Celebrating a life worth living – Lessons from the life of Nelson Mandela

As we say our farewells to Nelson Mandela it is fitting to look at what we do and what ideals we can take from this modern saint that could inspire us over this festive season and reflecting on our ideals for next year.


His was surely a life that was worth living and we are grateful for the passion, inspiration and transformation that he enabled us all to have.


While most of us will never have his journey – we can still learn things about what makes a meaningful contribution.


Do it for others


The first and absolute idea that is personified by Nelson Mandela is that you do not do it for yourself. Giving selflessly and serving others must be on the top of your values and must be personified through everything that you do.


“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela


Make a change


The second idea that comes to mind is when there is an opportunity to make a change and you decide to take up a cause, you may have to go to extremes to ensure that it is done right. Absolute and total commitment to your cause is required.


“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela


Mobilise others


An idea that is close to this is that it is important to mobilise others, give them structure and ideals and help organise them towards a just cause. More and more we understand that people work hard for their passions and surrounding yourself with people that have similar ideals and ideas seems to be the key to moving ahead. Mandela always involved others and his most famous speeches and initiatives was the result of collective effort. Every step in the journey leads to the next.


“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” – Nelson Mandela


Equip yourself


The fourth idea is that you need the correct tools and Mandela surely made sure that he understood the law, educated himself and others and that he had the intellectual capacity to chase ideas and bring them to fulfilment. He was even a boxer in his youth and this helped understanding the fighting spirit and shaped him in understanding strategy, how to attack his enemies and how to stand against huge odds.


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela


Learn about people


He was also brilliant with people and was well known for inspiring, guiding, listening, rebuking and responding to the needs of individuals and great crowds and communities. Understanding what you have to say to make a situation move forward seemed to be one of his talents that we can all learn from.


“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela


There is always hope


The sixth idea is that wherever you are – there is always hope and you can do something about your world. The fact that Nelson Mandela was in prison seemed only to strengthen his cause and there are many tales of how he communicated and organised others from within the confines of cell.



“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” – Nelson Mandela


Find the humanity in the situation


The seventh idea is that you must always look at the humanity of the situation. Nelson Mandela never fought fire with fire, when many times the opportunity was present. He fought against a bad system but remained human with the people within the system. He frequently promoted peaceful means, reconciliation and the quality of all. Many of the people that was part of the system that he fought commented on how he was a inspiring man that


“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela


Use power wisely


The eighth idea is that when you are given the power, use it and use it for good. Nelson Mandela could easily have been a despot and an oppressor. When he got the power, he did not steer South Africa into an abyss but he used the opportunity to create reconciliation, growth and development and rather steered South Africa to building houses, empowering people and being a balanced rainbow nation that draws on the strengths of the people present and that makes the best of the moment.


“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela


Give back and give to others


The number of his cell – 46664 – became the most recognised icon for charitable giving and he created the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund that will continue to serve humanity. There are many stories of how he raised funds and tirelessly assisted individuals and society at large when he had the chance.


While we will never have the same man walk this earth again – but we will all carry a little of his legacy in our hearts and can honour that legacy by learning from some of the actions that marked the life of this amazing man.


“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela


Be brave


The one quality that will always inspire us from the life of this great man is that he was brave. He was not only brave himself, putting his life, reputation and destiny on the line, but he was brave for us all.


“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.” – Nelson Mandela


There is in each of us this greatness and we must seek to find it, explore it and make the most of it in our lifetimes.