Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the
only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is
great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what
you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t
settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you
find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better
and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you
find it. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs
thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the
body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up.
It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is
never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger
the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was
never tired… You’ve always got to make the mind take over
and keep going.” – George S. Patton
What dies in people while they are alive by not even attempting to give their once felt dreams the required efforts (even at the risk of not achieving them) is a sad thing. Some start their pathway with good efforts but when they meet strong resistance and times get tough they give up. They tried at least and find perhaps something else. Some would give it the extra inch being required and come on top, but even this is not fool-proof to be successful. How far to take matters is an individual choice and sometimes some soul-searching is required in the question how far to take the desired outcome and at which costs. If the goal is not a self-serving one and is able to stretch to the interests and justice for the many rather than the few who can serve themselves, there is a power in the words: “Stick – to – itiviness and don’t quit!” Even if we don’t succeed to see “the promised land” ourselves. Obviously we speak here about life changing goals and major changes as being faced with eg people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, apart from various others. For the majority of people the goals are different and may change, but nevertheless there is a fair point to stick it out if there is something you dearly want to achieve. Don’t give up , don’t give in and grow into those goals so that life can’t rob you from it.
Mandela did face many challenges and set backs but in the face of a most powerful government he persisted. His life was his argument by setting an example. Even sentenced to a long stay on Robben Island with freedom taken away, his reputation grew as the most significant black leader of South Africa. He still however had freedom, the last freedom, – the freedom of choice how to take his predicament. “You have to make the mind run the body”, tells the quote at the start of this article. This is what Mandela did. Obviously he was tired at times. Obviously he did ask the question:”Is it still possible?”. Obviously there have been times of despair. He was just a human being and who would not feel lost occasionally in the circumstances he faced. However he persistently continued certain habits. In prison, Mandela kept habits that were already in place. He did stick eg to the disciplined eating regime of an athlete, his early morning exercise and not allowing his spirit to get crushed. He performed hard labour in a lime quarry and needless to say the prison conditions were most basic. Political and black prisoners were kept separate and received the lowest level of privileges. Mandela was allowed one letter and one visitor each 6 months. With the restrictions he had he undertook a distance learning program with the University of London by correspondence and obtained a bachelor degree of Laws. He inspired young black activists imprisoned on Robben Island until authorities tried to break the what was called “The Mandela University” by separating senior ANC leaders like him, Walter Sisulu, Mlaba,Kathrada and Mlangeni from the ANC junior’s. This was in a nutshell Mandela’s response to adversity. It did not leave him unchanged, he became better rather than bitter. This adversity did cultivate both patience and maturity, both planning and timing. It was a creative response, the last choice we have. He created even meaning during his time as a black prisoner, with no real prospect in the beginning that he would ever set foot alive on mainland South Africa.
3. Dare to lead from the front but don’t leave your base behind.
(How was he so sure? He was a lawyer and in prison he discovered that the worst and most cruel prison guards were receptive to him whilst offering legal aid to them based on their needs, leaving them completely puzzled and surprised, – that a black man far more educated than them was prepared to do this. Mandela sensed that when you approached those people in the right way, you could do business and negotiate with them, even with the worst representatives of the apartheid regime.)
