Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Learning from Mandela's Way

Nelson Mandela
i've just finished listening to the audio book of Mandela's Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage, a book by Richard Stengel, read by the author. It was fantastic: enjoyable, moving and insightful.

Stengel collaborated with Nelson Mandela on his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela began his career as a terrorist against the officially racist (anti-black) and oppressive regime of South Africa. He went was sent to prison for violent crimes in 1963. He pleaded guilty at his trial, saying he was guilty of fighting for universal equality and freedom. Twenty-seven years later he came out of prison ready to forgive the people that put him there. He worked towards both freedom of the oppressed black-skinned Africans of South Africa and the reconciliation and security of that country's white-skinned minority. In 1994, he became South Africa's first democratically elected President. In 1999, at least equally important, he chose not to run for an (otherwise assured) 2nd term, instead ushering in a peaceful and democratic change of power. His incredible personal growth and impeccably reasonable nature in all situations not only avoided civil war and lead to the creation of a modern country, but also makes him the powerfully effective sage-saint the world has come to know. In Mandela's Way, Stengel elaborates on 15 lessons taught to us by Mandela's life and successes.

The fifteen lessons are:

Mandela's Way, by Richard Stengel

  1. Courage is not the absence of fear.
  2. Be measured.
  3. Lead from the front.
  4. Look the part.
  5. Lead from the back.
  6. See the good in others.
  7. Keep your rivals close.
  8. Have a core principle.
  9. Know when to say no.
  10. Know your enemy.
  11. It’s always both.
  12. Love makes the difference.
  13. It’s a long game.
  14. Quitting is leading too.
  15. Find your own garden.
To learn about how Mandela lived these lessons left me thinking that A) i was doing well to pay close attention to what i was hearing and to then meditate on the lessons and try to incorporate them into my life and B) i need to (and now have) put Nelson Mandela into my mind among the greatest persons and best influences i know about.

Stengel, in this book, (and many other contemporary writers) have taken to describing Mandela as a saint. Of course, nobody means to imply anything having to do with the vapid designations put by pontiffs. They use the term, i think (and i adopt it here), to signify the heroic good example of his life to be emulated by the rest of us.

The many stories that Stengel gives us to show these lessons are excellent. But two of the principles struck me as much more important than all the others:  number 6, to see the good in others, and number 8, to have a core principle. Surely they are all important for me in my life, but these are the two that i think can make the most difference for me as i attempt to be a person of substance and happiness, and they are the two i think the world needs most from us all.

i recommend both Mandela and the book to you all. Thank you to Stengel for writing it, and thank you to Mandela for living as he did!

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