11 Lessons from Nelson Mandela

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My mentor once told me that cultivating a habit is essential for success. One of the tools he explained to me was the art of reading. Sure, you may read all your Stephen King novels, but what if you spend time reading at least ten pages of a book that is productive, useful, and practical. It was definitely one of the best advice I’ve received: read at least ten pages of a book that I could gain something from. Thankfully, my reading speed is such that I can read one book in two days.

One such book that I felt was really essential is 11 Lessons from Nelson Mandela. Mandela is the epitome of all things dealing with the art of forgiveness. But what makes Mandela Mandela.

Ndaba Mandela

We have Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, who shares in his book his own experience of being around Nelson Mandela, and all the 11 lessons he picked up from him.

Ndaba takes the time to share some of his own growing up experiences, his parents, his school life, his friends, his experiences at the boarding school, and his university years. So one needs to take in the entire context of Ndaba’s environment to grasp the life lessons. M

Nelson Mandela

Too often we portray Mandela as one of the greatest men in the world, merely because he had a huge heart to forgive, and rightly so. He deserves all the appreciation and recognition he gets. What Ndaba does is share with us the very human side of Nelson Mandela- he shouts, he disciplines, he hugs, he remembers what you say. I mean, I had no idea that Nelson Mandela was an aspiring DJ and had a huge music collection. These moments between the grandson and the grandfather are often very charming, illuminating, and at times humorous.

There is so much we can learn from his life- his attitudes towards forgiveness being a huge lesson.

The Lessons

I wish it were easy for me to explain what each of the lessons is because, in order to truly grasp each of the life lessons, one would need to read the book to understand the context and deeper meaning behind the lessons.

1. The perfect city is a long way off

“To be free is not only to cast off one’s chains.” my grandfather said. “It’s to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

2. The tall tree catches the hard wind

While Mandela was in prison.

“They [the guards] were supposed to be my enemies,” he said. “But if you learn your enemy’s language, you have great power over him. In order to defeat the enemy, you must work with him. He becomes your partner. Maybe even your friend.”

3. No child belongs to one house

“…we all share responsibility for the care and feeding of all the children of the world.”

4. The wonderful and the impossible sometimes collide

My grandad had a way of listening that I have tried to emulate as an adult. He listened, motionless and focused, as if he was studying each word with s microscope. He didn’t attempt to tell me that I was the wrong over that my position was in some irrelevant because I was a kid.

5. Listen to the direction of the wind

We all make choices in our lives that are maybe not the choices our siblings would make. As time goes by, grudges become deeply entrenched, and the time always goes by faster than you would have believed possible. Reconciliation- in a family, in a country, in a person’s own heart- is a complicated process. Forgiveness is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it takes. stong stomach.

6. One does not become great by claiming greatness

Sometimes I found my grandfather’s high standards and stiff rules hard to live with- probably because I was such an unruly little shit in my early teens. Madiba brought the structure and boundaries that were missing from my early childhood.

7. A brand burns him who stirs it up

We all need and e=deserve the same thing: a fair lane of opportunity in which to reach our full potential. Even if it is true that all men are created equal, the world quickly tips the balance to alter the equality.

8. The flower that never dies is invisible

“When a man’s mother passes away, this causes him to reevaluate his life.” said the Old Man.

9. Going to the mountain

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

10. A great house needs strong boom

“When my father died,” he said, “I was not prepared for that level of grief.”

“But how could you be, Grandad? You were just a little boy.”

“Even after I became a man, I looked for him inside myself.”

11. There is no beast that does not roarĀ 

YOu resolve- your truth- that is the voice that roars within you. My grandfather taught me to listen to that voice within myself.

book covers 1

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