follow your biggest passion and never stop learning. Be open to those great learning opportunities that present themselves in a form of a formal education, degrees, diplomas and certificates. But also notice the valuable life lessons you can learn every day. Collect them and let your actions be the best evidence of your knowledge. Encourage learning in others. Share your expertise and enable those around you to benefit from the wealth of the knowledge you already have.
Continue reading: Inspiring lessons – Nelson Mandela Part 2
References: Mandela, The Authorised Biography
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