4. Compassion inclusive of differences.
Nelson Mandela became President (1994-1999) of a divided country with hatred at both sides of the spectrum. He persisted in taking the long view as hatred is not the way forward of building the foundations of a new South Africa. Mandela’s aim was a country with racial equality and justice to all parties being part of this new South Africa. Not an easy task, especially where it comes to national reconciliation. And here we might touch base on a few “Mandela specifics”, skills or attitudes not being new but used with integrity to achieve desired results. Let’s face it, Mandela did express unique wisdom in his general approach:
During the 1994 Presidential election campaign on his way to Natal to speak to Zulu supporters, Mandela’s plane nearly crashed as due to engine failure. There was some panic indeed but Mandela calmly continued to read his news paper, which did reassure some. Was he scared? He was terrified up there but did not show it because he felt as a leader you can’t show fear. Through the act of making the impression to have no fear, he was an example and inspiration for others in this specific situation. He learnt this at Robben Island as there was enough going on there to provide plenty of fear. However he learnt to master his fear, it’s part of being a good actor at times.The best performance is trying to be a model for others which can give strength, both to yourself and those others. Mandela knew it worked this way.*Part of best performance is to smile, rather than showing anger. There was enough to be angry about but it would not help one bit as often anger will be responded with anger. What you resonate to other people will often come back to you and Mandela knew that his relaxed smile was able to melt icy relationships. It is part of the performance understood by both Mandela and eg US President Barack Obama. Appearance like a smiling one is able to advance a message, in his case the message or symbol actually of lacking bitterness. Mandela knew the past. He knew the past of South Africa. He knew the past of being detained. He knew what happened in detention. But for the sake to achieve national unity you had to set those emotions aside. He often said to forget the past as he really meant to achieve the future, which he projected with an all-inclusive smile. It’s true, he not always felt like this. However it was not part of an empty show, – it was his effort and struggle to embrace a modern South Africa and to move forward, building different dynamics by choice and not emotions. Compassion at a different level than we are used to, with the bigger picture being more important than personal emotions.*Mandela knew exactly when to take the next step in the transition of once being a warrior, a politician thereafter, a diplomat and finally a statesman. He was an excellent tactician and a smart politician. Obviously he did stick to his core principles and aims, but often – as he tended to say – issues were rarely a matter of principles, but far more often a matter of tactics. Gandhi as earlier discussed had a similar brilliant approach. In his case independence from Britten by the principle of non-violence to be achieved, but many other issues by the right choice of tactic. People with compassion and integrity allowing and being inclusive of differences need to use tactics as in this world you can’t do without it to get desired results, – in an environment often being hostile and not without danger.*Mandela knew what was important for white South Africans. He studied their language, their culture and was able to impress many with his knowledge and his respect being shown to them in Government. He “kept his allies close but his (potential) opponents even more close”, – as the saying goes. He had a remarkable talent to make people at ease, make them feel important with often showing interest in their personal circumstances. It was the best way to break potential “icy relationships” and setting the tune of dynamics. Many people (let’s say white people) changed their mind or opinion after meeting him, – even worst opponents from the past.
One of the skills in various meetings Mandela used was “The Indian Talking Stick”. An effective tool from ancient Indian culture of listening respectfully to others when they speak and speak only when it is your turn. Mandela after carefully listening to different opinions in various meetings often spoke as the last one, providing a distinct summary so that people felt understood but meanwhile as a leader directing the outcome of the discussion in the way he actually wanted. On the one hand being led but on the other hand leading so that people could buy into the outcome. It’s a way of creatively resolving differences and get an agreement which works at the point of bonding and trust.
Needless to say that in terms of leadership there is more to say about Nelson Mandela. Both his live and his goal were one in the struggle to get South Africa out of the agony of Apartheid and with his leadership he not only succeeded, but he provided an enduring example and direction. The symbol of the man speaks at times stronger than his own words could do, but the direction should be a “lighthouse” for South Africa to facilitate a more perfect union of people, – working together for shared interests in this beautiful country down south in Africa.
- Former Robben Island Inmate Recalls Mandela’s Discipline, Courage (npr.org)
- Mandela Mourners Seek Closure at Robben Island (voanews.com)
- You: Robben Island: The place that changed Nelson Mandela (latimes.com)
- Nelson Mandela: a tour of Robben Island (telegraph.co.uk)
- RIP Nelson Mandela – Former President Of South Africa Dies, Age 95 (popdust.com)
- Former South African President Nelson Mandela Dies Aged 95 (besuccessfulnews.wordpress.com)
- Nelson Mandela’s One Big Lesson (stephendarorionverygreatpeople.wordpress.com)
- Long Walk To Freedom Film Further Shines Mandela (spyghana.com)
- Nelson Mandela’s Legacy of Couage (examiner.com)
- Historic Nelson Mandela Poster (indybay.org)