There are many magical places in the world, spaces where nature and time seem to have a place of their own. Where the earth is so fertile that even the people living there seem to draw energy out of it and where time has a different pace and a deeper meaning. For what is a man's life, but a stepping stone on which his children's lives and his grandchildren's lives are built upon.
Such a man, with a spirit as fertile as the rolling hills of his native land and a will power as inexhaustible as the wind's, was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man upon which a whole new nation was built.
This tall man with a bright, friendly smile and colourful shirts walked with the crowds and stood near the kings, listened to by all. Always one to speak of forgiveness, of dialogue and freedom, he had been an inspiration for many. Here are a few of the lessons he had taught us.
1. Focus on your goals and keep on going.
"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again." - Nelson Mandela.
For the most of his life, Mandela fought to bring an end to apartheid. This was his life goal and although achieved through heart ache and much sacrifice, Mandela never gave up. Staying focused on your goal is a vital skill for a leader. By doing so, Mandela was able to keep the fight for freedom going and to keep a whole nation focused and fighting for the same goal.
2. If difficulties arise along the way, don't avoid them, face them.
"It always seems impossible until it is done." – Nelson Mandela.
Never lose hope on pursuing your dream. If something stands between you and your goal, be it health, hardship or discomfort, work out a strategy but keep your morals and work ethic intact. Accept the difficulty as it arises, all the time remembering that it will go away - or that you can make it go away. It is okay to sometimes feel sorry for yourself, but don't procrastinate, step back and think of a solution.
3. Be kind and forgiving.
"If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness." – Nelson Mandela
When harm is done by a group of people, the individuals in that particular group seldom take responsibility for their own actions. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, yet when he was released he spoke of forgiveness.
By forgiving, we open our hearts to compassion. Research has shown that compassion makes our heart rate slows down, thus helping us focus which in turn helps us better understand other's actions and finding the answers and clarity we need.
4. Let go of your past, you CAN do better.
"Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically." - Nelson Mandela
Mandela had many reasons to stay bitter, yet he stepped away from answering violence with conflict. He chose closure and to share his experiences as well as to learn from others. He opted for negotiation and reconciliation instead.
The past cannot be changed, it is over; it isn't who or what you are anymore. Rather look at your past as something you had to overcome to become a better you. And then stop thinking about it. Focus on the present by trying to be a better you as this will only improve your future.
5. Education is for all, but it involves responsibility.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
Mandela was an active and curious learner throughout his life. From the informal, oral and tribal teachings of his childhood which most probably gave him his democratic leadership style, to the formal, law schooling later on and his political education, Mandela never ceased to learn. Be it from books or as from those around him, through dialogue or by listening, through self-reflection and by observing the times and the masses, he was a life-long learner.
Mandela never took education for granted, for education is a give and a get undertaking. It is being offered and it should be available to all, but one must also assume the obligations and the responsibilities that come with being educated; learn, ask questions, think, communicate, respect your school and your teachers.